Chelsea Manning wanted to ‘rip her body apart’, she says in first interview since leaving prison
Chelsea Manning was forced to fight for hormone therapy from behind bars and had moments in prison when she wanted to ‘rip her body apart’, the former US Army Private said in her first interview since leaving prison.
Manning was handed a 35-year jail sentence in 2013 for leaking 700,000 classified US army documents to WikiLeaks, but was released last month after President Barack Obama intervened to commute her sentence.
Speaking to ABC News, Manning said: “I used to get these horrible feelings like I just wanted to rip my body apart and I don’t want to have to go through that experience again.”
“It was really, really awful,” she added.
Manning was just 22 when she shared the US diplomatic correspondence, which included evidence of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, profiles of detainees at Guantanamo prison camp, and low-level battlefield reports.
“I have a responsibility to the public … we all have a responsibility,” Manning said.
“Anything I’ve done, it’s me. There’s no one else. No one told me to do this. Nobody directed me to do this. This is me. It’s on me.”
Manning, now 29, added: “We’re getting all this information from all these different sources and it’s just death, destruction, mayhem.
“We’re filtering it all through facts, statistics, reports, dates, times, locations, and eventually, you just stop.
“I stopped seeing just statistics and information, and I started seeing people.”
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) May 18, 2017
Manning began her gender transition while still in prison, becoming the first military prisoner to receive gender transition treatment in prison, according to Manning’s ACLU lawyer.
Manning has taken to social media since being released from prison last month. A photo of herself she posted to Twitter shortly after leaving prison quickly garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets.
She also shared photos of herself enjoying pizza, prosecco and video games with friends.
Manning attempted suicide several times in prison, galvanising a push from transgender rights advocates to have her released.
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) May 17, 2017
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Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence – one of the last of his presidency – was credited by many commentators to years of campaigning from advocacy groups.
The decision was criticised by then President Elect Donald Trump, who called Manning an “ungrateful traitor”.
Speaking a few days before her release last month, Manning said: “I want to breathe the warm spring air.”