Chelsea Manning

Obama Reportedly Considering Mercy for Chelsea Manning

Given the administration's treatment of whistleblowers, this would be a big deal.


Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning

A source at the Department of Justice has told NBC News that President Barack Obama is actually considering commuting the 35-year prison sentence given to Chelsea Manning for leaking classified military intelligence documents related to the Iraq War while in the Army.

Supposedly an announcement may come as early as today. There's been a big push to encourage Obama to commute Manning's sentence, but it would be surprising if he were to actually do so. First of all, the Obama administration has taken a remarkably hard line against unauthorized leaks, invoking the Espionage Act to go after them in a manner unlike previous presidents. Second, Obama's commutations, as numerous as they are, have been specifically focused on easing harsh sentences placed on people convicted under previous administrations, not his own, and they tend to be related to federal drug war convictions.

Interestingly, NBC news spoke to some unnamed Army officers who believe that Manning's disclosures were less "dangerous" than those revealed by surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden and say Manning's 35-year sentence seems excessive. She has served seven years so far.

Manning, who is transgender, has attempted suicide twice now in military prison. Chase Strangio, Manning's attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, put out a statement of support:

"The Obama administration has done many commendable things to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, but in the case of Chelsea Manning they have systematically mistreated her and denied her access to medically recommended gender-related health care. Chelsea won't survive another 5 years in prison, much less another 30. President Obama has 9 days to do the right thing and commute her sentence. The world is watching, and we hope that he stands on the side of justice, and that his legacy will be one of standing up for trans people's rights, not having extinguished one of our community's brightest lights."

Manning's heavy sentence is undoubtedly an attempt to deter other potential military intelligence leakers. She is obviously not a threat to society if she were released.

I remain deeply skeptical that this administration would extend such a mercy, given its overall attitude to leaks. But the harsh sentence was handed down by a military judge and as NBC noted, it was much harsher than those handed to other leakers. And as a defense attorney also noted, it was harsher than sentences he had seen for murderers and rapists.

Snowden, who tweeted his support today for Manning's release, is also looking for a pardon. ReasonTV covered that drive below:


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  1. He’s obsessed by his legacy. If Manning was just some he-man patriot like Nathan Hale, Obama would happily let him rot.

  2. I don’t like the ACLU’s framing. It’s not about a trans person’s rights, it’s about what’s right period.

    1. No kidding. If the allegations about mistreatment in prison are correct, then the correct response is to stop the mistreatment, not commute the sentence.

    2. I’m not gonna quibble with a guy named Chase Strangio.

  3. The only reason I can see to commute Manning while continuing to pursue Snowden for prosecution is because Manning is now part of the genderriffic community, so you get some secondary social signals. And there’s the ACLU, pushing the social signalling.

    He ought to pardon both. Failing that, I’m not sure why else he would pardon Manning but not Snowden.

    1. This.

      Manning’s crime was far, far worse than any Espionage Act violation that Julian Assange has done, yet there is absolutely no chance Obama ever pardons him.

      1. where “him” = Assange

        1. I think you mean Snowden. Assange is not hiding from the USG.

          1. Assange is not hiding from the USG.

            He’s not hiding in the embassy from Swedish justice, but because he believes that Sweden will hand him over to the US.

      2. Assange has not committed any informational crimes that are not covered under freedom of the press. As I understand it, he and his organization don’t do the hacking, they only publish what they are given, regardless of its source. Nor is he an American – he’s an Aussie.

        The reason he’s in an embassy seeking asylum is that he’s wanted for questioning about allegations of sexual assault and/or rape in Sweden, nothing to do with his publishing of information.

        1. He says the Swedish charges are bogus and a front for the U.S. or one of its allies to nab him, and apparently the Ecuadorians agree(d) with him enough to grant him asylum*, but there’s been no evidence offered to the public substantiate this claim.

          * = More likely, they want him as a thorn in the U.S.’s eye, much like why Putin keeps Snowden around

    2. Manning’s leaks made Bush look bad. Snowden’s Obama. Manning has been jailed for years after being convicted while Snowden has walked free in Putin’s Russia.

      No one in the sycophantic media is going to bother asking, regardless.

    3. As always, Obama has it exactly backwards.

    4. Commuting means Manning is still legally guilty, while Snowden has never been convicted in the first place. I’m fine with pardoning both of them, but it’s not inconsistent if Obama says that Manning’s sentence was excessive but still thinks Snowden should still be tried and face some sort of criminal penalty if convicted.

  4. Snowden is a whistleblower. Manning is not.

    Fuck identify politics. Fuck Obama.

