The lawyer who defended Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning against charges of leaking classified information to Wikileaks said Wednesday Manning is being evaluated in military prison for gender dysphoria, and that he’s hopeful treatment is forthcoming.
Attorney David Coombs spoke to students and faculty at Roger
Williams University School of Law, where he has taught. He said
the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has brought in
an expert to reevaluate Manning, who was diagnosed with gender
dysphoria by two Army behavioral specialists before her trial.
Coombs said the new examination is standard for the military when
a servicemember arrives at a new facility.
"They seem to be a person with the heart in the right place. They want to make sure they get the call right and they do what is in the best interest of Chelsea," Coombs told the crowd of around 150 in Rhode Island, according to the Associated Press.
"I have confidence that they're going to do an honest appraisal, so I'm hoping that when they do that, that results in that treatment," Coombs said after the event. "I think the facility is doing all the right things at this point, looking at it and not ruling anything out."
Manning, formerly known as Bradley, was convicted on 20 of 22 counts in July of espionage and other offenses -- though not the most serious charge, aiding the enemy -- for passing 700,000 documents and video of classified US government information to anti-secrecy group Wikileaks.
Following her trial, Manning said she wants to live as a woman and would pursue hormone therapy, though the military has previously said it does not provide it. She is serving a 35-year sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks, one of multiple prisons at Ft. Leavenworth.
Coombs said Manning is doing well and is focusing on options inmates are offered at the prison, including schooling and tradework.
"Manning has said, 'I feel very comfortable. I've made friends. I don't feel at all threatened,'" Coombs said.
The AP said it did not receive a response from military spokespeople on Manning’s current status.
Coombs would not call the defense a success, even though Manning could get out of prison in seven years.
"Thirty-five years is a very, very long time," Coombs said. "I always thought something under 20 would be a win for the defense."
He said he chose the trial’s legal strategy -- in which Manning pleaded guilty for 10 lesser offenses that could have resulted in 20 years maximum -- to show the presiding judge the defense was honest and reasonable, even as the prosecution made no concessions and shot for the higher offenses.
"Now, looking back on it, I don't think I'd do anything differently, but I don't think it had the impact that I was hoping that it would with the judge," Coombs said.
Manning said the purpose of leaking the diplomatic cables, Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and footage of a US Apache helicopter firing on unarmed civilians and journalists was to spur debate and expose crimes. Just before being sentenced, Manning told the court he was sorry for hurting anyone or the US. But Coombs said during the talk there was no real harm done and that Manning was not indiscriminate with the material.
Military prosecutors in the case pointed to evidence the leaks forced the government to relocate informants that had passed classified information to the US. In addition, ambassadors were recalled or reassigned based on the leaks, and some of the material in the disclosures was used by Al-Qaeda for recruitment purposes.