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Chelsea Manning Breaks Down, Thanks Obama in Emotional Interview on GMA

Chelsea Manning, a U.S. soldier who was jailed after leaking thousands of army documents, gave her first interview to Good Morning America since her release last month.

Manning was a U.S. Army Private when she was found guilty of downloading over 700,000 classified documents from military servers and sending them to Wikileaks. Manning was 23-years-old when she started a 35-year sentence, of which she served more than six years before President Barack Obama commuted her sentence before leaving office.

Manning has been the subject of bitter debate, with critics calling her a traitor and supporters defending her whistleblower status. ABC’s Juju Chang snagged the first interview with Manning, asking on Friday if she owed the American people an apology for what she did.

“I’ve accepted responsibility,” Manning said. “No one told me to do this, no one directed me to do this, this is me. It’s on me.”

Among the leaked documents was footage of US Army operations in the Afghan War, including a disturbing video of American soldiers killing unarmed civilians — including two Reuters correspondents — from a helicopter in Baghdad.

“You’re getting all this information, and it’s just death, destruction, mayhem, and eventually you just stop — I stopped seeing — just statistics and information, and I started seeing people,” Manning said.

“Counterinsurgency warfare is not a simple thing. It’s not as simple as good guys versus bad guys. It is a mess,” she added.

On whether she was concerned she just jeopardize national security, by making classified information available to enemies of the United States, Manning was defiant: “I have a responsibility to the public.”

After she was sentenced, Manning (birth name Bradley) came out as transgender, and requested hormone treatments, which was originally denied by the military, leading to several suicide attempts and stints in solitary confinement.

On her fight for hormone treatments, Manning said “it’s literally what keeps me alive,” adding “it keeps me from feeling like I’m in the wrong body.”

“I used to get these horrible feelings, like I just wanted to rip my body apart.”

Chang asked the newly freed soldier what she would say to Obama if she had the chance, at which point Manning welled-up, saying “thank you. I was given a chance, that’s all I wanted.”

“That’s all I asked for, was a chance, that’s it,” Manning said. “And this is my chance.”

Chang noted after the interview that while Manning’s sentence was commuted, she was not pardoned, and “the seven years she served was already longer than any other leaker in U.S. history.”

Manning, with help from her defense team, is now appealing her case, objecting her months spent in solitary confinement. According to Chang, Manning has no immediate plans, other than to settle into her life outside of prison.

[image via screengrab]

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Aidan McLaughlin is the Editor of Mediaite. Send tips via email: [email protected] Ask for Signal. Follow him on Twitter: @aidnmclaughlin