In a surprising last minute move, Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of the transgendered whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Chelsea has been in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for seven years, but on the 17th of May, she will be released. A former intelligence analyst, Manning was given a 35-year military prison sentence after she was caught passing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to Wiki Leaks, in what became the biggest breach of classified material in US history. Manning’s health condition had deteriorated in the last 12 months with two attempts of suicide whilst in prison.
Of the release, Manning’s lawyer Nancy Hollander said, “I cannot believe it – in 120 days she will be free and it will all be over. It’s incredible.” This will be Barack’s final commute 3 days before he leaves office. As of last year Barack has commuted the sentences of more than 1,150 prisoners, granting clemency to more inmates than the last 11 president’s combined. Human rights groups welcomed Tuesday’s decision. Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: “Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years.”
However there was plenty of outrage from the republican side, with The House Speaker Paul Ryan saying, “This is just outrageous. Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets.” Leading up the release Wiki Leak’s founder Juliana Assange promised that he would agree to an extradition if Chelsea Manning was released but it is said not to have influenced Obama’s decision.
This now opens up questions of a potential pardon for Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. In response to the possibility of Edward Snowden being released White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “Mr Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”