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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Karen Ferguson

Oh please, coming out as transgender certainly doesn't help her defense...it hurts it because most people are squeamish about such; especially men. Bradley Manning uncovered the depths of our unconstitutional and horrific wat crimes in our illegal war on Iraq. She's a hero and should be freed.

reaperofwind

its a prison nothing comes in or out without approval higher up.
manning was alowed to have them so they could punish him by taking them away, its about controll, we can do what we want and ur powerless. the list of confiscated items seem to be books not so flattering for wood be tyrants.

Anonymous

You mean "Her".

Damien McLeodI

I stand with Chelsea too, and with Mr. Assange, and with Mr. Snowden. There are many good people in Government, Military, and the Criminal Justice System, it's to bad that the good one's always seem to acquiesce to the right-wing fascist scum-bags and give those types free-reign to commit whatever atrocities they like.

Vivo Citarelli

This is ludicrous! The government that was founded on freedom is now being taken away from the military and now people who are trans are being denied law and order because they are not entitled enough! Chelsea Manning will be free as what the government did to the black, Asian and Indian communities. Our government is broken and it's been broken. "The only way to really know that a problem exists is know that there is one". Sick government!

Anonymous

Most likely answer to the title question: Prisoner misconduct.

The Right to have things is something you lose when convicted and sent to prison. The Privilege to have things can be taken away for any number of reasons. Copping an attitude toward guards, making a mess in the dining hall, failing to follow the orders -- these are things that bring punishment to any prisoner in any prison that wants to keep control of prisoners.

That's a cruel fact of life in prison. If you don't like it, Don't use Chelsea Manning as your poster child. Use some non-violent 20 year old serving 25 years for peddling marijuana. You'd have a wider sympathetic audience.

To many, Chelsea's no altruistic whistleblower-hero. She couldn't adapt to her Army situation. She couldn't get anyone to change it. So she threw a temper tantrum. Simple as that. But instead of throwing a glass at the wall, she threw nearly a million classified documents out into the world. She thought they'd just discharge her. She was wrong.

That misjudgment is why keeping books and magazines close at hand is, for her, a Privilege, not a Right.

Marty Dickey

How can we help? What can we do? It’s so frustrating to read about the Child marriage bill in Iraq and Religious fundamentalism. What did we achieve - in both Iraq and Afghanistan, when we went to war? We were to go in and protect the Iraqi people and freedom from this oppressive society. Now, I’m beginning to think that not the reason, It’s all about money and Oil.
The thought of a nine year old getting married, or any women, confined to her home, by an old man getting raped again and again and again, it’s disgusting! Is there anything to protect women and children from this country? I feel helpless.

Zoe

The possession is deemed a class IV or V infraction as far as the toothpaste. The reason is allegedly because it can be used as a "drug". I'm not sure about the 7 Habits book as it might be consider religious in nature. Some rest of the magazines might be because according to the policy of the USDB and JRCF the possession of said materials is prohibited. Yet, they go through your mail to verify things like that so, kinda their fault too.

UCMJ allows someone to be jailed for 2 years with a dishonorable discharge as their max punishment for swearing in the presence of a minor.(under the age of 16) Where is the justice in that system?

Anonymous

Prison life is so harsh. Inhumane punishment. Is it too late to execute "him"?

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