Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Intelligence Analyst, convicted of stealing over 700,000 classified Military and State Department documents and Iraq battlefield videos and delivering them to WikiLeaks, will be released from prison next Wednesday on May 17, 2017. The 29-year-old Army private is preparing to walk through the security gates of the U.S. disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Manning's leaks of classified information were among the largest in United States history.
Former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is transgender and in April of 2014, was granted the right to be legally recognized as Chelsea Elizabeth Manning. Seven years ago, Chelsea was arrested when she was an unknown male soldier, and within a week, Chelsea will emerge into a new life as a civilian and living as an openly transgender woman.
On July 30, 2013, Manning was found guilty of espionage and theft, but not guilty of a more serious charge of aiding the enemy. In August of 2013, Chelsea was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Manning began serving time in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and has been allowed to receive hormone treatment -- although she has faced other restrictions around gender expression.
On January 17, 2017, former President Barack Obama commuted Manning's remaining prison sentence, and she will be freed on May 17, 2017. Manning's discharge from prison is what some have called "a parting gift of President Obama" as one of his final acts in office. Manning's lawyer confirmed her release date with Aljazeera.
The series of events began with a breach that saw massive quantities of state secrets downloaded by a junior army private from presumed secure intelligence databases onto a Lady Gaga CD. Manning received one of the longest prison sentences ever recorded in the U.S. for an official leak.
Chelsea Manning will now have the rare opportunity to place all of this behind her. Manning is overjoyed and said she couldn't wait to breathe the fresh spring air and to go swimming when she is released from prison next week. Manning will be released sometime after dawn.
"I'm looking forward to breathing the warm spring air again... I want that indescribable feeling of connection with people and nature again, without razor wire or a visitation booth. I want to be able to hug my family and friends again. And swimming – I want to go swimming!"After her release, Manning said that she intends to live in Maryland, according to the Daily Mail.
In early 2010, at a branch of the Barnes & Noble in suburban Maryland, Manning used the bookstore's open public wifi network to upload to WikiLeaks what she later described at her trial as some of the "more significant documents of our time." The location Manning committed the act was barely 20 miles away from the Pentagon, according to the Atlantic.
Over the years, public figures have spoken out in support of Manning and will greet her as she walks out the Kansas prison doors. Several notable public figures include Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers to Michael Stipe of REM, and the fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood.Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor, had also paid a great price in the form of exile.
From asylum in Russia, Snowden told the Guardian that in his opinion the timing of the soldier's release is as follows.
"With a president who offers democracy nothing but contempt and a Congress that represents party over public, whistleblowers have never been more important."
Manning was on leave from duty in Iraq and staying with her aunt in Potomac. Chelsea had brought with her from the U.S. forward operating base Hammer outside Baghdad -- a camera memory stick which held hundreds of thousands of secret military documents that she had downloaded from intelligence databases and onto the Lady Gaga CD, according to the Guardian.
Chelsea Manning attempted suicide twice while in jail, where she was often held in solitary confinement. Last year, Manning went on a hunger strike last year in a bid to get officials to allow her to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world... I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team, and countless supporters."
"Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine... Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts."Several years ago, a UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, formally accused the U.S. government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment towards Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being the WikiLeaks source, according to the Guardian. The findings were based on Mendez's 14-month investigation into the treatment of Manning.
Manning admitted to leaking the materials to expose the U.S. military's disregard for human rights and the impact of war on civilians. Manning claims she used information that wouldn't harm U.S. personnel or security, according to Aljazeera.
More recently, James Comey received a job offer from WikiLeaks shortly after he was fired from the FBI. Julian Assange tweeted that he would be happy to offer Comey a new job if he wanted to continue to properly investigate the U.S. government from WikiLeaks' D.C. office, according to Heavy.The tweet by Assange was a shocker considering that around the same time today, WikiLeaks retweeted a tweet from March 20, 2017, which provided proof of Comey misleading Congress about Republican emails not being released in 2016.
[Featured Image by Patrick Semansky/AP Images]