Why Is Chelsea Manning Prohibited From Having Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Issue & The Senate Torture Report?

For Chelsea Manning the last five years have been a fight to survive. She has faced the death penalty and endured the brutal torture of solitary confinement in Kuwait and again while awaiting trial at Quantico in Virginia. She has come out as a trans woman and fought for her voice and her health care. She still fights for both as she also continues her long legal fight for freedom.

Through it all she has continued to send messages of hope to others. Her voice has become central to our movements for government transparency and transgender justice.

But she is now facing another fight that threatens to silence her.

On July 9, military officials confiscated several items from the convicted WikiLeaker and trans advocate’s cell at Fort Leavenworth. The “prohibited” items included copies of Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover issue, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “Torture Report,” and an expired tube of toothpaste.


Chelsea Manning's confiscated items

At the time, Chelsea was not informed why these items were taken. Her cell was searched, and they were removed when she was placed in solitary confinement for 24 hours following an investigation into allegations that she was “disrespectful” to an officer.

For almost a month, Chelsea, an ACLU client, awaited clarity about the charges and requested that her reading materials be returned to her. But the military denied those requests.

Now Chelsea will go before a disciplinary board on Tuesday, during which she will face charges for disrespecting an officer, misusing medication, and possessing prohibited items.

But the more details that emerge about these charges, the more concerning this all becomes. The alleged encounter that prompted the “disrespect” charge involved Chelsea requesting a lawyer when she realized that she was being accused of wrongdoing. As for “misusing medication,” that charged is based solely on possessing toothpaste that expired in April of this year. And the “prohibited” property she had in her possession included, among other things, issues of Vanity Fair, OUT magazine, the Advocate, and the Cosmopolitan issue that included her own interview.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, the possible punishment for these alleged infractions includes indefinite solitary confinement

Since supporters learned of these charges and started a campaign to have them dropped, the military has responded with assurances that Chelsea’s treatment will be “fair and equitable.” But subsequent to that statement Chelsea was inexplicably denied all access to the law library as she prepares to go before the disciplinary board. Because she is not entitled to have counsel present at her board, this access is especially important.

Hopefully with public pressure and increasing scrutiny, the charges against Chelsea will be dismissed, and she will not be subjected to the torture of solitary or any other punishment that further restricts her access to public engagement and the support systems that she has cultivated from prison.

But regardless of the ultimate outcome, the fact that she has had to face this discipline at all is a concerning reflection of how our incarceration systems attempt to isolate and dehumanize those held behind prison walls.

Even though experts agree that solitary confinement is a form of torture, we continue to hear reports of people being sent to solitary for alleged infractions as absurd as having an expired tube of toothpaste or praying in a group of three, having “too many” stamps, or cheering too loudly during the Super Bowl. For transgender prisoners like Chelsea, solitary often becomes a default placement for “safety” reasons in an inherently unsafe system.

Incarceration is itself a form of isolation — a mechanism for cutting people off from their families and support systems and taking them out of the community. Within that isolation, the added disruption and harms that flow from solitary and other disciplinary mechanisms cannot be overstated. For Chelsea, her books, magazines, and reports are a part of her and they help build her voice. And this voice is her connection to a network of people who uplift her and are uplifted and inspired by her.

If Chelsea loses her reading materials permanently, or if she is sent to solitary, or if she is otherwise disciplined because she asked for a lawyer or had old toothpaste or wanted to read about Caitlyn Jenner or the Senate Torture Report, then we all lose. We lose a piece of her voice in our public discourse, and we lose another fight against a disruptive and dehumanizing system of so-called justice. 

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Anonymous

Thanks for helping to expose the abusiveness and dysfunction in the system. I stand with Chelsea.

Anonymoust

Stop your nonsense

Anonymous

lol

Anonymous

It was going to be the most transparent government ever and never got past the trans stage. Public is broke. Catch the people that stole the money! Trillions are missing! They are making cases for data missing. Their brains are missing.

Anonymous

Silly rules to get revenge on someone who did the right thing for maybe the wrong reason, or not. The perpetrators of the war and enablers of the war crimes that were sometimes exposed are free and making tons of money for speaking before someone. Society is upside down but everyone is happy with it.

Anonymous

Having worked in the Bureau of Prisons for over 15 years, I can confirm that having too many magazines, too many stamps, meetings in groups,etc. all have a basis for being infractions. Unless you have worked in a prison setting you have no idea of what truly goes on. An abundance of magazines and/or books can be a fire hazard - inmates are not prohibited from having a limited number of books or magazines but more than the allowed amount is an infraction; too many stamps can be used as cash and bargaining chips to gamble or obtain illegal substances; forming in groups can be a cover to inciting a riot or planning a "hit" on another inmate; loudly cheering in the tv room can be disruptive to those inmates in other tv rooms not interested in watching the Super Bowl or whatever else may be on or to those inmates who are assigned early work details and are trying to sleep. If you look deeper there are sound reasons for the prisons running in the manner they do. It is not a perfect system by any means. Most of us agree that solitary is inhumane and does little, if anything, to reform behavior. Nonetheless, if an inmate is constantly a disruption to the smooth running of the operation, action has to be taken to avoid further disruption and possibly taking of lives. Officers are way out numbered by inmates and their safety should always come first. A transgender inmate is still has his or her male or female parts. For the safety of the inmate who may look like a female in a male prison or vice versa-- precautions must be taken. Perhaps Manning isn't allowed physical access to the prison legal library for his/her own safety but that does not mean that he/she cannot request whatever books or references needed. So before you judge perhaps further investigation is warranted.

Anonymous

Sorry, You're not getting sympathy fro me. Most people in jail don't belong there in the first place and even if some are "violent criminals" it's only because they come from abusive conditions Brought On by those with "power" who are the Real Criminals and get aways with it! JAIL THE BANKSTERS!

Anonymous

Why is ANY reading material (with the possible exception of "how to" manuals detailing weapon-making) restricted?
What does it mean when the state censors material for prisoners? It suggests to ME that the state would censor it for ALL of us if it could get away with it; powerless prisoners are just a stand-in for the rest of us.

jwn58

What's the toothpaste thing about??? It looks to me like they are just pushing all buttons to make something out of nothing.

I do feel the transgender thing is a ploy, ( He / she -It ) Will us this for personal gain only. I really think it will milk this out for all it is worth. It will want the US Tax payers to complete the Transgender process for it. Another wrong on it's side. Then will it say that it was not her that did the crime, but the male part of it's persona, and should be released because Chelsea did not do the crime But Bradley did it?

I am not on It's side at all. I am thinking it is getting all of the justice it deserves. It was wrong to leak any information whether confidential, classified or even declassified. It should not have leaked anything..

For those that will complain about the term 'it', That is the way I feel, and I have rights too. So save your time and energy and do not even try to change my mind. I think there is a real thing regarding transgender. But I can not help but think this issue is only a ploy by this creep for some legal or personal gain.

MSL

Sure, the first amendment protects your right to free speech. But when you use that right to dehumanize another human being by calling her "it" as if she's some kind of alien creature, that still means you're an asshole, especially when, if you really had to, you could've used "they" instead.

Using "free speech" as an excuse for hurting minorities or hate speech is pathetic.

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