WASHINGTON – A former United States soldier who was WikiLeaks’ first major source was freed Wednesday after seven years in a military prison.
In January, the then-US president, Barack Obama, commuted most of what remained of the 29-year-old Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence for leaking a large trove of classified files pertaining to US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sensitive State Department cables.
Manning left the medium-security military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on Wednesday, according to a US Army spokesman, who said he could not provide more information for reasons of privacy.
After receiving by far the longest prison term ever imposed in the US for the leaking of classified documents, Manning announced that she had felt female since childhood and said she no longer wanted to be referred as Bradley, her birth name, but instead as Chelsea.
Shortly before her release, her attorney Nancy Hollander told EFE that her client was eager to leave prison and complete the gender reassignment treatment she had begun at the men’s military prison, where it was difficult for her to gain access to cosmetics or women’s clothing.
The one-time US Army intelligence analyst tried to commit suicide on two occasions in 2016, the second time while being placed in solitary confinement as punishment for the initial attempt on her own life.
Manning was arrested in May 2010 while still serving in Iraq and endured more than three years of pre-trial detention under conditions that a formal UN investigation deemed “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
In a 2013 court-martial, the private pleaded guilty to having provided WikiLeaks with 700,000 battlefield reports and diplomatic cables as well as video of a 2007 US helicopter attack in Iraq.
The video that Manning gave WikiLeaks, “Collateral Murder,” shows a US helicopter crew in Iraq killing a Reuters photographer and several other civilians.
Manning wrote in 2010 that the aim of sharing the files with WikiLeaks was to spur “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.”
Besides entering a guilty plea, Manning offered an apology for releasing the files.