Photo via Flickr User Matthew Lippincott
"Chelsea deserves a chance to be truly free to live her life. Her chance is now, and Obama is her only hope."
A new report by NBC cites an unnamed source in the Justice Department, who claims that Chelsea Manning is on President Obama's short list for sentence commutation—meaning the President may set her free before he leaves office.
In 2016, Chelsea Manning made a plea to President Obama to commute her sentence to time served, which would free her immediately while recognizing her guilt; over 100,000 people signed a White House sponsored petition to Obama backing that plea. Manning has now been imprisoned far longer than any other whistleblower, though she's only served six years of her 35-year prison sentence.
During this time, she has suffered numerous injustices by the state: According to a UN torture report, she has been subjected to "cruel and inhuman" punishment, including being placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. She has had to fight for lifesaving healthcare as a trans person. She has suffered extremely, and she has attempted suicide twice behind bars.
Many people, including government officials and whistleblower advocates, have previously said they doubt that Obama will respond to Manning's request and set her free, despite the fact President-elect Trump is not expected to be sympathetic to her. But according to NBC, Obama may make a decision to release Manning as early as today.
"There are nine days left for President Obama to act to save Chelsea Manning's life," Chase Strangio, one of Chelsea Manning's attorneys, tells Broadly. He expounds on the qualities that Obama could consider when making this historic decision: Chelsea is "brilliant, compassionate, and incredibly patriotic," he says.
It is generally understood that Manning's leak of classified military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010 didn't cause any significant harms to international relations, but those files did help to lift the curtain on the government's secret actions overseas—actions such as a 2007 Apache helicopter strike that killed 12 people, including civilians and two journalists. To many, Manning is an icon for transparency in government at a time when such transparency has become increasingly necessary for the survival of our democratic state.
"She believes in justice and freedom and is someone we need on the outside fighting with us in the coming months and years," Strangio says. "I am relieved to hear that President Obama is considering taking action. The system itself will not correct the egregious error of her 35-year sentence in time to save her life. As a trans woman in a men's prison, as a survivor of abuse, homelessness, and solitary confinement, Chelsea deserves a chance to be truly free to live her life. Her chance is now, and Obama is her only hope."
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