Washington : Outgoing President Barack Obama has commuted the majority of the remaining prison sentence of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks.
The President on Tuesday took the decision to free the transgender US Army soldier on May 17 after overruling the objections of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
Manning had been sentenced to 35 years in military prison in 2013 for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks.
The decision by Obama rescued Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction, the New York Times reported.
A former intelligence official termed the decision to commute Manning’s sentence as shocking. He said the move was “deeply hypocritical given Obama’s denunciation of WikiLeaks’ role in the hacking of the (Democratic National Committee)”.
The material, which the former soldier leaked and WikiLeaks published in 2010, included a classified video of a US helicopter attacking civilians and journalists in Iraq in 2007.
When she was initially imprisoned in 2010, Chelsea Manning was still known as Bradley Manning. Manning also fought for treatment for her gender dysphoria while imprisoned, which includes a sex reassignment surgery— something the military has no experience providing prisoners with.
Manning in a hearing apologised for “hurting the US” and said she had mistakenly thought she could “change the world for the better”.
Asked to describe the difference between the situations of Manning and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia after leaking state secrets, a source in the White House said there was a “fundamental difference”.
Snowden on Tuesday tweeted his support, urging her to “stay strong a while longer”.
“Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result, her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years,” Margaret Huang, the group’s executive director, said.
Republican members of Congress, however, expressed outrage.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, denouncing Manning’s “treachery”, said she “put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets”.
A presidential commutation reduces the sentence being served but does not change the fact of conviction, whereas a pardon forgives a certain criminal offence. —IANS
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