President Barack Obama on Tuesday shortened the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. military intelligence analyst who was responsible for a 2010 leak of classified materials to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the biggest such breach in U.S. history.
A White House official said there was no connection between Manning’s commutation and renewed U.S. government concern about WikiLeaks’ actions during last year’s presidential election, or a promise by founder Julian Assange to accept extradition if Manning was freed.
Manning has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks – a leak for which she was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison.
Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, reduced her sentence to seven years, angering some Republicans.
“This is just outrageous,” House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. Ryan, a Republican, said the decision was a “dangerous precedent” for those who leak materials about national security.
“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” Ryan said.
Manning was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when she gave WikiLeaks a trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts that included a 2007 gunsight video of a U.S. Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people including two Reuters news staff.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton said the leak endangered troops, intelligence officers, diplomats and allies.
“We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr,” Cotton said.