Commuter-In-Chief: Should President Obama Have Commuted Chelsea Manning’s Sentence?

So, by now, we all know Chelsea Manning is a former private in the US Armed Forces responsible for committing one of the biggest leaks of classified information in US History.

Pretty serious “stuff”.

This sort of crime, the betrayal of our nation to an extent that compromises the safety and security of us all, transcends normalcies in terms of sentence commutation. Every president goes on some sort of commutation spree in the final days of their administration. It’s an expected practice. Although, President Obama has handed out more commutations than any other president in modern history, or very possibly, the history of the presidency.

It’s known that he’s handing get out of jail free cards to non violent drug offenders. There’s barely been a whisper of protest regarding these commutations because the sentences were based on unfair sentencing laws and guidelines. A fact agreed upon by the left and right wing of our political establishment.

But when word hit the wire that the 44th president was commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE ON CAPITOL HILL. It unleashed a firestorm that caused the outgoing leader of the free world to dig into the reserves of his vast political capital and spend BIG.

At his final press conference Wednesday, January 18, Obama gave as rationale for the commutation as, “Chelsea Manning has served a great deal of time already LOL” implying that she had served enough of her 35 year sentence to learn her lesson. I agree that Ms. Manning will very probably never even THINK about comprising our country’s secrets again (not that she’ll ever get the chance anyway). She very probably has learned her lesson.

But that’s besides the point.

Couple things concern me about this commutation: 1) the message it sends to our enemies around the world Julian Assange of WikiLeaks –to whom Chelsea Manning delivered the classified docs to – is touting it as a victory for his organization. Yep, the same organization that played a not so subtle hand in the hacking shenanigans of our recent election cycle. I believe this sends the wrong message to our rivals that the people they recruit to betray us will be treated leniently, thereby emboldening them to recruit more. 2) The individuals who are now or are contemplating betraying our country for financial gain will be emboldened by this commutation believing that perhaps, if they are ever caught, leniency will be in the stars for them as well.

All in all, I believe this just sets a dangerous precedence. I def understand that Obama was under intense pressure by the LGBTQ community to release Ms. Manning. I understand them rallying around “one of their own”. I support the LGBTQ community 1,000%. However, it needs to be understand that this wasn’t a case of gender-based discrimination or disparegement or disenfranchisement or alienation due to sexual orientation. This was, and still is, a matter of national security. Period.

All that being said, I will say that I do wish Ms. Manning the best on her miraculous, if underserved, shot at physical freedom.