President Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence officer, who is serving a 35 years for giving classified information to Wikileaks.
The decision, made in the last days of his presidency, means that Manning can be freed May 17, seven years into her sentence.
More than 117,000 people signed a petition asking Obama to cut short the sentence. Fugitive leaker Edward Snowden said in a tweet that if Obama could only free one person, it should be Manning.
Manning’s supporters were buoyed by indications that her petition was being taken seriously. At a White House briefing last week, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said there was a “stark difference” between Manning’s crime and Snowden’s actions, with Snowden’s being “far more serious and far more dangerous.”
Manning — then known as Bradley — was locked up in 2010 after swiping 700,000 military files and diplomatic cables and giving them to Wikileaks.
Three years ago, she applied for a presidential pardon and was rejected. In her petition this November to have her sentenced commuted, she said he understood her earlier request was “too soon” and “too much.”
“I should have waited. I needed time to absorb the conviction, and to reflect on my actions. I also needed time to grow and mature as a person,” she wrote.
“I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public. I have never made any excuses for what I did. I pleaded guilty without the protection of a plea agreement because I believed the military justice system would understand my motivation for the disclosure and sentence me fairly. I was wrong.”
Manning, who announced she was a transgender woman the day after her sentencing, said she has not been able to get proper treatment for an anxiety-producing condition called gender dysphoria while incarcerated at the military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
“The bottom-line is this: I need help and I am still not getting it. I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life,” she wrote.