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Digital Subscriptions > DNA Magazine > #207 - Sports Issue > TO FREEDOM


Chelsea Manning leaves Fort Leavenworth prison this May. Her life, to date, has been extraordinary. The Iraq and Afghanistan war logs she passed to WikiLeaks revealed shocking information about the operations of the US military. Additionally, her personal life and gender transition make her one of the most intriguing LGBTI people of the modern era. In this profile, Andrew M Potts looks at her formative early life, her crimes and how she committed them, the US Army’s baffling responses to her, and what the future may hold for the world’s most famous and most incarcerated whistleblower.

On January 17, in one of his final acts before leaving office, President Barack Obama announced the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s 35-year-prison sentence for her violation of the United States Espionage Act.

“I feel very comfortable that justice has been served, “ Obama said at his final White House press conference the following day, “Let’s be clear: Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence. “

Had Manning been made to serve the full length of her sentence she would have left prison in 2045, aged 57. Had federal prosecutors had their way she would not have been released until 2070. Many on the political right in America had called for her execution – something which she qualified for under the Espionage Act. Without Obama’s pardon, with good behaviour and the earliest possible release date, Manning would have still have faced another year in prison and a staggering 45 years on parole under the scrutiny of the military justice system.

Now when Manning gets out on May 17 she can breath a sigh of relief as she begins her life afresh – though she will always remembered as the longest serving prosecuted whistleblower in US history.

“[I don’t think] the average person who is thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished, “ Obama said in answer to critics of the decision to commute Manning’s sentence. “I don’t think [they] would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served. “

Just days earlier, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had announced he would hand himself over to US authorities if Manning was granted clemency, despite what he said was theunconstitutionality of the Department Of Justice case against him over his role in publishing Manning’s intelligence leaks. Assange has not honoured that offer and the White House has denied that it played any role in the decision to grant Manning’s commutation.

Having gender transitioned, Manning will begin her new life as a woman. She has undergone the entire process of transitioning while confined to the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – an all-male military prison.

Her family and supporters are already preparing the way for her and have crowdfunded over $90,000 on GoFundMe to help ease her transition into the free world.

“The majority of Chelsea’s adult life has been spent under the control of powerful institutions, “ the Welcome Home Chelsea campaign said in launching their appeal in February. “For the first time in her life, Chelsea will have the opportunity to live freely as her authentic self, to grow her hair, engage with her friends, and build her own networks of love and support. We want her to have the tools to do that and to overcome the years of abuse she has experience in custody. “

Until her release, Manning’s only contact with the outside world is through books and newspapers, through heavily vetted postal correspondence, over the telephone with her lawyers, and through visits from a small list of people she nominated at the start of her sentence. Perhaps, understandably, given the nature of her crimes, Manning has been banned from accessing the internet – though she tweets and blogs via notes that are carried out of Fort Levenworth by intermediaries.

Prior to her arrest Manning expressed her concerns about being misgendered in the media, telling a confidant, “I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as boy. “

But the media are barred from visiting Manning and under her terms of incarceration, no one is allowed to photograph her. The only image we have to get an impression of her appearance today is a portrait by the artist Alicia Neal, which Manning has approved.

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About DNA Magazine

Grab your bat and balls this month and dive into the pages of DNA's annual Sports Issue. Our cover boy is Aussie rugby star and model, Jacob Woodhouse, who features in a racy 14-page sports fashion spread inside. Meet David Jones, the electrician and sportsman who did 30 push-ups a day for 30 days to raise money for at-risk gay teens. And find out what it's like being gay and vegan in the world's toughest sport in our feature on Ultramarathon runner, Andrew Hedgman. Our in-depth news feature this month examines the life and crimes of the intriguing Chelsea Manning, America’s most controversial trans persons. We have six pec-stacked pages from the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras parade and after-party. This month's Pin-Up is sporty spunk, Nick Dawson, as shot by Matthew Rettenmund. For the fashionistas, we take a look at the latest seasonal sports and gym gear, plus Gear Sportswear chat to us about creating sportswear for men. Just for fun, this month’s Back Passage takes a look at the history of gay icons – Wonder Woman! All that and more in DNA #207.