Chelsea Manning, the imprisoned trans whistleblower convicted of leaking a trove of classified military documents, has reportedly been placed on the short-list to be considered for commutation by President Barack Obama—a decision that raises the prospect that Manning could soon see her 35-year prison sentence drastically reduced.
According to a Justice Department source who spoke with NBC News, a decision regarding Manning's case could be made as early as Wednesday, as President Obama winds down his final days in office.
"I have more hope right now than I have the entire time since she was sentenced," Manning's aunt Deborah told NBC. "I do think it's the last hope for a while."
News of this possible reprieve comes after a coordinated effort by activists to draw attention to Manning's deteriorating condition behind bars. In an open letter to President Obama, Manning's lawyer, ACLU attorney Chase Strangio wrote:
After six and a half years in custody — already the longest prison term served by a whistleblower in the history of the United States — Chelsea has applied to you for clemency. She is asking only for time served and a first chance, as she explains in her application, “to live my life outside the USDB as the person I was born to be.”
This request comes at the peak of Chelsea’s escalating trauma and despair and on the eve of a new Administration’s rise to power. Her life is in your hands.
During her time served in prison, Manning has attempted suicide twice—the second coming after she was placed in solitary confinement as reported punishment for her first attempt at taking her own life. Manning also participated in a hunger strike, which ended in mid-September, after the military granted her request for gender reassignment surgery.
On Wednesday, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shared a message of support for Manning, urging President Obama to follow through on the possible commutation.
Speaking with NBC, Manning's aunt framed her niece's decision to leak classified military documents as "a bad decision," adding that Manning has "paid for that bad decision."
"It's time to let her go out," Deborah Manning explained. "And try to make a positive contribution in the world."
Strangio also issued a statement:
The Obama administration has done many commendable things to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, but in the case of Chelsea Manning they have systematically mistreated her and denied her access to medically recommended gender-related health care. Chelsea won’t survive another 5 years in prison, much less another 30. President Obama has 9 days to do the right thing and commute her sentence. The world is watching, and we hope that he stands on the side of justice, and that his legacy will be one of standing up for trans people’s rights, not having extinguished one of our community’s brightest lights.