Chelsea Manning is scheduled for release from prison just four months from now. President Obama’s commutation, announced yesterday, shaves roughly 28 years from her 35-year sentence for leaking classified and otherwise sensitive military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. Ms. Manning’s original sentence was the longest ever imposed for blowing the whistle on the government.
The president’s act of clemency was met with varied reactions, including criticism from prominent leaders including Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ). And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a harsh statement in protest, calling the decision “outrageous” and stating that Ms. Manning’s “treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
But for Ms. Manning’s advocates, including a number of civil-rights organizations and over 100,000 citizens who signed a petition to the White House on her behalf, the decision is cause for celebration. Her supporters have repeatedly expressed concerns over the uniquely harsh conditions she suffered in solitary confinement and as a transgender woman in a men’s military prison. Manning’s petition to the White House included a personal statement asking to “to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members.”
Our own poll from last month yielded similarly mixed responses, but, to date, responses lean strongly in favor of commuting the sentence.
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