In his last days in office, President Barack Obama granted executive clemency to over 500 federal prisoners. Among them is Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of theft of government property and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. While there are so many people who considered Manning a traitor, there are others who see her as a heroine for informers.
Manning served in the U.S. Army before her conviction, and after that, she turned to politics and activism.
Who Is Chelsea Manning?
The popular Chelsea Elizabeth Manning was born Bradley Edward Manning on December 17, 1987, in Crescent, Oklahoma, USA. Her parents, Brian Manning, who served in the US Navy, and Susan Fox as her second child, raised her.
Growing up was not very easy for her, especially since her parents were both alcoholics and as a child, she was mainly cared for by her older sister Casey Manning, who is 11 years older than her. She was also described as having a very controlling father.
Manning’s childhood would continue to be rocky after her parents’ marriage was divorced in 2000 and her father remarried soon after while she left home with her mother and sister. In 2010 they moved to Wales to be close to their mother’s family.
In terms of her educational background, Chelsea Manning received her primary education in the United States before attending Tasker Milward Secondary School after her family moved to Wales.
Due to illness, she returned to the United States soon after in 2007, and moved in with her father. She later worked as a developer for a software company before moving to Montgomery College, where she only spent one semester and quit after failing her exams.
As mentioned above, she was born as Bradley Edward Manning, a boy. Bradley told friends when he was a child that he was gay. While struggling to get a job and settle down, his father encouraged him to think about joining the army, something he later decided to do to resolve his gender identity disorder.
Chelsea Manning joined the Army in 2007 and was trained in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he had to deal with bullying because he was different in every possible way. He was later deployed to Iraq.
What Did She Do Or Leak?
On February 18, 2010, WikiLeaks released a document known as Reykjavik 13 that was leaked by Manning, who gained access to it while serving in the army. Manning’s most devastating publication was a video about the air raid in Baghdad, which she called “collateral murder”. The video showed American helicopters firing at a group of men before later directing fire at a van that stopped to help the wounded. Two children who were in the van were injured while their father was killed.
The video attracted a lot of criticism against the United States, and it was one of the most important things that made WikiLeaks very popular.
Some more documents were later published thanks to Manning of WikiLeaks. The newly published documents were accompanied by the protocols of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, which amounted to over 500 thousand documents. These were classified military documents covering activities between January 2004 and December 2009.
Manning leaked several other documents, including the diplomatic cables of the United States, which plunged the country into a diplomatic crisis with the world. The documents revealed the U.S.’s foreign strategies and how the country exploits its embassies as part of a global espionage network.
Another leak by Chelsea Manning that was very devastating was the Guantanamo leaks, which gave the world a glimpse of what was really happening in Guantanamo Bay. The release revealed that there are 172 prisoners in the detention center with no hope of trace or release, as well as an 89-year-old Afghan villager and a 14-year-old boy and that British citizens are also being held in the prison.
All the documents leaked by Chelsea Manning became the largest set of secret documents ever released.
On May 27, 2010, Manning was arrested in Kuwait and placed under a suicide watch. She was accused of a number of crimes, including violation of the Espionage Law and aiding and abetting the enemy. In 2013, she pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against her. Although the maximum sentence for her crime was 90 years, the government tried to put her in prison for 60 years, while her lawyers demanded a maximum sentence of 25 years. Nevertheless, she was sentenced to 21 to 35 years in prison.
In the last days of the Obama administration, Manning, who had undergone her sex-change operation in prison, was pardoned after serving 7 years behind bars for a maximum of 35 years.