Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Manning’
Obama’s shame is getting bigger and bigger. Yesterday, 250 of America’s most eminent legal scholars have signed a letter protesting the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning – the 23-year old soldier who was the original whistleblower to WikiLeaks. The signatories include Laurence Tribe of Harvard University, a foremost authority on US constitutional law, former professor of Obama, and backer of his 2008 campaign.
As featured extensively on the Internet (including this blog, see here, here, here and here) and lately also in the mainstream media, Manning is treated in ways that are cruel and inhumane, if not amounting to torture. He is permanently stripped of clothes during the night and public morning inspection; solitarily confined for 23 hours a day; permanently shackled during his one hour of outside-cell time; and under constant surveillance, even though he is not suicidal.
Manning’s treatment, clearly unlawful and unconstitutional, seems very much meant to intimidate future whistleblowers. All this is occurring under the watchful eye of Barack Obama. So no wonder the American legal establishment is (finally) starting to protest – including regarding the constitutionality of Manning’s treatment. Read the full letter here.
Bradley Manning is the soldier charged with leaking US government documents to Wikileaks. He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral.
The sum of the treatment that has been widely reported is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial. If continued, it may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture, defined as, among other things, “the administration or application…of… procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”
Private Manning has been designated as an appropriate subject for both Maximum Security and Prevention of Injury (POI) detention. But he asserts that his administrative reports consistently describe him as a well-behaved prisoner who does not fit the requirements for Maximum Security detention.
The administration has provided no evidence that Manning’s treatment reflects a concern for his own safety or that of other inmates. Unless and until it does so, there is only one reasonable inference: this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.
If Manning is guilty of a crime, let him be tried, convicted, and punished according to law. But his treatment must be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There is no excuse for his degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment. As the State Department’s P.J. Crowley put it recently, they are “counterproductive and stupid.” And yet Crowley has now been forced to resign for speaking the plain truth.
The Wikileaks disclosures have touched every corner of the world. Now the whole world watches America and observes what it does, not what it says.
President Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency. He should not merely assert that Manning’s confinement is “appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards,” as he did recently. He should require the Pentagon publicly to document the grounds for its extraordinary actions—and immediately end those that cannot withstand the light of day.
Some signatories: Brucke Ackerman, Jack Balkin, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Alexander M. Capron, Norman Dorsen, Michael W. Doyle, Randall Kennedy, Mitchell Lasser, Sanford Levinson, David Luban, Frank I. Michelman, Robert B. Reich, Kermit Roosevelt, Kim Scheppele, Alec Stone Sweet, Laurence H. Tribe, and more than 250 others. Check the full list here.
For more about this, read Glenn Greenwald. Also check the Bradley Manning Support Network. You can donate to Bradley Manning’s legal defence fund here.
Haha, geniaal. Dit zie ik nu pas op GeenStijl. Zat ik mij gisteren een partijtje ouderwetsch druk te maken over de reactie van minister Rosenthal op vragen van GroenLinks over een mogelijk uitleveringsverzoek van de Verenigde Staten aan Nederland betreffende Rop Gonggrijp (antwoord: zo’n verzoek wijzen wij niet op voorhand af); reageert Rop ‘ The Dude’ Gonggrijp zelf vandaag uiterst relaxed.
I think there is not much else he could have said. Was anyone really expecting him to say: “We have an extradition treaty with the US, and we have laws in place that deal with extradition requests. But if there is ever an extradition request for Gonggrijp we’ll ignore all that and we’ll tell you now that we’ll never extradite him, no matter what?
There are no new events other than the justice minister in The Netherlands providing rather obvious answers to questions from MPs. I really don’t think the minister giving perfectly predictable answers should be news. There is, as of yet, no indictment. Let alone an extradition request. (…) My lawyers and me have absolutely no idea what crime they could even charge me with. (…) So there may very well never be an extradition request, just a very long period of nothing much happening.
Nou, ja, ok. Dat is natuurlijk ook zo. Desalniettemin hoop ik dat er geen uitleveringsverzoek komt, dat als het er komt Gonggrijp niet uitgeleverd wordt, en dat als hij toch uitgeleverd wordt, hij niet geisoleerd opgesloten en onmenselijk behandeld wordt, zoals Bradley Manning.
Maar tot die tijd: chill, chill.
Zoals GeenStijl schrijft:
Die Rop, die chillt hem gewoon hard. Maakt zich hier absoluut niet druk om, laat staan boos. Nog niks aan het handje, mensen. Gewoon doorlopen. Laten we al die energie bewaren voor het moment dat de Amerikanen het alsnog in hun hoofd halen om Rop te criminaliseren. Wat Rop dus niet ziet gebeuren. Okee, dank, Rop. Orde van de dag, we komen er aan.
Terwijl in de Verenigde Staten soldaat Bradley Manning (23), de klokkenluider die WikiLeaks informatie verschafte over onder meer oorlogsmisdaden in Irak en Afghanistan, systematisch geïsoleerd en onmenselijk behandeld wordt, overweegt het kabinet-Rutte de uitlevering van internetactivist Rop Gonggrijp aan de V.S.
