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Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of giving classified government materials to WikiLeaks, was released from a Kansas military prison early Wednesday after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence.
U.S. Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told the Associated Press that Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth military prison, but that she couldn’t provide any further details. Manning tweeted after she was granted clemency that she planned to move to Maryland. The Crescent, Okla., native has an aunt who lives there.
Manning, who was known as Bradley Manning before transitioning in prison, was convicted in 2013 of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. President Barack Obama granted Manning clemency in his final days in office in January.
Her release comes as news broke Wednesday that a new documentary about the famed whistle-blower is in the works. XY Chelsea is being directed by British filmmaker Tim Travers Hawkins (1000 Voices) and executive produced by Oscar-winner Laura Poitras (Citizenfour, Risk), with the filmmakers having exclusive rights to Manning’s story and having had unprecedented access to her team for two years as they fought for her release.
Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, has acknowledged leaking the materials, which included battlefield video. She said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military’s disregard for the effects of war on civilians and that she released information she didn’t believe would harm the U.S.
Critics said the leaks laid bare some of the nation’s most-sensitive secrets and endangered information sources, prompting the State Department to help some of those people move to protect their safety. Several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures.
Manning, who was arrested in 2010, filed a transgender rights lawsuit in prison and attempted suicide twice last year, according to her lawyers.
Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence to about seven years, including the time she spent locked up before being convicted, drew strong criticism from members of Congress and others, with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the move “just outrageous.”
In a statement last week — her first public comments since Obama intervened — Manning thanked the former president and said that letters of support from veterans and fellow transgender people inspired her “to work toward making life better for others.”
“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.”
Her attorneys have said Manning was subjected to violence in prison and argued the military mistreated her by requiring her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison, restricting her physical and mental health care and not allowing her to keep a feminine haircut.
The Department of Defense has repeatedly declined to discuss Manning’s treatment in prison.
The Army said Tuesday that Manning would remain on active duty in a special, unpaid status that will legally entitle her to military medical care, along with commissary privileges. An Army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, said Manning will be on “excess leave” while her court-martial conviction is under appellate review.
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