Given the context of hacking and leaks during last year’s election, this has got to rank as one of President Obama’s most bizarre choices. From the Associated Press:
“President Barack Obama granted clemency to Chelsea Manning on Tuesday, allowing the transgender Army intelligence officer convicted of leaking more than 700,000 U.S. documents to go free nearly three decades early.
“Embracing his clemency powers days before leaving office, Obama also pardoned 64 individuals including retired Gen. James Cartwright, charged with making false statements during another leak probe. Manning was one of 209 inmates with sentences commuted by Obama, who has now granted more commutations than any other president in history. …
“Manning, Cartwright and Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera were the more prominent names on a list otherwise made up mostly of nonviolent drug offenders. The actions are permanent, and cannot be undone by President-elect Donald Trump.
“With his last-minute clemency for Manning and Cartwright, Obama appeared to be softening what has been a hard-line approach to prosecuting leakers.
“Manning has been serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks, along with some battlefield video. She was convicted in military court of violating the Espionage Act and other offenses and spent more than six years behind bars. She asked Obama last November to commute her sentence to time served.”
Manning’s leaks were no small deal. WikiLeaks published them to the delight of U.S. enemies — including, according to prosecutors, Osama bin Laden himself. This wasn’t the targeted release of specific information the public had a right and need to know. It was a mass release of all manner of U.S. national-security secrets. It was plainly contrary to our national interest, and setting a precedent for releasing someone convicted of such a crime after a mere 20 percent of the sentence is not only shameful but dangerous. Keep in mind this move comes from the same president whose administration took the outrageous step of monitoring journalists’ contacts with government officials as part of its efforts to plug leaks.
It’s also impossible to square with the outrage we’ve seen from Democrats about Russian efforts to interfere in our presidential election. All Americans should be disgusted by a foreign power’s hacking of our country’s government, political parties, businesses, or private citizens. But Democrats have gone the extra, and unsupportable, step of claiming it undermines the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s victory — as we have seen in the spat between Trump and Congressman John Lewis over the past several days.
It certainly is in our national interest to have elections free of foreign interference. It is also in our national interest to guard our military secrets from our military adversaries, and going soft on someone who committed such a crime demonstrates a lenience that makes it more likely others will follow suit. If you’re upset about either of these without being upset about the other, your partisanship is showing.
(By the way, if you’re wondering who Oscar Lopez Rivera is, and why commuting his sentence is also beyond the pale, read this piece.)