Manning celebrated her release from miltary prison by tweeting ‘first steps of freedom,’ and by wearing civilian clothes.
“After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me, is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now–which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me,” said Manning in a statement a few hours after her release.”
7 out of 35
Manning served seven years of a 35-year sentence for leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and military files to Wikileaks. Her release though welcomed by internet freedom advocates, including Edward Snowden was not unexpected. Most of her sentence was commuted by then-US President Barack Obama in January before he left office.
She was originally arrested in May 2010 at a US army base in Baghdad and later confessed to having leaked hundreds of thousands of documents and videos downloaded from intelligence databases to WikiLeaks.
A day after she was sentenced to 35 years in 2013, Manning changed her name to Chelsea from Bradley, declaring that she had felt female since childhood and wanted to live as a woman.
Ahead of her release last week, Manning said: “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.”
1.73GB of data
Manning’s leak to Wikileaks contained hundreds of thousands of classified state department records, including diplomatic cables, war reports and admissions that two Reuters journalists had been killed by US forces. Its 1.73GB size became notorious for being the biggest single leak of classified US documents of all time, up to tht point.
Manning was convicted of 20 charges in connection with the leaks, including espionage. She defended the leaking by saying her actions were intended to launch a public debate in the US about US foreign policy. She later apologised for “hurting the US.”
Manning was deployed in Iraq as an intelligence analyst when she leaked hundreds of thousands of files to Wikileaks. Among the files was video footage of a US Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.