Infamous for leaking a huge store of classified documents to WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning is scheduled to be released from her military prison cell at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, next week.
Manning was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 35 years in prison. The sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in January before he left office.
The data leaked by Manning included video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including a Reuters photographer and his driver. Hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables were also released to Wikileaks.
Manning, then known as Bradley Manning, was arrested in May of 2010. She announced her transgender when she was sentenced to prison. She underwent hormone therapy while in custody and the Army allowed her to have gender-transition surgery as well.
Manning was held in solitary confinement for months during detention. In 2012, before she had been convicted, a U.N. torture expert pronounced her treatment by the U.S. government “cruel and inhuman.”
Manning pleaded guilty to leaking secret information but she was acquitted of the most serious charge against her, aiding the enemy.
Chelsea Manning released this statement on Tuesday:
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.