According to a source at the Justice Department, President Obama has put Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence whistleblower jailed for leaking classified material, on his shortlist for possible commutation. "I have more hope right now than I have the entire time since she was sentenced," Manning's aunt, Deborah Manning said. After the verdict, Manning announced that she was a transgender woman, taking the name of Chelsea. While imprisoned, she has attempted suicide twice this year, and has gone on a hunger strike in a bid for gender reassignment surgery.
Manning, known as Bradley at the time, was arrested in 2010 for leaking 700,000 military and diplomatic files to WikiLeaks. Manning plead guilty and accepted full accountability for the crime, but was given a sentence of 35 years, much longer than the average sentence served by other recent whistleblowers.
"After this case, I had to tell Chelsea — 'I've represented murderers. I've represented rapists. I've represented child molesters. And none of them received 35 years,'" Manning’s defense lawyer David Coombs said.
"Thirty-five years is just a long thing to try to imagine, especially when you're just in your early 20s," Deborah Manning said. "I really believe the judge felt she needed to send some sort of message. I think in a way [Manning] was a scapegoat for Edward Snowden."
Several current and former Army intelligence officers have stated that Manning's leak was much less significant than Snowden's leak of confidential NSA material, and have anonymously admitted that they thought Manning's sentence was excessive.
Last month, over 100,000 people signed a petition requesting that Obama commute Manning's sentence. The president's decision may come as early as this week.
"I would say this is someone who's never had a chance in life, who is extremely bright, who became extremely emotionally distressed as some point, who made a bad decision, who paid for that bad decision," Deborah Manning said. "And it's time to let her go out and try to make a positive contribution in the world."