Still looking very much like a man in a dress wearing make-up, convicted WikiLeaks traitor Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning tried to defend his actions to an audience in Massachusetts, saying he/she is not an “American traitor” and did what he thought was ethical. Manning was technically male when he committed espionage as a U.S. soldier.
Speaking out at one of “her” first public appearances since being released from a military prison in May–after President Barack Obama commuted her sentence–the man-turned-woman was asked if he/she is a traitor for having disclosed to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified, or unclassified but sensitive, military and diplomatic documents. Manning told the attendees of the annual Nantucket Project conference, “I believe I did the best I could in my circumstances to make an ethical decision,” according to the Associated Press.
The 29-year-old was convicted in 2013 of espionage and sentenced to spend 35 years in jail until Obama stepped in with a get-out-of-jail-free card after Manning had served seven years.
Tom Scott, who co-founded The Nantucket Project, a venture founded to bring together creative thinkers to uncover ideas, with Kate Brosnan, said they invited Manning for “clarity of understanding.”
“My brother and father are Marines. They would respectfully challenge some of her decisions,” he said. “Barack Obama commuted her sentence. My instinct is that he’s a good and trustful man. How do those two things mix? Seeing her in person offers, perhaps, the best way to decipher that.”
Scott said some people were upset that Manning was invited, but he didn’t consider retracting the invitation. This was unlike Harvard University, which reversed its decision to name Manning a visiting fellow on Friday, one day after CIA Director Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned appearance over the title for Manning.
Pompeo called Manning an “American traitor.”
Manning said Harvard’s decision signaled to her that the U.S. has become a “police state” and it’s no longer possible to engage in actual political discourse in academic institutions.
“I’m not ashamed of being disinvited,” said Manning. “I view that just as much of an honored distinction as the fellowship itself.”
Eugene Jarecki, an award-winning documentary director, moderated the discussion. He asked Manning if it “reflects something about the state of our time” that she’s still the subject of pressure by the CIA regarding Harvard and labeled a traitor.
Manning recalled the risk he took to contribute to political and public discourse and “change the tone of the conversation,” noting that it hasn’t changed, and if anything, “things have gotten worse.”
“I’m walking out of prison and I see, literally, a dystopian novel unfolding before my eyes,” said Manning. “That’s how I feel when I walk in the American streets today.”
Manning was charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, and pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the charges. The trial on the remaining charges began on June 3, 2013, and on July 30, he was convicted of 17 of the original charges and amended versions of four others but was acquitted of aiding the enemy.
On August 14, 2013, Manning stated to the court: “I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States. I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.”
Manning told the audience that privacy in today’s society is “dead” and encouraged people to “forgive everybody at some point,” adding that she will continue to be in the public eye.
“Everybody keeps telling me, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t say this. Maybe you shouldn’t do this event. Maybe you shouldn’t talk. Maybe you shouldn’t do this,'” she said. “And I’m just like, OK, the fact that you’re telling me I shouldn’t do this is the reason why I should. And I think that’s what we can all do.”
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