Chelsea Manning Attempted Suicide in Jail, Is Recovering, Lawyers Say

Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning speaks to the press ahead of a Grand Jury appearance about WikiLeaks, in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 16, 2019.
Former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning speaks to the press ahead of a Grand Jury appearance about WikiLeaks, in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 16, 2019.
Photo: Getty

Imprisoned activist and former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning attempted suicide on Wednesday in the Alexandria, Virginia, jail where she’s been held for a year following her refusal to testify before a federal grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

Advertisement

Manning’s legal team confirmed the incident in an statement to Gizmodo. She is currently in the hospital and is recovering, they said. Manning was scheduled to appear before a judge on Friday regarding a motion to terminate the sanctions she’s faced for refusing to testify.

Advertisement

U.S. prosecutors are attempting to “coerce” Manning into testifying about her past association with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by keeping her in jail. Assange, who has been detained in London for nearly a year, is currently battling extradition to the U.S. where he faces an 18-count indictment, including alleged violations of the Espionage Act, for publishing documents leaked by Manning in 2010.

Manning, who previously served seven years in a military prison for the leak, has stated her ongoing defiance stems from a contempt for the grand jury process itself. In a letter to Judge Anthony Trenga last year, Manning said she objected to the grand jury “as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers who serve a crucial public good.”

“I have had these values since I was a child, and I’ve had years of confinement to reflect on them,” she said. “For much of that time, I depended for survival on my values, my decisions, and my conscience. I will not abandon them now.”

Trenga ordered financial sanctions against Manning last summer in addition to her confinement. The fines she’s accrued now total more than a quarter-million dollars.

Advertisement

In a statement, Manning’s lawyers said:

Ms. Manning is still scheduled to appear on Friday for a previously-calendared hearing, at which Judge Anthony Trenga will rule on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from her May, 2019 refusal to give testimony before a grand jury investigating the publication of her 2010 disclosures.

In spite of those sanctions — which have so far included over a year of so-called “coercive” incarceration and nearly half a million dollars in threatened fines — she remains unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse.

Ms. Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself.

Advertisement

In November, Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, labeled Manning’s reported treatment a “deprivation of liberty” and said the “open-ended, progressively severe” penalties she’s faced fulfill “all the constitutive elements of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The motion to lift the sanctions against her filed by Manning attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen last month included a sealed report by psychologist Dr. Sara Boyd of the University of Virginia Forensic Clinic. In it, lawyers said, Boyd finds that Manning is “constitutionally incapable” of acting against her conscious.

Advertisement

Per the motion, the sealed report reads, in part:

“Ms. Manning exhibits longstanding personality features that relate to her scrupulousness, her persistence and dedication, and her willingness to endure social disapproval as well as formal punishments. She also has a tendency to see issues in black and white terms with regard to ethical and values-based judgment. These personality features are not likely to be modified by any intervention.”

Advertisement

Manning attempted suicide twice in 2016 while imprisoned for leaking archives of secret diplomatic cables and battlefield reports related to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her 35-year sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in one his final acts of office.

This a developing story. It will be updated.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Advertisement

Senior Reporter, Privacy & Security

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

gasolineisforhobbies
GasolineIsForHobbies

Not saying she is right or wrong, but for clarity, she is not facing any possibility of any jail time herself based on anything she testifies to. If there was a possibility of prosecution based on her testimony, it could not be compelled, and she wouldn’t be held in contempt.

I happen to think no matter what you think about the wisdom of a certain investigation, you have an obligation to comply with the procedures of the justice department. If you are called to testify, you have to testify. If you don’t want your testimony to be used against somebody else, than you can refuse, but you’ll be held in contemp.

Contempt is the really the only power courts have to enforce their rulings. Without it, the entire system is toothless. A strong judiciary is critical to a functioning democracy.