The Commutation of Chelsea Manning
By J.R. Jameson
On Wednesday, President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning for her role in the WikiLeaks scandal of 2010. Manning a soldier who was convicted by court martial in 2013 under the Espionage act and under another 22 separate charges to include aiding the enemy. Originally she intended to leak the information to the Washington Post and the NY Times, but upon their disinterest then decided to pass the information to WikiLeaks in what became known as the Afghan and Iraq War Logs. She wrote in later statements that the more she had tried to fit in the army, the more alienated she felt. The relationship with WikiLeaks had given her a brief respite from the isolation and anxiety.
The veteran community is in an uproar because for them the severity of the crime outweighs the possibility of catching a bigger fish. And the precedent this action may set is very troubling to the community. Manning swore an oath to defend this country and broke it in one of the most heinous ways possible. Manning didn’t just leak classified information to the press, she essentially copied the entire SIPRNet drive and gave it to WikiLeaks to publish. These documents contained the names of informants, interpreters, numerous State Dept. cables, etc. In any other war, at any other time in our history, Manning would have been tried for treason.
Manning was not someone who saw some sort of wrongdoing and went to the press to expose injustice. Those people are called whistleblowers and there are a whole set of laws to protect them. If she thought what she was doing was whistleblowing she would have exposed an item or an agenda. What she did was hand over an intelligence trove that foreign intelligence agencies only dream of. Aside from all of the military intel on the drive, it also contained State Dept cables containing the thoughts and positions the US held on world leaders. She took no action to safeguard or redact any of the data she handed over. She was the worst kind of Soldier, sitting in her safe space, stewing in an already grand inferiority complex, she decided that what she needed was attention and this would make her an internet sensation.
She hoped she would be seen as a social justice warrior, and believed that her actions were brave. All she did was betray her country and the oath she swore to defend it. Her actions resulted in the deaths of many individuals who were trying to do the right thing and work against the radical Islamic insurgencies in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Because she gave no forethought to what she was doing she handed over reams of intelligence data to enemies of this country.
Throughout this scandal with Manning, this administration has set a dangerous precedent. The government chose not to charge her with treason which carries an automatic penalty of death or life in prison. Manning’s most serious charge, aiding the enemy, carries a possibility of life in prison, but she was sentenced to 35 years in prison instead. Now by President Obama commuting Manning’s prison sentence, he minimizes the severity of jeopardizing national security.
Senator McCain was quoted saying “It is a sad, yet perhaps fitting commentary on President Obama’s failed national security policies that he would commute the sentence of an individual that endangered the lives of American troops, diplomats, and intelligence sources by leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive governments documents to WikiLeaks, a virulently anti-American organization that was a tool of Russia’s recent interference in our elections.”
Apparently needlessly jeopardizing US Soldiers, Statesmen, and our allies’ lives are not as bad as embarrassing a Presidential candidate? No mistake about it, what the President did was commute the sentence of a traitor, not some misguided 18-year-old and set a dangerous precedent for our national security.
***** The difference between a pardon and the commuting of a sentence. A pardon wipes out the record of a conviction making it so it never happened. Commuting a sentence leaves the conviction intact and reduces or ends the sentence of a conviction.