Ash Carter: Obama's Commutation of Chelsea Manning Sentence 'Not My Recommendation'

January 19, 2017

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that he did not support President Obama's decision to commute former Army soldier Chelsea Manning's prison sentence.

"All I'll say about the Manning case is I did not support the direction the president went, but he’s made his decision. That's all I'm going to say," Carter said. "That was not my recommendation."

Obama commuted the bulk of Manning's 35-year prison sentence on Tuesday. Manning was convicted for providing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010 pertaining to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.

Manning was found guilty in 2013 and her sentence was originally set to end on May 17, 2045. Now it will end in May of this year, taking 28 years off the conviction.

The sentence was the longest punishment ever imposed on an American for leaking information from military documents.

Manning, a transgender woman whose first name was Bradley at the time, was a low-level intelligence analyst in the Army deployed to Iraq when she copied 750,000 pages of military documents and videos. She sent the information to WikiLeaks, which subsequently published the sensitive information for the public to see.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Manning's actions were "damaging to national security," but later added that they were not as severe as Edward Snowden's leaks.

Obama was asked about the Manning commutation on Wednesday during his final press briefing, where he defended his decision.

"The sentence that she received was very disproportional—disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received," Obama said. "It made sense to commute, and not pardon, her sentence. I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and that a message has still been sent that when it comes to our national security, that whenever possible, we need for people who may have legitimate concerns ... that they try to work through the established channels."