Manning, who was born male but came out as transgender while behind bars, was court marshaled in 2013 after it was discovered she gave nearly 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks. The reason for the leak, she has stated, was to draw attention to the civilian casualties of military conflicts in Iraq.
One piece of leaked video footage from 2007, for instance, shows a U.S. Apache helicopter firing on a crowd and killing a dozen people, two of whom turned out to be Reuters news staffers.
President Barack Obama commuted the former analyst’s sentence in January.
“After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived,” Manning said Wednesday through a statement sent out by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Continuing, the newly-free Manning says she now just wants to move on with her life:
“I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me.”
Last week, a hopeful Manning, now 29, wrote in a statement released by her attorneys that “For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea” and that “Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine.”
One of those attorneys, the ACLU’s Chase Strangio, who also serves as Manning’s transgender advocate, told NBC News that Chelsea will finally be able to do something she wasn’t allowed to do in prison — figure out who she is as a human being:
“She is looking forward to eating pizza, swimming, playing PlayStation and meeting the many friends who have supported her over the years but who were never allowed to visit in person. Beyond that, she is waiting to experience life outside of prison before declaring any future plans. After so many years of government control over her body and gender, I know she is eager to grow her hair, express her gender and negotiate decisions on her own terms.”