On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking classified military documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. After nearly seven years in jail, Manning will be released in May 2017, long before her initial release date of May 2045; she was originally sentenced to 35 years, which The New York Times reported marked "the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction."
Many, including NSA leaker Edward Snowden, have urged Obama to commute Manning, who has twice tried to commit suicide and gone on a hunger strike to fight for gender reassignment surgery. At a press conference Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that while Manning's leaks were "damaging to national security," they were not as "serious" and "dangerous" as those by Snowden, who has also applied for clemency. "Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing," Earnest said. "Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange indicated last week that he would agree to be extradited to the U.S. if Obama granted Manning clemency. Assange, who has been hiding out in London at the Ecuadorian embassy, could face the death penalty in the U.S. because of WikiLeaks' role in releasing numerous classified documents.