Actress Michelle Hendley portrays WikilLeaks whistleblower’s voice due to prison restrictions barring her from speaking directly to press
WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning has released a podcast where she tells her story in her own words.
The recording was produced in collaboration with Amnesty International and voiced by actress Michelle Hendley. Due to prison restrictions, Chelsea is barred from speaking to any members of the press directly, or being recorded during her incarceration, so actress Michelle Hendley (known for her performance in Boy Meets Girl) has lent her voice to Chelsea’s words for this episode of Amnesty’s series "In Their Own Words.”
Find the podcast here: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/chelsea
See Chelsea’s tweet about it here: https://twitter.com/xychelsea/status/695553686261489664
"I have to say, I cried a few times listening to this. Hearing her speak, and tell the story. She sounds like me. It sounds like the way I would tell my story," Manning said of Hendley’s voice in a phone conversation with Evan Greer of Fight for the Future, a digital rights group that has been supporting the transgender whistleblower who is currently serving a 35 year sentence in an all male military prison for exposing some of the U.S. government’s worst abuses.
"I feel like I’ve been stored away for all this time without a voice or the ability to show my love and support to the folks who need it. I feel like there’s so much of a contribution to society that I could be making. I spend every day looking forward to the hope that one day I can give that a go," Chelsea says in the podcast.
Amnesty International explains on their website how the project came to be, “Chelsea wrote to us and told us about her life in prison now, as well as the back story – how she came to be who she is and do what she did.”
“She is spending decades in prison because she shared information that she thought could shed a light on potential abuses and prompt meaningful public debate on the conflict…Meanwhile, the US government has not investigated the abuses she exposed – while Chelsea has paid a high price for putting that information in the public realm,” Amnesty writes.
The podcast begins in Chelsea’s birthplace of Crescent, Oklahoma, and winds its way through her challenging life as a teenager, through to her time in the Army, and her current home of the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. We are able to understand a bit better about why she joined the Army in the first place, to come to the aid of her country, and then how disillusionment soon followed, when she realized how badly the Iraq war was being mismanaged, resulting in often lethal results for the citizens of Iraq. As she explains:
“These were real people living in real places. When we made mistakes planning operations, innocent people died. When we failed to see the small scale and the big picture as being connected, then our operations wouldn’t flow very well and innocent people would get caught up in detention for weeks or years because of a minor mistake that we made. It often became a burden for me when we made mistakes or overlooked things like the Iraqi government detaining people under false pretenses, and torturing their citizens because they wanted to make an example. A part of me still takes their suffering personally.”
We are also given a glimpse of Chelsea’s current life in prison, where she remains hopeful and tries to make the best of her situation, writing columns for the Guardian and acting as a leader in movements for transgender justice and government accountability.
The podcast comes after a series of recent attempts by the U.S. government to interfere with Chelsea’s ability to speak out, including threatening her with solitary confinement last year for minor prison infractions including possession of LGBTQ reading material and an expired tube of toothpaste. Fight for the Future and other groups quickly gathered more than 100,000 signatures calling for no solitary for Chelsea, and later sent Chelsea more than 5,000 birthday cards from supporters.
Manning’s case is set for an appeal in coming months, and many civil society groups plan to continue supporting her and demanding her release.