Chelsea Manning Facing Indefinite Solitary Confinement For Attempting Suicide, Possessing A Book On Hackers

from the wtf dept

As you may have heard, Chelsea Manning, who leaked a ton of State Department cables to Wikileaks and is now in jail for decades, attempted suicide earlier this year. And the Army’s response is to threaten her with indefinite solitary confinement to punish her for the attempt. Really. Of course, Manning has been held in solitary confinement in the past — under conditions that the UN itself declared to be torture. And just last year, Manning was also threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for “disrespecting” corrections officers and for having a toothbrush and certain books and magazines that she wasn’t supposed to have.

What about this time? Well, Fight for the Future has posted the details including the charge sheet and it’s ridiculous. She’s charged with “resisting” when the “force cell team” went to her cell to respond to her suicide attempt. “Resisting” in this case being that she was unconcious. Really.

This charge stems from the ?force cell team? being activated. They were called to respond to her suicide attempt, though there were no obstructions to the door and Chelsea was unconscious and unable to resist when they arrived. The charge sheet itself specifies on page 5 that ?Inmate Manning did not resist the force cell move team.?

And yet, she’s still charged with resisting. Next up “conduct which threatens.” That’s a pretty broad term — especially for someone who is unconscious from a suicide attempt. And yet… conduct which threatens. It seems the only thing being “threatened” here is basic human dignity. And then we’ve got another “prohibited property” claim, just like last year:

On July 6th, Gabriella Coleman?s book ?Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy? was found in Chelsea?s cell, allegedly not properly marked with Chelsea?s name and inmate number on the inside cover. (A new regulation, that appears to have been crafted in response to Chelsea?s confiscated books/expired toothpaste incident from last summer.) In fact, this book was one of the books confiscated from Chelsea?s cell last summer.

Huh? First of all, this is a great book — one that we’ve recommended and whose author, Gabriella Coleman, we’ve had on our podcast. But the fact that this was one of the books that was confiscated last year and then was still in her cell suggests the kind of messed up rules that are used to always have to charge someone with if they don’t like you. What a fucked up system.

And people wonder why Ed Snowden doesn’t think he’d get a fair trial.

It appears that Manning is resigned to the fact that she’s being railroaded and there’s little she can do to stop it.

Manning, who is serving a 35-year sentence at the US Army’s Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas, will have to defend herself at the hearing, and told VICE News she’s not feeling optimistic. “It doesn’t matter what I say or do,” she said, through an intermediary, as she’s not allowed to speak directly to the press. “The outcome is going to be the same.”

Feelings of “hopelessness and helplessness” are hard to shake, she says.

Yup, great way to “punish” a suicide attempt: to take away people’s hope even more. I’m sure that’ll work. Manning’s hearing will be held later today and, hopefully someone with some level of common sense is involved in the decision making process.



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Comments on “Chelsea Manning Facing Indefinite Solitary Confinement For Attempting Suicide, Possessing A Book On Hackers”

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45 Comments
Angel (profile) says:

Treatment of prisoners like this is all this is because we as a country have decided that Jail should be punishment and not rehabilitation. We would rather the convicted be made to suffer rather then learn from what they have done and learn how to actually be a productive member of our society.

This is beyond the question of whether Manning should/shouldn’t be serving the time.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Supposedly, any group of people subjecting someone to cruel and unusual punishment — such as psychological torture — under color of law has committed a felony. If that torture drives the victim to suicide then that felony becomes a capital crime (18 USC, 241).

Committing a felony is grounds for a court martial and dishonorable discharge, possibly incarceration in a military prison under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It certainly violates the oath to defend the constitution, since anyone who would commit acts of torture upon a prisoner meets the definition of a domestic enemy of the constitution.

Isn’t it ironic that the people who are supposed to be protecting us from evils like that are the people committing them, and only getting away with it because they and their entire chain of command are hopelessly corrupt?

Do you feel safer, being ‘protected’ by that military?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prisons and Military

Military forces have mostly reflected socially the conservative policies of the nation/culture they are embedded in.

Being a member of the American Military means the worst aspects of the American penal system.

Unfortunately for Manning If they stop punishing her they will need to say why, or at the very least someone will then ask why she is in prison, perhaps some higher rank will need to answer questions raised by the leaked documents

Anonymous Coward says:

Sounds like a B.F. Skinner experiment...

First we remove all positive stimuli: reading materials, solitary confinement driving the subject to a suicide attempt. On failure of our goal, actual suicide, we punish the subject for failure and hopefully re-inforce our ultimate objective.

TL/DR Pretty much sounds to me like they want her to kill herself and are trying their best to achieve that goal without being shown to be complicit in the fact they are doing it.

Prashanth (profile) says:

Re: Sounds like a B.F. Skinner experiment...

I was wondering about this too. Leaving aside everything else that is wrong about her imprisonment, if the goal is to prevent her from trying to kill herself, wouldn’t moving her to solitary confinement be counterproductive?
Oh wait, I forgot: this is about punishment, not prevention/rehabilitation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Sounds like a B.F. Skinner experiment...

Is it not appropriate to punish wrongdoers? I believe it is, and that’s one of the stated goals (whatever you believe the actual goals to be) of the system.

When my child sneaks a cookie when they shouldn’t, or blabs at school about private information of others at home, my response is punishment on one hand and future prevention/rehabilitation on the other hand. The result is not that I lock them in their room indefinitely and randomly bring them out to grill them and humiliate them in front of the family. I talk to them privately, assess if they understand why what they did was wrong, work on some steps they can take to fix the situation as much as they are able, and give them a token punishment that will act as a future reminder not to behave in the way they did.

