Punished for Suicide Attempt, Chelsea Manning Sentenced to Solitary Confinement
Army whistleblower says she was found guilty of a "Conduct Which Threatens" charge for trying to take her own life in a military prison
Following a disciplinary review hearing which took place Thursday, U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning confirmed early Friday morning she has been sentenced to solitary confinement for attempting to take her own life while serving a 30-year prison sentence at Ft. Leavenworth prison in Kansas.
The attempted suicide took place in July and, according to Fight for the Future, a group which has advocated on her behalf, followed "years of the government systematically denying her access to medically recommended treatment for gender dysphoria, and previous threats of solitary confinement following minor prison 'infractions,' including possession of mislabeled general research materials that Chelsea used for article writing and an expired tube of toothpaste."
Earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, Manning ended a five-day hunger strike after the military finally agreed to provide her with gender transition surgery as well as other medically prescribed treatments.
In 2013, Manning was convicted by a military court for passing military and government documents to the media outlet Wikileaks, many of which contained evidence of possible war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning's attorney, the ACLU's Chase Strangio, confirmed the sentence of solitary confinement in a tweet Friday:
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) September 23, 2016
Following the ruling, Manning released the following statement to supporters:
"My three member disciplinary board took place today.
I presented evidence and was allowed to question witnesses through the board president. The hearing lasted four hours. There was a break for lunch.
I waited nervously for the board to vote. I received the decision after 30 minutes.
I was acquitted of the “Resisting The Force Cell Move Team” charge.
I was found guilty of the “Conduct Which Threatens” charge. This charge was for the suicide attempt.
I was found guilty of the “Prohibited Property” charge, which was for an unmarked copy of “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy,” by Gabriella Coleman.
My punishment is 14 days in solitary confinement. 7 of those days are “suspended.” If I get in trouble in the next six months, those seven days will come back.
The term for this status is “disciplinary segregation.”
There is no set date set for this to start. After I receive the formal board results in writing, I have 15 days to appeal. I expect to get them in the next few days.
I am feeling hurt. I am feeling lonely. I am embarrassed by the decision. I don’t know how to explain it.
I am touched by your warm messages of love and support. This comforts me in my time of need."
In addition to supporters who have railed against the military's treatment of Manning while incarcerated at Ft. Leavenworth, a larger effort is being made to have her released from prison altogether.
— BirgittⒶ Jónsdóttir (@birgittaj) September 23, 2016
As with other whistleblowers charged with criminal conduct for their alleged disclosures under the Obama administration—including Edward Snowden, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, and others—Manning's advocates argue she should received a presidential pardon.
"It should be beyond question at this point that the archive that Manning gave to WikiLeaks – and that was later published in part by the Guardian and New York Times – is one of the richest and most comprehensive databases on world affairs that has ever existed; its contribution to the public record at this point is almost incalculable," wrote Trevor Timm, co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, in an op-ed last week. "To give you an idea: in just the past month, the New York Times has cited Manning’s state department cables in at least five different stories. And that’s almost six years after they first started making headlines."
Timm said it's "past time the administration did the right thing," and let her go.