President Barack Obama has shortened the prison sentence of former Army private and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, She will be released on May 17, instead of remaining in military custody until 2045 as originally sentenced.
Manning had leaked to WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of US government documents that came to be known as the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary. She was convicted by a US Army Court Martial to 35 years’ imprisonment prison in August 2013, under the Espionage Act.
Formerly known as Bradley Manning, the whistleblower requested the military provide her sexual reassignment surgery to align with her gender dysphoria, identifying as a woman. The Department of Defense initially rejected that request, only to eventually signal approval. With Manning’s impending release, that issue is now moot.
“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project staff attorney representing Manning, said. “Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”
Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor and whistleblower, tweeted, “Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama.” Snowden, who is similarly charged under the Espionage Act and living in asylum in Russia, had been vocal about his hope that Manning would receive clemency before Obama left office.
Among Manning’s leaks was video footage that went viral and came to be known as “Collateral Murder.” The disturbing Army video filmed from an Apache helicopter shows indiscriminate shooting on a small crowd in an Iraqi suburb. Two Reuters journalists were killed and two children were wounded, among other deaths and injuries.
Manning is one of 273 people “given a second chance,” the White House announced Tuesday, tallying up Obama’s commutation grants and pardons. The president has so far pardoned 212 individuals and issued 1,385 grants of commutation.
Manning’s 2010 online chat with ex-hacker Adrian Lamo was instrumental in revealing her as the leaker of hundreds of thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables. Lamo turned Manning in to authorities after she confided in him.
“[I] wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as boy…[sic],” Manning wrote to Lamo.
The information Manning leaked “might change something,” she hoped.
“I want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public,” she told Lamo.