    1. Quit reading my mind, Playa

        1. That Riven’s mind is apparently at the reading level of a YouTube comment?

          1. She’s not going to fuck you, bro.

            1. Do you ever get tired of being right all the time, Playa?

            2. She’ll fuck Obama and the concept of identity politics, but not Hugh?


              1. To be fair, the concept of identity politics is a lot freakier than I am.

                1. It’s got like fifteen dicks, but you’re only allowed to call six of them dicks.

    2. Snowden is a whistleblower. Manning is not.

      Fuck identify politics. Fuck Obama.

      Thank. You. Playa.

      I loathe Shackford et al’s. equivocation between soldiers, the military, civilian contractors, defense agencies, mistakes, war crimes, constitutionality, and secret blatant power grabs. TLPB draws distinctions with Nathan Hale above. He doesn’t go far enough. Obama and Reason/Shackford would hang Hale out of hand for having principles and then gladly consider leniency for Benedict Arnold were there evidence he questioned his sexuality/gender identity.

      It’s not about being gay/transgender, it’s about being free. Unless you’re not free and gay/transgender, then it’s about being gay/transgender.

    3. Manning is not.

      Oh no? Why don’t you think so?

  5. I remain deeply skeptical that this administration would extend such a mercy, given its overall attitude to leaks. But the harsh sentence was handed down by a military judge and as NBC noted, it was much harsher than those handed to other leakers.

    I think you’re assuming that Obama has some kind of ideological opposition to leaks. More likely he just wanted to punish people who were a threat to his presidency. Now that he’s on his way out, there’s not much to lose from commuting the sentence of a transgendered person who poses no risk of future harms.

  6. “Can’t we just drone this guy gal?”

    I know the media had to be in a full court press for her when this came out, but holy shit this sums up the danger of Hillary being president perfectly.

    1. Look Nutrasweet, I have it on good authority that powerful people saying appalling things is merely harmless trolling of their brainless opposition, and that you really shouldn’t take anything they say seriously.

      1. I believe a judge has even ruled it so.

        1. More Crazy Talk from SF!
          Your comments are not up to the standards of “some people” and that’s why he called you out on Tweeter.

    2. I agree. I’m actually shocked that didn’t get more press. It was an actual suggestion that the U.S. government assassinate someone who was not credibly a threat.

      1. And Obama suggested assassinating the Jonas brothers.

        1. You say that like they’re not one of the greatest threats humanity has ever faced or something.

  7. In the morning lynx, Suthenboy posited that Bradley/Chelsea Manning suffered a psychotic break from the reported torture when first incarcerated. If there’s a pardon, all that goes away and nobody looks into it any further in the future. Could be that he’d grant this pardon to save his own ass.

    1. And, once again, I point out that Manning was already dressing as Chelsea before incarceration.

      1. Calling himself Chelsea was a psychological tool to get Hillary to like him. Evidently she hates her daughter, if the droning comment is any indication.

  8. Is it really necessary to bitch about Obama’s motives if he’s going to do the right thing here? It’s all too little too late but at least it’s something.

    1. How is this the “right thing”? Snowden is a legit whistle-blower who brought to attention the existence of the framework for a turn-key totalitarian police state. For fuck’s sake, thanks to Snowden we know now that the NSA keeps a file of the porn-viewing habits of millions of Americans they deem “subversive” for use for blackmail. Edward Snowden is a goddamn American hero and everyday that he is not welcomed back home with a ticker-tape parade is a black mark upon our civilization.

      On the other hand, Manning had a nervous breakdown, and, as consequence, released a serious of friendly fire videos and diplomatic gossip that, at best, merely embarrassed the Federal government, and, at worst, put several intelligence operatives in danger. (depending on who is to be believed) Acknowledging the fact that too much information is over-classified, the motive behind Manning’s leaks is nowhere as justified as Snowden’s. The wrongs that Manning alerted the public to were nowhere as grievous as the one’s Snowden revealed and Manning had several other options than an uncurated dump of material.

      Considering that Manning was tried under military law, I believe that Manning’s sentence is just and while Obama has every right to commute it, the fact that Snowden, who as a civilian had greater liberty to act, hasn’t been considered for a full pardon is justifiably an outrage.

      1. I’m not comparing Manning’s actions with Snowden’s, I just think Manning’s sentence and the conditions endured are excessive and unjust. A commutation doesn’t expunge the record, it would just mitigate a cruel case of making an example of someone who, as you said, apparently had a mental breakdown. I pity Manning, I don’t think she’s a hero.

        1. The UCMJ is a harsh mistress, and considering that Manning was facing the possibility of the death penalty, 35 years for espionage is more than fair. Especially when you consider that Jon Pollard, a civilian, got a life sentence for the same.

          1. Hell, I consider the death penalty less harsh than 35 years in a military prison.

      2. The state department cables Manning released led to the Arab Spring. All sorts of other people in lots of other countries learned all sorts of things about their governments too, leading to changes. He exposed the continuation of US torture policies in Iraq and elsewhere, including the fact that the US trains people in torture (enhanced interrogation) methods. He exposed all sorts of shit.

