Chelsea Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth today, having served seven years of her 35 year sentence. Her sentence was commuted by President Barrack Obama shortly before he left office. Manning is a United States Army soldier convicted in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act. She had turned over nearly three-quarters of a million classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks.
Manning’s lawyer was David Coombs, who teaches at Roger Williams University School of Law. Coombs wrote that “Today—the day that Manning is released from prison—should be a day of unadulterated joy for me. But it’s not. It is a day that I am reflecting on how the military justice system could veer so far off course that a Presidential Commutation was needed to redress a grievous wrong.”
Coombs believed that he would be able to negotiate a fair sentence for Manning. He knew that Manning would serve some time. He writes, “Soldiers cannot go around disclosing classified information, even if they have good intentions.” But since Manning’s crimes had not resulted in any “material harm” to the United States, Coombs believed a reasonable deal could be worked out.
That was not to be.
“I have tried hundreds of courts-martial in the past twenty years. Some have gone my way, some haven’t,” writes Coombs, “Except for the Manning case, I have never had doubts about the quality of justice that the military dispenses…
“So I don’t see Manning’s commutation as a victory. I see it as an unfortunate failure of military justice to do its job.”
Edward Fitzpatrick posted a profile of Coombs here, in which the Chelsea Manning case is discussed more fully.
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) May 17, 2017
A rally for Chelsea Manning to be held outside the Federal Building near Kennedy Plaza fell through Wednesday afternoon. Randall Rose, the organizer, said, “In the age we live in, we need whistleblowers who will stand up and inform the public. It doesn’t fit neatly into the pro-Trump vs. anti-Trump fight, and maybe it’s not what draws the biggest protests at the moment. But Chelsea Manning has earned a lot of respect because she was brave enough to take risks for the truth, and what she revealed helped to inspire people to seek more freedom.”