President Obama has commuted much of the whistleblower’s remaining prison sentence just days before leaving office.
Considering President Obama’s unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers, the news that he has just commuted a majority of Chelsea Manning’s remaining prison sentence will likely come as a shock to many. Manning, once known by the first name Bradley, was convicted in 2010 for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks that exposed corruption within the American military. In total, she gave Wikileaks over 700,000 military files and diplomatic cables, releases which embarrassed the US establishment and made the whistle-blowing organization world famous.
Though the releases exposed the criminal activities of numerous military and diplomatic officials, Manning would be given the longest punishment ever imposed in the US for leaking classified information instead of the reward her disclosure of government crimes merited. Having never denied responsibility for her decision to release the documents, Manning entered into a guilty plea agreement in the hopes that the military justice system would understand her motivation and offer her a fair sentence. Even though all other cases of leakers have seen sentences ranging from 1 to 3 years, the military tribunal sentenced her to 35 years in prison – anything but a fair sentence.
Incarcerated in a male military prison, Manning – a transgender woman – has also been the victim of constant abuse throughout her seven-year imprisonment. The abuse, ranging from unjustified punishments in solitary confinement to psyops intended to incriminate her, has taken its toll as Manning has attempted to take her own life twice. She also went on a hunger strike at one point in order to convince the Army to allow her to undergo gender reassignment surgery while imprisoned.
However, President Obama’s last-minute commutation of Manning’s prison sentence has saved her from an uncertain fate. The commutation, announced earlier today, would release Chelsea on May 17th of this year as opposed to the year 2045 when her 35-year sentence was set to expire. Though commutations are common as US Presidents prepare to leave office, Obama may have been motivated by a recent statement from Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange. Five days ago on January 12th, Assange and Wikileaks publicly announced that Assange would agree to US extradition if Manning’s sentence was commuted despite “the clear unconstitutionality of the DOJ case” against Assange.
The US has been after the Wikileaks’ founder for years – a manhunt that has led to Assange’s essential imprisonment in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Now, with Manning’s sentence drastically shortened and her release soon approaching, it remains to be seen if Assange will keep his word and offer himself to the US establishment that has sought to expose for the better part of a decade.
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