Obama commutes sentence of WikiLeaker Manning
WASHINGTONU.S. President Barack Obama on Jan. 17 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.
Obama pardoned 64 people and commuted the sentences of 209 others - including 29-year-old Manning, who will now be released in May - in one of his final acts as president.
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.
Manning, formerly known as U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman. The White House said her sentence would end on May 17 this year.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Jan. 18 that authorities had extended U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden’s Russian residency permit by two years.
The former National Security Agency contractor shook the American intelligence establishment to its core in 2013 with a series of devastating leaks on mass surveillance in the U.S. and around the world.
Snowden was not on Obama’s list of commutations or pardons.
“Snowden’s residence permit has just been extended by two years,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.
Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since 2013, where he ended up after spending weeks in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
He was initially granted permission to stay in Russia for one year amid the rapid deterioration in Moscow’s relations with Washington.