On January 17th, President Obama commuted the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. After an extremely tumultuous experience where she twice attempted suicide, Manning’s sentence was finally commuted shortly before President-Elect Donald Trump takes office. The decision is final and cannot be reversed by Trump.
Manning, a transgender woman formerly known as Bradley Manning, was serving a 35 year sentence as she was convicted with counts of the Espionage Act for leaking government documents that exposed many of the United States government’s actions in the Bush administration, much of it specifically during the Iraq war. Government officials called her a “traitor” as well as many Americans.
President Obama has been notorious for a “war on whistleblowers” as he has shown absolutely no mercy towards whistleblowers from intelligence committees exposing the criminal actions of the government. Jake Tapper of CNN stated that “the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers who leaked to journalists … more than all previous administrations combined” — a claim that was verified by PolitiFact.
President Obama refused to pardon Edward Snowden, who is now in asylum in Moscow, Russia and has been awaiting the extradition of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks which has yet to happen during his presidency and most likely will not occur. Obama, who promised transparency, has put a lot of effort to prosecute whistleblowers that expose the actions of the government during his presidency. Not to mention that the information leaked didn’t put any lives at risk. According to the Hill, President Obama made these statements back in 2011 addressing Chelsea Manning:
“We’re a nation of laws,” Obama said at the time, according to Forbes. “We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate … He broke the law.”
Yes, President Obama — we may be a nation of laws, but when a law us deemed unjust, well…? I also find it extremely hypocritical of President Obama to make these statements as the first black president. Wasn’t the same argument used before by white supremacists against Martin Luther King’s and John Lewis’ sit-ins and marches that “were against the law”? This is the massive hypocrisy in the President’s logic. It appears that he is not aware that we are a democracy in which the American public, the American people, have a right to know what their elected officials are doing on their behalf. According to the Guardian:
Brigadier General Robert Carr, a senior counter-intelligence officer who headed the Information Review Task Force that investigated the impact of WikiLeaks disclosures on behalf of the Defense Department, told a court at Fort Meade, Maryland, that they had uncovered no specific examples of anyone who had lost his or her life in reprisals that followed the publication of the disclosures on the internet. “I don’t have a specific example,” he said.
So even the counter-intelligence officer heading the task force says that Chelsea Manning’s leaks did not lead to deaths or endangering of American troop’s lives. What gives Obama?
Without Manning’s heroic acts and work, we would not have gained access to the “collateral damage” video, which shows the death of two reporters at the hands of American fire. The American government denied Reuters access to the video. Chelsea Manning also had the video of the Granai Airstrike in Afghanistan which is estimated to have killed from 86 to 147 civilians. However, it was never published because it was destroyed by Daniel Berg, according to Assange. The work of Chelsea Manning should be applauded and admired, not only because of the horrible treatment she faced but because of the amazing amounts of courage it took for her to release these documents and footage knowing what risks she could face. Manning faced horrible treatment in the detention center that was unjustified, according to a report by the Guardian:
Juan Mendez has completed a 14-month investigation into the treatment of Manning since the soldier’s arrest at a US military base in May 2010. He concludes that the US military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment in keeping Manning locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period in conditions that he also found might have constituted torture.
Deprived of a fair trial, Chelsea Manning faced some of the worst conditions shortly afterward. She also suffered from mental instability and had trouble dealing with her transition to being a woman. She attempted suicide twice, and the response by the government was to put her in solitary confinement. The horrifying experiences that the hero Manning has endured is more than enough, and it is a huge relief to see the unjust conviction to be commuted. Chelsea Manning will be freed in May of 2017, instead of 2045.
Chelsea Manning is not a traitor, she is not only a hero to America, but the heart and soul of democracy that it so desperately needs right now.