One of President Obama’s final acts as president of the United States was commuting the sentence of 29-year-old Chelsea Manning, who had been serving a 35-year sentence for her role in leaking sensitive military/diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.
The data dump built the site into a major political force—basically dubbing its founder, Julian Assange, the world’s leaker-in-chief.
Manning, who later transitioned to a woman, had already been in a men’s military prison for seven years, attempted suicide twice, was serving the longest prison sentence for a leak in U.S. history, per The New York Times.
Now, she’s a free woman—in only just starting to pick up the pieces. She’s got a bodyguard and is living a rather quiet existence in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. She says she uses an Xbox One to pass the time.
The New York Times recently sat down with Manning, one of the first in-person, on-the-record interviews she’d granted to a journalist since 2008, which digs deeply into her backstory, how she came to realize she was transgendered, and eventually how she joined the Army and got into intelligence (she worked in what the military terms “SigActs,” or sorting through the documentation of significant acts that come out of war zones).
She told The Times that she still believes “there are plenty of things that should be kept secret….Let’s protect sensitive sources. Let’s protect troop movements. Let’s protect nuclear information. Let’s not hide missteps. Let’s not hide misguided policies. Let’s not hide history. Let’s not hide who we are and what we are doing.”
Then she burned a disc, entitled “Lady Gaga,” with scads of SigActs documents with classified information on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And the rest is history.
Watch an excerpt of ABC News‘ interview with Chelsea Manning below.
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