Here is the NYT article on the commutation of Private Manning’s sentence that results in a release date in May of 2017 rather than finishing the remaining 27 or so years and being released in approximately 2045. H/t JK

55 Responses to “Manning Sentence Commuted by POTUS”

  1. jagaf says:

    Can’t say I like this this decision emotionally, but good points are made at over lawfare:

  2. Greg says:

    Could a President Trump un-commute this? I’m curious as to whether this commutation is final and irrevocable now, or whether it’s only final on the day of Manning’s release.

  3. Blackshoe says:

    FWIW, Dwight Loving (one of the six guys in MilJust system awaiting execution) was also commuted to LWOP.

  4. Vulture says:

    Certainly he can un-commute it. 
    Then the ACLU will have his presidency locked up in a courtroom for the next 27 years.  Or 4 or 8.  But who’s counting?

  5. Ry says:

    Im pretty certain a presidential commutation cannot be undone. I’m appalled. 750,000 secret and higher documents. It impugns the military justice system.  No precedent they say…the volume is unprecedented and possible only with this modern day of electronic media and wikkishhh. 

  6. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    It should also be noted that Manning was potentially going to be released in the next few years even without the commutation, as Cully Stimson points out here:

  7. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    And for a counterpoint to Cully Stimson, see Lawfare Blog’s Ben Wittes here:

  8. j.m. says:

    Mike: That article lays out no reason to support a commutation and their earlier article says that Mannings sentence should be commuted to ‘ facilitate compassionate and humane in-service transition for transgender people’. That’s a straw man argument. Mannings gender issues should have zero impact in how his case is addressed. Manning had a history of insubordination and violence. A 35 year sentence for espionage was a fair sentence “to promote justice, to assist in maintaining good order and discipline in the armed forces, to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the military establishment, and thereby to strengthen the national security of the United States.”
    This was not someone that felt he had to become a whistleblower because of some moral outrage. He was a poor performing Soldier who did not get the special snowflake treatment he desired and this was his way of lashing out like a spoiled child. If you have a transgender issue, or any issue in the military, that you want addressed legitimately by your chain of command, you don’t text a pic of yourself in women’s clothing to an NCO to get that ball rolling.
    Leakage of classified information is a serious and ongoing problem with the military. And Joe and Josephine are watching this and seeing people with rank (Gen Cartwright), influence (Clinton) and special status (Mannings gender issues) get to walk while a normal person (Kristian Saucier), gets hammered. 

  9. Guest says:

    Get to walk = 7 years at Leavenworth, but “hammered” = one year sentence?

  10. Charlie Gittins says:

    I have no problem with the commutation of Manning’s sentence.  He served 7 years including PTC.  His disclosures, according to one CIA Director were not particularly damaging, although they exposed our diplomatic communications to ridicule and embarrassment for the authors and the countries involved.  No real issues arose out of that embarrassing, but not really important, stuff.  On the other hand, the video he released was a pretty clear example of a law of war violation by US forces that went unpunished.  It also showed the difference between the rules for application of deadly force from the air as compared to deadly force by ground units with the ground units being held to a much higher standard of accountability for killing non-combatants.  The decisions by the President also demonstrate the different spank for different rank formula.  Hoss Cartwright avoids all accountability for lying to the FBI and sharing information about a highly classified covert action program against an enemy’s nuclear weapons program by earning a full pardon.  I am not sure that is justice; it certainly does not demonstrate an intent for accountability or proportionality.   

  11. anon says:

    Just curiosity, Manning’s appeal is before ACCA.  Highly suspect one of the issues briefed was disproportionate sentence.  To the extent, the CCA or finds legal error that affects the sentence, is ACCA conducting their review based upon sentence approved or sentence as commuted?  I’m sure situation has occurred in past 70 years but I couldn’t think of one.

  12. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    I got it POTUS’ authority to commute is absolute (and I wonder if this will trigger a proposal to amend the Constitution to place limits), and can’t be reversed.  But I thought POTUS doesn’t normally act on a case when it’s going through the appellate process, which Manning’s case is.  Absolutely ridiculous to cut Manning a break like this.  If Manning had been honest about the gender identity disorder at time of enlistment, Manning would never have gotten in.
    Military justice has another mortal enemy–President Obama.

