‘Manning was commuted but not pardoned’ – ex-CIA officer turned whistleblower Kiriakou
While Chelsea Manning’s sentence being commuted is a gracious deed on the part of President Barack Obama, it doesn’t really signify a change in attitudes toward whistleblowers in the US, former CIA analyst and whistleblower John Kiriakou told RT.
There’s a significant difference between commutation and a pardon, and it only means that Manning will be able to get out of jail in the near future, Kiriakou believes.
“Manning wasn’t pardoned, she received a commutation. She’s still a convicted felon, she still can’t vote, she still can’t own a gun, she’s lost her federal pension. The only thing that has changed is that she’s going to come home in May,” Kiriakou told RT.
The timing of the commutation is also not something extraordinary, since US Presidents usually tend to leave such actions for the very end of their terms. While President Obama’s deed is welcomed, one should not read too much into it, since there are many whistleblowers who should have been pardoned along with Manning.
“Really that there’s a bigger story here as well. And it’s the people that President Obama did not pardon, we did not see clemency for the likes of Leonard Peltier for example or governor Don Siegelman. There’re a lot of people – Tom Drake, myself, Ed Snowden. I think that’s really the story.”
“It’s wonderful that Chelsea is being released, it’s well deserved. But this should not be seen as an across the board blanket amnesty or forgiveness on the part of this President,” Kiriakou said.
Chelsea Manning’s case though, is rather exceptional, considering her extremely long sentence and various mistreatments she faced in custody.
“I think that Chelsea Manning really was granted her commutation for two reasons. One, her sentence was extraordinary long, it was a 35-year sentence. And frankly the military prosecutors were not able to prove any long-term damage to the national security,” Kiriakou said. “And second, Chelsea has twice in the past year attempted suicide, and her attorneys and supporters argued, successfully as it turned out, that she would just not survive the remainder of this term. That was a humanitarian term too to commute this sentence and let her come home.”
“I think frankly that Chelsea Manning is in for big things. Of course she’s going to need medical care, dental care in the immediate term, probably even psychological care. But in terms of getting her life back on track, I think she’ll be highly sought after speaker, I think she’ll write a book of her experiences and I think she will be welcomed with opened arms by her many many supporters across the country,” Kiriakou told RT.
Nevertheless, Manning still has 5 months to stay in prison and actually has more to worry about the hostile environment than her health issues at the moment, Kirakou believes.
“She’ll have far easier time with her health over the next five months than she’ll have with the prison guards. I think that Chelsea needs to just be aware of her surroundings, aware that there’re people who mean her ill, or mean her harm in prison and I think it’s going to be a bigger challenge to stay safe than to stay healthy in the next five months.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.