Former soldier Chelsea Manning has been released from prison after serving seven years for leaking thousands of classified documents. Sentenced to 35 years in prison, President Obama granted her clemency during his final days in office.
During her trial, Manning said that she had meant to help people by leaking the documents and did "not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members".
Manning, 29, was released from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at about 2 a.m., the U.S. Army said in a brief statement.
Manning - known then as Bradley Manning - was sentenced to 35 years in prison on 20 counts, including violations of the Espionage Act. After the conviction, Manning announced she was a transgender woman and changed her name to Chelsea. Manning will remain on active duty while her conviction is appealed, an Army spokesman told USA Today Sunday, which would make her eligible for health care and other benefits.
In court, Manning pleaded guilty to leaking secret information - but she was acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, in July of 2013.
Once the initial issues are overcome, Manning will focus on getting treatment for gender dysphoria, after she had to fight to receive treatment while in military prison.
"It is incredible to witness Chelsea Manning's freedom after having seen and worked with her behind bars for four years".
Last week, Manning tweeted her excitement about her impending release: "Freedom was only a dream, and hard to imagine".
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President Donald Trump has criticized Manning calling the soldier an "ungrateful traitor" on Twitter.
She also leaked documents related to detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay and some 250,000 State Department cables. Manning lived with an aunt in the town of Potomac and studied at Montgomery College before enlisting in the Army in 2007.
Manning said she disclosed classified information "out of a love for my country" to expose truths about the civil war in Iraq.
She will not be discharged and will hold the rank of private first class, but will also not receive pay while under the status.
The possibility that Manning could become a new, prominent face in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights movement has sparked concern among some, however.
He said: "When I first wrote to Chelsea at the military prison in Kansas, she could not be filmed, nor could I communicate with her in any way other than through letters". Thank you to everyone for ensuring her safe release and respecting her privacy as she starts to adjust to life outside of prison and rebuild her life following seven years of confinement. Her protracted battle to receive treatment for gender dysphoria at an all-male facility increased her profile in the LGBT community.
"It's going to be Chelsea telling us what her future will look like", Strangio said.
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