  13. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    Yes ACCA must still consider Manning’s appeal, Manning still has a dishonorable discharge.

  14. Lieber says:

    Ry, all of the docs were Secret and from the SIPR server(s), none were TS/SCI.
    Personally, I think 35 years was too long (prison sentences in this country are insane compared to the rest of the civilized world).  But he/she would not have been my first pick for a military commutation.

  15. Lieber says:

    Charles Gittins,
    If you look at the investigation(s) on the AWT video, you’ll see that it was a good shoot.  The reporters were embedded with a group of armed insurgents and one of the reporters pointed his 70-200 Canon L lense around the corner at a Bradley that was engaged in a firefight.  From the air it would have looked like an RPG-7.

  16. Charles Gittins says:

    The “investigations.”  A cannon camera with a 200-700 lens looks nothing like an RPG.  I have been involved in numerous investigations as an IO or member of an I Team.  You can make the evidence and conclusions come out any way you want them to.    Just figure out what the CA has in mind as the outcome.  I may be cynical, but there is good reason for it.  E.g., the Cavalese EA-6 accident.  It was clear early on that the chart was wrong — the cable car was mis-charted by our US cartographers — and that the terrain and metro conditions led to the accident as demonstrated in a simulator by the most experienced A6 pilot in the Marine Corps, not pilots horsing around.  But Aviano was an important base, so we needed to have a court-martial for manslaughter to keep the natives satisfied. There are other similar cases involving friendly fire in Desert Shield/Storm that I have personal knowledge of. 

  17. stewie says:

    I’ve no issue with it. 35 years was way too excessive. We can argue about whether 7 years is the right number, but it’s a better number than 35 IMO.  She’s not a hero, and what she did was wrong. That’s why she’s only getting a commutation, not a pardon, but I highly doubt this has affected good order and discipline.
    Someone here really thinks there are Soldiers out there going, well, I wasn’t going to release these docs cuz Chelsea got 35 years, but since she “only” got 7 years, I’ll release away!?
    It’s a lot more than most have gotten.

  18. Defense Hack says:

    Manning had a history of violence? How about a history of mental illness.PFC Manning was 100% culpable, but this one is on the unit as well. An adult should have taken the knife away before someone got hurt….

  19. Concerned Defender says:

    I have no overall heartburn over the commutation.  35 years and a DD was a heavy sentence, and 7 years + DD is far more in line with fairness and justice and sends a clear message to not do this.  I do have other issues with Manning, who should never have been in the military but for concealing her identity and psychological issues, and the military not discovering them.  I also see this as a win for taxpayers to relieve us of another 25+ years of costs to house and medically care for him/her.  
    The issue I really have is that it reminds us of the inequity in the APPLICATION of law and justice.   Obama admin FBI director James Comey flatly said, in no uncertain terms, and it’s otherwise been easily proven:  1) Hillary had an illegal unsecured classified network, 2) she had 110+ highly secret emails that they found, 3) other emails were destroyed after a subpoena to turn them over, 4) it’s likely that foreign governments accessed her server, 5) she lied about it in various ways.  Not only that, but all sorts of illegal and embarrassing stuff was released by Wikileaks and whomever else, and it’s clear that she may as well have CC’d Putin and Assange on her emails, showing bribery, graft, kickbacks, and favors with foreign governments.  
    Where is her prosecution?  Not only not prosecuted, but Obama campaigned for her and she was the Dem POTUS candidate!!!
    Still 2 days, what else can we expect from the affirmative action POTUS?  A self-pardon, and pardons for the Clintons, Biden, Jarrett, Holder, Lynch, Lerner, Rice, Clapper, and the rest of the crew?  Will Bergdahl get a pardon?  Has the worst admin in history sank America, or can we recover?

