Guardian source and columnist Chelsea manning has had her 35-year prison term commuted by President Obama and is set to be released in May.
Manning, 29, was a private in the US military and was arrested at a base outside Baghdad seven years ago for leaking 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks. She was Bradley when arrested and has changed gender in prison.
The documents were shared with The Guardian in 2010 leading to a series of stories about the conduct of the war in Iraq, classified US embassy communications and the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Wikileaks also worked with The New York Times, Der Speigel, Le Monde and El Pais.
Manning’s documents included a video released by Wikileaks under the title ‘Collateral Murder’ in 2010 shot from the vantage point of two US helicopter gunships as they opened fire on suspected Iraqi fighters in 2007. Numerous civilians died in the attack including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said the Chelsea Manning case was “one of many leak prosecutions under Obama that had chilling effect on flow of info to media”.
Former Guardian editor Rusbridger said on Twitter: “At last! Thank you @Potus.”
Another Guardian US source, Edward Snowden – living in exile in Russia – looks unlikely to have charges against him dropped.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said: “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.
“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 documents Manning provided to WikiLeaks were “damaging to national security”, Earnest said, but those leaked by Snowden were “far more serious and far more dangerous”.
Picking up the Newspaper of the Year Prize at the 2011 British Press Awards, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said: “Wikileaks was the story of the year, I can’t think of another story, which has been created by a newspaper, that has been bigger.
“It has been discussed in every capital city in the world. It wasn’t handed to us on a plate – it was a lot of work.”
On the question of what effect revelations in leaked US embassy cables had on Arab countries, he said that Guardian foreign correspondent Ghaith Abdul Ahad told him that “everywhere he’s been – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya – they talk about Wikileaks”.
He added: “The Americans were the people who were propping up these regimes and yet [the Embassy Cables revealed] they knew they were corrupt. It was hugely important.”