A Statement On the Commutation of WikiLeaker Chelsea Manning’s Sentence (From The Man Who Busted Her)
From the beginning, the case of USA v. Chelsea Manning has been dogged by allegations of misconduct, improper command influence, collusion, conspiracy, collusion to conspire, and everything else you can think of. Today, I feel, is a sort of vindication for everyone involved.
The quality of mercy displayed by President Obama demonstrates that we do not live in the kind of country Manning and her supporters envision. Most of them do not see her as a human being, but rather as an avatar of injustice. Today, Obama saw her as a human being, with needs and dreams that were not being met, at severe risk in her current penal environment.
I don’t know if he saw her as I saw her — someone who reminded me eerily of me at 22, breaking the law for what seemed like a good purpose at the time. Then again, I never leaked anything I hacked, or knowingly endangered anyone. There’s a line between curiosity and recklessness. But that doesn’t mean the answer is always putting you into the system until the system has taken every good year of your life.
Has she served her time? She has certainly suffered. That’s beyond dispute. Nobody knocks out two serious suicide attempts in prison for fun. To my eye, this commutation was less about forgiving her perfidy and more about saving her from a death sentence that no court imposed. Her years have been longer than most. Time is relative when liberty is restricted, more so for some than others.
But nowhere other than the U.S. could she get a second chance like this after betraying government secrets (the largest known theft of classified information in the history of Western intelligence) — the second chance that I predicted. I hope the better angels of her nature will guide her in her future endeavors. I hope she will remember what she has been spared. I hope she will be able to see her adversaries as human as well.
I remain confident in my 2010 decision. In that time and circumstance it was needful. It was cold, but it had to be made then and there. Her actions endangered lives, and would have cost lives without advance warning to USG. That is why she was court-martialed. Stealing secrets she didn’t even read, and releasing them to the world.
Secrets like the names of Afghan nationals cooperating with Coalition authorities, who would have been killed by the Taliban had there been no warning. Not for revealing war crimes. Not for exposing the way people talk in confidence.
She committed a crime, and society deserved to have that crime punished. It has been. Perhaps more so than it needed to be. I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that I’m closing the book on this chapter of my life, as Chelsea opens another. I played my role, as did many people. I thank the original members of the Army CID CCIU unit for their dedication and passion towards the cause.
And I thank all the people out there working on folks who think they can sleep easy with perfidies of their own.
See the sole interview I granted on this topic for an enhanced perspective.