Jan 17 2017

One Good Thing

Surprise: President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning’s Sentence
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Tue, Jan 17th 2017

Well, here’s a surprise. President Obama has just commuted the bulk of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, meaning she will be freed this May, rather than having to spend another three decades in jail. Manning, of course, was sent to prison for sharing a large chunk of US diplomatic cables with Wikileaks. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison nearly four years ago (with credit for the 3.5 years she’d already been held, often in solitary confinement). Many people were already outraged at the sentence, especially given that there was no evidence of any actual harm from the leaks.

There were two big campaigns going on over the past few months — one to pardon Ed Snowden, and another to commute Manning’s sentence. President Obama had already made it fairly clear that he had no interest in pardoning Snowden based on the totally false claim that he could not pardon Snowden prior to Snowden being convicted. In the past few weeks, however, there were at least a few hints and rumors that Obama was seriously considering commuting Manning’s sentence, and that led to even more focus on the campaign. Ed Snowden himself also advocated for Manning, even ahead of his own case.

Wikileaks tweeted that Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Obama “grants Manning clemency.”

(I)t does appear that the likelihood of a Snowden pardon is also almost nil. In discussing today’s commutation of Manning’s sentence, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest basically argued that what Snowden did was much worse than Manning, because he “fled”.

(T)here was a difference in the types of documents revealed, one might also make the argument that Snowden’s leaks revealed much more serious problems and the impact of his leaks were much more important in revealing to the American public abuses by our own government. Separately, the whole “fled into the arms of adversary” thing is silly as well. As has been explained multiple times, Snowden ended up in Russia after the US pulled his passport while he was traveling. And, at the same time, a big part of the reason Snowden left the US was the unfortunate treatment of Manning by the military judicial process. Snowden properly surmised that he would not be treated fairly. And apparently that continues to this day.

It doesn’t mitigate against my overall assessment. It’s important to remember that Barack Obama was not only the person who jailed Chelsea Manning, he also refused to prosecute the W Administration’s War Crimes and Violations of Privacy, indeed he extended and expanded them.

It is a good thing Manning will be released in May. She is severely clinically depressed and has attempted suicide twice to my recollection because of the torture (yup, solitary confinement for extended periods is Geneva Convention torture) she’s had to endure.

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