President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Pvt. Bradley Edward Manning (who considers himself a woman by the name Chelsea), the former U.S. Army soldier and intelligence analyst who turned over classified information to WikiLeaks, revealing details about U.S. relations with foreign countries and negotiations. Manning is expected to walk from prison on May 17, the White House announced today. He had been given a 35-year sentence.
The White House announced that Manning was among 209 commutations and 64 pardons granted by Obama, who may not be done quite yet. Another possibility for pardon is Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency analyst who also leaked classified information to media. He now resides in Russia.
Manning was convicted in 2010 after giving 700,000 military files and State Department messages to Wikileaks. He twice attempted to commit suicide in prison and went on a hunger strike to induce the Army to allow him to get sex reassignment surgery.
Today was the last scheduled briefing for White House press secretary Josh Earnest. He described Manning and Snowden in different terms. “Chelsea Manning, as a member of the United States armed forces, went through a legal proceeding administered by the United States military under the laws that govern the conduct of members of the United States military, and there was a hearing and a conviction and a sentence,” Earnest said.
“It all went through that regular process. And that’s the way we determine guilt or innocence in this country, particularly with regard to the conduct of men and women in our armed forces. And that’s the way that our system works.”
As for Snowden, who has asked for a pardon, Earnest said Snowden “should return to the United States and face the serious crimes that with which he’s been charged.”
Earnest said, “He will, of course, be afforded the kind of due process that’s available to every American citizen who’s going through the criminal justice process. But the crimes that he’s accused of committing are serious. And we believe that he should return to the United States and face them rather than seeking refuge in the arms of an adversary of the United States that has their own strategic interests in disseminating information in a harmful way.”
Obama also gave a commutation of sentence to former Marine General James Cartwright. Cartwright was convicted of making false statements to federal investigators while they sought to find out if he had released details of a cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program. After pleading guilty in October, he was facing a possible two year sentence. He pleaded guilty in October, and prosecutors have requested a two-year prison sentence. The commutation shortened Cartwright’s time in prison, but was not a pardon.
Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked his cache of documents detailing U.S. intelligence efforts around the same time as Manning’s crime, advocated for her clemency.
Manning’s commutation reads:
Chelsea Elizabeth Manning – Oklahoma City, OK
Offense: One specification of wrongful and wanton publication to the internet intelligence belonging to the United States; five specifications of stealing, purloining or knowingly converting U.S. government records; six specifications of willful communication of information relating to the national defense; one specification of willful communication of information in unlawful possession; one specification of willful communication of information relating to the national defense by exceeding authorized access to a U.S. government computer; one specification of willful communication of information relating to the national defense obtained by accessing a U.S. government computer; five specifications of failure to obey order or regulation; U.S. Army Court Martial
Sentence: 35 years’ imprisonment (August 21, 2013)