Obama Commutes Sentence for Chelsea Manning in WikiLeaks Case

Tuesday, in the final days of his Presidency, President Obama, commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks. The decision means that Manning can be freed May 17, seven years into her sentence.

Chelsea Manning, who was previously known as Bradley Edward Manning, was an United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses. He was sentenced to 35 years for his crimes but for humanitarian purposes, President Obama made the decision to reduce her sentence. Manning has twice tried to commit suicide and is a transgender woman serving her sentence at a male prison.

In her appeal to have her sentence commuted, Manning wrote, “I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public. I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong.” Manning gave to WikiLeaks around 750,000 pages of documents and videos. WikiLeaks, just this month, said they would agree to an extradition request for WikiLeaks’s founder Julian Assange if Obama granted clemency to Manning. It was not immediately clear if WikiLeaks would make good on its promise.

In other news regarding pardons and clemency, the president also agreed to pardon James Cartwright. Cartwright was the former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty in October to a single charge of making false statements to federal investigators in 2012. He was being questioned about leaking top-secret material about the plans of the United States to stop Iran’s nuclear program to two journalists.

Cartwright’s attorneys wrote on behalf of their client, “General Cartwright’s communications with both journalists, he successfully persuaded them not to report information that would be harmful to the United States.” The two journalists involved also wrote letters of support for Cartwright insisting that, “Cartwright consistently showed his concern that information damaging to US interests not be made public.” There were also several current and former members of Congress, along with military officials from the Bush and Obama administrations, all urging the judge for leniency in light of Cartwright’s decorated military career.

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