Chelsea Manning has been released from prison after serving seven years of a potential 35-year term.
The Whistleblower behind some of the largest tranches of leaked information in history left Fort Leavenworth military prison on Wednesday 17 May. She tweeted earlier today...
Manning released a statement last week in which she thanked former President Obama for the commutation of her sentence, adding, “I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine.”
Manning was the key leaker behind a great tide of embarrassing materials leaked from inside the US government, military and the Iraq war effort. While working as an intelligence analyst in the US army during 2010, Manning leaked classified information to Wikileaks including some of the largest document dumps in history.
Those disclosures sent shockwaves around the world. Many have credited them with sparking the Arab springs of 2012, and the documents that she gave to Wikileaks lifted the lid on corruption around the world and abuses within the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most notable of her disclosures was known as the “Collateral Murder” video which showed American forces firing on civilians.
The leaks were seized upon by the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian who helped to publish the massive tranches of information and make them intelligible to the public.
After her confidante, Adrian Lamo, turned her in to Army CounterIntelligence, Manning was eventually charged with over 20 offences and tried in a military court. Though Manning's offences could have resulted in a death sentence, or 90 years in prison, Manning was handed 35 years and a dishonourable discharge in July 2013.
During her term in prison, Manning was placed on suicide watch while imprisoned in Quantico, Virginia. Her treatment whilst imprisoned became a subject of international controversy, when the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Juan Mendez and State Department Spokesperson Philip J. Crowley, separately spoke out against the conditions in which she was kept.
Aside from her treatment whilst inside, Manning has been a divisive figure in international political culture. While many consider her a traitor who put many lives in danger others have cast her as a whistleblower and spearheaded campaigns to secure her release such as the I am Bradley Manning campaign, named for her identity before her transition.
As one of his last acts as President, Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence to just seven years of the 35 she was handed. Obama said at the time that, “It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to other leakers.”
Sarah Harrison, acting director of The Courage Foundation told SC Media UK at the time that, "Obama may well have just saved Chelsea Manning's life. Freeing her is clearly and unambiguously the right thing to do, and not just for the obvious humanitarian reasons, though those are absolutely compelling.”
Her release was certainly not welcomed by all. At the time the commutation of her sentence was labelled “outrageous” by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. More recently, the US President Donald Trump damned Obama's parting shot, tweeting…
Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2017