Two of the nation’s most infamous intelligence leakers, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, are each seeking a pass from President Obama before he leaves office this month. If he only acts on one, however, Mr. Snowden said the president should pardon the incarcerated WikiLeaks source instead of himself.
“Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency as you exit the White House, please: free Chelsea Manning. You alone can save her life,” Mr. Snowden, 33, tweeted Tuesday, shortly after NBC News reported that Manning’s request is being seriously considered by the Obama administration.
Mr. Snowden, a former NSA contractor, and Manning, an Army private, are separately responsible for the two biggest intelligence leaks to unfold during the duration of Mr. Obama’s tenure in office. Nonetheless, both have appealed to the current administration for clemency in light of their fate otherwise ending up in President-elect Donald Trump’s hands when he’s inaugurated Jan. 20.
Manning, 29, accumulated a trove of sensitive military and government documents while serving as an intelligence analyst during the Iraq War. She eventually provided WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of files taken from Army and State Department computer networks, but was arrested as a consequence and ultimately convicted of espionage in July 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
In the midst of Manning’s court-martial, Mr. Snowden fled the United States after providing members of the media with documents detailing the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance apparatus and various intelligence collection methods. He too was charged with espionage, but has avoided trial in the years since thanks to being granted asylum by Russia.
Manning, a transgender woman, is currently serving her sixth year behind bars at an all-male facility operated by the U.S. military, notwithstanding a lengthy legal effort being waged in a bid to be recognized as female in the eyes of the Pentagon. She’s questioned whether she can survive there much longer, however, and acknowledged two recent suicide attempts while personally petitioning Mr. Obama for clemency.
“The bottom-line is this: I need help and I am still not getting it,” she wrote Mr. Obama last month. “I must keep fighting a battle that I wish every day would just end.”
Asked to comment last month on the soldier’s request, White House press secretary Josh Earnest declined to weigh in. As of this week, however, the executive branch may have more of a reason than ever to give Manning a pass: WikiLeaks on Thursday said its editor, Julian Assange, will agree to be extradited to the U.S. if Manning is released.
“If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to U.S. extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case,” WikiLeaks tweeted.
While the Department of Justice hasn’t publicly charged Mr. Assange with any crimes, the WikiLeaks chief has for years claimed to be the subject of a sealed indictment for publishing classified documents supplied by Manning and others.
The Justice Department admittedly began investigating his antisecrecy website back in 2010, though Manning remains the only American publicly charged in relation to WikiLeaks.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Mr. Trump’s pick for attorney general, indicated during his nomination hearing Wednesday that he’d consider pursuing charges against Mr. Assange should he be confirmed to office by the Senate. Those charges would be in response to WikiLeaks’ publication last year of stolen Democratic National Committee emails.
“If Assange participated in violating the American law, then he is a person subject to prosecution and condemnation,” Mr. Sessions testified.
Mr. Obama said in November that Mr. Snowden “raised some legitimate concerns” with his NSA leaks, but that he couldn’t comment on someone who hadn’t stood trial. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has publicly suggested Mr. Snowden be executed for leaking NSA documents.