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Chelsea Manning (born 1987) is a former US Army soldier who released a large quantity of restricted material to the public in 2010. She was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 35 years in jail in 2013. Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January 2017.
Manning, disgusted both with the homophobic policies in the military and distressed by the intelligence data she was handling, walked into work one day with a blank CD-R with the words LADY GAGA Sharpied onto the label. She put the CD in a MacBook drive, burned the copied confidential material onto the disc and mailed said disc to Julian Assange, owner of the inconveniently blunt website WikiLeaks. What Assange found was possibly the most incriminating examples of American military malfeasance since the Pentagon Papers ruined Nixon's day. Besides a collection of diplomatic cables that opened every dirty closed-door secret on the entire Western military infrastructure (including insights on the boozy sex-capades of Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi), it revealed a portrait of ground-level US troops objectively functioning as war criminals. This, of course, made a lot of people upset at Manning for spoiling their fantasy that the US military had actually been doing something right for a change.
Unfortunately, Manning's whistle-blowing technique of "copy everything and send it out without reading it" wasn't the smartest decision, and it led to the release of documents that, among other things, revealed the names of some of the last remaining Jews residing in Baghdad, where they face heavy persecution and hatred from the city's Muslim majority.
In March 2011, Manning was charged with 22 specifications, including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it was accessible to the enemy, theft of public property or records, and transmitting defense information. On February 28, 2013, a judge accepted guilty pleas to 10 of the 22 specified charges. Later that year, Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy by knowingly giving out intelligence through indirect means, and was convicted of 19 of the 21 or 22 specified charges, including theft and six counts of espionage.
Manning is a trans woman. She was assigned male at birth, and was given the name Bradley Edward Manning. Because she came out as trans roughly around the same time that she was convicted for the aforementioned releasing of classified documents, a bunch of people made noise about how she wasn't really transgender, but just trying to get out of serving time in a men's prison. This makes perfect sense, since as we all know, the surest way to avoid bullying is to pretend to be transgender.
Although this was most prominent among ordinary people on the Internet, that bastion of classy journalism Fox News was not above this sort of bullshit. Fox's Jon Scott combined it with a pathetically transparent face-saving "some might say" line:
“”You know, there are cynics out there, and maybe I'm one of them, who say maybe this is all part of a plan to get, you know, early release or parole or a new trial or something, by maintaining some kind of a ruse here that isn't necessarily the case.
|—Via Media Matters|
Some within the transgender community, one of the most vocal being Kristin Beck, are also less than thrilled with having to be put into the same category as Manning. In 2014, she successfully was granted a name change by Leavenworth County District Judge David King.
Treatment in prison
Manning was denied treatment for her gender dysphoria in prison. She sued to get treatment for gender dysphoria. Manning spent more than 9 months in solitary confinement. As a result of her mistreatment in prison, she made two suicide attempts. After her first suicide attempt, she was punished with further time in solitary confinement. She was released in May 2017.
Following her release from prison, Manning became an activist for government transparency and transgender rights, among other numerous other progressive causes. In January 2018, she ran for Senator of Maryland as a Democrat, seeking a primary challenge against incumbent Ben Cardin. Her Senate platform included the following positions:
- Abolition of ICE and CBP, and an open borders policy.
- Abolition of prisons and demilitarization and disbandment of the police.
- Dismantlement of all the United States' surveillance programs.
- Cutting military spending in half, and ending arms deals with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
- Single-payer universal healthcare.
- Universal basic income.
- Expansion of union organization and strikes, and the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and all right-to work laws.
- Permanently ending hydraulic fracturing.
- Ending the War on Drugs.
- Decriminalization of sex work and the repeal of FOSTA-SESTA.
The same month Manning announced her Senate candidancy, she came under fire for attending alt-righter Mike Cernovich's A Night for Freedom party. Among the guests were Jack Posobiec, Gavin McInnes and The Gateway Pundit's Cassandra Fairbanks (who had invited her to the party via Twitter DMs.) She later justified her attendence by stating she was infiltrating the party, and later stated she now regretted ever going to the party.
In February 2019, Manning was subpoenaed by a Virginia grand jury to testify in a US government case against Assange and Wikileaks. When she refused, she held in contempt of court and jailed in a federal detention center soon later. Much of her time in jail was her spending time in solitary confinement again, specifically 22 hours a day. When the grand jury's term expired, she was released after 62 days in jail, only to be subpoenaed by another grand jury concerning Assange and Wikileaks. When she refused to testify again, she was put back into jail for the 18-month term of the grand jury. She received daily $500 fines after spending 30 days in jail, and faced daily $1,000 fines after 60 days. She was released on March 12th, 2020 after a federal judge considered her presence to be unneeded for the case.
- Looking Forward by Chelsea Manning
- Iraq: Jews In Baghdad Live In Fear After WikiLeaks Disclosure Huffington Post
- Chelsea Manning granted name change. SBS.
- Yes, I'll get gender surgery. But I may still be punished for my suicide attempt by Chelsea E Manning. The Guardian.
- Manning v. Hagel (14-cv-1609)
- Solitary confinement is 'no touch' torture, and it must be abolished by Chelsea E Manning. The Guardian.
- Chelsea Manning made second suicide attempt, attorneys say. The Guardian.
- Chelsea Manning Sentenced to Solitary Over Suicide Attempt. The New York Times.
- Chelsea Manning is running for the U.S. Senate USA Today. Jan. 13, 2018.
- Issues - Chelsea Manning for U.S. Senate Archived on the Wayback Machine on November 5, 2018.
- Chelsea Manning says she attended far-right pro-Trump event 'to gather intel' The Guardian. January 22, 2018.
- Chelsea Manning on Her Alt-Right Partying: I Was a Spy, Not a Racist The Daily Beast. 01.26.18.
- Chelsea Manning subpoenaed to testify before grand jury in Julian Assange investigation Chicago Tribune. MAR 01, 2019.
- Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify on WikiLeaks Associated Press. March 8, 2019.
- Chelsea Manning: supporters demand release from solitary confinement The Guardian. March 23, 2019.
- Chelsea Manning Is Released From Jail, but She May Return Soon The New York Times. May 9, 2019.
- Chelsea Manning Ordered Back to Jail for Refusal to Testify in WikiLeaks Inquiry The New York Times. May 16, 2019.
- Chelsea Manning seeks relief from fines for not testifying The Seattle Times. June 20, 2019.
- Chelase Manning Is Ordered Released From Jail The New York Times March 12, 2020.