President Obama announced today that he would commute a bulk of the prison sentence for Chelsea Manning, who was originally sentenced to 35 years for leaking more than 100,000 military documents—a violation of the Espionage Act. Now, the former Army intelligence analyst is set to be freed on May 17 of this year, instead of 2045.
The news was greeted by Manning’s legal support team. "Obama may well have just saved Chelsea Manning's life," said Sarah Harrison, who has defended Manning as Active Director of the Courage nonprofit. "Freeing her is clearly and unambiguously the right thing to do."
More than 117,000 people signed a petition created by the American Civil Liberties Union, asking Obama to cut Manning's sentence short. The letter, co-signed by more than a dozen LGBT rights organizations, called upon Obama to grant leniency to the whistleblower.
In a statement she wrote to accompany her petition to Obama asking him to reduce her sentence, Manning, now 29, asked for a chance to start over. "I need help,” she wrote. “I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life.”
Republican legislators were quick to condemn the decision, with Senator John McCain tweeting, "POTUS's commutation of #ChelseaManning's sentence is a grave mistake that will encourage further acts of espionage."