Chelsea Manning is set to be released from prison on Wednesday, but she won’t be entirely free. The army whistle-blower’s 35-year sentence may have been commuted by former President Barack Obama in January but Manning is still in the process of appealing her conviction- a case that could last for years. The government has also not responded to her appeal.
When she gets out of jail less than 24 hours from now, Private First Class Manning will remain an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army. She won’t be entitled to salaries, and the military will not likely call her to serve. But there’s a catch for Manning: being placed on voluntary excess leave instead of being discharged will still make her vulnerable to new military charges or punishments if she commits any indiscretion.
David Coombs, Manning’s military defense counsel, said that Chelsea is still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). He added that while Manning may not be charged again for the same offenses if she commits a new crime, the military would have conviction over her. It includes a wide range of offenses, anything from getting into a fistfight to revealing previously unreleased classified information. Manning should also be aware of what she says and writes as even her speeches, statements and writings could potentially get her into trouble with the military.
The Army private, previously known as Bradley Manning, was only 22 years old when she leaked almost 750,000 military files and cables to WikiLeaks. Manning was consequently court-martialed for his act and was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013, with an opportunity for parole coming out only after serving 7 years.
Manning entered prison as a man, named Bradley. Manning later changed her name to Chelsea and chose to identify as a woman. She also got herself hormone treatment and care for gender dysphoria while incarcerated. Her sex reassignment surgery was paid for by the government. Her sentence was commuted in the dying days of Democrat President Barack Obama, a move that angered those in the military and then president-elect Donald Trump. Trump in his early days as President even called Manning an “ungrateful traitor” for criticizing Obama. Trump sad Manning should have never been given back his freedom.
Manning has shared that she wants to move back to Maryland upon her release. Supporters and sympathizers also raised funds amounting to $135,000 for Manning to serve as her “survival money” after prison through a GoFundMe campaign.