In an unprecedented move, the Pentagon is trying to transfer convicted national security leaker Private Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison so she can get treatment for her gender disorder, defense officials said.
Manning, formerly named Bradley, was convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks. The soldier has asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman.
The request was the first ever made by a transgender military inmate and set up a dilemma for the US Department of Defense: How to treat a soldier for a diagnosed disorder without violating long-standing military policy.
Transgender people are not allowed to serve in the US military and the defense department does not provide such treatment, but Manning cannot be discharged from the service while serving her 35-year prison sentence.
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last month gave the army approval to try to work out a transfer plan with the US Federal Bureau of Prisons, which does provide such treatment, two Pentagon officials said on condition of anonymity.
The two agencies are just starting discussions about prospects for a transfer, the two officials said.
The army has a memorandum of agreement with the Bureau of Prisons for use of several hundred beds and has sent an average of between 15 and 20 prisoners a year to civilian prisons, but circumstances are different in Manning’s case.
The army normally transfers some prisoners to federal prisons after all military appeals have been exhausted and discharge from military service has been executed.
Cases of national security interest are not normally approved for transfer from military custody to the federal prison system.
The former intelligence analyst was sentenced in August last year for six Espionage Act violations and 14 other offenses for giving WikiLeaks more than 700,000 secret military and US Department of State documents, along with battlefield video, while working in Iraq in 2009 and 2010. An US general later upheld the convictions, clearing the way for an appeal at the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
After the conviction, Manning announced the desire to live as a woman and to be called Chelsea, a name change that was approved last month by a Leavenworth County district judge and that the military did not oppose.
The soldier has been diagnosed by military doctors multiple times — including last fall after arriving at the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, prison — with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man’s body.
By November last year, a military doctor there had approved a treatment plan, including hormone therapy, but it was sent higher up the chain of command for consideration, according to a complaint filed by Manning in March over the delay in getting treatment.
The plan the military was considering has not been publicly released, but Manning said in the complaint that she had specifically asked that the treatment “plan consider ... three types of treatment.”
Those were “real life experience” — a regimen in which the person tries dressing and living as the sex they want to transition to (something not possible in the Leavenworth men’s facility); hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery.
Hagel on Sunday said that the prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the armed forces “continually should be reviewed.”
He did not indicate whether he believes the policy should be overturned, but said “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”
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