Chelsea Manning: 'I'm hopeful people can understand how the world works'

August 8, 2016

In a newly released interview conducted last year with Chelsea Manning, the jailed US whistleblower said she was “always afraid” of her government, which sentenced her to decades behind bars in a military prison.

“I am always afraid, I am still afraid of the power of government,” said Manning, who leaked thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010, in an interview with Amnesty International published by The Guardian on August 3.

“Sometimes, a government can even kill you — with or without the benefit of a trial. Governments have so much power and a single person often does not. It is very terrifying to face the government alone.”

Manning described her feelings during the first few weeks after her arrest, when she was completely isolated from the outside world with little access to legal assistance.

“Not long after I was first detained by the military, I was taken to a prison camp in Kuwait, where I essentially lived in a cage inside of a tent,” Manning said.

“The military had total control over every aspect of my life … They controlled when I ate and slept. They even controlled when I went to the bathroom.

“After several weeks, I didn't know how long I had been there or how much longer I was going to be staying.”

Living under such conditions, and with lengthy uncertainty and complete isolation, Manning said that at some point she “gave up on trying to live any more”.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture said in 2012, after a two-year investigation, that Manning was subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment by the US military. She has been held in and out of strict solitary confinement for the past five years.

After surviving a suicide attempt on July 5, Manning faces having an extra nine years added to her sentence and also being denied the ability to apply for parole, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

Asked to reflect on whether leaking the documents had done any good, Manning said: “I am hopeful that people can gain more of an understanding of how the world operates. Across the world, governments can easily become centred on themselves and their interests, at the expense of their people.”

Among the files that Manning turned over to WikiLeaks in 2010 was a gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected Iraqi insurgents in 2007. The attack killed dozens of civilians, including two Reuters newsstaff.

“I try to stay as active and productive as possible,” Manning said when asked about how she tried to stay positive in the face of her fears and imprisonment.

“I don't have access to the internet, but I read books and newspapers a lot. I work hard at the job that I have in prison—work with wood. I am also always trying to learn more, working on my education. I also exercise a lot. I run all the time! I do cardio exercises to stay in shape. I write a lot, too.”

Manning is serving a 35-year sentence after being convicted by a 2013 military court for providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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