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US Military Denies Chelsea Manning Access to Prison Legal Library Prior to Hearing

Days before Chelsea Manning is supposed to appear before a disciplinary board, the United States military has denied her access to the prison legal library.

Manning, a whistleblower who is serving a 35-year sentence for providing over a half million documents to WikiLeaks, has been accused by officers at Fort Leavenworth of “disrespect” and “disorderly conduct.” The military also alleges she had “prohibited property” in her cell and “misused” medicine.

The “disrespect” Manning showed toward guards apparently consisted of her refusal to talk to a guard after she was accused of “disorderly conduct” for brushing food on to the floor. She claims she said, “You are accusing me,” “This interview is over,” and, “I want my lawyer,” and that is what upset the guards.

The prohibited property were books and magazines having to do with LGBTQ and political issues, including a copy of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, a copy of the Cosmopolitan issue featuring her interview, and a copy of the Senate intelligence committee report on CIA torture. The medicine she allegedly misused was an expired tube of toothpaste.

She faces the potential of being placed in solitary confinement for an indefinite period as punishment for her alleged misconduct.

Manning planned to use the prison legal library to prepare for her hearing, but today she reported the military has prohibited her from visiting the library at scheduled times.

Nancy Hollander, who is the lead counsel handling Manning’s appeal, reacted, “Chelsea is facing serious repercussions and punishment if these charges are upheld yet the prison has denied her the right to legal counsel, even legal counsel at her own expense. Now, we have learned the prison authorities have denied her the use of the prison library to prepare for her hearing.”

Manning’s ACLU attorney, Chase Strangio, described how she has “had to endure horrific and, at times, plainly unconstitutional conditions of confinement.”

“She now faces the threat of further dehumanization because she allegedly disrespected an officer when requesting an attorney and had in her possession various books and magazines that she used to educate herself and inform her public and political voice,” Strangio declared.

Over 67,000 have signed a Fight for the Future petition since “charges” against Manning were announced last week. The petition demands that the military back off its pursuit against Manning  dropped and requests that “Chelsea’s hearing on August 18th be made open to the public, to ensure she is treated fairly.”

“I am heartened to see the outpouring of support for her in the face of these new threats to her safety and security. This support can break down the isolation of her incarceration and sends the message to the government that the public is watching and standing by her as she fights for her freedom and her voice,” Strangio suggested.

Hollander added, “The whole system is rigged against her. She cannot have a lawyer to assist her; she cannot prepare her own defense; and the hearing will be secret. This harassment and abuse must end and we are grateful for the support from the public to demand justice for Chelsea Manning.”

In February, Manning received her first hormone treatment after the ACLU filed a lawsuit on her behalf in September of last year. The military was ordered to stop using male pronouns by an Army court in March. She also has been writing columns for The Guardian on torture, freedom of the press, and transgender issues in the military.

Freedom of the Press Foundation and First Look Media have also raised more than $161,000 so that Manning can pursue an aggressive and thorough appeal. The appeal is expected to be filed this year.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."