Which Private Manning Is Being Locked Up?

Which Manning is which?

Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking thousands of classified documents.   This week, Manning wrote a letter to President Obama requesting a pardon.  That’s not going to happen.   Manning will be eligible for parole in seven years.    But that wasn’t the biggest news to come from the convicted soldier.

Manning’s attorney released a letter where his client declared “I am female” and wished to be referred to as “Chelsea.”

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).

Frontline has profiled Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning twice and if you’re curious about how Manning came to this, I suggest watching either “The Private Life of Bradley Manning” or “WikiSecrets.”

She is in for a rough time in Leavenworth.

Manning is set to serve her sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. It is a male-only facility; female military prisoners are all housed at the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego. Though Manning and her lawyer have announced hopes to begin her physical transition while locked up, an Army spokesman said that hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery would not be available to her. Some jurisdictions across America now require facilities to provide hormone therapy to trans inmates as a part of their routine medical care, but Leavenworth is not currently compelled to do the same. It appears that Leavenworth’s plan is to treat Chelsea Manning just like a man.

That’s a problem for Manning, but it could end up being a problem for Leavenworth, too. As a trans woman living in a men’s prison, Manning will not only be denied hormone therapy. She will also face an elevated risk of harassment and sexual assault behind bars from both fellow inmates and members of staff. One 2006 study of California prisons found that trans women housed in men’s prisons are 13 times as likely to be sexually abused than other prisoners. That year, 59 percent of transgender women in the system were abused. And Just Detention International, an organization dedicated to ending sexual abuse behind bars, notes that once “targeted for abuse, the majority of transgender survivors are subjected to repeated sexual assaults.”

Manning is a hero to some, a villain to others.

Manning would have likely been targeted for even before her announcement. Only 5’2″ in height and slight of frame, based upon what she was convicted of, Manning was already facing a troubled stay behind bars.   Manning may be in desperate need of psychological help and treatment more than punishment.

Yet, my sympathy for this tortured, troubled soul is mitigated by my utter and complete contempt for her decision to break her sworn oath to this country and leak secret and confidential information.  Manning broke his vow to protect his country and that is not something that is easily forgiven or forgotten.  The megalomaniac Julian Assange preyed upon Manning’s vulnerability for his own vain self-aggrandizement.  Assagne preyed upon Manning’s naivete and once he extracted as many secrets as he could get from her, threw her to the tender mercies of an enraged Army.

It is a mystery to me why someone so obviously unsuited for military life as Manning clearly was, enlisted in the first place. It is equally baffling as to why no one in military ever saw fit to discharge Manning before events swirled completely out of control.

There is plenty of blame to portion out but the biggest slice belongs on Manning’s plate.   She could have applied for a discharge.   She should have found another way to express her concerns about the United States actions in the Iraq war before she decided to pass on sensitive information to an unprincipled sleaze like Assange.

Now Manning will pay a heavy price for the poor decisions she made.   She or he, Manning has 35 years behind bars to figure it out.

Good-bye and good luck.