Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison term for essentially being a whistleblower and revealing US atrocities in its war in Iraq. She can be excused for feeling that it is grossly unfair that she has received such a stiff punishment while those who authorized this shameful war that has caused such immense death and misery, using lies and other deceptions to persuade the public to support them, are walking around free.
Now come reports that prison authorities are treating her harshly and threatening to put her in solitary confinement for what constitutes at most minor acts of rebellion.
Manning, a Guardian columnist who writes about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has allegedly been charged with four violations of custody rules that her lawyers have denounced as absurd and a form of harassment. 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 maximum punishment for such offences is an indeterminate amount of time in a solitary confinement cell.
Solitary confinement is an extremely harsh punishment that is considered to be a form of torture. To threaten someone with it for having a tube of prescription toothpaste that had passed its date of expiry shows the vindictive ways in which it is used. We saw that Barrett Brown was also sent to ‘the hole’ (i.e., put into solitary confinement) for what also seems to be a trivial offense.