Surveillance

Chelsea Manning: life in the United States is ‘like being in prison’

Whistle-blower highlights surveillance and policing in her first UK public appearance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2018, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2018, 2:28pm

Chelsea Manning has compared life in the US to her time in prison because of surveillance systems, cameras and the presence of police.

In her first public appearance in the UK, the whistle-blower said her idea of freedom outside jail had not transpired.

“I am constantly bombarded by reminders about how different, about how drastically different the world really is,” she said Monday.

“This whole notion that you get out of prison and you are free now turned out to be a bit of a downer in that sense.

Chelsea Manning says she was barred from Canada because of criminal record

“Because what happened, we really built this large, big prison, which is the United States, in the meantime – it was already happening, it just really intensified.

“You think about the surveillance systems, the cameras, or the police presence, and you think about the fact that we have walls around our country, and that is very much the same thing that is inside a prison … I see a lot of similarities between the world out here and the world that was in there.”

Manning was speaking at the Royal Institution in London during an interview with the artist and writer James Bridle.

In a wide-ranging discussion, she also spoke about social media, Donald Trump and trans rights. Manning, 30, described Trump as “the result of the system that we have”.

“He’s the result of systematic problems. There was already deportations happening before Donald Trump. He’s just the end result of that,” she said.

Friend says Chelsea Manning is safe after worrying tweet from window ledge

When asked about the US president’s opposition to her being released from prison, Manning said: “I am here right now.”

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on espionage charges after leaking hundreds of thousands of US military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.

Her sentence was commuted by the then US president, Barack Obama, early last year, after she had served nearly seven years in prison.

While in prison, Manning underwent gender transition, and she has spoken openly on trans rights issues in the past.

During the interview, Manning was asked whether she regretted leaking the documents to WikiLeaks. “If I had done anything differently it would have been a completely different person,” she said.

Manning was the main guest at an Institute of Contemporary Arts dinner being held in her honour.

She was invited to attend the event by Stefan Kalmár, who was appointed as director of the ICA in London in 2016.

He came to the institute from Artists Space in New York and has been described as a “true innovator”.