Former intelligence officer who gave U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks leaves prison

Updated 2017-05-18 15:31:12 Xinhua

Chelsea Manning, a transgender former Iraq-based U.S. Army intelligence officer who was sentenced to 35 years for giving classified data to WikiLeaks, walked out of a military prison early Wednesday after seven years behind bars.

The 29-year-old army whistleblower was released from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, at around 3 a.m. ET (0700 GMT), an army official told media.

She will remain an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army, though she won't be paid a salary and it's highly unlikely that she will be called to serve.

Her "excess leave" status will legally entitle her to military medical care, along with commissary privileges, according to local media reports.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as a male officer called Bradley Manning, was arrested in 2010 after leaking 700,000 military files including a battlefield video and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, the largest leak of classified data in U.S. history.

She argued that she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians and no file was classified higher than secret. But critics said the leaks laid bare some of the United States' most sensitive secrets and endangered information sources. Several U.S. ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of the embarrassing disclosures.

Manning was court-martialed and sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence ever imposed for a leak conviction in U.S. history.

Yet in January, the then outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama shortened the sentence to seven years after she had requested clemency.

"I take full and complete responsibility for my decision to disclose these materials to the public. I have never made any excuses for what I did," Manning wrote in her petition in November to have her sentence commuted.

She has reportedly tried to commit suicide twice last year and spent time in solitary confinement as punishment at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth.

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