Chelsea Manning could face indefinite solitary confinement for possession of books and toothpaste

Chelsea Manning, currently serving a 35 year prison sentence for leaking classified information, could face indefinite solitary confinement — which is increasingly viewed as a form of torture —  for too much reading material and an expired tube of toothpaste, the Guardian reports:

The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters…

…The fourth charge, “medicine misuse”, follows an inspection of Manning’s cell on 9 July during which a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste was found. The prison authorities noted that Manning was entitled to have the toothpaste in her cell, but is penalizing her because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015”.

The prohibited property charge stems from Manning possessing what appears to be too much reading material in her cell. Authorities have confiscated Malala Yousafzi’s memoir, the novel A Safe Girl to Love, a copy of Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and the issue of Cosmopolitan that includes an interview with Manning, among other books and magazines. They have also confiscated the US Senate torture report. Individually, it is unclear as to why any of these would be prohibited; the torture report — which would seem to be the first on that list that the authorities would want to confiscate — is public and widely available.

Chelsea Manning, via Wikimedia Commons

Chelsea Manning, via Wikimedia Commons

It shouldn’t even warrant mentioning how absurd the “medicine misuse” charge is. First off, does toothpaste really expire? And if it does, wouldn’t it be the responsibility of the prison to make sure Manning has not-expired toothpaste? And if they didn’t, could that possibly be because they, too, don’t take the expiration dates on toothpaste all that seriously? And in what world does toothpaste count as medicine?

None of the reading material in Manning’s cell is a threat to anyone, and no one is claiming that Manning had made any attempt to conceal any of it. That it is now considered contraband is arbitrary, to say the least. That these arbitrary charges carry a maximum penalty of indefinite solitary confinement is cruel and unusual, to say the least.

As Chase Strangio, a staff attorney for the ACLU who is handling Manning’s dispute with the military over her health treatment as a woman, told the Guardian, there are doubts as to whether another inmate with a less-well-known name would be facing this kind of discipline, saying, “Chelsea has a growing voice in the public discussion and it would not surprise me were these charges connected to who she is.”

Manning’s supporters have started a petition for the charges to be dropped, or that her disciplinary hearing, scheduled for August 18th, be made open to the public. You can sign the petition here.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • markwaynestone

    she/It…is a traitor. If she/it released all the Hillary private server emails (classified DoS emails)…I’m sure you would of changed your opinion.

  • Butch1

    The general was definitely a traitor, but got a caress instead of even a slap on the wrist. It has been said that he even “suffered” enough by losing his job and all of the press and blah blah.” Of all the nerve! Manning is sitting in solitary and was in prison for more than a year before being sentenced and this poor general has “suffered enough?” Please spare me . . .

    Yes, there is a two-tiered system of justice in this country; one for the rich, the powerful and well placed and the other for the rest of us.

    We know which one General “Betray-us” was in and we know which won Ms. Manning was as well. I think a thirty-five year prison sentence that allows these cretins to harass you for expired toothpaste and some magazines and use “indefinite solitary confinement” as your punishment when psychologists have stated that it can cause mental illness is a crime and these people in her care should be charged with cruelty and there must be some rules under the Geneva Convention since she was tried under Military Court of Law and is being held in a Military Prison. They are stepping over the line with their torturing her. The punishment is confinement NOT torture whilst in confinement!

  • PattyJM

    I didn’t know that there WAS an expiration date on toothpaste!

    If she had toothpaste it must have come from the prison, either purchased at whatever retail store the prison operates or by the prison management. In either case I can’t see Chelsea being punished for what is not her fault.

    More troubling is the “swept food from her plate”. Was she protesting the poor quality food by making a mess? That might be a punishable offense for being disruptive..

  • Butch1

    You cannot trust a “Liar in Chief.” He needs to find sanctuary in another country and then just watch his back and live a low-key life if that is possible or undercover. The CIA will always be watching for him. One knows he’s on someone’s kill list. The media is NOT his friend and he should learn that fast. They are there to spy on him and the minute he makes a move they will warn the authorities. The only journalist he can trust is Glenn Greenwald who did his original interview.

