Chelsea Manning walked out of a US prison on Wednesday, seven years after being arrested for passing secrets to WikiLeaks in the largest breach of classified information in US history.
Manning, 29, was released from the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at about 2:00am, according to a brief statement released by the US .
She was arrested in May 2010 outside a US base on the outskirts of Baghdad, having leaked hundreds of thousands of documents and videos downloaded from intelligence databases to WikiLeaks.
The disclosures included Collateral Murder, the footage of a US Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in which two Reuters journalists and other civilians were killed.
Manning was convicted of 20 charges in connection with the leaks, including espionage. She was acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy.
She defended the leaking by saying she had wanted to spark a public debate in the US about the role of the and US foreign policy, but later apologized for “hurting the US”, saying she had mistakenly believed she could “change the world for the better”.
Barack Obama granted Manning clemency in his final days in in January. In commuting to time served her 35-year sentence – the longest ever penalty dished out in the US to an official leaker – the outgoing commander in chief said that “justice had been served”.
Speaking from her prison cell as she prepared for release last week, Manning said: “I’m looking forward to breathing the warm spring air again.
“I want that indescribable feeling of connection with people and nature again, without razor wire or a visitation booth. I want to be able to hug my family and friends again. And swimming – I want to go swimming!”
On Monday she tweeted: “Two more days until the freedom of civilian life ^_^ Now hunting for private #healthcare like millions of Americans =P”.
Two more days until the freedom of civilian life ^_^ Now hunting for private #healthcare like millions of Americans =P
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) May 15, 2017
Manning will remain on active duty while her court conviction remains under appeal. She will have healthcare benefits but will be unpaid, the said.