The long expected presidential pardons have begun in earnest three days before Donald Trump is sworn in. President Obama on Tuesday commuted the remainder of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence, ensuring the former Army soldier will be released this May instead of in 2045.
Manning was convicted of leaking sensitive information about American military and diplomatic activities to the government transparency site WikiLeaks in 2010. The original sentence was 35-years in prison. The transgender convicted traitor had been moved to solitary confinement after attempting suicide last July.
Manning, 29, has served nearly seven years in federal custody. Manning transmitted the first documents to WikiLeaks in February 2010, sending what came to be known as the Iraq and Afghanistan “War Logs.”
Manning continued to relentlessly transmit material, including a video that showed a U.S. Apache helicopter in Baghdad opening fire on a group of individuals that the crew believed to be insurgents. The leaking only stopped when Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010.
The 35-year sentence Manning received was the longest ever imposed for a leak conviction. Manning has already served seven years of her sentence and will now be released on May 17, 2017. The additional five months after the pardon announced will be considered Manning’s full sentence for his/her acts of treason. She was originally set to be released be released in 2045.
Manning’s grant came in a batch of 209 commutations and 64 pardons, announced with three days left in Obama’s presidency. The question on everyone’s minds now is whether Obama will pardon Edward Snowden, the accused traitor who is in exile in Russia and/or Julian Assange, the mastermind behind WikiLeaks. Assange’s organization published material leaked by both Manning and Snowden.
The president’s decision will definitely spark the ongoing debate about intelligence leaks and criminal justice reform. Another pardon amplifies the issue.
Obama pardoned retired Gen. James Cartwright, who was convicted in 2012 for lying to FBI investigators while being questioned about leaks involving a top secret U.S. program to derail Iran’s nuclear program. The question is what this says about the law, convictions and their aftermath with presidential pardons.
The Manning commutation is stirring up one senator in particular. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) says President Obama treated “a traitor like a martyr” in commuting former soldier Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence. In a statement to the media on Tuesday, he said, “When I was leading soldiers in Afghanistan, Private Manning was undermining us by leaking hundreds of thousands classified documents to WikiLeaks.”
An angered Army veteran, Cotton added, “I don’t understand why the president would feel special compassion for someone who endangered the lives of our troops, diplomats, intelligence officers, and allies. We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr.” His words will resonate among the host of retired military officers Trump has nominated for posts in his administration raging from secretary of Defense to National Security advisor.