We have yet to see Private Chelsea Manning speak publicly full-on as Chelsea Manning, in post-transition persona with her current voice since she was charged with aiding the enemy and imprisoned for most of the last seven years. Sure, she released a public statement or two while incarcerated for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, we’ve seen an artist’s rendering of her appearance and a grainy photograph since her gender transition, and following her sentence being commuted by President Obama she’s posted a few “Me just chillin’” few social media photos. But ABC News scored the first Chelsea Manning interview, bits of which played this morning on Good Morning America. Regardless of your feelings on Manning's leaks of classified intelligence and let’s just say some of us have soured on this WikiLeaks operation given recent world events the interview seen below is a stunning revelation of who Chelsea Manning is and why she did what she did.
“I’ve accepted responsibility,” Manning told ABC News, with regards to leaking hundreds of thousands of documents detailing civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. "No one told me to do this. Nobody directed me to do this. This is me. It's on me."
“We’re getting all this information, and it’s just death, destruction, mayhem,” she continued. “And eventually I just stopped seeing just statistics and information, and I started seeing people."
“I have a responsibility to the public,” she said in defense of her actions. “We all have a responsibility.”
But she is perhaps better known for her struggle to get gender reassignment surgery while in a United States penitentiary, a struggle during which she attempted suicide twice. "[My transition] keeps me from feeling like I'm in the wrong body," she told ABC News. "I used to get these horrible feeling like I just wanted to rip my body apart and I don't want to have to go through that experience again. It's really, really awful."
Private Manning notes that the thousands of letters she received from trans people around the world served as her inspiration while she was in prison. One wonders if she knows the number of Pride controversies her struggle begat.
The whole interview will air some night next week on Nightline.