Chelsea Manning Overview ‧ read
But how did a soldier who barely passed basic training end up with access to thousands of classified files? Here’s our biography of Chelsea Manning, with all the answers.
According to Manning’s sister, Casey, their mother was an alcoholic and had drunk continuously throughout her pregnancy with Manning. Manning is thought to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause low body weight and other developmental problems. However, a school friend described Manning as “very political, very clever, very articulate.” Manning also had a keen interest in computers, and set up a gaming and music website in 2003.
Manning came out as gay in 2005, at the age of 18, while living in Oklahoma. But she was forced back into the closet for the next phase in her life.
Manning joins the U.S. Army
Manning came close to being discharged from the army six weeks after enlisting, but restarted training in January 2008.
Top secret security clearance
Now that she was able to use her aptitude for computing, her performance improved. Manning received two medals: the Army Service Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.
In Iraq and in crisis
Around the time of her promotion, Manning wrote to a counselor in the U.S. Still living as a man at this point, Manning discussed feeling female and gender reassignment surgery. She also felt strongly opposed to the kind of war she was involved in:
“I was a *part* of something. ... I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.”
Release of material to WikiLeaks
“Hilary [sic] Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy… everywhere there’s a US post… there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed…”WikiLeaks published Manning’s leaked files between February 2010 and April 2011. They included:
- A Baghdad airstrike video, which WikiLeaks named “Collateral Murder.”
- The Afghan and Iraq War Logs, two series of classified military reports that totaled over 400,000 documents.
- U.S. State Department cables, the biggest set of confidential documents ever released publicly. There were 251,287 in total.
Manning arrested and charged
The U.S. government’s use of the Espionage Act against a non-spy was strongly criticized by civil rights advocates. Liza Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice said:
“This will discourage the average whistleblower, that reveal[s] corruption or wrong-doing and who ensure[s] accountability in the system. This will shoot down the least offensive, and the most valuable leaks.”Manning received a 35-year prison sentence.
Bradley Manning becomes Chelsea Manning
“I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”Manning legally changed her name to Chelsea in April 2014 and began hormone therapy in February 2015.
Imprisoned but not silenced
“My days here are busy and very routine,” Manning told Amnesty International. “I am taking college correspondence courses for a bachelor’s degree. I also work out a lot to stay fit, and read newspapers, magazines and books to keep up-to-date.”
Release from prison and Senate candidacy
In 2018, Manning launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate, challenging Maryland incumbent Ben Cardin for his seat in the Democratic primary. Cardin would go on to win re-election, but Manning finished second out of eight Democratic candidates with 5.7% of the vote.
At present, Manning continues to earn a living as a public speaker.
Shining the light of truth
There can be little doubt about the honor of Manning’s intentions, either. She has apologized for the damage her disclosures caused, but said: “I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.”
That’s the way whistleblowing goes. Some truths are difficult to swallow, but the torture and killing of innocent people should never be ignored. Chelsea Manning paid a steep price for leaking classified files, but the reverberations of her actions continue to make the world a better place.