Manning release is consistent with Obama’s world view

While serving in Iraq in 2010, Private First Class Bradley E. Manning systematically removed in excess of 700,000 classified documents from U.S. military computer systems and then handed them over to WikiLeaks for release on the unclassified Internet. Manning, who filed a legal name change petition and is now known as Chelsea Manning, is expected to be released from confinement on May 17, 2017.

This week President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing MORE announced that he was commuting all but four months of the 35-year prison sentence.

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Movement of the unprecedented quantity of classified material from military systems into the open took considerable time and was accomplished via a series of measures intended to avoid detection by military authorities. Private Manning was ultimately charged with 22 separate offenses and pled guilty to 10.

In overruling the judgment of the military court, in effect, reducing the sentence from 35 to 7 years, it is important to note what the President did not say.

President Obama did not suggest that he had uncovered new facts, which would have altered the result at trial. He did not indicate that he or his staff had discovered errors of law or violations of constitutional principles.

Yet President Obama’s decision to release Manning from confinement is not in any respect a deviation from what we have come to expect from this White House.

Put simply the President seems to agree more with those who have been advocating such a release for years, instead of the military judge. Perhaps to them, the former intelligence agent is not a traitor. Perhaps instead they see a folk hero motivated not by ego and psychological problems, but by a desire to expose the evil deeds supposedly perpetrated by Americans around the globe?

Unfortunately, our enemies are not any more insulated from the reality of the world in which Manning’s traitorous actions occurred. Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden himself, prior to his death in an American military raid in Pakistan, showed a particular interest in the stolen military intelligence reports and directed his subordinates to study them in planning attacks on American forces.

President Obama may believe the crime was not overly significant.

Yet our enemies know differently. So too, do the vast majority of American men and women who do the fighting. They know that Manning betrayed them and now they know that their President has as well. 

Charles S. Faddis is a former CIA operations officer with 30 years of experience in intelligence operations. He is a senior editor for Homeland Security Magazine and a contributor to a number of other counterterrorism and homeland security journals. He is author of “Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA” and five other books.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.