Outgoing US President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former soldier whose intelligence leaks rocked the world, the White House announced on Tuesday (17 January). Manning will now serve only five more months and will be released on 17 May.

She had been handed down the longest ever sentence for leaking information - 35 years - and would have stayed in prison until 2045. A petition for Manning's release with over 100,000 signatures was delivered to the White House in December.

The timing of the commutation is notable with President Obama only having three days left in office before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

There have also been calls for Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, a CIA contractor who similarly leaked classified government information. The New York Times reported that the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest had told reporters that the two cases were starkly different.

"Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing," Earnest is quoted as saying.

"Mr Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy."

The commutation also increases speculation over what will happen to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks has previously stated that if Manning were granted clemency, Assange would agree to be extradited to the US.

WikiLeaks tweeted "VICTORY" at the news, though not all reacted happily. Arkansas Senator, Tom Cotton, released a statement saying Manning should be treated like a "traitor":

"When I was leading soldiers in Afghanistan, Private Manning was undermining us by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. I don't understand why the president would feel special compassion for someone who endangered the lives of our troops, diplomats, intelligence officers, and allies. We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr," he added.

Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning will be freed in May Reuters