Chelsea Manning, the private first class soldier in the US Army who leaked more than 700,000 military intelligence reports and documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, has shared a new photo of herself after being set free.
"Okay, so here I am everyone!!" Manning wrote on social media while sharing a new image of herself. "#HelloWorld."
Manning was released from military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on Wednesday.
An Army spokesperson at Fort Leavenworth confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Manning was released at 2 a.m. CT. They provided no further details.
“After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived," Manning said in a statement provided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "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," she said.
Later on Wednesday morning, Manning posted a photo to Twitter, writing, "First steps of freedom!!"
Manning, 29, was originally sentenced to 35 years but had her sentence commuted by then-president Barack Obama in January 2016. She will remain as an active-duty soldier in the Army but will not receive pay.
"Chelsea is still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice," her military defense lawyer, David Coombs, told NBC News. "She wouldn't be charged again for the same offenses, but if she committed a new crime, the military would still have jurisdiction over her."
Manning still has an ongoing appeal on her conviction.
In 2010, when she went by the name Bradley Manning, the soldier downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and then smuggled them out of her intelligence unit. It was reported that one of the CDs she was disguised as a music disc labeled “Lady Gaga.”
The leaked files contained files such as diplomatic cables, videos, and PowerPoint presentations. Manning was subsequently court-martialed and sentenced in 2013 with the opportunity for parole after seven years.
Soon after she was imprisoned, Manning came out as transgender and changed her name to Chelsea. In a statement read by her attorney on the Today show in August 2013, Manning said, “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.” She eventually received hormone treatment while in prison.
Manning attempted suicide twice in 2016, according to her attorneys, citing her prison conditions. Her second suicide attempt came after Manning was sent to solitary confinement as punishment for her first suicide attempt, her lawyers said at the time. “She has repeatedly been punished for trying to survive and now is being repeatedly punished for trying to die," Chase Strangio, her attorney, wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
Manning also went on a hunger strike in September 2016 for several days for what she and her lawyers said was a lack of treatment for gender dysphoria.
Manning‘s commutation received a host of criticism from some in the government — including now-President Trump. In the days before his inauguration, Trump tweeted that Manning was a “Ungrateful TRAITOR” who “should never have been released from prison.”
Over the years, Manning, who has a Twitter account run by her supporters, has been vocal about her own imprisonment, gender transition, and current events.
On Monday Manning tweeted, “Two more days until the freedom of civilian life ^_^ Now hunting for private #healthcare like millions of Americans =P.”
Manning's lawyers, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward, confirmed she was released safely on Wednesday.
"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," the pair said in an ACLU statement. "Chelsea has expressed her deep appreciation to her supporters and looks forward to the future.”
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