Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Newly freed Chelsea Manning: 'I'm figuring things out'

Newly freed Chelsea Manning: 'I'm figuring things out'

Private First Class Chelsea Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth military prison Wednesday after serving seven years for leaking USA secrets.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as a male officer called Bradley Manning, was arrested in 2010 after leaking 700,000 military files including a battlefield video and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, the largest leak of classified data in US history.

Manning was convicted for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents and videos downloaded from intelligence databases to WikiLeaks.

There's so much wrong with this, I don't know where to begin.

"I'm figuring things out right now - which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me", 29-year-old Manning said in an emailed statement hours after being released from a lockup at Kansas' Fort Leavenworth.

Former US president Barack Obama, in his final days in office, commuted the final 28 years of Manning's 35-year sentence, effective four months later. In 2013, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking information relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was convicted of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud - and some don't appear to agree with her actions.

Now 29, Manning said at the time she hoped to encourage debate about America's wars, but the leaked files stretched far beyond the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, with diplomatic cables embarrassing senior officials on almost every continent. "She wouldn't be charged again for the same offenses, but if she committed a new crime, the military would still have jurisdiction over her".

The soldier was actually born Bradley Manning, but revealed after being sentenced to prison that she always felt like a woman and wanted to live her life as Chelsea rather than Bradley. However, they did not allow her to grow her hair longer than military standards set for males, or allow her to visit a surgeon to discuss sex reassignment surgery.

The wider world that Manning left in 2010, when she was first detained, is dramatically different as a result of her whistleblowing.

Chase Madar, Manning's biographer, argued that she carried out an act of public service by leaking the documents, adding that none of the information leaked by Manning was top secret.

NBC News, citing an unnamed U.S Army official, says Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth military prison Wednesday at around 2 a.m.

"Pvt. Manning is statutorily entitled to medical care while on excess leave in an active duty status, pending final appellate review", said Army spokesman Dave Foster. All funds will go directly to Manning to help her transition to post-prison life.

"She has experienced trauma over the past seven years of her confinement and the trauma from those experiences won't just evaporate the day she walks out of prison", Strangio said.

"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea".

Manning twice attempted suicide a year ago at Fort Leavenworth, a male military prison.

Amnesty International, which had campaigned for Manning's release, was quick to applaud her freedom but said the fight was not over.

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