WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — In one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama is commuting the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier who is more than six years into a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government and military documents to the WikiLeaks website.
The White House says Manning is one of 209 inmates whose sentences Obama is shortening.
Manning, whose name was Bradley at the time of her arrest in 2010, worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. She was convicted in 2013 in military court of six violations of the Espionage Act and 14 other offenses for providing to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents, as well as battlefield videos.
When Manning was sentenced, she was also dishonorably discharged from the Army, and reduced to the grade of “private E-1,” the lowest rank possible for an enlisted member of the Army.
Earlier this month, whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted a plea to President Obama, saying “if you grant only one act of clemency as you exit the White House, please: free Chelsea Manning. You alone can save her life.”
In response to Tuesday’s developments, Snowden tweeted, “in five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay stronger a little while longer!”
Soon after the announcement, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange posted on the organization’s Twitter page, thanking “everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible.”
On Twitter last week, Assange’s anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks posted, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”
Assange has been holed up for more than four years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has refused to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where he remains wanted on an allegation of rape, fearing he would be extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges if he leaves the embassy.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan posted a statement, calling the commuting of Manning’s sentence “outrageous.”
Obama is also pardoning 64 people, including retired Gen. James Cartwright, who was charged with making false statements during a probe into disclosure of classified information, and Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was sentenced for his role in the struggle for independence for the U.S. island territory.
Most of the other people receiving commutations were serving sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
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