Whistleblower Chelsea Manning is Freed, Marking a Triumph for Acts of Conscience

Posted on May 20, 2017

On Wednesday, May 17th, whistleblower Chelsea Manning was released from military detention in accordance with President Barack Obama’s commutation of her sentence in the final weeks of his presidency. Manning, who was convicted by court martial on charges of “espionage” for providing sensitive US military and diplomatic material to journalists, was freed after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence. 

As The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald wrote in his warm and personal piece recounting Manning’s history as a whistleblower and the aftermath of her decision, Manning faced astonishingly cruel treatment at the hands of her jailers and military personnel. Even prior to her conviction at her court martial, she was subjected to solitary confinement and, among other forms of humiliation and psychological abuse, made to strip naked for hours at a time. Her treatment, especially that which was imposed in direct response to her suicide attempt, was so appalling that both the UN special rapporteur on torture and Amnesty International condemned it as inhumane and in violation of human rights treaties to which the US is a signatory.

After her conviction and sentencing, her conditions did not improve. Though she was granted a minimal accommodation to her request for gender reassignment therapy, she continued to be subject to solitary confinement, and prominent figures in both the media and political establishments referred to her in a dehumanizing manner on account of her identity as a trans woman. 

Having endured all of this, she has now been released in accordance with President Obama’s commutation, standing as a free woman with notable and commendable accomplishments to her name. First and foremost, she brought the abuses of US military in Iraq and Afghanistan to light for the benefit of the American public. And second, the bravery she demonstrated in coming out as a trans woman in the midst of her already harrowing experience in military detention served as a beacon of hope to LBGT individuals around the world. 

You can read Greenwald’s full piece marking her release here. You can also find a thorough timeline chronicling the major points in Manning’s whistleblowing work, prosecution, and sentence in this piece from Portside.