Chelsea Manning Found Guilty For Having Expired Toothpaste, Vanity Fair

Photo: Equinox/Rex/REX USA.
Whistleblower Chelsea Manning was found guilty of violating the rules at the Kansas military prison where she's serving a 35-year sentence for espionage. She'll receive three weeks of recreational restriction for having an expired tube of toothpaste and copies of magazines like Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan in her cell.

Aside from the restrictions — "No gym, library or outdoors," Manning wrote in a tweet — she worries that the mark on her record will add years to the time before she can move to a lower security facility or get parole.
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Initially, Manning faced the possibility of indefinite solitary confinement for the offenses, and she was not allowed to have her lawyers present at the disciplinary hearing. Manning also said that she had been barred from the prison law library by guards, leaving her unable to prepare for her appearance. The hearing was also closed to the public.

“There won’t be any transparency to how the military is treating her in this case, and that’s illustrative of how they and the US government has treated Chelsea since her initial arrest,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future told us shortly before the verdict. On Tuesday morning, activists delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to Army officials asking them to drop the new charges against Manning and to open up her hearing to the public.

“I think this is a widespread problem in all US prisons. More than 80,000 people in solitary confinement at any given time in the US,” Greer said. Human rights groups around the world define solitary confinement for more than two weeks as torture. “People can be thrown in solitary confinement with even less due process than Chelsea is receiving. It’s not a unique problem, and goes to the heart of failure of the US prison system.”

Manning's current trial has been the focus of such attention because of the vast support she receives — both from those who see her as an unjustly imprisoned whistleblower, and those who support her activism as a trans woman. Former US Army Private First Class Chelsea Manning — formerly known as Bradley — delivered nearly three-quarters of a million classified and unclassified government documents to WikiLeaks and was convicted in 2013. Her time behind bars has been fraught with problems — most notably a long fight to win the right to have hormone therapy behind bars, which she won in 2013.

Last week, Manning was charged with keeping prohibited property in her cell. According to a document Refinery29 received from the ACLU, she was faulted for having the following: expired anti-cavity toothpaste, one issue of The Advocate magazine, one issue of Out magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner cover issue of Vanity Fair, and the Cosmopolitan magazine issue featuring her own interview.

This pre-charge document also lists the following books discovered in Manning's cell: The 7 Habits on the Inside; Exploring Art; The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture; Justice for Hedgehogs; A Critique of Adjudication; Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous; Data and Goliath; A Matter of Principle; Taking Rights Seriously; Law's Empire; America, A Narrative History; Transgender Studies Quarterly, Volume 2 (Numbers 1, 2); A Safe Girl to Love; The Whiskey Rebellion; The Artificial River; and I Am Malala.

“This kind of action has the potential to chill Chelsea’s speech and silence her altogether," Chase Strangio, one of Manning's lawyers, said in a statement via the ACLU to Refinery29 today. "We are hopeful that the prison will respond by dismissing these charges and ensuring that she is not unfairly targeted based on her activism, her identity, or her pending lawsuit.”

Manning has been vocal and highly communicative with the outside world during her time in prison thus far. She maintains a Twitter account where she updates followers on the state of her case and hormone therapy, among other things; she is also a regular columnist at The Guardian, where she writes about trans-rights, social, and military issues.

This article was originally published on August 13, 2015 and updated on August 19.
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