President Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence and she will be released this May. In September 2016, WikiLeaks publisher, Julian Assange offered to turn himself in to US authorities if President Obama were to pardon Manning. It will be interesting to see if Assange makes good on his offer.
Chelsea was born Bradley Manning and was serving in the Iraq War as an Army intelligence analyst in 2009 when he saw footage from an Apache helicopter of 11 innocent Iraqi civilians viciously murdered as the two-man crew exhibited appalling bloodlust. He also reviewed thousands of US diplomatic cables, describing much of the realpolitik that he observed in these to be “…crazy, almost criminal political backdealings”.
Manning attempted to pass the information to the Washington Post and to the New York Times but neither were interested. He then approached WikiLeaks, which published the footage in early 2010 with the headline, “Collateral Murder”. This story plus the hundreds of thousands of embarrassing US diplomatic cables supplied by Manning, which came to be known as “Cablegate” put WikiLeaks on the map.
Manning was arrested in late May of 2010 and has remained in custody ever since. I had the occasion to attend one day at his pre-trial hearings at Fort Meade. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, who is interviewed in this clip from the Today Show filmed a few days before Manning’s commutation was announced tears up twice, about the harshness of Chelsea’s 35-year sentence saying, “I’ve represented murderers, I’ve represented rapists, I’v represented child molesters and none of them received 35 years, none of them.”
Coombs also confirms that nobody’s life was endangered by Manning’s leaks. Only a few diplomats “feelings were hurt.” He also says that, he “would be the happiest person alive – next to maybe Chelsea – if the President does, in fact commute her sentence.”