Two years into her 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth military prison for furnishing 700,000 classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning, 27, is reflecting on the constraints of government, technology and gender in a rare interview with Paper.
Manning, who answered questions posed by several interviewers with the magazine through the U.S. mail and encrypted web platforms, insisted that she doesn’t consider herself “a radical.”
The 27-year-old former military intelligence analyst has also become convinced that mankind is on the verge of major shift. “I believe that we are just at the very beginning of a new epoch,” says Manning, who announced in a statement one day after her August 2013 sentencing that wants to live life as a woman. “I’ve believed this for a very long time, probably starting around my early teens when I was really spending a lot of time online to ‘escape’ my life – school, bullying, my awkward relationship with family, my gender identity – at night.”
“. . . we are slowly beginning to blur the lines between the concepts that have seemed so separate for generations, such as the relationships between gender, sexuality, art and work. As we begin to ascend into a new era – which sometimes includes ideas of ‘transhumanism’ and the information, economic and technological singularity – perhaps we are going to begin to slowly embrace, or fear, a post-human world?”
The interview does little to shed light on what life inside the nation’s most infamous military prison, located in Leavenworth, Kans., is like for Manning. Although a representative for the magazine told PEOPLE that two days before Paper went to press with the print version of their story, prison officials imposed a 21-day restriction on Manning’s recreational privileges after they allegedly found her in possession of the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair.
In the article, Manning – whose lawyers argued that their client leaked the documents after growing disillusioned by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – both praises and laments the all-pervading role technology now plays in our lives. “I think it’s an odd paradox that technology is providing for us,” she says. “We are more diverse and open as a society – yet we also seem to be more homogenous and insecure than ever before. My point is, technology only takes us so far. For me, the most important element is the human one — let’s try not to forget that!”