Manning Commutation Sends Dangerous Message

COMMENTARY Crime and Justice

Manning Commutation Sends Dangerous Message

Feb 1st, 2017 1 min read

Commentary By

Charles "Cully" Stimson @cullystimson

Chief of Staff and Senior Legal Fellow

Hans A. von Spakovsky @HvonSpakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow

Barack Obama's unjustified and undeserved commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence demonstrates Obama's cavalier attitude toward protecting our nation's secrets, not to mention the safety of our military and diplomatic personnel.

Then-President Obama's press secretary, Josh Earnest, told CBS News he found it “outrageous” for Republicans to suggest that what Manning did was worse than what Donald Trump had done when Trump supposedly “encouraged WikiLeaks to collude with the Russians to hack his opponent” in the presidential race and encouraged the public to read what WikiLeaks revealed about the Democratic National Committee.

What is actually “outrageous” is for a president's spokesman to compare Manning's case to the DNC computer breach.

In the first case, an active-duty Army private first class, then known as Bradley Manning, intentionally downloaded and stole more than 400,000 classified government files related to the Iraq war; 91,000 files from the Afghan war; 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables (emails); sensitive and classified U.S. airstrike videos; and classified documents and files from Guantanamo Bay.

In the second case, there was public disclosure of email communications between a political party and its eventual presidential nominee, which revealed that while the party was publicly proclaiming neutrality during the primary process, it was colluding with one candidate, Hillary Clinton, to exclude another, Bernie Sanders.

There is a profound moral and legal distinction between these two cases. Manning broke numerous laws, endangered our troops and diplomatic personnel, and armed the enemy with information it never should have had. The DNC hack by Russia was a crime, to be sure, but merely aired dirty, politically inconvenient and embarrassing laundry.

During the sentencing phase of Manning's court-martial, Army Brig. Gen. Robert A. Carr, a top Pentagon intelligence official, testified that Manning's disclosures “affected our ability to do our mission,” and endangered U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manning betrayed her oath to our country, aided our enemies and forced our government to expend untold hours and money to minimize the damage her criminal conduct inflicted. In sharp contrast, the only consequence of the alleged Russian hack of the DNC files was that Sanders' accusation about a “rigged” primary system was proven true, exposing the DNC's thumb-on-the-scale, hyperpartisan nature.

Critics of the Obama administration have said it was one of the most political in history — that politics drove decision-making on domestic and foreign policy, law enforcement and national security.

That criticism rings true in the Manning commutation. It's also confirmed by Earnest's inability to distinguish between Manning's treasonous, criminal conduct and the airing of the DNC's dirty laundry in a political campaign.

By equating the two, the Obama administration plainly told our military personnel and diplomats that it considered what happened in a rough-and-tumble political campaign to be as important as the grave danger Manning's illicit disclosures posed to their lives and our nation's safety.

This piece originally appeared in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review