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President Obama Just Commuted Chelsea Manning's Prison Sentence

The soldier who put WikiLeaks on the map is set to leave Fort Leavenworth prison on May 17—rather than in 2045—thanks to the outgoing president.
Chelsea Manning. Photo via Wikipedia

Convicted military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning saw the remainder of her 35-year prison sentence largely wiped out by President Barack Obama Tuesday, paving the way for her release next year, the New York Times reports.

Manning has already served six years of her sentence for leaking classified military information to the increasingly controversial transparency outfit WikiLeaks. In her time as a transgender prisoner in a male military prison, she has tried to commit suicide twice and also gone on hunger strike in an effort to protest the conditions of her confinement. Now that Obama has approved her commutation application, Manning is set to leave Fort Leavenworth prison on May 17.

In 2010, Manning pleaded guilty to stealing 700,000 military files as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq. The files revealed new details about treatment of detainees by Iraqi military officers and information about the actual number of civilian deaths in the Iraq war. Perhaps most explosively, Manning helped unearth video of a US helicopter strike near Baghdad that left two journalists dead. After pleading guilty in military court, she was convicted of additional charges as well and slapped with a 35-year sentence—the longest punishment in American history for someone convicted of leak.

Obama was seen as Manning's last hope for freedom before Donald Trump took office, and shortly after the election, a White House petition pled with the outgoing president to commute her sentence. That petition reached 100,000 signatures last month, ostensibly requiring the administration to issue an answer within 90 days.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest commented on the application Friday, drawing a contrast with pleas for an official pardon for leaker Edward Snowden.

"Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing," Earnest said. "Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy."