Transgender and now former U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning recently sat down for an interview with ABC News’ “Nightline” co-anchor Juju Chang where she discussed her military crimes, transgender transition and why she leaked classified documents.
Manning served seven years of a 35-year sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after being convicted by a military tribunal for releasing more than half a million classified documents to WikiLeaks. At the time of her information-passing, Manning was a 22-year-old Private who went by the name Bradley Manning.
In her interview, Manning tearfully thanked former President Barack Obama for commuting her sentence before he left office in 2017.
“I was given a chance, that’s all I wanted,” Manning wept. “That’s all I asked for was a chance, that’s it.”
When asked by Chang earlier in the segment if she felt that an apology was in order, Manning sidestepped making amends for what some call treasonous conduct.
“Anything I’ve done, it’s me. There’s no one else,” Manning told Chang. “No one told me to do this. Nobody directed me to do this. This is me. It’s on me.”
Explaining why she decided to release the documents, Manning said, “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,” she added. “I stopped seeing just statistics and information, and I started seeing people.”
During her trial, Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy and explained that she didn’t leak the information to sabotage the United States or to compromise national security, but to spark conversation in the public domain.
Manning announced that she was transgender just days after her 2013 sentencing, and the U.S. military initially denied hormone therapy while she was incarcerated.
As a result, Manning attempted suicide twice.
Manning’s ACLU lawyer, Chase Strangio, filed a lawsuit in September 2014 to fight for her right to hormone therapy.
Strangio noted that Manning was “the first military prisoner to receive health care related to gender transition and was part of a shift in practice that lead to the elimination of the ban on open trans service in the military.”
“It’s literally what keeps me alive,” Manning said about fighting for hormone therapy for a full conversion. “It keeps me from feeling like I’m in the wrong body. I used to get these horrible feelings like I just wanted to rip my body apart.”
She added, “I don’t want to have to go through that experience again. It’s really, really awful.”
Released from prison on May 17, the upcoming interview with “Nightline” is Manning’s first public interview as a free citizen, but maintains that despite her experience, she has “nothing but utmost respect for the military.”
“The military is diverse, and large, and it’s public, it serves a public function, it serves a public duty,” she said. “And the people who are in the military work very hard, often for not much money, to make their country better and to protect their country. I have nothing but respect for that. And that’s why I signed up.”
The full interview will air early next week on a special edition of “Nightline,” and is called “Declassified: The Chelsea Manning Story.”
See the segment in the video below.