Why Chelsea Manning Is Going Free

In his eight years in office President Obama has waged a devastating war on whistleblowers, prosecuting more people under the Espionage Act than every single president - combined.

But that war on whistleblowers took a possible step towards armistice today when the President commuted the prison sentence of former US Army private Chelsea Manning.

Manning, of course, was the source for a massive 2010 leak of thousands of US government documents and videos.

Those documents were published by Wikileaks, and they showed - among other things - American soldiers shooting and killing two Reuters journalists in Baghdad.

In retaliation for these leaks, Manning was charged (after a long detention) with violating the Espionage Act and "aiding the enemy" - AKA treason.

Two years later - she pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to 35 years in military prison - a punishment many civil rights groups called "outrageous".

Under the commutation agreement announced today, however, Manning will end up serving just a small fraction of that sentence.

She will be released on May 17.

So - what does this all mean for President Obama's controversial record on civil liberties?

Does it make up for the charges currently on the docket against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden?

And what about Julian Assange?

He's said he'd be willing to agree to extradition to the US if Manning was given clemency.

Will he make good on the promise - or was it all a bluff?

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