Obama: “Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence.” https://t.co/OVKxo6WDwO
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 18, 2017
Following yesterday’s striking news of his commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, President Obama has offered further clarification and nuance for his decision in today’s press conference:
Let’s be clear: Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence. So the notion that the average person who was thinking of disclosing classified information would think that it goes unpunished—I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served. It has been my view that given that she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers have received, and that she has served a significant amount of time, that it makes sense to commute—and not pardon—her sentence.
And I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and a message has still been sent that when it comes to our national security, that wherever possible, we need folks who may have legitimate concerns about the actions of government or their superiors or the agencies in which they work—that they try to work through the established channels and avail themselves of the whistleblower protections that have been put in place.
His remarks offer further distinction between Manning’s case and those of Edward Snowden. In particular, his noting the disproportionate nature of Manning’s sentence relative to her offense directly explains why he felt that its commutation was appropriate. This was not an outright pardon.
Although troubling questions remain over whether the whistleblower protections President Obama cites have indeed been offered by his administration and in fact remain readily available, this act of executive clemency can provide the final word in that area.