The soldier who leaked horrifying secrets about how the United States conducted itself during the Iraq War, including that infamous video of American soldiers in an Apache helicopter shooting civilians and Reuters journalists, in addition to thousands of other files that were "useful and important" in "about a dozen underdeveloped debates about our wars and foreign policy," was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. That was when this soldier was still known as Bradley Manning.
But Manning is a transgender woman, and that has not made living in an all-male incarceration facility easy.
As reported last week, Chelsea Manning, as she is now known, tried to kill herself on July 5.
Jailed transgender soldier Chelsea Manning is facing "administrative offenses" related to her July 5 suicide attempt that could result in indefinite solitary confinement, her attorneys have said.
A week after the attempt, on July 11, Manning tweeted:
I am okay. I'm glad to be alive. Thank you all for your love <3 I will get through this. #standwithchelsea— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) July 12, 2016
According to this must-read piece by Cory Doctorow and the Chelsea Manning Support Network, published yesterday:
When Chelsea woke up on the morning of July 5th, after her failed suicide attempt, she was surprised, and relieved, to be alive. She was moved by all the messages from people who want to help and are concerned about her, especially since she's been struggling with painful feelings that her situation may be hopeless.
However, although the Army has placed Chelsea on "mental health observation" since her return to Leavenworth, they’ve ironically continued to deny her access to the very psychological counseling her mental health would require.
ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio, who works closely on Manning's case, says, "It is deeply troubling that Chelsea is now being subjected to an investigation and possible punishment for her attempt to take her life. The government has long been aware of Chelsea's distress associated with the denial of medical care related to her gender transition and yet delayed and denied the treatment recognized as necessary."
"Now, while Chelsea is suffering the darkest depression she has experienced since her arrest, the government is taking actions to punish her for that pain," Strangio went on to say. "It is unconscionable and we hope that the investigation is immediately ended and that she is given the health care that she needs to recover."
Manning faces new charges for violating prison rules in her suicide attempt. According to the charge sheet (.pdf), the contents of which were dictated over the phone from Manning, the three new charges are "resisting the force cell move team," "prohibited property," and "conduct which threatens."
The Doctorow piece goes through these charges one by one. The "resisting the force cell move team" charge is
especially absurd because Chelsea was unconscious when the force cell move team arrived — she couldn’t have "resisted" anything. Chelsea is basically just being punished for the team being called at all — a perfect example of the prison making the rules apply whenever they see fit.
And the "prohibited property" charge?
Here she is being charged with misusing the things she tried to kill herself with— she is literally being charged for her suicide attempt.
As for "conduct which threatens," the prison defines that as "Any conduct which interferes with the orderly running, safety, good order and discipline, or security the facility." As Doctorow et al point out,
Somehow she is being charged with threatening the 'safety' of the facility. As if her actions, alone in her cell to herself, could put the prison facility at risk.
Last year, Manning was "found guilty of possessing unapproved reading material by a panel at Fort Leavenworth prison but [was] spared the indefinite solitary confinement that had reportedly been among her possible sentences." At the same time, according to The Guardian, "She was also charged with 'medicine misuse' after a search of her cell... uncovered an expired tube of toothpaste."
Her punishment for the expired toothpaste and banned reading material was 21 days of restricted access to facilities: "no gym, library, or outdoors."
What was that contraband reading material she got in trouble for having, anyway? Here's the list:
This is the official inventory of confiscated books and magazines. pic.twitter.com/MvlaU2UmbL— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) August 14, 2015
It includes the Vanity Fair issue with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, a copy of Out, a copy of The Advocate, The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, a book called Exploring Art, and several books on transgender topics.
Whether Manning will be sentenced to solitary confinement for these latest charges is anyone's guess. Manning has already spent an extensive amount of time in solitary confinement. In 2012, a UN specialist on torture "accused the US government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" after keeping Manning naked and in solitary confinement "for almost a year."
Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, which advocates for free speech, human rights, and internet transparency, told me by phone today, "We gathered more than 100,000 signatures and gave them to the Secretary of the Army" last year to prevent Manning from being given time in solitary for the expired tooth paste and Vanity Fair infractions.
Manning's supporters are collecting signatures again now (sign here), pleading with the Secretary of the Army again to spare Manning time in solitary for these latest charges.
Greer has been in touch with Manning personally by phone, and confirmed that the prison has provided Manning with hormone treatment but "will not let her grow her hair out to the length of her choice, depsite the fact that medical experts say that would be the most medically appropriate course of action for her feelings of gender dysphoria."
Greer added, "Providing someone with partial treatment for something as serious as this in the wake of an attempt to take her own life is serious. She needs adequate treatment, not halfway there. The fact that they’re leveling these charges against her in such a vulnerable moment is unconscionable and inhumane."
Again, if you want to sign the petition, go here.
If you would like to write to Chelsea Manning, here's the snail-mail address:
CHELSEA E. MANNING 89289
1300 NORTH WAREHOUSE ROAD
FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS 66027-2304