Chelsea Manning, the transgender army private jailed for one of the largest leaks of classified documents in USA history, was released from a military prison on Wednesday after seven years behind bars.
Manning was convicted in 2013 of stealing 750,000 pages of documents and videos before leaking them to WikiLeaks.
"Chelsea has expressed her deep appreciation to her supporters and looks forward to the future", Manning's ACLU lawyers Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward said in a joint statement.
"I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years", Manning said in a statement. Manning tweeted after then-President Barack Obama granted her clemency in January that she planned to move to Maryland, where she has an aunt.
The most serious charge brought against Manning was "aiding the enemy".
Now 29, Manning said at the time she hoped to encourage debate about America's wars, but the leaked files stretched far beyond the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, with diplomatic cables embarrassing senior officials on almost every continent. For the time being, she will have access to the healthcare the military provides, a benefit that some are unhappy about.
The Army said on Tuesday that Manning would remain on active duty in a special, unpaid status that will legally entitle her to military medical care, along with commissary privileges.
National security hawks who said she did devastating damage to USA interests countered that the commutation was an outrageous act that set a unsafe precedent.
Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas around 2 a.m. local time, military sources confirmed.
Manning, who already has a Twitter account that she updated regularly while in prison, quickly acclimated herself to new forms of social media upon her release. "She has repeatedly been punished for trying to survive and now is being repeatedly punished for trying to die", Chase Strangio, her attorney, wrote in an email to the Associated Press. Funds will help her pay for rent, utilities, health care and other living expenses. Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said this means Manning can wear her preferred civilian clothing, including women's attire, while on excess leave.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that Manning was eventually permitted to wear female prison undergarments, receive speech therapy to feminize her tone and begin cross-sex hormone therapy. And Fox News' "Fox & Friends" has demonstrated a history of misgendering Manning, according to Media Matters, calling her everything from "Bradleen" to "gender bender".
Manning's defense team is intent on protecting her.