WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is trying to transfer convicted national security leaker Pvt. Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison so she can get treatment to transition to a woman, a Defense official said Wednesday.
The soldier, formerly named Bradley Manning, was convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The Associated Press first reported Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's decision to move Manning early Wednesday.
The Army has asked the Pentagon to approve moving Manning to a federal prison. Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence and is eligible for parole in seven years.
The soldier has asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman. Transgenders are not allowed to serve in the U.S. military and the Defense Department does not provide such treatment. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, does provide the treatment for veterans.
Granting Manning's request is the humane thing to do, said Allyson Robinson, policy director for SPARTA, an advocacy group for LGBT troops and veterans.
"It is the constitutional right of every American to be spared cruel and unusual punishment for their crimes," Robinson said. "The Pentagon's decision reflects their acknowledgement that the treatments Manning requires are medically necessary, and that withholding them would be cruel and unusual, a violation of her Eighth Amendment rights. We should expect an institution charged with defending our Constitution to do no less."
On a website dedicated to Manning's defense, Manning wrote recently that she was waiting to receive health care for gender issues.
"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."
At Manning's trial last year, her attorneys argued that she had been disillusioned by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and believed the release of the documents, including diplomatic cables and military reports, should be seen by the public. Prosecutors called the leaks, which vaulted Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks organization to international prominence, treasonous.
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated that he was open to reviewing the Pentagon's policy of automatically discharging transgender troops. A review is the first step in changing or scrapping military policies.
Recent research could support Hagel if he chooses to overturn the policy. A report by former U.S. surgeon general Joyceyln Elders, sponsored by a LGBT advocacy group, noted that denying transgender troops hormone treatment is inconsistent with treatment offered to other troops.
The report estimates that there are 15,000 transgender troops in the ranks.
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Contributing: Associated Press