WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is trying to transfer convicted national security leaker Pvt. Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison where she can get treatment for a gender-identity condition. But her lawyer said Wednesday that a move from a military prison would make Manning choose between the treatment and her safety.
Two Pentagon officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave the Army approval last month to try to work out a plan to transfer Manning from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to a federal prison. Manning entered the Army as a man named Bradley.
The officials were not authorized to speak on the record and discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.
Manning has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man's body. Civilian prisons can provide treatment, but the Defense Department does not, and a transfer would allow her to see if she wants to complete the transformation to being a woman.
Transgender people are not allowed to serve in the military.
Manning was convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The soldier has asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman.
The request was the first by a transgender military inmate and set up this dilemma for the department: how to treat a soldier for a diagnosed disorder without violating long-standing military policy. The military has also repeatedly argued that it does not have the medical expertise to provide treatment for gender dysphoria.
Manning cannot be discharged from the service while serving her 35-year prison sentence.
Her lawyer, David Coombs, contended that civilian prisons are not as safe.
Coombs said "any military facility would be acceptable." In a statement, he said "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."
Defense officials say the Army is expected to meet with the Justice Department this week to discuss the matter. The Justice Department declined to comment on the Manning issue.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the Constitution requires that prisoners be given medical treatment. "The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment against any prisoners," she said. "It doesn't matter if she's requesting treatment for gender dysphoria or a broken leg. They have to treat her. And it is cruel to withhold medical treatment."
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said no decision to transfer Manning to a civilian detention facility had been made. "Any such decision will, of course, properly balance the soldier's medical needs with our obligation to ensure Pvt. Manning remains behind bars," he said.