While President Obama has commuted the sentence of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, the administration has indicated it has no plans to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said last week, “The release of the information [Manning] provided to WikiLeaks was damaging to national security. But the disclosures by Edward Snowden were far more serious and far more dangerous.” We speak to The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill, author of the recent piece, “The True Scandal of 2016 was the Torture of Chelsea Manning.”
AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters there was a stark difference between the cases of U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: There are some important differences, including the scale of the crime—the crimes that were committed and the consequences of their crimes. Obviously, the—as Chelsea Manning has acknowledged, and as we have said many times, the release of the information that she provided to WikiLeaks was damaging to national security. But the disclosures by Edward Snowden were far more serious and far more dangerous.
AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, a campaign supporting Edward Snowden delivered a petition with more than 1 million signatures to the White House demanding a pardon. Jeremy Scahill, what Josh Earnest said in differentiating Snowden from Chelsea Manning?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, there are clear differences between what Chelsea Manning did and the way that Chelsea Manning has been treated and Edward Snowden. But I do reject the idea that they’re using Edward Snowden as sort of a stepladder to justify this. The reality is that President Obama should have issued a full pardon to Chelsea Manning and should have never allowed the kind of abuse that she’s endured to go on for this period.
Let’s remember, though, that, you know, Chelsea Manning didn’t just leak the “Collateral Murder” video that showed the killing of Iraqi civilians and journalists from the Reuters news agency, didn’t just release the State Department cables that showed all sorts of blackmail, cajoling, corruption, support for dictators around the world, that—it was one of the most incredible moments in the history of democracy in this country, where people actually got to have the curtain pulled back and to see how the government functions in private and how it contradicts the public proclamations of the United States being this beacon of hope, the shining, you know, city on the top of the hill. And also Chelsea Manning provided the Iraq War logs and the Afghan War logs, that detailed numerous crimes committed by the United States and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also gave us an unprecedented window into how the assassination forces that the U.S. had unleashed in those countries functioned.
But not a single document that Chelsea Manning is known to have released was a top-secret document. And I think that’s a technical distinction from what Edward Snowden did. And I think that that’s part of why Josh Earnest is saying this. But let’s be clear: Edward Snowden also is a whistleblower deserving of an embrace from people who believe in democracy. We understand now the breaking news today was that the Russian government is saying it’s extending Edward Snowden’s ability to stay in Russia for two more years. And a senior Russian official rejected the suggestion by former acting CIA Director Mike Morell that Snowden should be handed over to the U.S. by Putin as a thank you gift to the incoming President Donald Trump, and the Russian Foreign Ministry said it’s curious that a former director of the CIA actually views the giving of people as a gift, and it says a lot about the United States. But, no, I think that the White House is using Edward Snowden in an attempt to justify the commutation of the sentence of Chelsea Manning. I’m ecstatic that Obama did even this. I think he should have gone farther and issued a full pardon to Chelsea Manning.
AMY GOODMAN: One of the things Josh Earnest said—and this is before the announcement that the sentence of Chelsea Manning would be commuted—when talking about Edward Snowden, is he went to a country that is an adversary.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, that’s—first of all, that’s an outright lie. When Edward Snowden was in mid-air on the way to Moscow, the United States—
AMY GOODMAN: Headed to Latin America.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Well, we don’t know exactly where, but we understand somewhere in Latin America. While he was in the air en route to Moscow, the United States canceled his passport. So, it was the Obama administration that chose Russia. Edward Snowden did not choose Russia. And then they tried to force Evo Morales—well, they actually did force Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia’s plane down, thinking that Edward Snowden was on board it. My understanding is that supporters of Snowden had bought tickets for him on multiple airlines in an attempt to kind of fog up the U.S. efforts to catch him.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, because he didn’t have his passport, when he was in transit, stopped at Moscow, he couldn’t leave the airport.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, he had to stay in the airport for weeks on end.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, WikiLeaks said its founder, Julian Assange, was prepared to give up his freedom in exchange for Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. A statement on WikiLeaks’ Twitter page read, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.” Can you comment on this, Jeremy?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first of all, I mean, I know that our dear friend, the late Michael Ratner, believed that there was a lot of evidence to indicate that there was a secret or sealed indictment against Julian Assange, but that has not been confirmed. So it’s unclear even if there are charges against Julian Assange. Some of the leaked documents from Hillary Clinton’s circle indicate that maybe there is, but it’s unclear that there’s even an extradition request to respond to in the first place. And I think that, you know, Assange has plenty of trouble facing him if he steps outside of that embassy—the potential for the U.S. to want to extradite him, certainly there; Sweden is definitely going to want him to spend some time in jail, and Assange himself has acknowledged that; and the British government, of course, may bring a whole array of new charges against him, as well. But it will be interesting to see what happens. I mean, Assange did say it, and so we’ll see what happens.
AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller tweeted, “Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning. How many people died because of manning’ leak?” That is what Judith Miller tweeted, the former New York Times reporter.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Judith Miller’s article—
AMY GOODMAN: In the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, Miller wrote several of the key articles that falsely claimed Iraq had an extensive weapons of mass destruction program ahead of the Iraq invasion, paving way for the war in Iraq.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, Judith Miller was a witting participant in a sophisticated propaganda campaign orchestrated by Dick Cheney and the top levels of power in the United States government to falsify a case to invade and destroy Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died in that war. Thousands of U.S. soldiers were killed in that war. Judith Miller shouldn’t write with ink; she should write with the blood that she has caused to be shed around the world. And shame on her for attacking Chelsea Manning, whose entire intent was to save lives, when she has knowingly participated in a drive to an unjust, illegal war that killed scores of people. She should, as they say, delete her account.
AMY GOODMAN: Chase Strangio, as we wrap up, your final comment? And do you know what Chelsea Manning will be doing when she gets out of Leavenworth?
CHASE STRANGIO: I have no doubt that Chelsea Manning will continue to just absolutely fight for all the principles that she has long stood for, continue to engage in a campaign of advocacy for transparency, for transgender justice, for the justice of so many people. And I have no doubt that today she, as she always is, is thinking about other people, like Leonard Peltier and other people who are still awaiting to hear about the commutation of their sentences.
AMY GOODMAN: The pardon of General Cartwright?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, General Cartwright was part of the official leaks program, where the White House wants to put out information that they feel makes them look glorious, like as we saw John Brennan and others do in the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden. What this boiled down to was Cartwright leaked information about the Stuxnet virus, and he appeared to have done it with the permission of the highest levels of power in the Obama administration—unclear if Obama himself approved it. But then he got caught lying to the FBI. And the whole point of it was to say, “Hey, we dismantled—or, we penetrated Iran’s nuclear program with this amazing computer virus that we created,” potentially in concert with the Israelis. Cartwright then got caught lying to the FBI. And so, this is sort of akin to, you know, some of the pardons that took place in Richard Nixon’s administration. Basically, Cartwright did this at the pleasure of the White House, so to speak, and so he’s part of the official leaks program, as, you know, so many other unindicted people are in the White House—big contrast to how they treat conscience-motivated whistleblowers.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Nancy Hollander, what this means for future whistleblowers?
NANCY HOLLANDER: I think it’s very important for future whistleblowers to see how Chelsea was treated and mistreated. And none of that is going to go away. But at least the president has reduced her sentence. But we’ve always been concerned, and Chelsea has been concerned, that future whistleblowers will be afraid to come out and step forward. And Chelsea will be out there doing service to her community, and she can’t wait to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: Nancy Hollander, appellate attorney for Chelsea Manning. Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU, represented Chelsea Manning in a lawsuit against the Pentagon. And Jeremy Scahill, I hope you’ll stay with us for the end of the show to talk about the confirmation hearing for education secretary, Betsy DeVos. When we come back, Oscar López Rivera has also been—had his sentence commuted. We’ll talk with his brother and Juan González. Stay with us.