Chelsea Manning tried to take her own life in October, her second suicide attempt, after which she says she was subjected to a bizarre psychological attack by people impersonating prison guards who tried to persuade her to escape, The New York Times reports.
Manning attempted suicide October 4, she said in a statement dictated to a member of her support network that was provided to the Times at Manning’s request. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio, who is representing Manning, confirmed the suicide attempt to the paper. “She asked me to confirm that,” he said.
Manning, a transgender former U.S. Army private, was sentenced in 2013 to serve 35 years in military prison for supplying classified documents to whistleblower website WikiLeaks. She is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where she previously attempted suicide in July.
She was sentenced to two weeks in solitary confinement for that attempt, with a week suspended. Strangio strongly objected to the sentence, saying it would cause Manning further harm. Her suicide attempt came on her first night in solitary, according to her dictated statement. She then was placed on suicide watch in a special observation unit for several days, still separated from other prisoners.
She claims the strange attack happened during that period. “On the night of Oct. 10, her statement says, four people impersonating guards conducted an hourslong attack on the prison, during which she heard sounds indicating that the attackers were shooting and torturing her cellblock’s actual guards,” the Times reports. The impostors also tried to talk her into escaping, she says, but she refused, told them she knew they were not real guards, and huddled in the corner of her cell.
An Army spokesman told the Times no such incident ever happened. Manning, contending it was an intelligence operation, has asked the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, which audits and reviews work by U.S. intelligence agencies, to investigate. A spokeswoman for that office declined to comment on whether any investigation is occurring.
Manning had described similar occurences to Strangio, he told the paper, saying 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.”
She has objected to various aspects of her treatment in prison, including officials’ demand that she conform to male grooming standards, not female ones, on such matters as hair length, and she was punished in 2015 for having unauthorized reading material, including The Advocate. In September of this year she went on a hunger strike, which she ended after the military agreed to provide her with gender-confirmation surgery.
Manning is now back with the general inmate population, but she will be subject to a disciplinary hearing over her second suicide attempt, a member of her support network told the Times. The Army declined comment.