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Pvt.Chelsea Manning of WikiLeaks controversy released from military prison: reports

Pvt.Chelsea Manning of WikiLeaks controversy released from military prison: reports

Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of giving classified government materials to WikiLeaks, was released from a Kansas military prison early Wednesday after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence, according to media reports.

President Barack Obama granted Manning clemency in his final days in office in January. NBC News, citing an unnamed US Army official, reported that Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth military prison at around 2 a.m. Central Time. The BBC, also citing an unnamed Army representative, reported that she had left the facility.

The Associated Press has not confirmed these reports and it is not clear where she was headed.

Manning, who was known as Bradley Manning before transitioning in prison, was convicted in 2013 of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

The 29-year-old tweeted after being granted clemency that she plans to move to Maryland. Neither she nor her attorneys explained why, but she has an aunt who lives there.

Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, has acknowledged leaking the materials, which included battlefield video among the 700,000 sensitive military and diplomatic documents. She said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the US military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn't believe would harm the US.

Critics said the leaks laid bare some of the nation's most-sensitive secrets and endangered information sources, prompting the State Department to help some of those people move to protect their safety.

Several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures.

Manning, who was arrested in 2010, filed a transgender rights lawsuit in prison and attempted suicide twice last year, according to her lawyers.

Obama's decision to commute Manning's sentence to about seven years, including the time she spent locked up before being convicted, drew strong criticism from members of Congress and others, with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the move "just outrageous."

In a statement last week her first public comments since Obama intervened Manning thanked that former president and said that letters of support from veterans and fellow transgender people inspired her “to work toward making life better for others.”

“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea,” she said. “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.”

Her attorneys have said Manning was subjected to violence in prison and argued the military mistreated her by requiring her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison, restricting her physical and mental health care and not allowing her to keep a feminine haircut.

The Department of Defense has repeatedly declined to discuss Manning's treatment in prison.

The Army said Tuesday that Manning would remain on active duty in a special, unpaid status that will legally entitle her to military medical care, along with commissary privileges. An Army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, said Manning will be on “excess leave” while her court-martial conviction is under appellate review.

Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented Manning, said she is likely to become a transgender advocate, listing transgender youth, prisoners and women of colour as potential causes.

Although transgender people still complain of widespread discrimination in education, employment and medical care, awareness of the issue has exploded since Manning went to jail.

While Manning was in prison, the US Defense Department last year lifted a long-standing ban against transgender men and women serving openly in the military. This freed 7,000 active and reserve transgender members to tell the truth about their gender identity, according to Pentagon estimates.

"She is someone who is driven by a sense of justice. And I don't see her fading into a private life," Strangio said.

Still, Manning faces a difficult transition to freedom, Strangio said.

Social conservatives reject expansion of transgender rights, and many national security experts revile her for providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks while serving as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.

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