Chelsea Manning, the transgender and former Army intelligence analyst, incredibly, and to the disbelief of almost everyone who’s ever worked in the national security industry, did not think it would threaten national security when Manning released more than 700,000 government documents to Wikileaks in 2010, Manning said.
“I’ve accepted responsibility. No one told me to do this,” Manning exclusively told ABC News on Thursday – Manning’s first interview since being released from prison on May 17. “This is me. It’s on me.”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 9, 2017
Manning was released from prison early after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence – the longest prison term given to an American leaker.
When told that the release of the classified and unclassified documents reached the American public, but it also might have reached the hands of the enemy, Manning responded: “Right, but I have a responsibility to the public.”
Manning felt compelled to release the documents after the “death, destruction and mayhem” that Manning witnessed.
“I stopped seeing just statistics and information,” Manning said. “I started seeing people”
Some of the images that compelled Manning to bring the documents forward included American soldiers carrying out an attack on what ended up being civilians and journalists.
While Manning has many fans, Manning also has ardent critics, as there is no way of knowing the long-term impact of Manning’s release of these documents on the nation’s security.
Since being released from prison, Manning has posted to an Instagram page that currently has more than 52,000 followers.
Former President Barack Obama granted Manning clemency just days before he left office. It is of note that he commuted Manning’s sentence; he did not pardon it.
Manning, who entered an all-male military prison as “Bradley,” announced he was transgender immediately after his sentencing in 2013.
“I had to be who I am,” Manning told ABC News on Thursday.
When the military denied Manning’s request for hormones, Manning tried to commit suicide twice.
The hormones “[keep] me from feeling like I’m in the wrong body,” Manning said.
Manning broke down briefly when asked what Manning would say to Obama, who commuted her sentence.
“Thank you,” Manning said, as Manning began to cry. “That’s all I asked for, was a chance. […] This is my chance.”
Manning will remain an unpaid active duty soldier who is eligible for health care and other benefits.
Manning is appealing her case, and her legal line-up is as follows:
Nancy Hollander and Vincent J. Ward, through their law firm, Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward, were the lawyers for the clemency.
Hollander and Ward, through their law firm, Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward, and Major David Hammond are the lawyers for the appeal.
Several organizations wrote amicus briefs in support of the appeal. They are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, the Open Society Justice Initiative, NACDL, EFF and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio brought the lawsuit against the government regarding the gender issues. That lawsuit is now dismissed.