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Report: Chelsea Manning on Obama’s Short List for Commutation

Chelsea Manning NBC News screenshot
Chelsea Manning NBC News screenshot

Former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified material, has been put on President Barack Obama’s short list for a possible commutation.

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“I have more hope right now than I have the entire time since she was sentenced,” Manning’s aunt, Deborah Manning, told NBC News. “I do think it’s the last hope for a while.”

As previously reported on The Root, Manning, who attempted suicide in July of last year and later went on a hunger strike in September, was arrested in 2010, convicted in 2013 and given a 35-year sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas for blowing the whistle on vast human rights violations orchestrated by the U.S. government and carried out by the U.S. military.

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While working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, downloaded and shared with WikiLeaks 500,000 Army reports that would later make up the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary, 250,00 American diplomatic cables, as well as videos of the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike.

As NBC News notes, prosecutors branded Manning a “traitor” who was seeking notoriety in the world of hackers and anarchists, while her attorneys painted their client as a naive whistleblower who did little more than cause embarrassment.

Manning pleaded guilty, and before her sentencing she apologized to the court and the nation.

“I’m sorry,” Manning said. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States.”

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“I understand that I must pay the price for my decisions and actions,” Manning added.

As NBC News reports, the judge was not moved by Manning’s apology and delivered a sentence that was about 10 times longer than those of recent whistleblowers.

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“After this case, I had to tell Chelsea: ‘I’ve represented murderers. I’ve represented rapists. I’ve represented child molesters. And none of them received 35 years,’” defense lawyer David Coombs told NBC News.

Manning’s supporters, including her aunt, believe the harshness of the sentence is tied to the scandal surrounding former National Security Agency contractor and fellow leaker Edward Snowden.

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“I really believe the judge felt she needed to send some sort of message,” Deborah Manning said. “I think in a way she was a scapegoat for Edward Snowden.”

Snowden himself tweeted a plea to President Barack Obama on Wednesday morning in support of Manning.

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Manning’s aunt told NBC that she hoped President Obama would consider the former soldier’s troubled upbringing, struggles with gender identity and remorse.

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“I would say this is someone who’s never had a chance in life, who is extremely bright, who became extremely emotionally distressed at some point, who made a bad decision, who paid for that bad decision,” Deborah Manning said. “And it’s time to let her go out and try to make a positive contribution in the world.”

Read more at NBC News.

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.

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DISCUSSION

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I remember when these leaks hit, and I got pretty mad about. Mostly I was mad at Wikileaks for editing them, and I got annoyed by the outrage people had about the behavior of soldiers in the video. “This is what war is like,” I would say. This was what we asked for when we invaded Iraq. That stuff shouldn’t have been a surprise.

I haven’t paid as much attention to Manning or Snowden as I should. Whether I was just jaded or held some programmed grudge against them for ‘hurting America,’ I just haven’t taken the time to think about this stuff until recently.

As the years have gone by, I’m becoming more and more ‘woke’ as the kids say (I’m all of 30), and this combined with that report over on Foxtrot Alpha about atrocities by SEAL Team Six has me ready to think about it.

We need people like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and we need them because it’s now obvious to me that we will ignore the horrible things our soldiers do if we can. We need them because our major media outlets are apparently unwilling to fight for the information they need for a complete understanding of our actions in foreign lands. We need them because we may find ourselves in another war very soon.

The damage is probably already done by Snowden’s exile and Manning’s sentence. Any future whistle blowers will know that exposing the truth will likely end their lives as they know it, and that means it will take extraordinary courage for us to hear the truth of the crimes we empower our military and our government to commit. That means we all need to be more vigilant, and when someone does make the choice to sacrifice their lives for the truth, we need to make damn sure the truth is the bigger story than the leak.