In one of his final acts as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of polarizing whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who helped release some 700,000 sensitive military and diplomatic documents online.
With just four days left in office, Obama ultimately decided to protect Manning, who was due to serve 32 years remaining on her sentence. Since 2013, she has been held at Fort Leavenworth, serving a 35-year term that was the longest leak conviction in U.S. history.
Manning was the source of a massive document dump in 2010 — an international incident that helped to put WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, on the map. With Obama’s commutation of her sentence — which is not a presidential pardon — she is set to be released from jail on May 17 of this year, according to The New York Times.
Manning’s case was complicated for a number of reasons, not the least of which that she was a low-ranking military official who provided documents that were merely classified as “secret.” Military incident logs from America’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed abuses of detainees by Iraqi military and civilian deaths at a rate much higher than the U.S. military publicly admitted.
Further adding to the controversy was the fact that Manning has attempted suicide twice while in jail, and she seeks sexual reassignment surgery for gender dysphoria.
In announcing the commutation for Manning, the White House signaled it has no intention to provide a pardon for Snowden of WikiLeaks.
Last week, WikiLeaks put out a statement on behalf of Assange, claiming he would agree to be extradited to the U.S. if Manning were granted clemency before the end of Obama’s term. Following the news that Manning’s clemency was indeed granted, Assange issued a simple statement from the WikiLeaks Twitter account, but did not comment on his promise of extradition.
“Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency,” Assange wrote. “Your courage & determination made the impossible possible.”