WASHINGTON, 18 January 2017 — 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,” the president said.

The president has faced mounting bipartisan criticism over the commutation,
announced as part of a wave of clemency decisions a day earlier. Manning, who has
served more than six years of the 35-year sentence, will now be released in May.

To detractors warning the decision set a dangerous precedent, the president pushed
back.  

“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence, so the notion that the average
person who is thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it
goes unpunished, I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that
Chelsea Manning has served,” Obama said.

Citing the time served and saying Manning’s sentence was “disproportionate,” Obama
said: “It made sense to commute, and not pardon, her sentencing.”

The former Army analyst, a transgender woman who was known as Bradley Manning
at the time of her 2010 arrest, had asked Obama last November to commute her
sentence for giving classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks.

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