  20. Neutron73 says:

    No problem with Manning getting a commutation.  At all.  I always thought his sentence was way overboard in comparison to similar cases.
    And Concerned Defender:  really? You are going down the “But Clinton!” road? I won’t even entertain that nonsense.  And you really shouldn’t bring up Putin and Assange…at all. 
    Affirmative Action POTUS?  I guess I know where your head and biases are.  But, hey, your guy is about to take office.  I’m sure you are thrilled with that…what with his denigrating the military, 5 deferments, gifted Purple Heart, slagging POWs, and slagging of those who gave their lives to the nation. 
    And you

  21. Vulture says:

    Charlie G.  Thank you, Thank you for your post.  I have read that stuff about the A6 a dozen times wondering what was going on there.  I could never figure it out and didn’t see anything about the misplacement on a map.

  22. stewie says:

    How often do people hold up RPGs to their face Lieber?

  23. Lieber says:

    I get it but remember the distance away the AWT is (Gittins is right about different standards for air v. ground).  Look at the last photograph taken with the camera.
    Also, they were embedded with a lawful target, thus assuming some risk.  Even if they were identified as media (no evidence of that from the video and it’s not like the insurgents didn’t video or photo their own activity), then it’s a proportionality analysis.

  24. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    Frankly, I had no problem with 35 years, considering there were more than 700,000 files leaked, and this was a sentence by a military judge.  What kind of message is sent about our system that POTUS doesn’t trust it?  Doesn’t trust the MJ who sentenced Manning, based on ALL the evidence, not just snippets and sound bites.  Doesn’t trust the appellate judges to make the right decision.  Congress took clemency away from CAs in the vast majority of cases, also the ability to correct legal errors.  Pardoning a GO.  Making a mockery of our system.

  25. Mattie says:

    I’m with Lieber on this one.  Watch this clip where I avenged Aardvark’s death just before the Col. Tanner bought the farm causing Erica to tell me that she would never love anybody again.  You can see that I held the RPG to my face as I screamed, “Eat me” at the 28 second mark. 
    Alas poor Aardvark, I knew him well.  Good news is we never had to take that Pre-Calc mid term…..

  26. stewie says:

    Tami, so a President should never grant clemency to a Soldier sentenced by a MJ because then it sends a message that POTUS doesn’t trust the system?
    Does he not trust the civilian system either then?
    I am sorry but I don’t get that argument. I get the argument you think it’s the wrong result, but not that somehow the mere fact that he did somehow signals anything other than he rightly or wrongly thought this person deserves clemency.

  27. stewie says:

    Mattie…aren’t you dead? I saw your name on the rock and everything.

  28. Has Actually Seen Combat says:

    Charles Gittins,
    So, you are publicly calling out two Apache crewmen as criminals, perhaps war criminals.  Care to back that up, partner?  Sounds like you know something the rest of us don’t…or are you just discounting the investigations b/c you know better…based on another investigation that resulted in convictions (Aviano) and other investigations from the Gulf War (that you, and you alone apparently, know about)? 

  29. Vulture says:

    Oh, right Tami.  When its the Death Star plans you are all, “Help me Obi-Won, you are our only hope.”  But when its 700,000 Lego blocks its a whole different story.
    Has Actually Seen Combat.  I think those statements have to be taken in context of the difference between the Air and Ground ROE.  Since I am sure you where there, perhaps you can fill us in on whether Behenna was practicing the Escalation of Force guidelines.  You: Shout, Show, Point, Shoot.

  30. Vulture says:

    That is, You know:

  31. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    It’s the timing of Obama’s actions that bother me.  I don’t think it was appropriate for POTUS to commute the sentence during the pendency of an appeal.  Honestly I don’t know if it’s a rule, custom, or something else, but as I understand the process, POTUS doesn’t normally commute a sentence when the case is pending appeal.  Sentence appropriateness is one of the issues being raised.  Even the defense thinks 10 years is appropriate, and now Manning is getting even better than that.  As if gutting our system at the trial level wasn’t enough, now our appellate process is being gutted.
    Interestingly enough, looking at the comments when Manning was sentenced, most commenters seemed to think 35 years was pretty good, considering he sent 700,000 classified files to WikiLeaks, systematically and surreptitiously copied classified information, then contacted the Washington Post and New York Times to gauge their interest prior to going to WikiLeaks, and Manning was an intelligence analyst!  And I got it, Manning was screwed up, had a hard time in Iraq, got picked on, etc., etc.  Were mistakes made in the way Manning’s case was handled?  Yes, which got Manning additional confinement credit.  Regarding the gender dysphoria, how is it Manning even got into the Army to begin with?  By lying.
    By commuting the sentence at this time, Obama also elevates Manning to hero (or heroine) status–a righteous whistleblower who’s just misunderstood.  Manning is a criminal who has not fully paid the debt owed to society.  Unfortunately, it will be a long time, if ever, that the public truly knows how damaging Manning’s actions were, because most of the information is classified.
    Now, if Obama’s rationale for commuting the sentence at this time was along the lines of, “I decided to commute Manning’s sentence to time served so the American taxpayers won’t be on the hook for covering this criminal’s gender realignment surgery,” then it would be easier to stomach his decision.

