Chelsea Manning finally leaves prison after Obama pardon: "First steps of freedom"

The soldier convicted of leaking to Wikileaks in 2010 was set free early on Wednesday

By Matthew Rozsa

Published May 17, 2017 9:40AM (EDT)

Chelsea Manning  (AP/U.S. Army)
Chelsea Manning (AP/U.S. Army)

Chelsea Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth military prison early on Wednesday, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Although U.S. Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith wouldn't offer the AP any details about where Manning will go from here, the whistleblower who was convicted of leaking to Wikileaks in 2010 has previously indicated that she would want to stay with an aunt in Maryland. The military isn't providing more information about Manning's future for security reasons — but even without those details, Manning's story has proved to be one of the most historically consequential of the 2010s.

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Manning expressed joy Wednesday about her release.

After Manning leaked documents pertaining to human rights violations perpetrated by the American army in the Middle East, she was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison, despite the fact that the information Manning leaked did little harm to American military objectives (aside from highlighting its abuses of power). Manning's case was further complicated by her coming out as transgender, and she tried to commit suicide twice while incarcerated at Leavenworth. She was also regularly sent to solitary confinement for trivial infractions ranging from having expired toothpaste in her cell to owning magazines (including the issue of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover) that she received through the prison's open mail system.

When President Barack Obama decided to commute Manning's sentence in January, the White House specifically mentioned that she had not only accepted military justice instead of fleeing the country (like another whistleblower, Edward Snowden), but that her status as a transgender prisoner in an all-male prison left her with "an uncertain fate behind bars."

Manning's commutation also had geopolitical implications beyond her individual case. Prior to Obama's decision to commute her sentence, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had indicated that he would accept extradition in return for Manning's release. Once Obama actually commuted Manning's sentence, however, Assange reneged on that promise.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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