Did President Obama do the right thing in commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence?

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It took mere seconds for the controversy to erupt.

President Obama commuted the sentence of former U.S. military analyst Chelsea Manning late yesterday afternoon, ensuring she would be set free almost three decades early. In its examination of the decision, Reuters notes:

Manning has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks – a leak for which she was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison.

Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, reduced her sentence to seven years, angering some Republicans.

“This is just outrageous,” House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. Ryan, a Republican, said the decision was a “dangerous precedent” for those who leak materials about national security.

The New Yorker applauded the move, suggesting Manning had demonstrated multiple times that he (then Bradley) was cracking under the pressure of what he was doing:

Quite apart from whether the Army ought to have spotted a security risk, Manning deserved help, like any soldier, and didn’t get it.

The Washington Post argued that Obama made a terrible decision, stating:

An administration that understandably went ballistic when the leaks first occurred and has prosecuted more leaking cases than all his predecessors combined, looks feckless, to put it mildly.

At a time when we are battling cyberattacks and combating the notion that WikiLeaks is a respected news organization setting Manning free seems to convey exactly the wrong message to our enemies and to potential leakers at the wrong time.

The move now puts WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the spot: Will he follow through on a message WikiLeaks’ Twitter account posted just a few days ago? (I wouldn’t hold my breath, but, hey, I could be wrong.)

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