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Chelsea Manning released from prison

Someone in Hillcrest draped a rainbow flag beneath the iconic district sign in support of Manning.
Photo credit:
Jim Winsor

Chelsea Manning was released from Leavenworth prison in Kansas today, thus ending what was supposed to be a 35 year sentence after being convicted of espionage.   

In January 2017, then President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to seven years, including the three years she served in prison before her trial.

The Artful Activist draped a rainbow flag beneath the iconic Hillcrest sign this morning hailing Manning as a patriot, with a silhouette and the words "you are not forgotten." 

In 2013, the day after she was arrested Manning came out as transgender. Her defense attorney, David Coombs, released a statement from her in August of that year:

“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," The statement read. "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. I hope that you will support me in this transition." 

Even after this statement, Manning was treated as a man in prison, denied female hormones and treatments that would help her transition.

However in 2015, in a first for the Army, she was granted access too treatments and was allowed to transition into a woman.

Not soon after, The Army court of Criminal Appeals also ordered the military to stop addressing Manning with male pronouns.

“This is an important victory for Chelsea, who has been mistreated by the government for years. Though only a small step in a long legal fight, my co-counsel, Vincent Ward, Captain Dave Hammond, and I are thrilled that Chelsea will be respected as the woman she is in all legal filings,” said Nancy Hollander, Lead Counsel.

Then in November of 2015, Manning fought once again with the prison system, this time to be able to grow out her hair. At the time prison officials denied her requests for longer hair and “female amenities.”

She released a statement through the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about that conflict:

“Presenting myself in the gender that I am is about my right to exist,” she said. “What the government is basically telling me is 'you cannot exist,' that 'you are wrong,' and that 'you do not exist.’ I think this is the kind of situation that justifies all kinds of terrible things like ignorance, maltreatment, torture, murder, and genocide.”

As for her crimes, Manning was an Army intelligence analyst who had success to sensitive classified information.

She chose to reveal some of what she knew, including videos and cables to whistleblowing site WikiLeaks. Her contact there, Adrian Lamo, reported Manning to Army Counterintelligence, which lead to her arrest in 2010.

Information given to Lamo were sensitive videos of a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad and 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan. She also offered up over 480,000 Army reports that would become known as  "Iraq War Logs" and the "Afghan War Diary.”

In 2010 she was charged on 22 counts, the most severe being “aiding the enemy,” Manning faced a charge of the death sentence.

She was detained at Quantico in Virginia in solitary, before being moved to Leavenworth, and three years later would plead guilty to 10 of her charges then convicted of the remaining ones in 2003.

The “aiding the enemy” charge was acquitted.

As a prisoner, Manning tried to take her own life after the treatment she recieved in prison. She was forced to reside in the all-male United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) military prison at Leavenworth, even though there were requests to transfer her to a civilian facility. 

The support of Manning has been mixed. Some believe she is guilty of comforting the enemy while others feel that if she were treasonous, she would have been convicted of it instead of being acquitted of those charges. 

As of her release, Manning will continue on as a private with some military accommodations, but will not be paid. 

"Pvt. Manning is statutorily entitled to medical care while on excess leave in an active duty status, pending final appellate review," the military rep said in USA Today.