Obama Commuted Chelsea Manning’s Prison Sentence Just Days Before Leaving Office

by Samantha Mercado


The 2010 case of Chelsea Manning and the over 750,000 documents and videos that she sent to Wikileaks saw the strange marriage of two issues we don’t normally see side by side: U.S. foreign policy and transgender issues. Seven years later those issues are coming back into the public eye as Obama has just decided to commute Manning’s prison sentence.

Originally sentenced to 35 years– the longest sentence ever imposed by the U.S. for leak conviction– Manning will now be released May 17, 2017. During her seven years in prison, Manning has attempted suicide twice. She originally asked Obama for clemency citing the fact that her life was in danger being the only transgender woman in an all-male prison.

In case you forgot the details of the case, here’s a quick overview:

While stationed as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of military incident logs that revealed the abuse of detainees by Iraqi military officers working with American forces according to The New York Times. The Times reported that the leaks also revealed that the civilian casualty number for the Iraq war was much higher than what had been ‘officially estimated’. Manning sent the information to Wikileaks in the hopes of starting “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.”

After the files were leaked, according to CNN Politics, she was found guilty of 20 out of 22 possible charges (including violating the US Espionage Act) and sentenced to 35-years in an all-male prison.

Throughout her military career, Manning identified as a gay man but had doubts about her gender. During and after the Wikileaks episode Manning began her transition. The defense department agreed to allow her to partly transition, giving her hormones and letting her wear women’s undergarments and light cosmetics. However, they would not allow her to grow her hair longer than male military standards due to “security risks” and, according to Manning, she hasn’t been able to speak with a surgeon about sex reassignment surgery.

Following Obama’s announcement of the commutation, several people spoke out for and against it, including House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeting “Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets.”

Screen Shot 2017 01 18 at 2.15.25 PMVia Twitter/ @SpeakerRyan

Edward Snowden offered Manning more comforting words, tweeting, “In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!”

Screen Shot 2017 01 18 at 2.16.44 PMVia Twitter/ @Snowden

Manning’s attorney says that she is eager to leave prison and finally start her life.


Top photo via Flickr/Mathew Lippincott

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