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Chelsea Manning faces new charges stemming from prison suicide attempt

Manning attempted to end her own life in June. Now she's being punished for it.


Dell Cameron


Posted on Jul 28, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 9:19 am CDT

Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army private who was convicted in 2013 of leaking sensitive government files to WikiLeaks, is reportedly facing new charges related to a suicide attempt last month.

Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), spoke with Manning on Thursday morning. She told Strangio that she was given a document detailing a list of charges related to her actions on June 5, when she attempted to end her own life.

“She called me in tears this morning,” said Strangio, who represents Manning in the medical care case.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Army at Fort Leavenworth did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manning, who is transgender, was convicted under the Espionage Act in July 2013 and is currently serving the remainder of a 35-year prison sentence for leaking roughly three-quarters of a million classified files related to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last month, Manning attempted suicide while inside her prison cell at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kansas. She was taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. U.S. Army officials refused to connect her lawyer’s calls for nearly a week following the incident, the details of which were apparently leaked to the press by an anonymous U.S. official.

Nancy Hollander, an attorney for Manning, told the Daily Dot she was “shocked and outraged” by the leak of her client’s medical status.

As reported by Manning over the phone, she is being investigated by the U.S. Army under a series of new charges, including “resisting the force cell move team;” “prohibited property;” and “conduct which threatens.”

According to the ACLU, Manning could face punishment, if convicted, including indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security, and an additional nine years in medium custody. A conviction may also negate any chances of parole.

Approximately half of all suicides committed in U.S. prisons occur in solitary confinement. According to countless scholarly studies led by experts on the effects of stress on the human psyche, it is a form of punishment tantamount to torture. According to a 2014 United Nations report, some 80,000 people are subjected to excessive solitary confinement in the United States every day—despite the fact that it is prohibited and classified as cruel and inhuman by the U.N. Convention against Torture.

A spokesperson for the 28-year-old Manning said she was “not receiving adequate psychological counseling, for either the gender dysphoria or the suicide attempt, and her course of treatment is constantly irregular and therefore less effective.”

In a statement, Strangio said he is “deeply troubled” by the Army’s attempts to punish Manning for attempting to kill herself. “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,” he said. “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.”

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, a civil liberties and free speech nonprofit, called the government’s treatment of Manning “a travesty.” 

Last year, Greer’s group collected more than 100,000 signatures after the government threatened to put Manning in solitary confinement for possession of contraband and sweeping food onto the floor. The prohibited items reportedly included an expired tube of toothpaste and, among other reading materials, the July 2015 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, which featured Caitlyn Jenner on the cover.

“Those in charge should know that the whole world is watching, and we won’t stand idly by while this administration continues to harass and abuse Chelsea Manning,” Greer said. 

The U.S. Army has a controversial history with regards to the criminalization of suicide. In 2007, 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside, who was deployed to Iraq and worked in a detainee prison near Baghdad International Airport, shot herself in the abdomen after an apparent mental breakdown. 

An investigation by the Washington Post revealed that, despite a subsequent diagnosis of severe major depressive disorder likely triggered by Whiteside’s time in a warzone, Army prosecutors sought to imprison her for the rest of her life, filing among other charges, “intentional self-injury without intent to avoid service.” Whiteside attempted suicide again in 2008 by swallowing “dozens of psychotropic pills.”

While the charges against Whiteside were eventually dropped, the U.S. military has convicted soldiers in the past for attempted and assisted suicide, according to a 1994 study by Dr. R. Gregory Lande, director of the psychiatry continuity service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.

For more information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) or Samaritans (U.K.). 

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*First Published: Jul 28, 2016, 8:17 pm CDT