Pvt. Chelsea Manning was released from a military prison in Kansas Wednesday after serving seven years for providing classified government information to WikiLeaks.
Manning was convicted and sentenced to a 35-year prison term, the longest such sentence ever given in any leak case. She was freed with 28 years remaining—still making her sentence double the next longest amount of time served—because President Obama commuted her remaining sentence as one of his final acts.
"After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived," Manning said in a statement provided by the American Civil Liberties Union. "I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past. I'm figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me."
Chelsea Manning Release: What Did She Give WikiLeaks?
Manning provided more than 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, which included military and diplomatic dispatches. The leak, which Manning said she provided "to show the true cost of war," is considered to be the largest of its kind in U.S. history.
Among the most notable of the records Manning provided to WikiLeaks was a video taken in 2007 that showed an American helicopter attack carried out in the Amin District of Baghdad, Iraq.
In the video, two American helicopters fired upon a group of 10 men. Two of the men were Reuters photographers there to take photos. A van that stopped to help wounded members of the first targeted group was also fired upon. Two children inside the van were injured and their father was killed in the attack.
A significant cache of documents, 91,731 in total, leaked by Manning were published by WikiLeaks and news outlets including the New York Times, the Guardian and German newspaper Der Spiegel. Those documents became known as the Afghan War logs.
Another 391,832 classified military reports dated from January 2004 to December 2009 were also published and were known as the Iraq War logs.
Manning’s leak also led to “Cablegate,” in which 251,287 diplomatic cables set by the U.S. State Department were published. The cache contained cables written by 271 American embassies and consulates in 180 countries. The files dated as far back as December 1966 and included cables as recent as February 2010.
While many of the cables were published with the names of sources removed, WikiLeaks eventually published a portion of the documents without redactions. The leak also led to the inadvertent publishing of a passphrase for a file that was still online at the time.
In the wake of the leak, an Ethiopian journalist was forced to leave his country and the U.S. government relocated several potentially compromised sources.
Manning was arrested by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division on May 27, 2010 and accused of 22 charges, including violating articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Espionage Act.
The most serious charge brought against Manning was “aiding the enemy.” The charge is a capital offense, though prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty against Manning.
She was eventually cleared of “aiding the enemy,” but convicted of 17 of the 22 charges brought against her after she pled guilty to 10. She was given a 35-year sentence of a possible maximum sentence of 90 years.