Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst behind one of the largest classified information leaks in US history, was released from military prison early Wednesday morning, an Army spokeswoman said.
She was released from United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas around 3 a.m. ET, Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson told CNN.
Amnesty International, which had campaigned for Manning’s release, was quick to applaud the decision.
“While we celebrate her freedom, we will continue to call for an independent investigation into the potential human rights violations she exposed, and for protections to be put in place to ensure whistleblowers like Chelsea are never again subjected to such appalling treatment,” a statement said.
Manning was convicted in 2013 of stealing 750,000 pages of documents and videos before leaking them to WikiLeaks.
Manning — known then as Bradley Manning — was sentenced to 35 years in prison on 20 counts, including violations of the Espionage Act.
After the 2013 sentencing, the ex-intelligence agent changed her name to Chelsea Manning and became a transgender woman.
During one of his final acts in office, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January, thereby giving her an early release date.
Last week, Manning tweeted her excitement about her impending release: “Freedom was only a dream, and hard to imagine. Now it’s here! You kept me alive <3”
Manning had to serve her sentence in an all-male military prison despite a request to transfer to a civilian prison.
“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world,” she said in a written statement.
“I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others.”
Manning remains on active duty status pending the conclusion of her appeals. As such, she may be entitled to military benefits, including health care.
Manning was one of the first service members to access transgender health care benefits under new policy and the first to be approved for gender reassignment surgery in military prison.
“PVT Manning is statutorily entitled to medical care while on excess leave in an active duty status, pending final appellate review,” the Army said in a statement Wednesday.
“In an active duty status, although in an unpaid status, Manning is eligible for direct care at medical treatment facilities, commissary privileges, Morale Welfare and Recreation privileges, and Exchange privileges.”
A controversial executive decision
Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence set off harsh criticism from some Republicans and intelligence officials. But Obama said she had served a “tough sentence.”
Manning’s attorneys Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward agreed.
“Chelsea has already served the longest sentence of any whistleblower in the history of this country. It has been far too long, too severe, too draconian,” Hollander and Ward said in a joint statement.
“President Obama’s act of commutation was the first time the military took care of this soldier who risked so much to disclose information that served the public interest.”