CHELSEA Manning is ‘happy’ and ‘doing well’, according to her Pembrokeshire family who travelled to the US last month.
Chelsea, formerly Bradley, was found guilty of 20 charges relating to the release of classified information to whistleblower website WikiLeaks last year and was sentenced to 35 years.
Chelsea, 26, who attended Tasker Milward School in Haverfordwest for a number of years, will be eligible for parole in eight years and is hoping to launch an appeal to reduce her sentence.
Her aunt and uncle Sharon and Joseph Staples from Milford Haven were delighted to visit Chelsea on two separate occasions totalling six hours in military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, last month.
The couple also got to meet with the man behind WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, currently claiming asylum in the Ecuador embassy in London.
They spent more than two hours with Mr Assange discussing not just Chelsea’s situation, which he believes is wrong, but the freedom of information across the world.
“The meeting with Julian Assange was amazing. He was not what I thought he’d be like, I thought I wouldn’t like him but he’s an amazing bloke. I’d certainly go back to see him again,” said Sharon.
The family, who still refer to Chelsea as Bradley (with her permission) and use the masculine 'he' to describe her, spoke of how she spent time working hard in the prison kitchen.
“He looks really well, really happy, and really good. He’s settled in and is doing really well.
“He’s doing the legal side of his paperwork and has got a typewriter in his room. He doesn’t watch TV anymore because he’s too busy.
"His sister said something and he was laughing, it was lovely to see,” said Sharon.
There was also some light relief when Chelsea said she had received junk email for double glazing after being allowed to order a pair of navy and white Converse trainers. Shoes are the only item of clothing inmates are permitted to choose for themselves.
Fundraising to send Chelsea’s mother Susan and uncle Kevin from Haverfordwest to the United States for a visit has been successful and they hope to go later this year.
Chelsea was honoured at Oxford University last month when she was awarded the annual Sam Adams Integrity in Intelligence Award.
Members of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, a group of retired CIA officers, voted overwhelming in favour of presenting the award to Chelsea and it was picked up on her behalf by childhood friend and former Haverfordwest resident Aaron Kirkhouse.
Last year’s winner was NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In a statement Chelsea said: “I am now accepting this award, through my friend, former school peer, and former small business partner, Aaron, for the release of a video and documents that ‘sparked a worldwide dialogue about the importance of government accountability for human rights abuses,’ it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the dangers of withholding documents, legal interpretations, and court jurisprudence from the public that pertain to the right to ‘life, liberty, and property’ of a state’s citizens is as fundamental and important to protecting against such human rights abuses.”