Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Blast Army Over News of Suicide Attempt

An unnamed official disclosed that the imprisoned whistleblower tried to kill herself.

An undated file photo provided by the ArmyUS Army/AP

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After former US Army soldier Chelsea Manning was hospitalized Tuesday morning, news began to spread that she had attempted suicide at Fort Leavenworth, where she is imprisoned. Manning’s lawyers blasted the Army on Wednesday for disclosing “private confidential medical information” to the media without even allowing Manning to communicate with her own representatives.

“We’re shocked and outraged that an official at Leavenworth contacted the press with private confidential medical information about Chelsea Manning yet no one at the Army has given a shred of information to her legal team,” Nancy Hollander, the lead attorney on Manning’s defense team, said in a statement. Hollander said she had not been able to speak with her client since Manning was reportedly hospitalized. “I had a privileged call scheduled with Chelsea at 2pm Leavenworth time yesterday, after the Army has now said she was hospitalized, but the Army gave the excuse—which I now believe to be an outright lie—that the call could not be connected although my team was waiting by the phone,” Hollander added. “We call on the Army to immediately connect Chelsea Manning to her lawyers and friends who care deeply about her well-being and are profoundly distressed by the complete lack of official communication about Chelsea’s current situation.”

News of Manning’s alleged suicide attempt spread after US Army spokesman Colonel Patrick Seiber told CNN that Manning had been hospitalized “during the early hours of July 5th” before returning to the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she is serving a 35-year prison sentence for sharing classified information with WikiLeaks. According to a CNN report on Wednesday, an unnamed US official said that “Manning was hospitalized after what is believed to be a suicide attempt.”

Army spokesman Wayne Hall confirmed to Mother Jones that Manning had returned from the hospital and that officials were continuing to monitor her condition. Hall did not confirm a suicide attempt, however. “I don’t know who the unnamed official is, so I can’t comment,” he said.

After she was sentenced in 2013, Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, announced that she is transgender. In 2015, the Army approved her request for hormone therapy after she sued the federal government for access to medical treatment for gender dysphoria.

Update (7/11/2016): Manning has spoken with her attorneys, who have confirmed reports of a suicide attempt. “Last week, Chelsea made a decision to end her life. Her attempt to take her own life was unsuccessful,” her attorneys wrote in a statement. “She knows that people have questions about how she is doing and she wants everyone to know that she remains under close observation by the prison and expects to remain on this status for the next several weeks.” Chase Strangio, one of her attorneys, told Mother Jones last week that Manning had experienced “past episodes of suicidal ideation in connection to her arrest and the denial of treatment related to gender dysphoria.” Strangio added, “We continue to litigate a challenge in court over the enforcement of male hair length and grooming standards against her. She has had to fight for every bit of treatment she has received and is still fighting.”

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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