Believe it or not, children are people too.

Torturing wrongdoers just brings you down to (or sometimes below) their level. It serves no useful purpose to them, you, or society as a whole.

This is not, and has never been, about punishment… it has ALWAYS been about prevention. Unfortunately, the idea is to hold Manning up as an example of what can happen, to prevent anyone else from remotely considering taking similar actions in the future. Meanwhile, there appear to be no viable alternatives that will both effect change and not end in indefinite imprisonment/punishment/torture.

And this isn’t just in the US Military; you’ll see it in other government and corporate environments too.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sounds like a B.F. Skinner experiment...

Exactly. They want her to suffer for making them look bad, both as vengeance and as an example to others as to what they can expect if they dare to do the same.

The blatantly fraudulent charges make it clear that they’re not even pretending otherwise, they want people to see what happens to those that air the dirty laundry of those in charge, along with demonstrating that they are both willing and able to completely ignore the laws or rules whenever they want to in order to inflict as much suffering as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

war on whistleblowers

This is not about prison, even though prisons should not be private and need much better regulation to stop the rampant abuses.

This is about Obama’s war on whistleblowers. No transparency, no accountability for the Executive Branch. They want to teach anyone who would blow the whistle on corruption that this is what happens to you if you do.

Anonymous Coward says:

I realize this is far more about sticking it to a “traitor” than punishing any sort of wrongdoing, but I really don’t understand how they can charge her with illegal possession of anything. She’s in military solitary confinement. Everything she has, EVERYTHING, has been searched (multiple times, I’m sure) and given to her by her jailers. If she has something she’s not supposed to have, it’s THEIR fault for giving it to her in the first place! NEVER underestimate the human capacity for self-delusion/cognitive dissonance.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh no, it’s not about delusions or dissonances. It’s about making she suffer greatly for exposing wrongdoing. Making her an example. “Look of what you’ll suffer, the cruelty and the inhumanity if you expose our wrongdoing. Are you still thinking of blowing the whistle?”.

It’s no accident, no ignorance. It’s pure evil. That’s what’s in your government.

Ninja (profile) says:

So you torture a person psychologically and physically to the point she decides to commit suicide because she can’t bear it. Then, after the attempt fails you ramp up the torture and the aggression. Let it sink for a moment. You are being tortured and violated multiple times daily with inhuman cruelty and you can’t even kill yourself to make it stop.

These people are monsters. Are the Americans ok with having monsters as their servants and representatives? Actually, I think I’m being unfair towards the monsters but I can’t think of a worse way of describing the actions of the US Government in this case.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Sadly, the step-up-the-torture candidate is still strong in the polls.

I am ashamed of my nation and species to say that yes, there are too many people too shortsighted to understand why condoning torture is a bad thing. They even endorse it on the notion that bad guys are easily delineable.

When will they ever learn / The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Peter Thiel of the Justice system

One of more of the people embarrassed by some of what was released have enough power to be causing all of this. This has nothing to do with the law at this point is is 100% about punishment. It is cruel and it is unusual, but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. If she were a war criminal, we would have to take better care of her, yet because she was convicted, they are literally killing her through their actions.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

This reminds me of a bit in Bill, The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison

Bill is at one point in isolated lockup and he notices his room has a hook on the ceiling, that and his flimsy disposable (paper) prison jumper came with a robust belt, giving him the clear option to hang himself.

And Bill smiled to himself because that meant he still had options, because someone would rather he just snuffed it. If he did, it would be tidier mess than some other he could still make while alive. Bill just needed to figure out what that mess was, and he’d have some collateral with which to negotiate his way out.

Hold on, dear Chelsea. Hold on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Whenever I read the comments on a Guardian article on Chelsea Manning, I am always suspicious that the U.S. government has “Cyber”-agents assigned to lurk there, get the first post if possible, and keep up the drumbeat of calling her a traitor. And a botnet to give them a hundred synthetic upvotes. It’s been specifically leaked that they do things like that to try to manipulate public opinion. Who else both knows the term “Five Eyes” and would use it with a positive connotation?

There was a guy on Democratic Underground arguing for the government’s policies with unusual persistence who randomly and apparently unthinkingly used pieces of Fed-speak like “Secure Reality” in a way that made it clear that where he comes from, this is part of the culture accepted without question, viewed with warm fuzzies and considered a Good Thing. He appeared to be unaware that other people do not think that way, and it might be giving him away. Are they just brainwashed military personnel who hang out there on their own free time, or is it their salaried position? And why is the number of upvotes so disproportionate to the number of people actually posting on each side? I wonder.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Ah the old "that's not really whistleblowing" trick.

By discounting what was revealed we can decide who is or isn’t a whistleblower thereby denying protections to someone who tried to reveal corruption and sedition to the public.

That way doubt is instilled in other potential whistleblowers as to whether or not their revelations will be regarded as whistleblowey enough to be worthy of protection from those entities who were embarrassed and will seek to retaliate.

That should chill them off and keep them in their proper place.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: so wheres the blowing?

Ah, but here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. This conduct and treatment of a prisoner would be inhumane and monstrous whether Manning was a whistleblower or literally the reincarnation of Hitler.

Torturing someone to the point of suicide, and then ramping it up even more afterwards is unacceptable no matter who the person is or what they have been charged with.

GEMont (profile) says:

punishment fits the crime

“Yup, great way to “punish” a suicide attempt: to take away people’s hope even more.”

Perhaps she is being additionally punished for failing to commit suicide. Perhaps the punishment is designed to add a little incentive, such that, the next time she is allowed to commit suicide, she will succeed, and erase another messenger from the ranks of the Adversary Army.

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