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Obama cuts prison term for Manning

By Reuters in Washington ( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-01-19 07:38:57

White House denies WikiLeaks' actions influenced release decision

President Barack Obama on Tuesday shortened the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former United States military intelligence analyst who was responsible for a 2010 leak of classified materials to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the biggest such breach in US history.

A White House official said there was no connection between Manning's commutation and renewed US government concern about WikiLeaks' actions during last year's presidential election, or a promise by founder Julian Assange to accept extradition if Manning was freed.

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.

Obama cuts prison term for Manning

"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.

"Chelsea Manning's treachery put US citizen lives at risk and exposed some of our nation's most sensitive secrets," Ryan said.

Manning was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when she gave WikiLeaks a trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts that included a 2007 gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people including two Reuters news staff.

Manning, formerly known as US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman. The White House said her sentence would end on May 17 this year.

WikiLeaks also published emails in the weeks leading up to the Nov 8 presidential election that US intelligence agencies claim show that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and the accounts of leading Democrats.

But Obama's decision had nothing to do with the latest WikiLeaks controversy, the White House official said.

"The president's decision to grant clemency and offer commutation to Chelsea Manning was not influenced in any way by public comments from Assange or the WikiLeaks organization," a White House official said on a conference call with reporters.

In total, Obama has commuted sentences for 1,385 federal prisoners - a total greater than that of the 12 previous presidents combined.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities have extended US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden's Russian residency permit by two years, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Snowden was not on Obama's list of commutations or pardons.

(China Daily 01/19/2017 page12)

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