After spending 7 years in a military prison, Army whistleblower Chelsea (aka Bradley) Manning walked free today courtesy of clemency deal granted by President Obama. According to NBC, Manning, 29, will remain an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army, but won't be paid a salary and is highly unlikely to be called into active service. That said, her "excess leave" status will legally entitle her to military medical care.
As you may recall, back in 2010 Manning leaked nearly 750,000 military files and cables to WikiLeaks at the ripe old age of 22. Among the leaks was battlefield video of a U.S. Apache helicopter operating in Iraq in 2007 that allegedly killed Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver Saeed Chmagh. Here is the original footage as released by WikiLeaks.
Manning said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn't believe would harm the U.S. U.S. military courts apparently had a different take on the leaks and Manning was court-martialed and sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison.
Manning and her attorney released the following statements:
"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea," she said. "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's ACLU attorney and transgender advocate, Chase Strangio, told NBC News that the current focus is on "building her life" once she steps out of prison.
"She is looking forward to eating pizza, swimming, playing PlayStation and meeting the many friends who have supported her over the years but who were never allowed to visit in person," Strangio said. "Beyond that, she is waiting to experience life outside of prison before declaring any future plans. After so many years of government control over her body and gender, I know she is eager to grow her hair, express her gender and negotiate decisions on her own terms."
Freedom was only a dream, and hard to imagine. Now it's here! You kept me alive <3 https://t.co/abkGoA3fOi— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) May 9, 2017
While in prison, Manning developed a substantial following of sympathizers who helped raise over $140,000 to cover living expenses after her release from prison.
Of course, Julian Assange has been an outspoken advocate for Manning's release and even offered to hand himself over to U.S. authorities in return for an Obama pardon for Manning.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
That said, not everyone agreed with Obama's decision to grant Manning clemency.
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