KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, spared by presidential clemency from the rest of a 35-year prison term for giving classified materials to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, stepped out of a military lockup Wednesday and into a future she said she was eager to define.
“I’m figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me,” Manning said by email hours after being released from confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, having served seven years behind bars for one of the largest exposing of classified information in U.S. history.
“I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past,” added Manning, 29.
Manning’s immediate plans, including living arrangements, remained unclear. The Oklahoma native had previously tweeted that she planned to move to Maryland, where she has an aunt, but her attorneys have cited security concerns in refusing to make public specifics about her release or where she was headed. The Army is allowing her to live where she pleases — still on active duty but under a special, unpaid status.
Manning relished her newfound freedom, posting on social media photos of her lunch — “So, (I’m) already enjoying my first hot, greasy pizza,” she declared of the slice of pepperoni — and her feet in sneakers, with the caption, “First steps of freedom!!”
Manning, who is transgender and was known as Bradley Manning before she transitioned in prison, was convicted in 2013 of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.
Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, has acknowledged leaking the materials, including more than 700,000 military and State Department documents, along with battlefield video. Manning said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military’s disregard of the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn’t believe would harm the U.S.
Critics said the leaks laid bare some of the…