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ACLU Lawyers Furious After Chelsea Manning Punished For Failed Suicide

U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Chelsea Manning, the imprisoned whistleblower who leaked over 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables, and combat reports to WikiLeaks, faces severe administrative sanctions after an attempted suicide at the Fort Leavenworth military prison.

Manning, who was born biologically male but publicly announced she identifies as a woman after her incarceration, attempted suicide July 5. Her attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) say the attempt was motivated by the government’s continued denial of medical services in connection with her gender transition.

Investigators notified Manning of multiple infractions related to the failed suicide on Thursday, including prohibited property, conduct which threatens, and resisting the force cell move team. She also faces the possibility of indefinite solitary confinement, conceivably for the remainder of her prison term. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her key role in the largest intelligence breach in U.S. history.

“It is deeply troubling that Chelsea is now being subjected to an investigation and possible punishment for her attempt to take her life,”said ACLU Staff Attorney Chase Strangio. “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,” he added.

Manning filed an appeal to her conviction in May, alleging a wide range of judicial errors on the part of prosecutors and the military judge who presided over the trial. The ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of Manning’s appeal, arguing that using the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers “furnishes the government with a tool for selective prosecution.”

(Editor’s note: A previous version reported a Guardian finding that an additional nine years could be added to Manning’s sentence. This has been updated.) 

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