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Chelsea Manning Will Leave A Military Prison In One Week

Former U.S. Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning, seen here in an undated handout photo, will be released from a military prison next Wednesday.
Former U.S. Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning, seen here in an undated handout photo, will be released from a military prison next Wednesday.

Chelsea Manning, the former Army private who leaked a trove of classified documents to WikiLeaks, will be released from prison on May 17, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Manning's 35-year prison sentence was commuted in January by then-President Barack Obama.

Most recently, Manning has been held in a prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After her release, her attorney says, she'll live in Maryland.

Manning, 29, was arrested in May of 2010. At the time, she was serving in Iraq and was known as Bradley Manning. She announced her transgender identity in August of 2013, at nearly the same time she was sentenced to prison. In a pair of firsts for a person held in a military prison, she underwent hormone therapy and, last fall, the Army agreed to allow her to have gender transition surgery.

Manning is responsible for what's seen as the largest leak of classified data in U.S. history. Among the records she admitted to leaking was a video showing a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Also included were hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables.

For months during her detention, Manning was held in solitary confinement. In 2012, the U.N.'s expert on torture said that while she had not yet been found guilty of a crime, Manning's treatment by the U.S. government was "cruel and inhuman."

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.

After Obama granted Manning's request for a commuted sentence, the president said she had "served a tough prison sentence," arguing against those who said the move would show leaking classified information could go unpunished.

On Tuesday, Chelsea Manning released a statement saying:

"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. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine. Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts. I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team and countless supporters.

"I watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians and artists. My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own. I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.