The whistleblower partially responsible for unleashing classified information -resulting in a media circus and disinformation spree that negatively affected US service members- is on the short list of possible sentence commutations by President Barack Obama.
A source within the Department of Justice informed NBC News of the President’s consideration of commuting Manning’s sentence, with a decision coming as soon as next week.
Formerly known as Private First Class Bradley Manning before claiming to be transgender, Chelsea Manning is a former Army intelligence analyst who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified material that resulted in not only scandals concerning US military operations around the world but greatly affected the lives (often putting them at risk) of US service members.
One of the more notable leaks from Manning’s Wikileaks data-dumps is the video footage of the 2007 airstrike in Baghdad, which showed soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division being supported by Apache helicopters during an ambush by Iraqi insurgents. Unbeknownst to US forces in the area, two Reuters reporters were among the insurgents and subsequently became casualties after Apache helicopters opened fire with 30mm chain guns.
While the video released by Wikileaks was later found to be edited and out of context, the “Incident in New Baghdad” leak damage had already been done by the time it was shown on international and American news outlets. Footage of helicopter pilots laughing at soldiers accidentally running over a body (dark humor is a coping mechanism in the inhumane terror that is warfare) horrified the general public, who turned their animosity toward the servicemembers involved- and put a dent in the legacy of the relatively successful “Surge” campaign of the conflict.
Even though US soldiers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing, the after effects have been severe. Some troops affiliated with the unit in question report having been harassed or confronted when aforementioned affiliation was discovered; others felt the incident created a lucrative platform for those who oppose the United States. In addition to Manning, one member of the unit -Ethan McCord- spoke out against the Army following the incident, taking part in the short documentary Incident in New Baghdad– that only tells his side of the story.
While this is only one instance of the damage caused by Manning’s leaks, revelations of classified material -including over 400,000 significant activities from the Iraq War- revealed to the global public caused great harm to the US war effort and American Foreign policy.
While Manning’s leaks were never specifically-linked to the death or wounding of Americans and their allies, the extensive damage to US operations and reputation due to mishandling of classified materials ultimately resulted in her final sentencing of 35 years at the US Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Since then, Manning -who later would change her name to Chelsea in light of her assumed female gender- has successfully requested cross-sex hormone therapy to address her gender dysphoria, partially funded by the US tax funding. During her incarceration, she has received both criticism and support by the American public for her actions.
Now, in light of a possible sentence commutation, many veterans and service members feel letting Manning off the hook would be a slap in the face to all who served or were affected by her actions.
“I’m disgusted this is even an issue on the table,” said veteran Randy Packer, a soldier who was on the ground at the time of the 2007 incident. “[Manning] leaked a video that did not include events leading up to the incident and tarnished the reputation and respect of our company who was doing what needed to be done to stay alive while under attack. Manning stole classified government property and gave it to foreign personnel. He deserves to sit out his punishment.”
One officer involved in the incident -who spoke on anonymity due to his continued military service- considers the acts of Manning to be nothing short of treason.
“I consider [Manning] a sidelining (sic) and cowardly traitor,” he told Popular Military after being asked how the felt about President Obama’s consideration in regards to Manning’s sentence being commuted. “I feel it’s a betrayal to those who have served, and are serving. A betrayal by our government and military alike.”
Meanwhile, Manning’s family is hopeful that the disgraced soldier will soon be released.
“I have more hope right now than I have the entire time since she was sentenced,” Manning’s aunt, Deborah Manning, told NBC News.”I do think it’s the last hope for a while.”
At the time of her sentencing, Manning was reportedly contrite and remorseful for her actions, claiming she understands that she must be punished for her actions.
“I’m sorry,” Manning said. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States. I understand that I must pay the price for my decisions and actions.”
Since her imprisonment, Manning has attempted suicide at least twice and endured a hunger strike to secure permission for sex-reassignment surgery.
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