Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who is serving a 35-year sentence for sharing military documents with WikiLeaks, will walk free in May thanks to a commutation granted by President Obama on Tuesday.
Manning’s commutation was one of 209, along with 64 pardons, announced by the White House just days before Obama’s presidency comes to an end. The list brings the total number of commutations issued by Obama to 1,385 individuals, the most granted by any President in the nation’s history.
Manning who will be released May 17, was convicted in July 2013 on multiple counts after entering a guilty plea. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison one month later. Originally, Manning could have faced the death penalty.
Manning is currently being held at Fort Leavenworth, where she twice unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Additionally, Manning, who was born Bradley Manning but began transitioning into a woman around the time of sentencing, engaged in a week-long hunger strike in September after failing to receive the sex reassignment surgery previously promised to her while serving her sentence.
Manning’s treatment while at Leavenworth has often been criticized by her supporters, and Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represents Manning, said the decision to shorten her sentence could have saved her life.
“We are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman,” Strangio said.
Likewise, WikiLeaks praised Obama’s decision, saying courage and determination “made the impossible possible.” Earlier this week, WikiLeaks announced founder Julian Assange, who is accused of sexual assault and has avoided extradition for more than four years, agreed to be extradited in exchange for Manning’s clemency.
But not everyone is thrilled with Manning’s reduced sentence. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the decision “outrageous.”
“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes,” Ryan said in a statement.
The White House said the individuals have been granted a second chance by the President of a forgiving nation where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to such opportunities.