WASHINGTON, DC — The Obama administration announced today the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence for disclosing classified information that raised public awareness regarding the impact of war on innocent civilians. Manning will reportedly be freed in May 2017.
“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” said Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning. “Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”
Manning, a transgender woman, is in the seventh year of an unprecedented 35-year sentence and has been forced to serve her sentence in an all-male prison. The ACLU previously filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the appeal of Manning’s conviction, arguing that the prosecution of Manning under the Espionage Act violated the Constitution because it leads to prosecutions where a court gives no consideration to the public interest. The ACLU also argued that such cases give the government too much leeway to selectively prosecute disfavored speakers.
Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, Manning’s appellate counselors, said in a joint statement, “Ms. Manning is the longest serving whistleblower in the history of the United States. Her 35-year sentence for disclosing information that served the public interest and never caused harm to the United States was always excessive, and we’re delighted that justice is being served in the form of this commutation.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 18, 2017
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, who has been an ardent supporter of Chelsea’s and speaks to her on the phone on a regular basis said, “Chelsea’s release is massive victory for free speech, human rights, and democracy. As someone who has become friends with Chelsea over the last year, but has never had a chance to see her face or give her a hug, I’m overjoyed that she will be able to share her beautiful self with the world. She has so much to offer, and her freedom will be a testament to the power of grassroots organizing. I’m so excited for the world to get to know her as the compassionate, intelligent, and kind person who she is.”
The president’s decision comes after an outpouring of support for Manning since her unfair and egregious sentence and the ongoing mistreatment throughout her incarceration. In December, the ACLU and over a dozen other LGBT groups sent a letter to President Obama urging him to grant clemency to Manning, and an official White House petition with the same request secured over 100,000 signatures.
The ACLU has represented Manning in a lawsuit against the Department of Defense that was first filed in 2014 over the department’s refusal to treat Manning’s well-documented gender dysphoria.