  32. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    Recall that I was facing execution for my role in that.  Governor Tarkin even signed my death warrant, and my own dad was letting this happen.  Even worse, I didn’t get due process.  Judged and sentenced in a matter of days.  There wasn’t even a democracy in my galaxy.  Democracy died amid thunderous applause.
    Also keep in mind I didn’t send the Death Star plans to WikiLeaks.  How hard would that have made the Rebel Alliances’ job if I had done that?

  33. stewie says:

    Manning has not been elevated to a hero. And that’s the crux of this, people REALLY don’t like what Manning did, and thus it wouldn’t matter the timing or when, any commutation would have been poorly received by those with that position.
    I maintain the idea that if one wants to be angry at the merits of the decision, that’s fine, all the rest about timing or gender reassignment or not trusting the system or anything else just a result of not being happy on the merits.
    And wikileaks wouldn’t have published the Death Star plans, because that wouldn’t have helped Darth Trump.
    (I’ve still got 60 minutes left).

  34. Vulture says:

    I can see where you are coming from Tami.  But all that hanky-panky on Hoth was a direct consequence.  Seeing you lay one on your brother (AND wanting to do the same to a Wookie!) was very detrimental to the formation of strong female gender roles of many young men.  Heck, I didn’t know I’d been snookered til I saw my childhood sold out to Snow White.  And imagine poor Ben.  He must have been ridiculed by all the younglings.  It’s a vicious cycle and neither he nor Bradley should be held beyond redemption.

  35. Joseph Wilkinson says:

    Manning has not been elevated to a hero. And that’s the crux of this, people REALLY don’t like what Manning did,
    Depends on which people you are talking about.   That was from a quick google of “Chelsea Manning hero” — one link reports over 100,000 signatures on the petition to free Manning, and note the adoring comments below, as well as the admiring comments from celebrity leaker Daniel Ellsberg….that’s a lot of adulation, apart from the #hugsforchelsea Twitter campaign.   The more pertinent question is whether other high-strung people will be frightened to do the same thing…thinking you’ll get out with a government-funded sex change and a huge support group of adoring fans is certainly a factor in favor of doing the crime and risking the time.
    I’ve seen OPSEC/anti-espionage posters that try to scare you with Manning’s 35-year sentence.  I suppose we’ll have to revise those now.  Less fear, more’s the pity.

  36. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    From the Loving discussion:
    Babu says:
    January 20, 2017 at 10:02 AM  

    I once filed a presidential commutation request for a client.  The response I got back from the Office of the Pardon Attorney was that, per policy, military convicts were not eligible for commutation until completion of appellate review and discharge, and until then the SecNav had commutation authority.

  37. stewie says:

    That “adulation” was present before the commutation. The commutation did not cause it.
    But sure, you’re right, I’m totally down for some espionage now that it’s “only” seven years (and a DD, and my life ruined).

  38. Not a Vegetarian says:

    Stewie, the point about this commutation possibly affecting deterrence is a serious one.  You have to remember we’re talking about all espionage, not just Manning’s case.  Espionage is punishable by death for a reason.  The stakes can be staggeringly high.  And when a large sum of money from some foreign bad actor is involved, i.e., “we’ll give you $1000000 if you can get us x information”, I think a servicemember who’s open to the offer would most certainly factor in this light punishment when deciding whether to break the law.

