So President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence for leaking a huge trove of classified information to Wikileaks in 2010. She will get out of jail this May, rather than in 2045.
Of course Republicans criticized the move, despite the fact that the Obama administration has been much tougher in prosecuting cases of leaking information than any other. They have brought ten such actions, more than all previous presidencies combined. John McCain noted that the leaks were espionage that put our country in jeopardy.
Obama displayed his usual thoughtfulness and courage in making this move, citing the facts that Manning’s sentence was vastly longer than the 1-3 year sentences that other such cases yielded, that she has already served seven years, that the information leaked was not, in fact, the most highly classified, and so on.
He also cited the problems Manning’s gender dysphoria created for the prison system and her two suicide attempts in prison. These issues are neither here nor there as far as I’m concerned. Chelsea should have thought of them when she was Bradley. But the commutation does, at least for the moment, spare us the debate over whether the rest of us should be required to pay for the poor dear’s gender re-assignment surgery.
I have no problem releasing Manning at this point for two reasons. The first is that, unlike that Hero of the Left, Edward Snowden, Manning acknowledged her wrong-doing, expressed remorse, submitted to the military justice system, and has served a lengthy sentence for the crimes. Spy.
Snowden, on the other hand, is noted for fleeing into the comforting arms of the enemy which benefited most from his crimes, while refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing at all. Hero.
The second reason I’m interested in this commutation is that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks operator to whom Manning leaked the documents and who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for five years now, has always said he will face extradition to the U.S. on espionage charges if Manning were to be released. Well, Julie, the ball’s in your court.
At first I thought, “Yeah, right. Assange will submit to extradition around the same time we see Trump’s tax returns, i.e. never.” Then I realized my mistake. This is actually going to work out very well for Assange. Being extradited to an Obama-led Department of Justice would have been a very different thing than facing the “wrath” of the Trump administration.
As we have recently learned, Trump takes Assange’s version of the Russian interference in the election as the truth, while complaining about and criticizing the work and the abundant documentation to the contrary produced by our own intelligence organizations. Trump chooses to believe those who flatter him, those who benefit him, and those who play him like a fucking fiddle.
And then there’s the fact that no extradition or other charges have actually been filed against Assange by the U.S. Only Sweden has filed for his extradition to try him for rapes committed there.
It will be interesting to see what Assange does here. I’m predicting that whatever it is will be preceded by a highly sympathetic media blitz on FoxNews.
It will be even more interesting to see whether Trump can demonstrate anything like the impartiality and wisdom of Obama in dealing with him. I suspect, dear readers, that you already know what I think about this.