Obama Sets Chelsea Free

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The president who prosecuted more people under The Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former intelligence analyst who leaked the biggest trove of classified material ever:

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

A White House official said there was no connection between Manning’s commutation and renewed U.S. government concern about WikiLeaks actions during last year’s presidential election, or a promise by its 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.”

SOURCE: “Obama Shows Clemency To Manning, Intelligence Analyst Behind Leaks” | Reuters | Roberta Rampton | 01/17/2016

Several thoughts:

1) This news dropped like a bomb on 01/17, even though NBC News published a Department of Justice source’s assertion that Manning was on Obama’s shortlist on 01/11. The politicians and pundits spewing fake outrage should have seen this coming.

2) I wonder if Obama would’ve commuted Manning’s sentence were Hillary Clinton’s inauguration a day away instead of Donald Trump’s. That said, under no circumstances would Hillary Clinton have ever granted Manning clemency. One of the most intriguing but rarely mentioned narratives of Clinton’s failed campaign was “Clinton is more THATCHER! than Margaret Thatcher.” However, why is it that Thatcher could sell strength but Hillary couldn’t? Not because of … RUSSIA! It’s because Thatcher had the strength that Clinton coveted but just a modicum of the anxieties.

3) Commuting Manning’s sentence should make many rethink whether the claim that the information funneled to WikiLeaks put lives in danger was as strong as his prosecutors made it seem.

4) And perhaps we should also rethink the meaning of classified:

“It goes without saying that the U.S. government wildly overclassifies almost everything it touches, even the most benign information. As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said in 2010, “Everything’s secret. I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a top secret NSA classification marking.”

For that reason, almost all of these prosecutions for mishandling classified information have been wildly overzealous, way out of proportion to any harm they caused or could have caused, certainly out of proportion to the actual wrongdoing.”

SOURCE: “Hillary Clinton on the Sanctity of Protecting Classified Information” | The Intercept | Glenn Greenwald | 08/12/2015

5) 01/17 was ButtHurt Tuesday for Lindsey Graham. The Manning commutation made him livid. And on the same day his good buddy John McCain left him off of a Senate committee investigation into Russian “hacking into our elections.” (That phrase drives me nuts. It’s inaccurate and misleading.)

6) Trump is in a box on Manning. Recall that he once shouted “WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks!” at a rally, but also said, “He is damaging America” about Edward Snowden, whose asylum in Russia has just been extended. He’ll be able to apply for a Russian passport next year.

I have no idea how Trump can split this hair. That’s a good thing. Surveillance state politics have racked up so many wins since 9/11 that 100 years from now Americans will see Manning, Assange, and Snowden as we in 2017 see Jefferson and Madison; either because we will have evolved into a freer society, or because we will have devolved into an authoritarian nightmare. However, if Trump agrees with the out-going administration on Manning, perhaps he makes the same distinction between Manning and Snowden that Obama does: Manning stood trial, got a disproportionate sentence, and thus is worthy of of mercy, while Snowden scurried off … to RUSSIA!

7) Julian Assange isn’t going anywhere. CNN and other outlets have focused on his pledge to extradite himself to the U.S. were Manning’s sentence ever commuted. Frankly, I don’t know what to think about this. One should keep one’s word, but without a Trump Attorney General putting his thumb on the scales, there’s no way that Assange would EVER be acquitted at trial. And his fate in prison would be akin to a most extraordinary renditioning to some black site in Poland … or Homan Square. Suddenly, living in a converted women’s toilet, visits from Lady Gaga and MIA, and ceviche dinners seems a much better option.

Besides, Julian Assange could hardly care about what we think of him. He’s about opening governments (all of them) which is probably the most dangerous occupation in the world right now.

What if we all had that job? What if we all had “the key of all keys” like Robert Redford and the gang in Sneakers?

What if there were “no more secrets?”

@dexterkflowers

IMAGE SOURCE: We Support Whistleblowers Free Bradley Chelsea Manning 2013 Twin Cities Pride Parade Minneapolis 9181428436.jpg

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