Chelsea Manning, the transgender army private imprisoned for one of the largest leaks of classified documents in US history, was released from a military prison on Wednesday after seven years behind bars.
Manning, 29, was released from the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at about 2:00am, according to a brief statement released by the US Army.
The former military intelligence analyst, then known as Private First Class Bradley Manning, was convicted of leaking more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts.
She provided the information to WikiLeaks, an international organisation that publishes such information from anonymous sources.
Manning said in 2014 that she chose to disclose the classified information to expose truths about the civil war “out of a love for my country.”
Former president Barack Obama commuted the final 28 years of Manning’s 35-year sentence in the final days of his second term in office.
The decision angered national security experts who say Manning put US lives at risk, but it won praise from transgender advocates who have embraced her transition to a female gender identity.
Manning attempted suicide twice in 2016 and went on a hunger strike to denounce disciplinary measures to which she was subjected, including stints in solitary confinement.
Manning tweeted Monday:
Two more days until the freedom of civilian life ^_^ Now hunting for private #healthcare like millions of Americans =P
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) May 15, 2017
After being convicted of espionage, Manning said she identified as a woman and began her transition, even as the US Army kept her in the men’s prison, requiring a male haircut. Her lawyer said she twice tried to commit suicide and faced long stretches of solitary confinement and denial of health care.
Manning is likely to become a transgender advocate, said Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented Manning.
On active duty
Manning will remain on active duty in a special status, the army said on Tuesday.
Manning will be on “excess leave” while her court-martial conviction is under appellate review, US Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Johnson said. In that status, she will be unpaid but will be legally entitled to military medical care.
“In an active-duty status, although in an unpaid status, Manning is eligible for direct care at medical treatment facilities, commissary privileges, morale welfare and recreation privileges, and exchange privileges,” Johnson said in a written statement.
Manning was convicted in 2013 of leaking secret military and US Department of State documents and battlefield video.
A native of Crescent, Oklahoma, she was convicted in a military court-martial of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.
Manning acknowledged leaking the materials, saying she wanted to expose what she considered to be the US military’s disregard of the effects of war on civilians.
She also said she released information that she didn’t believe would harm the US, but critics said the leaks endangered information sources.