U.S. military officials are preventing imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning from having contact with her legal team or her friends, following unconfirmed reports that she was hospitalized after a health crisis.
Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking U.S. diplomatic cables and other official documents to Wikileaks. She “has been cut off from contact with her lawyers and all other outside connections for more than 36 hours,” the Guardian reports today, and the lack of contact is causing those closest to her to be very concerned for her well-being.
The imposed silence follows a series of online reports, based on unconfirmed rumors, about her medical condition. Some of those reports said Manning had attempted suicide. Some of her supporters condemn the reports as having been leaked by military personnel, in violation of her health privacy rights.
The army is refusing to give details about what has happened. Persistent inquiries by the Guardian have produced only a statement from the Department of Defense that said the soldier was taken to hospital in the early hours of Tuesday and has now been returned to barracks.
Officials “continue to monitor the inmate’s condition”, the statement said.
Nancy Hollander, lead attorney in the soldier’s recent appeal against her “grossly unfair” 35-year sentence, was livid that unconfirmed information about Manning’s personal medical status had apparently been leaked to the media, while her legal team were being kept entirely in the dark. “We’re shocked and outraged that an official at Leavenworth contacted the press with private confidential medical information about Chelsea Manning yet no one at the army has given a shred of information to her legal team,” she said.
Hollander also complained that a privileged legal call arranged with her client on Tuesday had been cancelled on what appeared to be spurious grounds that the call “could not be connected”.
The army has indicated to Hollander that the earliest she will be able to speak to her client is Friday morning. “We call on the army to immediately connect Chelsea Manning to her lawyers and friends who care deeply about her wellbeing and are profoundly distressed by the complete lack of official communication about Chelsea’s current situation,” the lawyer said.
Manning is a Guardian columnist (disclosure: I am, too). In her most recent piece, she wrote about the US military’s new rules allowing transgender people to serve openly in the armed forces.
Chelsea Manning's legal team is furious that the Army is denying them access to their client, while leaking rumors: https://t.co/4HgQvP1NMt
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) July 6, 2016