WASHINGTON D.C. — President Obama announced on Tuesday that he had commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who plead guilty to being the first person to leak classified documents to Wikileaks. She has served seven years of a 35-year sentence, which is the harshest sentence given to someone for leaking classified material.
“President Obama’s decision was both compassionate and amply justified,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Manning’s sentence was orders of magnitude greater than any sentence previously imposed for leaking classified information to the media.
It was massively out of proportion to the offense, given that the government never showed any intent to harm national security, let alone any actual harm. Moreover, Manning’s exceptionally harsh treatment while in prison was clearly improper and makes clemency all the more appropriate here.”
Manning has twice attempted to commit suicide while in prison, the first time was in July, after that she was placed in solitary confinement as a punishment. The second time was in November.
Manning will now be freed on May 17 of this year, as opposed to the original release date of 2045.
This is a commutation, not a pardon, meaning that the guilty plea will still be on her record, President Obama just shortened the sentence.
President Obama also granted a pardon to Retired Marine General James E. Cartwright, who was facing a two-year sentence for lying to the FBI while they were investigating a covert US-Israeli cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
Cartwright is a former vice chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and received the nickname of Obama’s favorite general.
President Obama also commuted the sentences of about 200 low-level drug offenders. In total, he issued 209 commutations and 69 pardons. He is expected to issue more federal drug commutations on Wednesday.