Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Thursday that Army Pvt. Bradley Manning should be released from prison immediately because he has already been subject to an “excessive” amount punishment for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
“Most military personnel who are caught committing war crimes never receive any penalties,” Paul said in a Reddit question-and-answer session. “I think he should be released now, [and] that he has done us a great service by letting the people know the truth.”
Manning was convicted of espionage for leaking State Department cables and war battlefield reports. Prosecutors had requested a 60-year sentence. With the judge's ruling, Manning will be eligible for parole in less than a decade.
Manning is asking President Obama for a pardon.
Paul called Manning a whistle-blower and noted that he was acquitted of the more serious charge of aiding the enemy.
“I believe his goal was to inform the American people of the truth about what was happening in the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars,” Paul said.
Earlier Thursday, Manning said wanted to undergo hormone treatment to become a woman and requested that he be called Chelsea. His gender identity had come up as part of his defense.
Paul said whistle-blowers — like Manning and NSA contractor Edward Snowden — should be more stringently protected. He accused lawmakers of paying little more than lip service to the cause.
Paul said the public should not believe the “propaganda of those who are trying to defend the Empire” and reform would only come if people demand it.
“So we should do everything we can to protect the whistleblowers, but we need better people in government to achieve that,” he said.
Paul, who started his own Internet channel, said he will host interviews with others who have promoted the cause of liberty, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian columnist who broke the National Security Agency surveillance story.