Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Confirm Suicide Attempt

The Army had confirmed that she was briefly hospitalized, but did not reveal why

Jul 11, 2016 at 6:20 PM ET

UPDATE: Chelsea Manning’s attorneys, Chase Strangio, Vincent Ward and Nancy Hollander, confirmed in a statement that Manning had indeed attempted to take her own life. Their full statement is below:

“After not connecting with Chelsea for over a week, we were relieved to speak with her this morning. Though she would have preferred to keep her private medical information private, and instead focus on her recovery, the government’s gross breach of confidentiality in disclosing her personal health information to the media has created the very real concern that they may continue their unauthorized release of information about her publicly without warning. Due to these circumstances, Chelsea Manning requested that we communicate with the media and her friends and supporters on her behalf.

 “Last week, Chelsea made a decision to end her life. Her attempt to take her own life was unsuccessful. She knows that people have questions about how she is doing and she wants everyone to know that she remains under close observation by the prison and expects to remain on this status for the next several weeks. For us, hearing Chelsea’s voice after learning that she had attempted to take her life last week was incredibly emotional. She is someone who has fought so hard for so many issues we care about and we are honored to fight for her freedom and medical care.”

Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Chelsea Manning, currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, attempted suicide in her cell and was hospitalized.

“We are hearing these reports but have not been able to speak with her or confirm anything,” Chase Strangio, an attorney for the ACLU who works with Manning, told Vocativ Wednesday. “None of her friends or attorneys have received confirmation from her about what is happening,” he said. 

Both TMZ and CNN, quoting unnamed sources, said Manning attempted suicide—a story that was repeated widely in other outlets. An Army spokesman confirmed to Vocativ that Manning had been hospitalized early Tuesday morning and released, but would not comment on why.

A story by the Daily Dot states that its efforts to confirm reports of a suicide attempt have so far been fruitless, with one Army spokesperson saying it would violate privacy laws to go into detail as to why Manning was hospitalized and another saying he didn’t know where the media got the idea that there was a suicide attempt.

Nancy Hollander, the Manning defense team’s lead attorney, said in a statement that they were “shocked and outraged” that information about Manning would be leaked to the media when her legal team has heard nothing despite numerous attempts to reach out. Hollander added that she was actually scheduled to call Manning yesterday afternoon, but was told the call “could not be connected.”

“I now believe [that] to be an outright lie,” Hollander said. The Army will not let Manning’s lawyers speak to her until Friday at the earliest, she said, adding that her friends and lawyers are “profoundly distressed by the complete lack of official communication about Chelsea’s current situation.”

Just a few days ago, Manning, who is transgender, wrote an op-ed for the Guardian criticizing parts of the military’s decision to lift the ban on transgender people, calling it a “necessary step” but saying the policy that required recruits to be “stable” in their gender identity for at least 18 months was problematic. She also wondered if those policies would apply to people like her who are in military prison. While she was approved to receive hormone treatments in early 2015, she tweeted that her hair was still required to be cut short and follow men’s military standards, and she is still in a men’s facility.

In May, Manning appealed her sentence, calling it “grossly unfair” compared to sentences given to others who had committed similar offenses.