In his final week in office, Barack Obama has commuted the prison term of Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst who was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for giving a trove of secret documents to Wikileaks. Manning, who has been incarcerated for nearly seven years, will now be released on May 17, 2017.
In 2009, Manning, then known as Bradley, was stationed in Iraq and had access to hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic cables. The documents Manning provided to Wikileaks detailed the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners and the killing of civilians, along with decades of US diplomatic dealmaking and confidential dossiers.
After her conviction, Manning announced that she was a transgender woman and changed her name to Chelsea. She was held in an all-male military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement—including for attempting suicide—and has been denied access to medically necessary health care,” said Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project who represents Manning. “This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”
NBC reported earlier this month that Manning, who was serving the longest sentence for a leaker in US history, was on Obama’s shortlist to have her sentence commuted.
“Chelsea is a kind, compassionate, and gentle human being who has never hurt anyone. She has always been motivated by a desire to help people,” Evan Greer, the campaign director for the advocacy group Fight for the Future, told Quartz earlier this month.
To date, Obama has commuted more individual sentences of federal inmates than any other president, and more than the last 11 combined. Some point out, however, that Gerald Ford granted clemency to thousands of draft dodgers and deserters from the Vietnam War.