In a massive slap in the face to both the defense and intelligence communities, outgoing President Barack Obama commuted the sentence for Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking military details to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Manning has served just seven years of his sentence; he is transgender and has changed his name to Chelsea Manning. Manning wasn’t Obama’s only controversial commutation: he also commuted the sentence of General James E. Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who lied to reporters about leaking information about the Stuxnet virus directed by Israel against the Iranian nuclear program; Obama commuted Oscar Lopez Rivera, an FALN terrorist who was convicted to a 55-year sentence for seditious conspiracy, forced robbery, and firearms charges.
So, what drove Obama to make these decisions? And what is their impact?
Here are a few thoughts.
1. Obama Hates The National Security Community. Manning revealed documents to WikiLeaks that damaged American national security severely. According to the Associated Press, as The Weekly Standard notes, “The government presented [an] uncontested written statement that former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published. The material was found on digital media seized in the May 2011 raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, [lead prosecutor Maj. Ashden] Fein said. Bin Laden was killed in the raid.” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) rightly stated, “I don’t understand why the president would feel special compassion for someone who endangered the lives of our troops, diplomats, intelligence officers, and allies.” And Obama’s other commutations reveal a deep disdain for our allies and our defense community: FALN is a terrorist organization, and the leak of the Stuxnet virus information only helped Iran.
2. Democrats Pretending They Care About WikiLeaks Have A Lot To Explain. Obama and other Democrats have suggested that Donald Trump was elected thanks to the Russians “hacking the election.” What they really mean is that Russia sponsored the WikiLeaks hacking of John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. And they’ve been fighting mad about it – many top Democrats have used the WikiLeaks stories as a pretext to call the incoming administration illegitimate. But now Obama has commuted the sentence of the man whose information made WikiLeaks famous. So leaks are only bad when they hurt Democrats – when they hurt America’s national security, they’re no big deal, apparently.
3. Republicans Who Like WikiLeaks But Angry About Manning Have A Lot To Explain. Sean Hannity has become quite friendly with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange ever since WikiLeaks helped destroy Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But back when WikiLeaks was pumping out Manning’s material, Hannity wanted Assange prosecuted. Hannity’s not the only one in this situation. Republicans seem deeply upset about the Manning commutation, even while many of them pooh-pooh Assange’s involvement in the election process.
Everybody’s a hypocrite when it comes to leaks these days. The only astonishing thing is how blatant Obama’s hypocrisy is – and how little he cares about exposing Democratic hypocrisy on WikiLeaks to the light of day on his way out.