Chelsea Manning, America’s most famous convicted leaker, is making an unlikely bid for the US Senate in her adopted state of Maryland.
She is no longer living as a transgender woman in a male military prison, serving the lengthiest sentence ever for revealing US government secrets.
It’s been a year since former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence.
The 30-year-old Oklahoma native has filed to run in January and has been registered to vote in Maryland since August.
Her aim in the June 26 primary is to unseat Senator Ben Cardin, a 74-year-old Maryland Democrat who is seeking his third Senate term and previously served 10 terms in the US House.
Manning said she’s motivated by a desire to fight what she sees as a shadowy surveillance state and a rising tide of repression.
“The rise of authoritarianism is encroaching in every aspect of life, whether it’s government or corporate or technological,” Manning said during an interview at her home in Bethesda, Maryland.
Manning says she doesn’t even consider herself a Democrat but is motivated by a desire to shake up establishment Democrats who are “caving in” to President Donald Trump’s administration.
She’s certainly has an eye-catching platform: Close prisons and free inmates; eliminate national borders; restructure the criminal justice system; provide universal health care and basic income.
The top of her agenda? Abolish the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency created in 2003 that Manning asserts is preparing for an “ethnic cleansing.”
Manning ticks off life experiences she believes would make her an effective senator: a stint being homeless in Chicago, her wartime experiences as a US Army intelligence analyst in Iraq – even her seven years in prison.
But political analysts suspect the convicted felon is not running to win.
“Manning is running as a protest candidate, which has a long lineage in American history, to shine light on American empire,” said Daniel Schlozman, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Manning’s insurgent candidacy thus far has been a decidedly stripped-down affair, with few appearances and a campaign website that just went up.
Manning has acknowledged leaking more than 700,000 military and State Department documents to anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks in 2010.
Known as Bradley Manning at the time of her arrest, she came out as transgender after her 2013 court-martial.
Asked how she would define success, Manning said: “Success for me is survival.”