"We don't need to be a lobby for the Democrats or the Republicans. We, the people, need to take power into our own hands. It's a remarkably strong, defiant message from Chelsea Manning," Becker said of her decision to run for one of Maryland's two US Senate seats.
Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for releasing more than 700,000 classified government documents to WikiLeaks, including incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dossiers on prisoners being held without trial at Guantanamo Bay.
At the end of his term, former US President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence, resulting in her release in May 2017 after seven years behind bars. Since her release, Manning has been an activist for LGBT rights among other issues, including civil liberties, free speech and computer security.
"Chelsea Manning has decided to take up her mantle and make sure that the issues that are important to her and people like us on the Democratic left are heard," Becker added.
Manning will be running against Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, a 74-year-old Maryland senior senator who has served two terms, in the Democratic primary in November. If elected, Manning would become both the first transgender woman and the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Senate.
But not everyone is thrilled about Manning's campaign — and this being Washington in 2018, some are even seeing the sneaky hand of Moscow behind it.
This week, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, tweeted the groundless accusation that Russia purposefully designed Manning's candidacy to "punish" Cardin for his views that the Kremlin is a growing threat to Western democracies.
"Senator Cardin authored and released a 200-page masterpiece on Russian influence in Western elections. Suddenly he has a primary from Kremlin stooge Assange's WikiLeaks primary source, Chelsea Manning. The Kremlin plays the extreme left to swing elections. Remember that," Tanden tweeted.
"Of course, the Democratic Party — using surrogates — is already going after Chelsea as if she's a Russian agent — like anyone who happens to expose US government policies," Becker said.
"Cardin is a neoliberal Hillary Clinton Democrat," Kiriakou said, adding that the incumbent shamelessly revealed his own unwavering loyalty to a foreign power last year when he introduced a bill that would have made it a felony to support a boycott of Israel. The bill was such a stark attack on basic liberties that the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately rejected it, forcing other co-sponsors of the bill to revoke their support.
"I believe that he is in the pocket of the Israel lobby and that this is something ought to be debated in that Senate race," Kiriakou said.
"Chelsea Manning is showing other whistleblowers that you don't hang out, head down, and hide and hope that the spotlight goes away. She's embracing the spotlight. It's very brave. I'm proud of her for doing it," said Kiriakou, who is also a whistleblower and was the first US government official to reveal that waterboarding was being used to interrogate prisoners.
Last week, Manning launched her campaign with a video ad featuring the hashtag #WeGotThis, a common refrain on her Twitter page since being released from prison last May.
"We live in trying times. Times of fear, of suppression, hate. We don't need more or better leaders, we need someone willing to fight. We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves, we need to actually take the reins of power from them. We need to challenge this at every level. We need to fix this. We don't need them anymore, we can do better. You're damn right we got this," Manning says in the video.