CNN:-Washington (CNN) President Barack Obama on Tuesday overruled his secretary of defense to commute the sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks.
The decision — which a senior defense official told CNN was made over the objections of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter — immediately touched off a controversy in the closing days of the Obama administration.
A former intelligence official described being “shocked” to learn of Obama’s decision, adding that the “entire intelligence community is deflated by this inexplicable use of executive power.”
The official said the move was “deeply hypocritical given Obama’s denunciation of WikiLeaks’ role in the hacking of the (Democratic National Committee).”
The President also pardoned James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who pleaded guilty in October to a single charge of making false statements to federal investigators in 2012 when he was questioned about leaking top secret information on US efforts to cripple Iran’s nuclear program to two journalists.
A presidential commutation reduces the sentence being served but it does not change the fact of conviction, whereas a pardon forgives a certain criminal offense.
Manning, a transgender woman, was serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, an all-male Army prison in eastern Kansas, despite her request to transfer to a civilian prison.
A White House statement on Tuesday said her prison sentence is set to expire on May 17.