On 17 January 2017, United States President Barack Obama commuted much of the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army soldier turned whistleblower who was convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of pages of classified information and disseminating them through WikiLeaks in 2010. The material included a video showing members of the United States military attacking civilians in 2007 that WikiLeaks dubbed “Collateral Murder.”
Manning had originally received a 35-year sentence for her role in the leaks, the longest ever received in the United States for whistleblowers. She also was demoted from first class private to private, then dishonorably discharged.
The American Civil Liberties Union praised the news:
“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” said Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning. “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. 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.”
Amnesty International also cheered the move:
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) January 17, 2017
WikiLeaks had previously said it would agree to a extradition request for site founder Julian Assange if Obama granted Manning clemency, but have as yet made no statement.
Manning, who twice tried to commit suicide during her incarceration, is due to be released in May 2017.