Whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence commuted by President Obama


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President Barack Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence in one of his last acts as President.

On the night of Jan. 17, the news that Wikileaks associate Chelsea Manning’s 35 year sentence had been commuted by President Obama. Manning will be free on May 17, 2017.

On Feb. 13, 2010, Manning had released thousands military documents that exposed the unjust acts committed by the U.S. government.

Among the documents released were  the “Collateral Murder” video which exposed the killings of unarmed civilians and two Reuters journalists by a U.S. Apache helicopter crew in Iraq, the “Afghan War Diary” which revealed uninvestigated civilian casualties in the Afghanistan War, the “Iraq War Logs” which exposed civilian casualties and uninvestigated reports of torture in the Iraq War, and the U.S. diplomatic communications that revealed the role of corporate interests and spying in diplomatic relationships.

What Manning did should have been considered a noble, heroic act, rather than a crime and should have been rewarded instead of imprisoned. The people are the ones who put the politicians in power and have the right to know what said politicians are doing, especially in times of war and other crisis.  

“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence,” Obama wrote in response to a “We the People” petition to free Manning on Jan. 17. “So the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital, classified information would think that it goes unpunished I don’t think would get that impression…the sentence that she received was very disproportional…to what other leakers had received, and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made it sense to commute… her sentence…What I can say broadly is that, in this new cyber age, we’re going to have to make sure that we continually work to find the right balance of accountability and openness and transparency that is the hallmark of our democracy, but also recognize that there are adversaries…who want to use that same openness in ways that hurt us — whether that’s in trying to commit financial crimes, or trying to commit acts of terrorism, or folks who want to interfere with our elections.”

Obama’s response gave off the impression that he was trying not to rock the boat, given that his term was up in two days, it was easy to see why. However, with the swearing in of a new president who has ties to foreign countries and possibly even organized crime according to TIME Magazine, government transparency is needed more now than ever and more definitive stance on the issue would have sent a stronger message to both the American people and the international community.

“I don’t think this erases what Obama has done, being the president who’s prosecuted more leakers and whistleblowers than any other in history. It may be him looking towards his legacy and realizing that a 35-year prison sentence that involves torture and solitary confinement was unjust and not going to be looked at well in the history books. But you have to give him credit for doing the right thing here,” said Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, to Andy Greenberg of Wired magazine.