Name Change Approved for WikiLeaks Source
(CN) - The former soldier convicted of the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history can officially change her name from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, a judge ruled this morning.
In a statement responding to the decision, Manning said she is changing her name "because it's a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been - a woman named Chelsea."
Manning first expressed her desire to be known as a woman the morning after she was sentenced to spend 35 years in prison for her disclosure of a record-breaking trove of diplomatic cables, Guantanamo detainee profiles, Afghanistan and Iraq incident reports, and footage of airstrikes that killed civilians.
Her supporters call her a whistle-blower for exposing crimes, corruption and misconduct in how the United States fights war and conducts diplomacy abroad.
Although her critics describe her as a reckless dumper of sensitive secrets, prosecutors failed to trace a single death to one of her leaks over the course of a roughly two-year court-martial.
On the eve of her sentencing, a spokeswoman from the prison in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., revealed that the military prison did not provide medical treatment to transgender prisoners, in a Courthouse News exclusive report. Anyone wishing to send Manning a letter previously had to address the letter under her birth name.
Leavenworth County District Judge David King's approval of her petition for a name change, however, forces the prison to revisit that mail policy, a spokeswoman for Manning's support network said in a phone interview.
"The prison is bound by civil law on the name issue," spokeswoman Emma Cape said.
As for hormone therapy, Manning indicated that prison officials promised to provide treatment for her on the month of her sentencing, and then stonewalled her for more than eight months.
"In August, I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health," Manning wrote. "They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they came up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not seen yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months, I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals."
Manning's trial lawyer David Coombs has repeatedly suggested - without outright threatening - a lawsuit against the prison for denial of medical care.
He remarked at a press conference last year that he would "change" the prison's policies, and he announced through supporters that he would try to exhaust administrative remedies before taking further action.
Ft. Leavenworth officials have not immediately responded to an email asking whether they would voluntarily reconsider their policies without legal action.
An increasing number of federal and appellate courts in Boston, Chicago and Richmond have ruled that failing to provide transgender prisoners with requested treatments violates Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, provided some insight as to how Manning could seek such relief.
"If I were filing such a lawsuit, I would file in U.S. District Court where the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks is located - Kansas," Fidell said in an email.
Meanwhile, Manning noted that she is "optimistic that things can - and certainly will - change for the better."
"If I'm successful in obtaining access to trans health care, it will not only be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will also open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives," Manning added in the statement.