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A 2014 protest outside the White House called on President Barack Obama to free the whistleblower Chelsea Manning. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)

A 2014 protest outside the White House called on President Barack Obama to free the whistleblower Chelsea Manning. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)

Dozens of Rights Groups Ask Obama to 'End Cycle of Cruelty,' Free Chelsea Manning

Letter to outgoing president warns that U.S. military whistleblower is in danger due to the treatment she has received in detention

Lauren McCauley

With just weeks left in his presidency, the call for U.S. President Barack Obama to grant clemency to U.S. military whistleblower Chelsea Manning continues to grow increasingly urgent.

On Monday, over a dozen advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, and the National Organization for Women (NOW) sent a letter to the outgoing president reiterating the request that Manning's sentenced be commuted to "time served," as the military whistleblower is currently serving the seventh of a 35-year sentence "for disclosing classified information to the media with the intention of raising public awareness about issues she found concerning, including the impact of war on innocent civilians."

The organizations, each of which is "dedicated to working for the full equality of LGBTQ people," expressed concern that Manning, a transgender woman, is in danger due to the treatment she has received in detention, which includes solitary confinement and denial of necessary medical care.

"Since she was first taken into custody in 2010," the letter states, "Ms. Manning, a transgender woman who is being forced to serve out her sentence in an all-male prison, has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement—including for attempting suicide—and denied necessary medical treatment related to her gender dysphoria. The Army even opposed her request to use her legal name and to  be referred to by female pronouns."

"While the armed forces have finally opened the door to transgender men and women who wish to serve," the groups continue, "the government has continually fought Ms. Manning's efforts to be treated with basic dignity."

Advocates say that "this cycle of cruelty will never end, if President Obama doesn't stop it now."

The letter references the formal petition that Manning personally submitted to Obama last month in which she wrote:

The bottom-line is this: I need help and I am still not getting it. I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life. When the USDB [United Stat es Disciplinary Barracks] placed me in solitary confinement as punishment for the attempted suicide, I tried it again because the feeling of hopelessness was so immense. This has served as a reminder to me that any lack of  treatment can kill me, so I must  keep fighting a battle that I wish every day would just end.

Monday's letter is part of a broader campaign to free the whistleblower before Obama leaves office. It follows a similar plea issued last week by Amnesty International and a White House petition signed by over 40,000 people.

"Ms. Manning is the longest serving whistleblower in the history of the United States," Ian Thompson, ACLU legislative representative, said Monday. "Granting her clemency petition will give Ms. Manning a first chance to live a real, meaningful life as the person she was born to be."


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