President Obama has commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, paving the way for the Army intelligence analyst turned high-profile leaker to be freed on May 17, the White House announced Tuesday.
Manning was on a list of 209 commutations and 64 pardons released Tuesday, though they may not be Obama’s final acts of clemency before he leaves office at midday on Jan. 20. Edward Snowden’s name was not on the list.
Manning was convicted after leaking U.S. military incident logs and diplomatic cables, among other secret government documents, to WikiLeaks, in 2010.
In his final scheduled briefing for reporters, White House press secretary Josh Earnest described Manning and Snowden in starkly different terms.
“Chelsea Manning, as a member of the United States armed forces, went through a legal proceeding administered by the United States military under the laws that govern the conduct of members of the United States military, and there was a hearing and a conviction and a sentence,” Earnest said. “It all went through that regular process. And that’s the way we determine guilt or innocence in this country, particularly with regard to the conduct of men and women in our armed forces. And that’s the way that our system works.”
But Snowden “should return to the United States and face the serious crimes with which he’s been charged,” Earnest said. “He will, of course, be afforded the kind of due process that’s available to every American citizen who’s going through the criminal justice process. But the crimes that he’s accused of committing are serious. And we believe that he should return to the United States and face them rather than seeking refuge in the arms of an adversary of the United States that has their own strategic interests in disseminating information in a harmful way.”
Earlier this week, WikiLeaks said on Twitter that its founder, Julian Assange, would agree to be extradited to the United States if Obama granted clemency to Manning. He has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of sexual assault.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
The Obama administration has accused the Russian government of using WikiLeaks to influence the 2016 election. The organization published emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced Obama’s commutation decision as “just outrageous.”
“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” Ryan said in a statement. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
Manning’s commutation reads:
Chelsea Elizabeth Manning – Oklahoma City, OK
Offense: One specification of wrongful and wanton publication to the internet intelligence belonging to the United States; five specifications of stealing, purloining or knowingly converting U.S. government records; six specifications of willful communication of information relating to the national defense; one specification of willful communication of information in unlawful possession; one specification of willful communication of information relating to the national defense by exceeding authorized access to a U.S. government computer; one specification of willful communication of information relating to the national defense obtained by accessing a U.S. government computer; five specifications of failure to obey order or regulation; U.S. Army Court Martial
Sentence: 35 years’ imprisonment (August 21, 2013)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 17, 2017.
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