Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987) is a United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013, of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years’ imprisonment, with the possibility of parole in the eighth year, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Army.
Manning is a transgender woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had felt female since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy.From early life and throughout much of her Army career, Manning was known as Bradley. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria while in the Army.
Assigned in 2009 to an Army unit in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to classified databases. In early 2010, she leaked classified information to WikiLeaks and confided this to Adrian Lamo, an online acquaintance. Lamo informed Army Counterintelligence and Manning was arrested in May that same year. The material included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables; and 482,832 Army reports that came to be known as the “Iraq War Logs“ and Afghan War Diary. Much of the material was published by WikiLeaks or its media partners between April and November 2010.
Manning was ultimately charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which was the most serious charge and could have resulted in a death sentence. She was held at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico in Virginia, from July 2010 to April 2011, under Prevention of Injury status—which entailed de facto solitary confinement and other restrictions that caused domestic and international concern—before being transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she could interact with other detainees. She pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the charges. The trial on the remaining charges began on June 3, 2013, and on July 30, she was convicted of 17 of the original charges and amended versions of four others, but was acquitted of aiding the enemy. She was sentenced to serve a 35-year sentence at the maximum-security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
Reaction to Manning’s disclosures, arrest, and sentence was mixed. Denver Nicks, one of Manning’s biographers, writes that the leaked material, particularly the diplomatic cables, was widely seen as a catalyst for the Arab Spring that began in December 2010 and that Manning was viewed as both a 21st-century Tiananmen Square Tank Man and an embittered traitor. Reporters Without Borders condemned the length of the sentence, saying that it demonstrated how vulnerable whistleblowers are.
On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to a total of seven years of confinement dating from the date of arrest by military authorities. Manning is scheduled to be freed on May 17, 2017.