President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence over the objection of his military leaders, according to news reports.
Both Fox News and CNN reported that Defense Secretary Ash Carter, as well as top Army leaders, opposed Obama’s action to let Manning go free after serving only seven of the 35 years to which the former Army intelligence analyst was sentenced for giving military secrets to WikiLeaks.
CNN quoted what it called a “former intelligence official” who said the “entire intelligence community is deflated by this inexplicable use of executive power.”
The official denounced Obama’s action as “deeply hypocritical given Obama’s denunciation of WikiLeaks’ role in the hacking of the (Democratic National Committee).”
Fox News reported the damage from Manning’s leaks was extensive.
“Ambassadors were forced to resign, [CIA] station chiefs had to be recalled, secret diplomatic cables were revealed,” Fox News reported one official as saying.
Fox News quoted two intelligence sources as saying that after some Afghanistan reports were released in 2010, the Taliban “went on a killing spree,” killing anyone remotely fitting the description of someone helping the United States.
If the report said “someone with short dark hair was helping the U.S., the Taliban took out everyone with short dark hair. It was indiscriminate,” one source told the network.
Writing in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin said Obama’s commutation of Manning’s sentence “defies rational explanation.”
Rubin said that even if Obama wanted to show compassion, a reduced sentence could have done the trick.
“An administration that understandably went ballistic when the leaks first occurred and has prosecuted more leaking cases than all his predecessors combined, looks feckless, to put it mildly,” she wrote.
Rubin noted the move was opposed by military leaders.
“At a time when we are battling cyberattacks and combating the notion that WikiLeaks is a respected news organization, setting Manning free seems to convey exactly the wrong message to our enemies and to potential leakers at the wrong time,” she wrote.
Rubin put the action in the context of another piece of the Obama legacy.
“Just as the genocide in Syria, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the decline in military preparedness, the deterioration in U.S.-Israel relations, the premature decision to pull all troops out of Iraq and the spread of the Islamic State on his watch will be part of his legacy, so too will the Manning commutation. History, we suspect, will not look kindly on any of it,” she added.
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