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President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence

Posters at the 2014 San Francisco Pride Parade urging Manning’s release. (Flickr / CC 2.0)

Civil rights groups and members of the intelligence community cheered late Tuesday when news broke that President Obama has commuted whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence.

Manning, convicted in 2013 for violating the Espionage Act, was rumored to be on Obama’s short list for commutations, yet few held hope that she would actually be freed earlier than her 2045 release date.

The New York Times reports:

President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration, and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to commit suicide last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the male 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.

Now, under the terms of Mr. Obama’s commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year, rather than in 2045.

The commutation also relieved the Department of Defense of the difficult responsibility of her incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria — including sex reassignment surgery — that the military has no experience providing.

Fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden reacted to the news via Twitter:

Read: “Justice for Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden

Others on Twitter celebrated the news:

Many conservatives were not as thrilled:

Read: “The Sad Fate of America’s Whistleblowers

Some commenters pointed out that Manning’s commutation may have ramifications for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks tweeted this just last week:

It is unclear whether Assange will indeed agree to U.S. extradition in the face of this news.

In addition to Manning, Obama also commuted the sentence of Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera. Rivera, one of the leaders of FALN (the Spanish initials for the Armed Forces of National Liberation), was offered clemency in 1999 but rejected it.

Twitter users thanked Obama for commuting López Rivera’s sentence:

After Manning’s conviction in 2013, Truthdig contributor Chris Hedges wrote that the “swift and brutal verdict” demonstrates how “we have become a nation run by gangsters.”

“The passivity of most of the nation’s citizens—the most spied upon, monitored and controlled population in human history—to the judicial lynching of Manning means they will be next,” Hedges continued. “There are no institutional mechanisms left to halt the shredding of our most fundamental civil liberties, including habeas corpus and due process, or to prevent pre-emptive war, the assassination of U.S. citizens by the government and the complete obliteration of privacy.”

Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer discussed Manning and the Bill of Rights on “The Nowman Show” last year:

And Truthdig’s own Mr. Fish once mused on America’s desire to forget its wrongdoings:

Read more of Truthdig’s past reports on Manning here.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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