Chelsea Manning shares first picture of herself since release

Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of giving classified government materials to WikiLeaks, was released from a Kansas military prison early Wednesday after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence, Army officials said.

"I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years", Manning said in an exclusive statement to ABC News. When she was in training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Ms. Manning was made aware of the severe penalties for treason, espionage, being a traitor and willful misconduct.

Manning, who was arrested in 2010, filed a transgender rights lawsuit in prison and attempted suicide twice a year ago, according to her lawyers. Manning was convicted in 2013 on 20 charges, including violating the Espionage Act, for leaking a massive trove of United States documents and video to WikiLeaks. No press conference is planned and media massed at the military installation caught no glimpse of Manning as she was released.

Her social media posts immediately after her release showed people clinking champagne glasses, with the caption, "Here's to a new beginning".

Manning, of whom few photographs are publicly available, could find refuge at an aunt's home in the Washington region.

"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea".

Manning was known as Bradley Manning in 2010 when she was arrested and accused of sending archives of military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. Her imprisonment was longer than any whistle blower in the history of the US.

"She did enormous damage to the intelligence community", Deitz said. One of her first photos was a picture of her feet, writing "First steps of freedom!"

Still, Manning faces a hard transition to freedom, Strangio said.

While Manning's sentence was commuted, her conviction remains intact. She is also still employed by the army, and retains its insurance coverage.

"Pvt. Manning is statutorily entitled to medical care while on excess leave in an active duty status, pending final appellate review", said Army Spokesperson Dave Foster.

  • Leroy Wright