WikiLeaks came to the defense of the website’s most well-known source Thursday after President Trump lashed out at convicted Army leaker Pvt. Chelsea Manning for reflecting on the Obama administration’s shortcomings in a new op-ed published as she prepares to leave prison.
Manning, 29, became the target of one of Mr. Trump’s Twitter tirades early Thursday after The Guardian newspaper published an editorial written by the soon-to-be-released WikiLeaks collaborator critical of former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
“The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader,” Manningwrote, adding that Mr. Obama’s successor must be a person “who is unafraid to be criticized” in spite of having their every move evaluated without end.
Indeed, Manning was convicted in 2013 of charges including espionage and theft in connection with providingWikiLeaks with a trove of state secrets obtained during her deployment as an intelligence analyst in the Iraq War. She was acquitted of “aiding the enemy,” however, after military prosecutors failed to show during her court-martial that America’s adversaries benefited from the soldier’s disclosures.
And while Manning did use the word “weak” once in her assessment of the Obama administration, it wasn’t exactly a personal critique. Instead, rather, she wrote that Mr. Obama’s opponents “would ceaselessly criticize him for being too weak, or too soft or too sympathetic” on matters of foreign policy and national security.
“Trump denounces Manning for agreeing with him,” WikiLeaks said in a separate tweet Thursday accompanied by a screenshot of the president accusing Mr. Obama last year of demonstrating “weak leadership.”
A review of Mr. Trump’s Twitter activity reveals the president has previously used the word “weak” not only to repeatedly describe Mr. Obama, but also former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Republican House Leader Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, CNN host Rick Wilson, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the department store chain Macy’s, the ending of the 2015 movie “Unbroken” and entrepreneur Mark Cuban, in addition to many of his former 2016 GOP rivals for the presidency.
Mr. Obama announced days before leaving office this month that he has agreed to commute the remainder ofManning’s 35-year prison sentence, paving the way for the soldier to be released this May after roughly seven years in military prison.
Prior to her arrest in 2010, Manning admittedly provided WikiLeaks with a trove of documents including diplomatic cables and war logs taken from State Department and military computer systems, respectively.
Mr. Trump’s reaction to Manning’s op-ed on Thursday signaled the first time he’s publicly discussed the Army leaker since taking office notwithstanding the president’s frequent praising of WikiLeaks, which infamously published hacked emails obtained from Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the run-up to last year’s White House race.
In light of Mr. Trump refusing to release his tax records upon taking office, however, his personal opinion regardingWikiLeaks may very well change soon given the website’s latest efforts: On Sunday, WikiLeaksissued a request for anyone with access to the president’s financial documents to securely upload them to its website.
Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987) is a United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013, of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years’ imprisonment, with the possibility of parole in the eighth year, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Army.
Manning is a transgender woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had felt female since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy. From early life and throughout much of her Army career, Manning was known as Bradley. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria while in the Army.
Assigned in 2009 to an Army unit in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to classified databases. In early 2010, she leaked classified information to WikiLeaks and confided this to Adrian Lamo, an online acquaintance. Lamo informed Army Counterintelligence and Manning was arrested in May that same year. The material included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables; and 482,832 Army reports that came to be known as the “Iraq War Logs” and Afghan War Diary. Much of the material was published by WikiLeaks or its media partners between April and November 2010.
Manning was ultimately charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which was the most serious charge and could have resulted in a death sentence. She was held at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico in Virginia, from July 2010 to April 2011, under Prevention of Injury status—which entailed de facto solitary confinement and other restrictions that caused domestic and international concern—before being transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she could interact with other detainees. She pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the charges. The trial on the remaining charges began on June 3, 2013, and on July 30, she was convicted of 17 of the original charges and amended versions of four others, but was acquitted of aiding the enemy. She was sentenced to serve a 35-year sentence at the maximum-security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
Reaction to Manning’s disclosures, arrest, and sentence was mixed. Denver Nicks, one of Manning’s biographers, writes that the leaked material, particularly the diplomatic cables, was widely seen as a catalyst for the Arab Spring that began in December 2010 and that Manning was viewed as both a 21st-century Tiananmen Square Tank Man and an embittered traitor. Reporters Without Borders condemned the length of the sentence, saying that it demonstrated how vulnerable whistleblowers are.
On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to a total of seven years of confinement dating from the date of arrest by military authorities. Manning is scheduled to be freed on May 17, 2017.