U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning tried to kill herself on July 5 in her cell at Fort Leavenworth military prison. Now, military officials are considering filing charges in connection to the suicide attempt that could make the terms of her imprisonment much more punitive — including indefinite solitary confinement — while possibly denying her any chance of receiving parole.
According to a charge sheet posted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Manning was informed by military officials on Thursday that she is under investigation for “resisting the force cell move team,” “prohibited property,” and “conduct which threatens.” In the weeks following her suicide attempt, she has been active on social media, thanking her followers for their moral support.
Manning’s treatment in prison since her 2010 arrest has repeatedly generated outrage among civil liberties advocates. The punitive tactics that have been employed against her include stripping her naked in her cell on a nightly basis, extended solitary confinement, and denial of medical necessities like eyeglasses. In 2011, then-State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley publicly described Manning’s treatment in prison as “ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid.”
Following a 14-month investigation into Manning’s treatment by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, the U.N. accused the U.S. government of holding Manning in conditions that constituted “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” particularly with regard to the extended use of pretrial solitary confinement. The harsh measures the military has employed during Manning’s detention have led to suspicions that the government is attempting make an example of her over her whistleblowing activities.
The latest threat to charge Manning with offenses related to her own attempted suicide seems to be proceeding in the same spirit of abusive treatment.
“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,” ACLU attorney Chase Strangio said in a statement. “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. 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.”
In a statement released by Manning after her 2013 guilty plea on espionage charges, she asked for a pardon and said that she had been motivated by moral outrage over details of U.S. military killings and torture of civilians in Iraq. “In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture,” she said. “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”
Manning is currently six years into serving a 35-year sentence.