Friends and family of Chelsea Manning are raising money for the military whistleblower to cover her basic living expenses after she is released in May. As of Feb. 10, the fundraising campaign had raised about $60,000.
Former President Barack Obama in January commuted the sentence of Manning, the Army private sentenced to 35 years in prison for providing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Following her scheduled May 17 release from prison, Manning is expected to head home to Maryland.
“Chelsea has done so much for all of us, and inspired so many people, supporting her as she transitions back into the free world is the least that we can do,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future and a friend of Manning’s, said in a statement. Fight for the Future and other groups led a campaign for Manning’s sentence to be commuted.
The online fundraiser was launched Feb. 7 and has set a goal of $100,000 to cover Manning’s rent, utilities, health care, clothing and other living expenses for the first year after she is released. The money will be deposited directly into Manning’s bank account, which is being managed by her current power of attorney. Upon her release on May 17, she will have full control over all funds donated, according to the GoFundMe website.
“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,” Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and one of Manning’s attorneys, said on the fundraising website. “We want her to have the tools to do that and to overcome the years of abuse she has experience in custody.”
‘Steadfast Voice for Liberty and Justice’
Prior to her conviction in 2013, Manning was subjected to solitary confinement and other treatment that violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition of punishment without a trial, according to legal scholars. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture found that Manning’s treatment constituted “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in violation of the Convention Against Torture.
Manning, who is a transgender woman, struggled psychologically at an all-male military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and attempted suicide on multiple occasions. For years, she was denied medical treatment and accommodations recommended by doctors treating her gender dysphoria.
The numerous classified diplomatic cables leaked by Manning included a video showing a U.S. helicopter attack on Baghdad that killed two Reuters journalists and numerous Iraqi civilians. Altogether, Manning gave 700,000 classified U.S. State and Defense Department documents to WikiLeaks, which published them in concert with The Guardian, The New York Times and other media outlets.
Manning, who was arrested by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division in May 2010, was ultimately convicted by court-martial at Fort Meade, Md., under multiple counts of the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth in 2013. After almost seven years of incarceration, Manning has “remained a steadfast voice for liberty and justice and an inspiration to so many. We now have a chance to show our appreciation for all that she has given us,” the GoFundMe states.
Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who in 1971 leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers detailing the history of U.S. policy in Vietnam, welcomed Obama’s commutation of Manning’s sentence. “Once in a while, someone does what they ought to do. Some go to prison for it, for seven years; some accept exile for life. But sometimes even a president does it. And today, it was Obama,” Ellsberg told The Guardian in January.