Chelsea Manning tried to commit suicide last month as she was starting a week of solitary confinement at the prison barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., her punishment for a previous attempt to end her life in July.
Ms. Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking archives of secret documents to WikiLeaks, disclosed the attempted suicide, which took place Oct. 4, in a statement she dictated over the phone to a member of her volunteer support network. She asked that it be sent this week to members of the network who want to keep their identities private.
Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing Ms. Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, confirmed the attempt, which raised new questions about the military’s handling of the troubled soldier, dating to when she was permitted to deploy to Iraq and kept at her post in a secure facility despite signs of erratic behavior.
During Ms. Manning’s trial in 2013, testimony showed that she had been deteriorating, mentally and emotionally, during the period when she downloaded the documents and sent them to WikiLeaks. Then known as Pfc. Bradley Manning, she was struggling with gender dysphoria under conditions of extraordinary stress and isolation while deployed to the Iraq war zone. At that time, military rules made being openly gay a ground for discharge without the college tuition benefits that were her prime motive for enlistment.
Mr. Strangio said his client has endured a long series of “demoralizing and destabilizing assaults on her health and her humanity,” adding: “I worry about the sustainability of her current conditions and her ability to keep fighting under these relentless abuses.” Mr. Strangio, who is representing Ms. Manning in a lawsuit accusing the military of refusing to adequately treat her gender dysphoria, had predicted that putting Ms. Manning in solitary confinement could exacerbate her problems.
A support network member said Thursday that Ms. Manning had been informed by the Army that it would hold another disciplinary hearing on the second attempted suicide and that she possibly faced new punishment. An Army spokesman said he was unable to comment or answer any questions about matters covered by medical information privacy rules.
In her four-page statement, Ms. Manning said she tried to kill herself on the first night of her week in solitary detention, which she was given no warning was about to begin. She was then placed on suicide watch and transferred to a special observation unit, called Alpha Tier, where she continued to be held in solitary confinement, it said.
Most of her statement was devoted to a detailed account of a bizarre sequence of events she said took place several days later.
On the night of Oct. 10, according to her statement, four people impersonating guards conducted an hourslong attack on the prison, during which she said she heard sounds indicating that the attackers were shooting and torturing her cellblock’s actual guards.
These attackers tried to induce Ms. Manning to escape, she said in her statement. Instead, as the night unfolded, she hid in the corner of her cell, telling the impostors she knew they were not actual guards, it said.
At 6 a.m. on Oct. 11, a regular shift of guards familiar to Ms. Manning arrived, and “everything returned to normal, except that several correctional specialists were deep cleaning the entirety of Alpha tier with Pine Sol and bleach,” the statement concluded.
The Army spokesman denied those events had taken place. Mr. Strangio said that Ms. Manning had described them to him in phone calls and that he “couldn’t comment on any of these experiences because I don’t understand them.”
He added, “I am going to visit her later this month due to continuous concerns that she is not getting the health care she needs.”
Ms. Manning has also filed a complaint with the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General asking for an investigation into the incident, on Oct. 17. She said she believes it was an intelligence operation intended to torment her psychologically and induce her to commit a crime.
A spokeswoman for the office of the inspector general said it was policy not to comment on the existence or nonexistence of any whistle-blower complaints or investigations.
Since her suicide attempt in October, Ms. Manning, 28, has been released from the special observation unit and returned to the general inmate population, and can again receive mail and make phone calls. Still, two members of the support network said Ms. Manning had told them that she continued to see the attackers who posed as guards around the prison until Oct. 27.
Dr. Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist who is a specialist in the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement, said it was a mistake to subject people who have exhibited irrational behavior to the stresses of isolation the way the military does in punishing suicidal inmates by placing them in solitary confinement.
Dr. Grassian cautioned that he did not know Ms. Manning and had not examined her, but said that a classic symptom experienced by inmates held in solitary confinement, especially if they were fragile to begin with, is a form of delirium whose characteristics include hallucinations, paranoia, intense agitation and confusion.
While in Iraq, Ms. Manning was cited for responding with disproportionately angry outbursts when she was chastised over minor misconduct; went “catatonic” at times while talking; and was found in the fetal position with a knife, witnesses said. Yet her supervisor never pulled her from the secure facility where she had access to classified information or recommended filing a report that could have revoked her security clearance.
That supervisor, then a master sergeant, was demoted for failing to alert commanders of the warning signs. At Ms. Manning’s trial, he testified that he was reluctant to do more than refer her for mental health counseling because she was performing valuable analysis of intelligence about Shiite insurgents that was helping to save soldiers’ lives.
After her arrest, Ms. Manning was flagged as a suicide risk and held in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. She was placed under austere conditions that the military said were necessary to prevent her from harming herself even after military psychologists said it was no longer necessary. A military court-martial judge later ruled the move had been unlawful, and after a high-level Pentagon intervention, she was transferred to Fort Leavenworth.
After her conviction, she announced that she wanted to be known as Chelsea Manning and referred to by female pronouns. In 2014, she legally changed her name from Bradley to Chelsea. In response to a federal lawsuit, the military began letting her receive hormone therapy, but houses her with male inmates and does not let her grow her hair.
Ms. Manning’s 35-year sentence is the longest ever imposed for providing government secrets to the public. The documents she disclosed, which made her a hero to open-government activists, included diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world, incident logs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, intelligence dossiers about Guantánamo Bay detainees and a video of a helicopter airstrike in Baghdad in which two Reuters journalists were killed. WikiLeaks made them public, working with various news organizations, including The Times.
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