The Current

Why was Chelsea Manning's sentence commuted but no pardon for Snowden?

While Chelsea Manning's sentence was commuted, Barack Obama won't consider clemency for Edward Snowden. The Current contrasts the two high-profile leakers.
Chelsea Manning was convicted of leaking classified government and military documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. She would have been in prison until 2045 had President Obama not commuted her sentence. (U.S. Army via Associated Press)

U.S. President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army private who leaked sensitive classified files to WikiLeaks.

Manning has served six years of a 35-year sentence for violating the espionage act. With the president's commutation, she will be released from a maximum security military prison on May 17, 2016.

"She took responsibility for her crime," President Obama said at his last press conference.

"The sentence that she received was very disproportionate to what other leakers had received. It made sense to commute and not pardon her sentence."

The "other leakers" President Obama was referring to included retired four-star general David Petraeus.

Mark Hosenball, a national security correspondent with Reuters says it appears the material leaked by General Petraeus was more sensitive than what Manning leaked.

"But he managed to do a plea bargain where he got no prison time at all," Hosenball tells The Current's host Anna Maria Tremonti.
Reuters national security correspondent Mark Hosenball says it's unlikely Edward Snowden, who leaked secrets about covert American surveillance, will ever be able to return to the U.S. without facing prosecution. (Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras/Guardian/File/Associated Press)

Hosenball says it's hard to know exactly what the consequences of Manning's leaks will be. A large number were from the State department, which allegedly affected diplomatic relations. Others included military reports from Afghanistan in which secret informants were allegedly named.

"Maybe people did get into very bad trouble there, although there's no proof that anybody was killed or injured as a result of that disclosures," Hosenball says.

President Obama has shown a very different opinion toward Edward Snowden, the former analyst with the CIA and the National Security Agency. Snowden leaked classified files that revealed the scope of the the NSA's surveillance programs inside the United States and around the world.

He is currently living in Russia, but a number of his supporters have urged President Obama to pardon him.

"I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," President Obama said last fall.

"If in fact he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before a court, with a lawyer, and make his case."

Hosenball said the revelations and fallout from the documents leaked by Snowden appear to have been very serious, including hampering national security investigations.

"The government has alleged — and I think there is at least some truth to it — that as a result of Snowden's revelations terrorist groups and other bad people have learned new ways to communicate with each other in ways that the government can't monitor," Hosenball tells Tremonti.

He says he can't see how Snowden will ever be able to return to the United States without facing prosecution.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by Halifax network producer Jack Julian.