        Manning is unambiguously a whistleblower.

  9. No.

    Manning’s motivation was spite. Snowden’s to expose constitutional violations. Snowden’s a hero. Manning is a traitor.

    1. To be clear: are you of the opinion the 35 year sentence was too harsh, too lenient or about right?

      It always struck me as excessive.

      1. They were clearly trying t to make an example of her. From what I know of the incident, they could probably have made a case for treason.

        35 years is certainly harsh, but not unexpected. There was a time they’d have likely shot her.

      2. He/She signed a contract. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

        1. “No, that was Brad. I had nothing to do with it!”

    2. 100% agreed. The efforts to equate Manning with Snowden have never been remotely convincing.

  10. Manning acted in defense of the people and constitution of These States against an entrenched domestic enemy at least part of which is the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us against. The kid has definitely earned a medal for exposing the machinations whereby the Prohibition Lobby exported religious fanaticism against entheogens and packaged in AML rules to wreck foreign economies so that sort selling might pay off “our” TARP program. Clearly the Democrats did nothing to stop the root cause of the Bush Crash and Depression, which was NOT subprime mortgages but the asset-forfeiture looting BOTH parties swore to keep cultivating in their platforms. With stakes this high it’s a race with time to obtain release before the thugs murder our informant and call it a suicide.

    1. Are you looking for tinfoil?

      Copper netting is much more effective.

  11. Personally, I think both should be pardoned. But, the case for Snowden is much stronger. He was exposing what should be recognized as governmental malfeasance. The case for Manning is that her revelations caused little or no damage.

  12. Manning’s heavy sentence is undoubtedly an attempt to deter other potential military intelligence leakers. She is obviously not a threat to society if she were released.

    Making an example is a shitty way to dole out justice. If she deserved 35 years, fine. You could deter a lot of crime if you handed out 35 year sentences. Not the way I’d prefer to go.

    1. You maybe, but politicians write the laws and tell cops to enforce them even if it means killing every man, woman and child for hundreds of miles in all directions. Look at the Waco genocide! That was over a tax on a gun part the ATF uses to infringe Second Amendment rights. By 1927 newspaper accounts tallied hundreds of people killed by prohibition enforcers–including over 40 of the men with guns sent out to make an example of their fellow Americans to please the Methodist White Terror. Only when Senator Tydings published a book-length expos? of dry killer abuses did the government resort finally to lying and covering up the data. Senator Tydings was the Manning and Snowden of the 1930s.

  13. I have no idea if Manning should be pardoned or not but clouding the decision with gender-justice nonsense seems like a really bad idea.

    1. And provides either an incentive to clemency seekers to claim trans status or suggests that anyone with trans tendencies is a security risk.

      1. In other words, it satisfies both sides of the Culture War.

        1. Good point.

        2. You know who else derives satisfaction from both sides…

          1. Richard Feynman?

  14. That’s short selling. When beer was a felony and dry agents murdered and were freed after mock trials, the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations struggled to export prohibition everywhere. The countries dumb enough to enact it–Iceland and Finland–were soon ruined, and the Canadian province of Ontario also repealed its Altruistic Experiment. Still, the papers were full of partisan attempts to send men with guns to shoot teenagers because they “thought they smelt beer” just as today BOTH parties free good-faith murdering cops who claim to have sniffed marijuana before snuffing their victims. Every bank in America had shut its doors by the time FDR was handed the order to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Obama was handed that same bundle in conspicuously similar circumstances.

  15. Sure, pardon a woman! If he was a man, would he have been pardoned??

  16. she is a he no matter how many operations he has and there was no whistle blowing there was claiming that a defensive act against a camera that did look like a rocket launcher was a purpose full act of wanton killing so that the media and bush haters could have another fake story to tell Americans and our enimies.

  17. Somebody just tell Obama that Trump intends to pardon both Manning and Snowden just to show what a big pussy Obama is.

    If that doesn’t work, just tell Trump that Obama wanted the lack of pardons to be part of his legacy and he said he knew it would be an enduring part because Trump’s too big a pussy to issue pardons.

  18. Jonathan Pollards served his full sentence. Just sayin’.

    1. Jonathan Pollards served his full sentence

      Not exactly. Pollard was given a life sentence. He was paroled last year after having served 30 years, according to Federal parole guidelines. He neither served his full sentence nor received any special leniency.

    2. Also, Pollard spied for a foreign nation for pay. That’s a different level of offense than what Manning did.

  19. The thing that always bothered me about Manning’s case was how a PFC in the middle of the desert was able to download so much stuff before anyone noticed. Manning should have been found guilty, sentenced to 6 years and released after 2.

    As for Snowden, he should have been given immunity to testify before Congress. If he lied, then he should have been prosecuted for perjury, but he was not lying. If anything, we should have made some deal to get him out of Russia — I think him being in Russia harmed national security far worse than he did.

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