National Commander Charles E. Schmidt of the American Legion criticized President Obama’s decision on Wednesday to commute the sentence of ex-soldier, Pvt. Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, convicted of violating the U.S. Espionage Act along with many other charges.
President Obama, at his final press conference in office, on Wednesday defended his controversial decision to commute the bulk of Chelsea Manning’s 35-year prison term for leaking classified documents, claiming the former intelligence analyst served a “tough” sentence, and disputing the notion that clemency could embolden future leakers.
“I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and that a message has still been sent,” Obama said.
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Chelsea Manning served in the U.S. Army as Pvt. Bradley Manning before being arrested and sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth for leaking a classified video to the website WikiLeaks.
Due to Obama’s actions, Schmidt said, “Anybody who has ever served in the U.S. military understands the seriousness of protecting classified material. Private Manning put American lives at risk. Manning was convicted of 20 out of 22 charges. Releasing this prisoner sends precisely the wrong message to all Americans who are entrusted to keep our national secrets secret.”
Schmidt, a retired Air Force officer and Vietnam War veteran, also expressed “serious concern” over the pardon of Gen. James Cartwright, who pled guilty in October to one charge of making false statements to federal investigators after he was accused of leaking top secret information.
“General Cartwright had a long and distinguished career but would he have been treated the same if he were a sergeant?” Schmidt asked. “These inexplicable moves do nothing to discourage future offenders from violating their oaths to protect America’s national security. The American Legion is hoping that President Obama is not considering more commutations and pardons of this nature before he leaves office on Friday.”
There used to be a time when divulging classified material, no matter how much was released, would land a citizen in jail. The reporter of this news report, Christopher Collins, a United States Air Force veteran, once held a TS/SCI clearance with NSA and DOD, the same type that Hillary Clinton and Bradley (Chelsea) Manning held.
Those at the highest levels of access are expected to apply the highest levels of judgment, based on the standards and the U.S. government’s basic nondisclosure agreement makes clear the rule is “marked or unmarked classified information” is not to be divulged, no matter the circumstances to those without the required access level and need to know.
With Obama’s commutation of Manning, he sent a message to anyone who holds or has held a security clearance that you too can release classified information to anyone and not be held accountable.
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