Franklin Graham has slammed President Barack Obama for commuting the prison sentence of "convicted traitor" Chelsea Manning, born Bradley Edward Manning, a former Army intelligence officer who was court-martialed and sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents.
In a heated Facebook post shared on Wednesday, Graham, the leader of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, said that Obama seemingly could "care less" that Manning's actions "put the lives of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen at risk and did irreparable damage."
"What kind of message does this send?" Graham asked, pointing out that Manning was responsible for one of the largest breaches of classified material in U.S. history back in 2010.
In addition to commuting Manning's sentence, Obama granted a number of other commutations and pardons, including one for retired Gen. James Cartwright, who was accused of lying to the FBI during another leak investigation, and one for Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The president also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations, mostly for "minor" drug offenders.
In his Facebook post, Graham warned that, thanks to such pardons, "our streets will be more dangerous ."
"Law enforcement will tell you that the #1 cause of crime in America today is drugs," he said. "Join me in praying for our new president and his administration taking office later this week facing many challenges."
On Tuesday, Obama announced Manning will get out May 17th, just seven years into a prison term that NBC notes has been marked by two suicide attempts and a hunger strike aimed at obtaining sex reassignment surgery.
According to the New York Times, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after copying and distributing hundreds of thousands of military incident logs from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, including 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies showing sensitive deals and conversations, documents detailing intelligence assessments of Guantánamo detainees held without trial, and a video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in which two journalists were killed.
Manning decided to make all these files public in the hope that they would incite "worldwide discussion, debates and reforms."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained that Manning's actions were not as "dangerous" as those of fugitive leaker Edward Snowden, and said that Manning had apologized and admitted wrongdoing.
However, several prominent Republicans, including the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees, Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas and Senator John McCain of Arizona, slammed the move, calling Manning's leaks "espionage" and said they had put American troops and the country at risk, according to the Times.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan also called Manning's pending release "outrageous." "President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won't be held accountable for their crimes," he said in a statement.