Chelsea Manning was released from military prison today after seven years of incarceration at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a free woman after President Obama commuted her sentence three days before he left office. Her imprisonment was longer than any whistleblower in U.S. history.
Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson confirmed to ABC News that Manning left Fort Leavenworth's disciplinary barracks at 2 a.m. central time.
In an exclusive statement to ABC News, Manning said, “I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years. As I rebuild my life, I remind myself not to relive the past. The past will always affect me and I will keep that in mind while remembering that how it played out is only my starting point, not my final destination.”
Manning released another statement hours after her release, saying, “After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me, is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now–which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me.”
“We are able to confirm that Chelsea Manning has been released safely from military prison," Manning's clemency and appellate lawyers Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward said in a joint statement. "Thank you to everyone for ensuring her safe release and respecting her privacy as she starts to adjust to life outside of prison and rebuild her life following seven years of confinement. Chelsea has expressed her deep appreciation to her supporters and looks forward to the future.”
In the summer of 2013, Manning was convicted by a military tribunal under the Espionage and Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts and sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing approximately 750,000 documents to WikiLeaks, of which only small amount of those documents ultimately lead to her conviction (some of them were published by The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel). Manning at that time was a 22-year-old United States Army private named Bradley Manning. The information she disclosed included low level battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, evidence of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo prison camp detainee profiles and U.S. diplomatic correspondence.
After he commuted her sentence, President Obama said, “It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made sense to commute, and not pardon, her sentence.”
“I feel very comfortable that justice has been served,” Obama added.
Two days after her commutation, Manning tweeted (@xychelsea) “Thank you @BarackObama for giving me a chance. =,).” While Manning cannot physically tweet from Fort Leavenworth, she is in editorial charge of her Twitter handle as well as her website, Luminairity.com, per her legal team.
Manning began a tweet countdown to freedom starting with “105 days and a wake up =) To soft sheets, puffy blankets, and foam pillows. ^_^"
105 days and a wake up =) To soft sheets, puffy blankets, and foam pillows. ^_^— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) January 31, 2017
She gave a nod to Star Wars on May 4th posting: “12 more days! Celebrating a new hope, and a return of the sun.