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Chelsea Manning's Prison Sentence Commuted by President Obama

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 17, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Today, during President Barrack Obama's last week in office, he commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former US Army intelligence analyst that leaked classified information to Wikileaks in 2010. Manning, who was not scheduled to be released until 2045, will now be released on May 17, 2017. The 35-year sentence was an extreme result, particularly given that Manning was agreeable to a plea bargain and confessed to her actions.

Manning's leak is notorious for making Wikileaks world famous. Also, Manning's prison sentence has been the subject of controversy due to the fact that Manning came out as transgender after being sentenced, which has posed problems for her incarceration at an all male military prison.

What Did Manning Do?

Manning, due to her position as an intelligence analyst during the Iraq conflict, was provided access to the military's classified computer network. On the network, she discovered information relating to the abuse of detainees in Iraq, as well as civilian deaths, that the military was attempting to keep hidden. Manning made this information public by disclosing thousands of classified documents and videos to Wikileaks to publish.

Manning has always maintained that her actions were not malicious, or with ill-intent, and that she hoped to expose the misdeeds of the military for the public's benefit. One video exposed by Manning showed the US military killing two journalists via a helicopter strike.

Pardon Versus Commute

While most people are familiar with the presidential, or gubernatorial, pardon, when they hear about a president commuting a sentence, some folks wonder what that means. Basically, unlike a pardon, which removes the consequences of a conviction, when a sentence is commuted it is simply shortened, either totally or partially.

The adverse consequences of a conviction, like not being allowed to vote, sit on a jury, or hold public office, can only be removed via a pardon. However, neither a pardon or commutation fully clear a person's criminal record. In order to actually remove a criminal conviction from one's record, a person needs to pursue an expungement.

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