    The only reason he hasn’t been “Droned” is because he is in Russia and a drone would be shot down on site. The minute he is in any other country, you can count on it or he will be poisoned in some way. Our country is in the revenge business; look what happened to Michael Hastings.

  • Butch1

    This is military puerile harassment from a bunch of mental children trying to break her for little things. Expired toothpaste? Really? Some magazines? really? The military is already punishing Manning by a thirty-five year sentence and all these little games are just that. These should be off the table and they should let her finish out her sentence un-molested. They are nothing but little weasels doing this to her and if they give her a sentence of INDEFINITE SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, this is against all humane treatment in the world and our country will be committing torture beyond any doubt for these silly items just to get back for her embarrassing this ego driven president. She did us a service and proved him to be a pathological liar and he could not stand it. She is being made a lesson to other whistle blowers just like what will happen if they can ever get their hands on Edward Snowden. He, yet again, embarrassed this lying president and he will get is revenge if he can get hold of him. This is President Obama’s biggest weakness; his ego.

    He should have learned from these whistle blowers and went after the people breaking the law. Instead, he punishes all whistle blowers. One can only conclude that he must be in the middle of the laws being broken.

  • Scarlatti7

    Shouldn’t Chelsea be in a woman’s prison or hasn’t he/she been castrated yet?

  • sukabi

    First off, it’s not ‘discipline’ it’s harassment, punishment for the sake of making her
    miserable. Secondly, it probably has more to do with her gender identity and her guard’s not liking it.

  • Willoughbilly

    What have you done to protect any freedoms, or are you just a consumer of freedom. Not a creator of freedoms.

  • Willoughbilly

    is the kool-aid good on your mountain top.

  • Bill_Perdue

    No lives were put in jeopardy by exposing the US military murder machine. By building opposition to the wars of the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama Chelsea manning saved lives.

    If you supported what she you would defend her right to help end the incessant wars of Democrats and Republicans. You don’t.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Chelsea is a hero in the fight against the constant warmongering of the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama.

  • Willoughbilly

    I support the principle of what he did, but not the way he did it and the lives he put in jeopardy the way he did. Kinda like a heart surgeon that can fix your heart murmer but uses a dirty rusty scalpel to do it.

  • UncleBucky

    This is torture. And Edward Snowdon ought NOT to come back under any attempt to give him amnesty, because the same would happen to him.

  • 2karmanot

    exactly so

  • 2karmanot

    Welcome to the world of the American Gulag. 2000000 and rising.

  • Indigo

    Because police state. They can do that and there’s no recourse.

  • It’s self-evident this is nothing but malicious persecution. A rather common occurrence for American prisoners, but especially for those imprisoned for political reasons.

    And before anybody jumps up and says, “Oh, but Manning revealed classified information!” — former General David Petraeus also leaked classified information, quite a lot of it, to the woman with whom he was having an affair, and received only two years probation and a fine.

    There are two systems of justice in America: One for the rich and powerful, which usually can be counted upon to give nothing more than a slap on the wrist (if even that much) for crimes. And the other which comes down like an avalanche especially on those whose ‘crimes’ involve embarrassing or pointing out the crimes of the rich and powerful.

    Ms. Manning isn’t the only victim of this country’s two-tier justice system. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/03/03/petraeus-plea-deal-reveals-two-tier-justice-system-leaks/

  • Brittney Miles

    this is so petty.

  • nicho

    She deserves a medal. She has done more to “protect your freedoms” than a lot of other people.

  • Willoughbilly

    Ok Bradsea is no hero, he deserves jail for his crimes…but expired toothpaste? Gimme a fuckin break.

  • The_Fixer

    Someone once said that prison guards are people who are too dumb to become cops (and still insist on being called “officers”), and that prison administrators are people who are too dumb to become middle managers.

    I think they’ve got something there.

    This is nothing but gratuitous “I hate you so I am gonna make your life miserable” behavior. My hope is that the people who dole out this ridiculous out-of-scale punishment for minor infractions be subject to the kind of punishment that they dole out, should they be caught doing something illegal. You better believe that they do a lot that is illegal, much like the cops.

  • CocodeRasta

    In your face, and a petition is started. I live for the day when progress can be seen far out on the horizon. For now, it is no where to be found.

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