Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obama frees Manning

Also Hoss Cartwright and Willie McCovey, but it's Chelsea that we're most grateful for.

President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

Under the terms of the commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place for Ms. Manning to live after her release.

The commutation also relieved the Defense Department of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria, including sex reassignment surgery, that the military has no experience providing.

There will be no such grace for Edward Snowden.

A number of groups have called on President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia under threat of US espionage charges. Thus far, the president has declined to do so, citing the absence of an active court hearing on Snowden’s charges. “I can't pardon somebody who hasn't gone before a court and presented themselves,” Obama told Der Spiegel in November.

Speaking to the Times after the order, a White House spokesman affirmed the earlier statements, drawing a stark distinction between Manning and Snowden. “Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” the spokesperson said.

And we wait for Julian Assange, who said via Wikileaks Tweet just a few days ago that he would turn himself over for extradition if Manning were freed.  Update: Not happening

This piece helps us understand why Obama was moved to grant clemency.

"The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven," Portia famously tells Shylock, who is demanding a pound of flesh from her friend Antonio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. "It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown."

As the statues of them in Germany would suggest, I consider all three to be heroes and patriots of the first order to democracy and free speech.

The demonstration of those things should recognize no border and encounter no governmental interference or punishment, nor threat of, in their expression.  As we begin a new administration in this country which places little value in transparency and perhaps even less in truth, both our rights and our courage to use them will be tested.  Our first chance to do so is this Friday, all day and everywhere.

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