Wall Street Journal - January 17, 2017
President Obama's decision Tuesday to commute the 35-year prison sentence of Pfc. Chelsea, née Bradley, Manning will be celebrated on the left as a vindication of a well-intentioned whistleblower whose imprisonment at Ft. Leavenworth as a transgender woman was a travesty of justice. The real travesty is the show of leniency for a progressive cause célèbre whose actions put hundreds of lives at risk.
For those who need reminding, Manning was stationed in Iraq as a low-level intelligence analyst when he gained access to troves of classified material. Starting in 2010 he leaked nearly 750,000 documents to Julian Assange's WikiLeaks. Included in the material were thousands of secret State Department cables and masses of military information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange worked with reporters from several news organizations to publish the material, to much self-congratulation about the virtues of transparency.
U.S. diplomats and military officers took a less charitable view, with good reason. While many of the State Department cables contained little more than diplomatic party gossip, others disclosed sensitive conversations between U.S. diplomats and opposition leaders in repressive regimes. After the disclosure, Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai was investigated by the regime of Robert Mugabe for "treasonous collusion between local Zimbabweans and the aggressive international world," as the country's attorney general put it.
Even more dangerous were leaks of operational secrets, including the names of Afghan informants working with U.S. coalition forces against the Taliban. A Navy SEAL who participated in the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan testified that Manning's leaks were found on the terrorist's computer.
Little wonder that at the time Mr. Obama criticized "the deplorable action by WikiLeaks." Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the document dump "puts people's lives in danger" and was "an attack on America's foreign policy," its partnerships and alliances. Prosecutors initially sought a life sentence against Manning, who was eventually convicted of 17 of 22 charges, including espionage and theft.
Within 24 hours of sentencing in 2013, Manning said he wanted to begin hormone therapy and be known as Chelsea. Last year the Army agreed to finance her medical treatment for gender dysphoria. In December the ACLU and numerous LGBT groups wrote to Mr. Obama urging that he grant clemency to Manning, in part on grounds that she has been held in solitary confinement after suicide attempts.
The commutation sends a dreadful message to others in the military who might have grievances or other problems but haven't stolen national secrets. The lesson is that if you can claim gender dysphoria or some other politically correct condition, you can betray your country and get off lightly.
On Tuesday Mr. Obama also commuted the sentence of Puerto Rican terrorist Oscar López Rivera, who was convicted of "seditious conspiracy" against the U.S. government. He belonged to the FALN, which was responsible for more than 70 bombings in the U.S. between 1974 and 1983, killing five and injuring dozens. Rivera, who has been in prison since 1981, had become the political project of "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is a pal of President Obama. No word from the White House on whether the President alerted the families of the FALN's victims.
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