LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS - Chelsea Manning walked out of a USA military prison on Wednesday, seven years after being arrested for passing secrets to WikiLeaks in the largest breach of classified information in United States history. She said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the USA military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn't believe would harm the U.S.
In a statement to ABC News, Manning said: "I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years".
Her sentence was commuted in President Obama's final months in office, a controversial move which was cheered by advocates and pro-whistleblower groups.
Manning - earlier known as Bradley Manning - was sentenced to 35 years in prison on 20 counts, including violations of the Espionage Act.
She argued that she wanted to expose what she considered to be the US military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians and no file was classified higher than secret.
"Chelsea is still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice", her military defense lawyer, David Coombs, told NBC News.
Ms Manning, then Bradley, was apprehended in Baghdad by U.S. officials in 2010 and spent over 1,200 days in military custody which were removed from her sentence upon her conviction in 2013. At the same time, Manning was among the first members of the military to benefit from transgender health care under the new policy, and the first to get approval for gender reassignment surgery in military prison.
LGBT groups in a joint letter previous year led by ACLU had joined calls on Obama to commute the sentence for Manning, who applied for clemency with the White House in November.
"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea", she said in a statement last week ahead of her release.
The Oklahoma native's attorneys and the Army have refused to say precisely when and how she will be released, citing potential safety concerns.
September 2016: Manning ends a several-day hunger strike after the Army agrees to allow her to receive medical treatment for her gender dysphoria. Mr Obama's decision to cut the transgender soldier's sentence angered his successor, Donald Trump, who called the former intelligence analyst an "ungrateful traitor" and said she "should never have been released from prison".
Manning will remain in the military for now, unpaid.