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Manning leaves U.S. prison seven years after giving secrets to WikiLeaks

(Kansas, May 17,2017):Chelsea Manning walked out of a U.S. military prison on Wednesday, seven years after being arrested for passing secrets to WikiLeaks in the largest breach of classified information in U.S. history.

Manning, 29, was released from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at about 2 a.m., the U.S. Army said in a brief statement.

"First steps of freedom!!" Manning wrote alongside a photograph of sneakerclad feet that she published on social media.

Manning was convicted of providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks, an international organization that publishes such information from anonymous sources, while she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a target of criminal investigations in Sweden and the United States, had promised to accept extradition if Manning was freed. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said Assange's arrest was a priority.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama, in his final days in office, commuted the final 28 years of Manning's 35year sentence, effective four months later. That decision angered national security experts who say Manning put U.S. lives at risk, but it won praise from transgender advocates who have embraced her transition to a female gender identity.

Once known as Private First Class Bradley Manning, she is likely to become a highprofile transgender advocate, said Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who has represented her.

Manning announced her gender transition while the U.S. Army was keeping her in the men's prison and forcing her to wear a male haircut. She twice tried to commit suicide and faced long stretches of solitary confinement as well as denial of healthcare, Strangio said.

Last year, the U.S. Defense Department lifted a longstanding ban against transgender men and women serving openly in the military. The Pentagon estimated it affected 7,000 activeduty and reserve personnel.

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. Transgender celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have become part of the mainstream.



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