Chelsea Manning, a Guardian columnist/journalist* who is serving 35 years in prison for exposing war crimes, is currently the target of what can only be described as psychological operations by US Army prison authorities. Specifically, Manning was threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for petty misdemeanours (see list below) and for requesting access to a solicitor. This may well be an indication of what is to come: week upon week, month upon month of restrictions. And make no mistake – this is no trivial matter about magazines and books and toothpaste: the aim of the prison authorities is to break Manning down, break her spirit, make her compliant (possibly even to induce suicide – see quote from ACLU lawyer below), show her who’s boss. In the meantime more than 100,000 people have petitioned that this intimidation stop. But much more is needed. So maybe it is time for the three Nobel Peace Prize laureates who backed Chelsea during her trial step up again and demand that President Obama intervenes.
(Note: Manning writes regularly for The Guardian about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.)
BREAKING: Manning found guilty and receives 21 days restriction on recreation, including library visits, but verdict could mean years added to custody (see tweet from Manning below). Also, this punishment is clearly an attempt to silence Manning’s research/writing indefinitely (see post-sentence statement from Manning’s attorney, below).
Now these convictions will follow me thru to any parole/clemency hearing forever. Was expecting to be in min custody in Feb, now years added
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) August 18, 2015
Chelsea Manning showed the world her courage at her trial. And her stand against the pettiness she is now facing is to be commended. She has been gladdened to hear of the massive support she received – over 100,000 signatures in response to the attempts to intimidate her. However, the prison authorities will be determined to continue in their attempts, unless they are stopped in their tracks. That is why intervention is needed urgently.
A. They are trying to silence her.
The magazines and books Manning had access to are hardly ‘contraband’, which suggests the charges levied against her should be seen as a warning: that she should restrict if not end completely her research (and her writing).
“I am concerned that the prison authorities are going to continue harassing Chelsea whenever she speaks out or demands her rights,” said Nancy Hollander, the attorney who is working with Manning on an appeal of her prison term.
Chase Strangio, an attorney with the ACLU who is handling Manning’s legal dispute with the US military over her health treatment in prison as a transgender woman, said the charges raised against Manning were very concerning. “They could chill her activities or even silence her altogether.”
Victor Hansen, a retired Army judge, said it is unlikely that prison officials would go after Manning just for having reading material, and that there has to be more behind the charges than either the military or his supporters are saying. Most discipline in the military is progressive and meted in a measured way, with the solitary confinement reserved as kind of “the nuclear option.”
Amnesty International has already voiced its concerns over this latest development (to see an Amnesty International interview with Manning, click here).
It’s time, now, for Manning’s very prominent supporters to step up again.
As well as Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire-Corrigan, Chelsea’s other prominernt supporters include: Noam Chomsky (academic and political philosopher), Russell Brand (comedian/actor and political activist), Viggo Mortensen (actor), J P Barlow (Grateful Dead lyricist), Graham Nash (musician), Ken Loach (award winning TV and film director), Michael Moore (documentary film maker), Daniel Ellsberg (whistleblower and political activist), Julie Christie (actor and political campaigner), Moby (musician), Oliver Stone (film director), Roddy Doyle (award-winning author), Susan Sarandon (actor), Terry Gilliam (actor and film director) and many, many others.
B. The charges
Manning was accused of four violations: “prohibited property” (for unauthorized books and magazines), “disrespect” (for speaking disrespectfully to a staff member), “disorderly conduct” (for sweeping some food onto the floor), and “medical misuse” (for a tube of toothpaste that expired in April).
Magazines seized in the investigation, according to Manning’s legal team, included Cosmopolitan, The Advocate, Out, and Vanity Fair.
Books siezed included Exploring Art, The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential, I Am Malala, Justice for Hedgehogs, The Whiskey Rebellion, Taking Rights Seriously, Law’s Empire, The Artificial River, A Matter of Principle, A Safe Girl to Love, America: A Narrative History, and Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous.
Other publications included Transgender Studies Quarterly and the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture.
Here is a summary of the charges (adapted from the Charge Sheets – see Appendix)
Note: as well as the campaign to seek a Presidential pardon for Manning, there is a legal appeal against Manning’s conviction (and sentence). For more information about Manning and how to support her, click here.
Appendix: charge sheets