Veterans of Foreign Wars slams commutation for Manning

A leading veterans group on Wednesday slammed the Obama administration's decision a day earlier to commute the sentences of military prisoners including former Army private Chelsea Manning, and to pardon a retired general officer. 

“President Obama has upended the entire military justice system,” Veterans of Foreign Wars national commander Brian Duffy said.  

The president on Tuesday announced he was commuting the 35-year prison sentence of Manning, who was convicted in 2013 for leaking classified information that was later published by WikiLeaks. Manning has served seven years of her sentence, and will now be released on May 17, 2017.  

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Manning’s grant came in a batch of 209 commutations and 64 pardons, announced with four days left in Obama’s presidency.

The former Army private, who is transgender, has reportedly struggled with mental health issues. She has tried to commit suicide twice and has spent time in solitary confinement as punishment.

“To release from prison former Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who was sentenced to serve 35 years for releasing three-quarters of a million classified and sensitive military and diplomatic communiques, is offensive to everyone who has ever honorably served in uniform," Duffy said.

Obama also commuted the sentence for two other veterans, including retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, who was convicted in 2012 for lying to FBI investigators while under questioning about leaks about a top secret U.S. program to derail Iran’s nuclear program.

"And to pardon retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who was convicted of lying to the FBI and releasing sensitive intelligence information to reporters, certainly proves once again that rank does have its privileges,” Duffy said.

“No one is above the law,” he added, “and those who break the law must pay the price, regardless of who they are.”

Civil rights groups have cheered Manning's commutation, but Republicans in Congress have spoken out against the decision. Outgoing Defense Secretary Ash Carter also opposed it, according to CNN. 

Obama has granted commutations to 1,385 federal inmates as president, more than the total number given by the past 12 presidents combined. He has also pardoned 212 people.

The White House is expected to announce another round of clemency grants on Thursday, officials said.