  39. stewie says:

    Saying something doesn’t make it so. seven years is not “light punishment.” Espionage was last punished by death when? And this wasn’t espionage by the way. This wasn’t someone spying against us, this was someone who leaked classified material, those two things are not synonymous.
    A DD is not “light punishment.”
    And anyone tempted by that much money is going to do it and hope to get away with it regardless of the consequences.
    What punishment should Petraeus have gotten since he gave secrets to his mistress? Certainly the one he got will encourage others yes, it was pretty light? I don’t remember folks being upset about that. And I suspect if Chelsea was still Bradley, there’d also be less outrage.

  40. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    Interesting that Manning is referred to as a “transparency advocate.”  Hopefully there aren’t any “transparency advocates” who will misuse their security clearances to hack into the classified portion of Manning’s ROT, then send it out into the world to show the “truth” about Manning’s case. 

  41. vulture says:

    Gotta agree with you there Tami.  Manning didn’t review 700k documents.  This was not a fingering of some particular item he wanted to protest.  It was more of a shotgun blast of whatever he could find.

  42. Yakoff Smirnoff says:

    Stewie is right…what Petraeus did is the same as what Manning did…

  43. J.M. says:

    Are there any applicable son of sam type laws in place to keep him from profiting from this with a book or movie deal?

  44. stewie says:

    I didn’t say that Manning did exactly what Petraeus did, volume alone adds a difference. What I did say was that Petraeus got a very very light result, and I don’t remember anyone being outraged.  He certainly didn’t have any good excuse for what he did, and as a General he certainly should have known better than anyone.  And he was considered for Sec of State? by CD’s favorite President so clearly isn’t hurting his future very much for those worried about theoretical book deals.

  45. Yakoff Smirnoff says:

    Stewie, I was AGREEING with you.  As you have pointed out with your comparison, a 4-star general with 40 years of service and years of service deployed at war who leaked some minimal information to his girlfriend is exactly the same as a pimple-faced male/female private who leaks almost a million classified documents for consumption by God knows who. 

  46. stewie says:

    I guess I’m not agreeing with you then to the extent that anyone thinks I’m making a direct comparison between the two. I understand there is a difference in volume. I understand there is a difference in quality (although minimal might be pushing it as a descriptor). I don’t think Petraeus needed to spend 7 years in jail. I am suggesting the sentence he ultimately did get was very very light, and the fact that he was later apparently considered for a cabinet position means the long-term damage to him was minimal as well.
    Yet no one is really upset by any of that. They are infuriated apparently that Manning “only” served 7 years and got a DD, and that she might theoretically get some book/movie deal benefit out of it.  The former no impact, the latter apparently will spawn copycats who think 7 years in LW and a DD are cake.

  47. Larry and Moe (but not that hack, Curly!) says:

    I’m with Stewie on this one…there’s no difference b/w Petraeus and Manning’s offenses.

  48. stewie says:

    Clearly I’m being trolled at this point.

  49. Ed says:

    Manning was treated far too leniently. A life sentence would have been fairer. Petraeus should have faced more severe charges. His motivation was highly inappropriate.  .  

  50. Curly says:

    I’m not a hack, and I will deal with Larry and Moe later…but, to the issue at hand, I, too, agree 100% with Stewie.  Manning and Petraeus were so equivalent they should have shared the same cell.

  51. DCGoneGalt says:

    I, too, agree with Stewie 100% that he is being trolled.

  52. Carl Friedrich Gauss says:

    I have tested this theorem put forth by Stewie and have calculated the following equation:  Petraeus = Manning.  Clearly, Mr. Stewie is correct.

  53. Diego Rodriguez says:

    I have constructed the following problem to represent Senor Stewie’s thesis that Senor Petraeus and Senorita Manning are the same:
    A Petraeus train leaves the station traveling West at a speed of 100mph and a gross load of 10000tons.
    A Manning train leaves the same station traveling West on a track parallel to the Petraeus train at a speed of 50mph and a gross load of 2000tons.
    Which train arrives first to the destination 500mi away?
    Answer:  They both arrive at the same time, because, despite all outward appearances of the dissimilarity, Petraeus and Manning are, in fact, the same.  Senor Stewie is correctomundo.

  54. stewie says:

    Certainly can’t wait to get Shemp’s take.