Obama commutes sentence for Chelsea Manning, a WikiLeaks source

Manning, who had been sentenced to 35 years in prison, will be freed in May

President Barack Obama has commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. soldier who disclosed classified data to WikiLeaks relating to the Iraq War.

Manning was originally serving a 35-year sentence, but on Tuesday Obama reduced it. She’ll now be freed on May 17.

Manning was convicted of leaking U.S. military and diplomatic information to WikiLeaks back in 2010 that included videos of airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with classified documents sent to the U.S. State Department. She was arrested and began serving jail time the same year.

The data supplied by Manning helped put WikiLeaks on the map as source for secret government information but drew swift condemnation from U.S. officials.

Obama commuted Manning's sentence because he believed she had accepted responsibility and expressed remorse for her crimes, according to White House officials. She had also been behind bars for over six years, comparable to what similar offenders had served, they said.

News of the commutation came days after WikiLeaks tweeted that its founder, Julian Assange, would agree to be extradited to the U.S. if Obama granted Manning clemency. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London under asylum following an attempt to extradite him to Sweden over alleged sexual offenses.

White House officials said Manning’s commutation had nothing to do with Assange, even as U.S. intelligence officials have blamed WikiLeaks for helping Russia to influence last year’s presidential election.

It’s not clear whether WikiLeaks' founder will honor his pledge. On Tuesday, Assange simply thanked supporters of Manning. “Your courage and determination made the impossible possible,” he said in a tweet through WikiLeaks. Noted leaker Edward Snowden also welcomed the news on Twitter.

Manning's supporters say she's a whistleblower and have campaigned for her release. But others oppose her release. On Tuesday, Republican House leader Paul Ryan called her commutation "outrageous."

"Chelsea Manning's treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation's most sensitive secrets," he said in a statement.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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