Chelsea Manning (29), a former military intelligence analyst, who was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison for passing on military documents, videos and other battlefield information to WikiLeaks, was pardoned by President Obama this week. She will walk out of a Bureau of Prison facility this May.
Manning, who underwent a sex change from man to a woman, was convicted of releasing more than 700,000 such documents and files. Her breach is considered to be the biggest in United States history. Her sentence of 35 years is also one of the steepest ever imposed for such a crime. She has been in prison for the past six years.
Republicans quickly denounced the President’s decision to pardon Manning. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, said: “This is just outrageous. Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.” Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said, “We ought not treat a traitor like a Martyr.”
Senator John McCain said the decision was a “grave mistake” and that Obama’s pardon “will encourage further acts of espionage and undermine military discipline. It also devalues the courage of real whistleblowers who have used proper channels to hold our government accountable.”
OUR FREE OPINION
The sentence of 35 years, in this case, was draconian and did not match the seriousness of the crime. The government has a legitimate concern where national security and secret military matters are concerned. But Manning’s transgressions had some whistle-blower characteristics, and her actions as a whole were not reasonably analyzed by the tribunal that judged and sentenced her.
For hyper-technical legal reasons, Manning was not allowed to present evidence and argue that she had been acting in the public interest during her proceedings. Regardless of whether such contentions in her case were valid, we maintain that a person accused of such wrongdoing should have the widest latitude possible in presenting evidence for her defense. There were other possible due process violations attached to her prosecution.
We agree with Amnesty International’s statement that any human rights violations exposed by the leaks should be investigated regardless of the legalities. In sum, we agree with President Obama’s pardon. We also agree with the commutations and pardons in the other cases.