Washington - The Pentagon is looking at transferring convicted leaker Private Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison so she can get hormonal treatment for her gender identity disorder, officials said on Wednesday.
Manning, found guilty of sending secret documents to WikiLeaks, is serving out a 35-year sentence and has asked the military to receive hormone replacement therapy to enable her to live as a woman.
Faced with an unprecedented request, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved plans to allow military inmates to be transferred to federal prisons where they can receive treatment for the condition, officials said.
Hagel instructed the Army to "evaluate potential treatment options for inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria," Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Steven Warren told AFP.
But the spokesperson said "no decision has been made on Manning".
"Whatever decision we come to is going to balance medical needs with our obligation to make sure the prisoner remains behind bars."
While there was no final approval on Manning's case, the move signalled the Pentagon was ready to take steps to allow her to receive treatment at another prison, officials said.
Any move to a civilian prison would have to be agreed with federal authorities running the facilities, officials said.
There was no precedent for a military inmate with gender dysphoria but federal authorities had a legal obligation to provide medical treatment for prisoners, officials said.
After he was convicted, Manning - formerly known as Bradley - said he wanted to live as a woman under the name Chelsea. The name change was approved last month by a local judge in Leavenworth County in Kansas.
Hagel also said earlier this week he was open to reviewing a Pentagon policy that bars transgender individuals from military service.
"Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have the opportunity, if they fit the qualifications and can do it," Hagel told ABC's "This Week" programme, in an interview that aired Sunday.
During his first term in office, President Barack Obama abolished the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that required troops to hide their homosexuality, or risk being expelled from the service.