Chelsea Manning Faces Solitary Confinement

The circus surrounding the imprisoned transgender state secrets-leaker Chelsea Manning (some would prefer the term “whistleblower”) is kicking into high gear as officials prepare to seal her immediate fate in a disciplinary hearing.

Before there was Edward Snowden, there was Manning. She’s serving a lifetime sentence for treason (on a host of charges ranging from communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source, and aiding the enemy), following a courtroom confession back in 2013, when she was still Pfc. Bradley Manning.

In 2009 and 2010, when she was an intelligence analyst serving in Iraq, Manning smuggled out several SD disks with reams of classified information, including contents of Significant Actions files, or SigActs, which detail military actions on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the single largest breach of classified information by an insider to date at the time—though of course Snowden has blown that record out of the water.

Manning, having opted not to flee to Russia or anywhere else—went to jail, where she underwent a transition to living as a woman named Chelsea. She’s back in the headlines now because she faces possible indefinite solitary confinement for four charges, which include possession of LGBTQ reading material like the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair, and having a tube of expired toothpaste in her cell.

Manning maintains, via her social media accounts and calls to supporters, that she’s done nothing to warrant the hearing. She also said that the whole thing started when she complained that military correctional staff denied her access to the prison legal library.

“During the five years she has been incarcerated Chelsea has had to endure horrific and, at times, plainly unconstitutional conditions of confinement,” said Chase Strangio, Mannning’s attorney at the ACLU. “She now faces the threat of further dehumanization because she allegedly disrespected an officer when requesting an attorney and had in her possession various books and magazines that she used to educate herself and inform her public and political voice. I am heartened to see the outpouring of support for her in the face of these new threats to her safety and security. This support can break down the isolation of her incarceration and sends the message to the government that the public is watching and standing by her as she fights for her freedom and her voice.”

During a closed disciplinary hearing, Manning must present her own defense for the new charges—the ACLU said that she’s been denied an attorney as punishment for unruly behavior.

A petition for leniency has been posted at, initiated by digital rights group Fight for the Future and supported by, Demand Progress and CodePink. It has already drawn 100,000 signatures.

The situation has thrust Manning into the spotlight as the tip of the spear for conversations around the treatment of transgendered inmates and the thin line between “whistleblower” and “traitor.”

Manning said in the confession that the motivations for betraying US secrets involve human rights and opposition to the way the wars were carried out:

“In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and on being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions.

I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables it could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment every day.”

The military judge didn’t buy that, clearly.

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