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In his final days in office, President Barack Obama granted executive clemency to over 500 federal inmates. Among them is Chelsea Manning who was convicted for stealing government property, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, among other things. While there are so many people who considered Manning as a traitor, there are others who see her as a hero for whistle-blowers.
Manning served in the US army before her conviction, and after that, she turned to politics and activism.
Who Is Chelsea Manning?
Popular as Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, it was actually as Bradley Edward Manning that she was born on December 17, 1987, in Crescent, Oklahoma, U.S. She was brought up by her parents, Brian Manning who served in the US Navy and Susan Fox as their second child.
Growing up for her was not very easy, especially as her parents were both alcoholics and as a child, she was mostly taken care of by her elder sister, Casey Manning who is 11 years older than her. More than that, she was described as having a very controlling father.
Manning’s childhood would continue to be rocky after her parents’ marriage suffered a divorce in 2000 and soon afterwards her father married again while she left the house with her mother and sister. In 2010, they moved to Wales to be close to her mother’s family.
For her educational background, Chelsea Manning had her elementary education in the United States before attending the Tasker Milward Secondary School after her family moved to Wales.
She soon returned to the United States in 2007 as a result of an illness and moved in with her father. She would later work as a developer for a software company before she moved to the Montgomery College where she spent only a semester and quit after failing her exam.
As stated, it was as Bradley Edward Manning that she was born, a boy. Bradley revealed to friends when he was still a child, that he was gay. As he struggled with how to get a job and settle down, his father encouraged him to think about joining the army, something he later decided to do as a way of resolving his gender identity disorder.
Chelsea Manning enlisted into the army in 2007 and was trained at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri where he had to struggle with bullying for being different in every way possible. He was later posted to Iraq.
What Did She Do Or Leak?
On 18 February 2010, WikiLeaks released a document known as the Reykjavik 13, leaked to it by Manning who got access to them while serving in the army. What would be the most damning release from Manning was a video on the Baghdad airstrike which it named “Collateral Murder”. The video captured American helicopters firing on a group of men before later turning the fire on a van that stopped to help the wounded. Two children who were in the van were injured in the process while their father was killed.
The video drew a lot of criticism against the United States and it was one of the main things that made WikiLeaks very popular.
Some more documents were later released by WikiLeaks, thanks to Manning. The new released was tagged the Afghan War Logs and Iraq War Logs which amounted to over 500 thousand documents. These were classified military documents that covered activities between January 2004 and December 2009.
Manning leaked some more documents including the United States diplomatic cables leak which placed the country in a diplomatic crisis with the world. The documents revealed US foreign strategies and how the country takes advantage of its embassies as a part of a global espionage network.
Another leak made by Chelsea Manning that was very damning was the Guantánamo leaks which gave the world an insight into what was really happening in Guantanamo Bay. The release showed that there are 172 prisoners in the detention camp without any hope of either a trail or a release, as well as an 89-year-old Afghan villager and a boy of 14. It also revealed that there were British nationals also held in the prison.
The entire documents leaked by Chelsea Manning became the largest set of classified documents to ever be released.
On May 27, 2010, Manning was arrested in Kuwait and placed on suicide watch. She was charged with a number of crimes including violation of the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy. In 2013, she pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges she was charged with. Although the Maximum sentence for her crime was 90 years, the government sought to have her jailed for 60 while her lawyers asked for a maximum of 25. Nonetheless, she was sentenced to 21 to 35 years in prison.
In the last days of the Obama Administration, Manning who had had her gender transition in prison was granted pardon after serving 7 years behind bars of her maximum 35 years.