The Pentagon is considering transferring Pvt. Chelsea Manning, convicted of leaking national security materials, to a civilian prison for treatment of her gender disorder, officials confirmed on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Saudi Arabia, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John F. Kirby said the Defense Department is considering a request to transfer Manning, formerly known as Bradley. Kirby spoke with reporters who were traveling with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Jidda.
“The Secretary approved a request by Army leadership to evaluate potential treatment options for inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” Kirby stated.
According to the Associated Press, which reported on the transfer, Hagel last month gave the Army approval to try to work out a transfer plan with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which provides medical treatment to transgender people.
Manning, formerly named Bradley, was convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The soldier, who worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010, has asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman.
Manning was sentenced in August to 35 years in prison for giving WikiLeaks more than 700,000 secret military and U.S. State Department documents. An Army general later upheld the convictions, clearing the way for an appeal at the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
After he was convicted, Manning successfully sought a name change to Chelsea to reflect his desire to live as a woman. Manning has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man’s body.
Dealing with such issues is a problem for the military because transgender people are not allowed to serve in the military, so getting treatment is a problem. Manning is serving her sentence at the military prison in Leavenworth, Kan.
The transfer request was condemned by Manning’s lawyers, who want Manning to be treated at a military facility for security reasons.
“The Pentagon’s strategic leak of this story to the media is a transparent attempt to pressure Chelsea into dropping her request for needed treatment under the artificial guise of concern for her medical needs,” David Coombs, Manning’s lawyer, said in a statement posted on his website. “It is common knowledge that the federal prison system cannot guarantee the safety and security of Chelsea in the way that the military prison system can.”
On Sunday, Hagel said that the prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the armed forces “continually should be reviewed.”
In a television appearance, Hagel didn’t 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.”