US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning believed she had 'responsibility to the public' when she leaked classified documents
Chelsea Manning, the US soldier who was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for giving classified materials to WikiLeaks, believed she had a "responsibility to the public" and did not think she was risking national security when she leaked a trove of documents.
The soldier made the comments in her first interview since being release from a military prison last month.
The 29-year-old formerly known as Bradley Manning said in a pre-taped interview broadcast on ABC's Good Morning America that she was prompted to give the 700,000 military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks because of the human toll of the "death, destruction and mayhem" she saw as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq.
She told ABC that she has "accepted responsibility" for her actions.
"No one told me to do this. No one directed me to do this. This is me. It's on me," she said.
Ms Manning was released from a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 18 after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence, which was commuted by former President Barack Obama in his final days in office.
Mr Obama said in January he felt justice had been served.
She has not spoken to Mr Obama since her release, but emotionally thanked him in the interview for giving her "another chance".
Ms Manning also touched on her struggles dealing with her gender transition while in prison.
She says she tried to kill herself twice behind bars and fought for the hormone treatments she says keep her alive.
Ms Manning remains in the Army, but is off duty while she appeals her court-martial conviction.
Chelsea Manning leaks Baghdad attack video to Wikileaks
Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning), the former military intelligence analyst gave classified information to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks in 2010.
He was acquitted of aiding the enemy, the gravest charge laid against him by the US government. He was, however, found guilty of 19 other charges including espionage, theft and computer fraud.
Following the verdict, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused President Barack Obama of "national security extremism," referring to Manning "the most important journalistic source the world has ever seen".
"The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to break him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial," Assange said from inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
"It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short-sighted judgment that cannot be tolerated and it must be reversed."
“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning's trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you,” Amnesty International noted.
Making a statement alongside his guilty pleas in 2013, Manning said he wanted to reveal the “bloodlust” of the US military and so-called disregard for human life.
He transmitted his first batch of papers to WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, on 3 February 2001 with an attached note. “This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war, and revealing the true nature of the 21st century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day.”
Thereafter he handed over more than 700,000 documents, including battlefield notes from Iraq and Afghanistan and a video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad. Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the release of the 'Collateral Murder' video which showed a July 12, 2007 US Apache attack helicopter attack upon individuals in a Baghdad suburb.
The attack killed twelve people including a Reuters photographer and his driver.
On August 21, 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. On the day after her sentencing, Manning announced via a statement on the morning talk show Today that she is transgender and wanted to be known as Chelsea.
The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, called Manning a 'hero'.
Belfast Telegraph Digital