'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Chelsea Manning did the right thing. Finally, Barack Obama has too - Trevor Timm
There is no one who
has suffered more under the US government’s crackdown on leakers and
whistleblowers than Chelsea Manning. But now, after President
Obama commuted her unjust 35 year jail sentence on Tuesday, she will,
amazingly, soon be able to walk free. Manning, who provided
journalists a historic trove of documents and the public an unparalleled window
into world diplomacy, will no longer have to spend the rest of her life behind
bars. She will be released from prison on 17 May instead of the unconscionable
2045. It’s a cause for celebration, but also a time for reflection – not just
about what she has gone through but what her case represents.
At the time of her
revelations, she was the most important whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg.
Upon hearing the news today, Ellsberg said this: “Once in a while, someone does
what they ought to do. Some go to prison for it, for seven years; some accept
exile for life. But sometimes even a president does it. And today, it was
Many publications have
tried to list the many stories her revelations have contributed to over the
years, but almost all have fallen short. The State and Defense documents that
were leaked by Manning – originally to Wikileaks and published by the Guardian,
New York Times and others – are to this day cited regularly in the nation’s
largest newspapers. They provided historians and the public a view inside the
US government’s machinations that we’ve never seen before. They even helped end
the Iraq War.
In response, the
government quite literally tried to destroy her. Despite admitting that no one
was harmed because of her disclosures, Chelsea suffered beyond what is
imaginable for most people.
She was held
incommunicado during pre-trial confinement, so that the American people could
not hear her voice and the explanation for what she did. She was then, according to
the UN special rapporteur on torture, treated in a “cruel, inhumane and
degrading way” before her trial by the US military.
After that, she was
given a heartbreakingly long 35 year sentence, longer than most actual spies,
and, for that matter, rapists and murderers. She faced the prospect of spending
the rest of her life behind bars, where she was continually and harshly
punished for trivial violations. Recently, she had been put
in solitary confinement – a macabre punishment for attempting
No matter your
political leanings or views on the role of leaks in our democracy, the
treatment Chelsea has suffered over the last 10 years is shameful. With a
stroke of his pen, President Obama not only did the right thing, but quite
literally may have saved Chelsea’s life. That said, the
commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence cannot be looked at in a vacuum.
President Obama, while commendably showing her mercy, also oversaw a Justice
Department that prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations
combined, while casting an unmistakable chill over investigative reporting and
In the coming days
many will ask why President Obama chose to commute Chelsea’s sentence. Was he
looking to the history books, knowing he would go down as the president who
went after whistleblowers? Was he secretly
appalled by the treatment Manning received in both pre-trial confinement and
then later, after she was convicted? (He did, after all, condemn solitary
confinement in the Washington
Post last year.) Was he worried about what type of retribution the Trump
administration would take once in office? Or did he just realize that Manning’s
sentence was orders of vastly higher than any other leaker in history and
Only the president
knows why. But we do know this: he made the right decision, one that he didn’t
have to. It won’t erase his tragic legacy of cracking down on leakers and
journalists’ sources, but he should be commended for it. So: thanks, Obama.