Chelsea Manning was released from prison today and re-entered a world greatly changed since her incarceration began seven years ago. Gone is an LGBTQ-friendly White House, but transgender issues and celebrities have arrived front and center in politics and pop culture.
Manning was an Army intelligence analyst convicted of a leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures. On January 5, 2010, Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents, saved on a CD-RW and smuggled it through security by labeling the disc “Lady Gaga.”
When the Army intelligence analyst was convicted in July 2013 for leaking the classified materials, coming out as a transgender woman shortly thereafter, Manning – known then as Bradley Manning – was sentenced to 35 years in prison. After the 2013 sentencing, the ex-intelligence agent changed her name to Chelsea Manning and the ex-intelligence agent and identified as transgender.
Just before President Obama left office in January, he commuted the remainder of her sentence. The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
President Trump has condemned Manning as an “ungrateful traitor” and said that she should “never have been released.”