Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence officer who was sentenced 35 years for giving classified material to Wikileaks.
Manning will be freed in May this year, according to a statement from the White House. She was originally set to be released in 2045.
She was arrested in 2010 after leaking 700,000 military files and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. The 35-year sentence Manning received was the longest ever imposed for a leak conviction in the United States.
“I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public. I have never made any excuses for what I did.” Manning wrote in her petition in November to have her sentenced commuted.
“I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong.” she said.
Manning announced she was a transgender woman the day after her sentencing. She has reportedly tried to commit suicide twice and spent time in solitary confinement as punishment at the military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
“The bottom-line is this: I need help and I am still not getting it. I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life,” she wrote.
Also on Tuesday, Obama pardoned former Marine General James Cartwright, who was convicted of making false statements to federal investigators as they probed whether he leaked details of a cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program. He pleaded guilty in October, and prosecutors have requested a two-year prison sentence.
A commutation shortens a convict’s sentence, but unlike a pardon, does not forgive the crime.
Edward Snowden, the fugitive former NSA contractor who leaked his cache of documents detailing U.S. intelligence efforts around the same time as Manning’s crime, called earlier for Manning’s clemency.
“Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency as you exit the White House, please: free Chelsea Manning,” Snowden tweeted. “You alone can save her life.”
However, at a White House briefing last week, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said there was a “stark difference” between Manning’s crime and Snowden’s actions, with Snowden’s being “far more serious and far more dangerous.”
The move was part of a final push of pardons and commutations in the closing days of the Obama administration, and Obama has now shortened the sentences of more federal inmates than any other president. Enditem