Chelsea Manning has been granted clemency by President Barack Obama, as one of the final acts of his Presidency. She will now be released in May, rather than in 2045, as her original sentence had specified.
Manning’s commutation means that she will be released early, but does not go as far as pardoning the US Army Private.
This means that Manning is still seen as a criminal by the US government, and is remains guilty of the 22 charges she was convicted of.
Private Manning was sentenced to 35-years by a military tribunal for 22 counts relating to her unauthorised possession and distribution of more than 700,000 secret documents.
These diplomatic and military files, including video, were leaked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks run by Julian Assange.
Manning’s leak was one of the biggest in US military history, and was a cause of great embarrassment for the Obama administration.
The files included footage of a US Apache helicopter attacking and killing 12 civilians in Baghdad, in 2007.
Her leak also included confidential messages between US diplomats and intelligence assessments of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
At her hearing Manning apologised for “hurting the US”, and said she thought her actions would “change the world for the better”.
Effects of the leak
Manning’s original sentence of 35 years shows how severe the US military thought her crimes were. The effect of leaked memos and documents has been described by State Department officials as chilling .
However the real effect of Manning’s actions is debatable.
Firstly, Manning’s potential sentence was as high as 136 years before a judge combined some the charges. Manning also escaped some of the most serious charges tabled, such as “aiding the enemy”, which can carry the death penalty .
Furthermore, internal government reviews decided in 2011 that the WikiLeaks revelations, though “embarrassing”, “ caused only limited damage to US interests .
Even former defence secretary, Robert Gates, said that the real-world consequences for the US were fairly modest .
However, a full picture of how damaging Manning’s leaks were may not be known for some time, as details are still ranked as classified.
Manning has contended that the materials released were selected purposefully to ensure service personnel and national security would not be harmed.