Gonggrijp, oprichter van Nederlands eerste internetprovider XS4ALL, is al jaren bezorgd over enerzijds de toenemende greep van overheden wereldwijd op informatie over hun burgers, en anderzijds de geheimhouding van onwelgevallige informatie. Hoewel hij niet structureel betrokken is geweest bij WikiLeaks, dat zijn zorgen deelt, heeft hij wel meegewerkt aan de totstandkoming en publicatie van de “Collateral Murder”-video – waarop te zien is hoe de bemanning van een Amerikaanse Apache-helikopter in Irak als in een computerspel onschuldige burgers en journalisten vermoordt. Een nobele daad van Gonggrijp, zou je zeggen, gezien de aard van de handelingen en de overmatige reactie van de Amerikaanse overheid op het vrijkomen van deze informatie.
Daar denkt minister Rosenthal (VVD) dus blijkbaar anders over – evenals de Telegraaf, die Gonggrijp een “linkse terreuractivist” en “Assanges adjudant” noemde. Wat Rosenthal betreft is uitlevering van Gonggrijp aan de V.S. – hoewel het Europees Parlement vragen heeft gesteld over de waarschijnlijk illegale methodes van datavergaring die de Amerikaanse overheid op onder meer Gonggrijp heeft toegepast – niet uitgesloten. Dat medewerkers van WikiLeaks door de regering-Obama stelselmatig geïntimideerd en onder druk gezet worden doet er blijkbaar niet toe. Sterker nog, Rosenthal zegt – hoewel de woordvoerder van het Amerikaanse ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken vorige maand nog ontslagen werd omdat hij de behandeling van Manning ‘belachelijk en contraproductief’ had genoemd – hier niet eens van op de hoogte te zijn.
GroenLinks-Kamerlid Arjen El Fassed noemt de antwoorden van Rosenthal ‘genânt’. Dat is nog een understatement, wat mij betreft.
Minister Uri Rosenthal sluit niet uit dat Nederland XS4ALL-oprichter en stemcomputercriticus Rop Gonggrijp gaat uitleveren aan de VS. De procedure is volgens hem met voldoende waarborgen omkleed.
Dat blijkt uit antwoorden van de Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken op vragen van het GroenLinks-kamerlid Arjan El Fassed. Sinds begin dit jaar is duidelijk dat de Amerikaanse autoriteiten onderzoek doen naar Gonggrijp. Daar wordt gekeken naar de vermeende rol van Gonggrijp bij Wikileaks.
Gonggrijp komt voor in het onderzoek naar Bradley Manning, die ervan wordt verdacht documenten te hebben gelekt. Gonggrijp zou hebben meegeholpen aan het samenstellen van de film Collateral Murder, waarin te zien is hoe vanuit een Amerikaanse gevechtshelikopter journalisten onder vuur worden genomen. Volgens Rosenthal is die video de aanleiding: “De naam van de heer Gonggrijp wordt hierbij genoemd omdat hij Wikileaks, naar eigen zeggen, heeft geholpen een video over Irak te publiceren en er een strafrechtelijk onderzoek loopt naar degene die de beelden aan Wikileaks heeft verstrekt.”
Op dit moment ligt er volgens de bewindvoerder geen aanklacht tegen Gonggrijp, maar als dat zo is dan sluit hij uitlevering niet uit. “Uit dat verzoek dient onder andere te blijken naar welke strafbare feiten onderzoek wordt gedaan, zodat de Amerikaanse strafrechtelijke belangen kunnen worden afgewogen tegen de belangen van betrokkene”, stelt Rosenthal. “Dat proces is met voldoende waarborgen omkleed. Ik sluit daarom niet nu uit dat Nederland medewerking zal verlenen.”
De uitspraak is belangrijk. Als er daadwerkelijk een aanklacht komt dan wordt niet op inhoud van de zaak getoetst, maar alleen op procedurele zaken gelet. Zo mag er nooit de doodstraf worden opgelegd. Dat er veel ophef is over de behandeling van Bradley Manning in de gevangenis, is Rosenthal niet bekend. “Met het detentieregime van de heer Manning ben ik niet bekend. Het betreft een Amerikaanse strafzaak tegen een verdachte met de Amerikaanse nationaliteit.” Vorige maand stapte de voorlichter van de Amerikaanse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken nog op, omdat hij de behandeling van Manning kwalificeerde als ‘belachelijk’ en ‘stom’.
Dat er valt te twijfelen op de manier waarop de VS met gevangenen omgaan weet de bewindvoerder wel. Nederland heeft in november 2010 vragen tijdens een soort examen voor de mensenrechten, de Universal Periodic Review, vragen over de VS gesteld. Zo zijn onder andere vragen gesteld over regeling rond seksueel geweld tegen homo’s en of eerdere aanbevelingen rond het vastbinden van vrouwen tijdens de bevalling. “Tot slot is gevraagd wat de Amerikaanse regering doet om de lichamelijke en geestelijke situatie van gevangenen in penitentiaire instellingen te verbeteren.”
Eerder werd al duidelijk dat Nederland niet in actie voor Gonggrijp willen komen, zoals de IJslanders dat wel voor hun parlementslid Birgitta Jónsdóttir doen.
Gonggrijp heeft altijd ontkend onderdeel van Wikileaks te zijn, maar is open over zijn bijdrage aan de Colleteral Murder video. Die bestond vooral uit het doen ondersteunende zaken bij het samenstellen van de video.
In een reactie zegt El Fassed de antwoorden ‘genânt’ te vinden. “Ze doen niet eens meer een poging om te verhullen dat ze hier geen aandacht aan willen geven”, vertelt hij Webwereld. “Wij zullen de minister van Buitenlandse Zaken bij het aankomend debat over mensenrechten hierover opheldering vragen.”
Even across mainstream media, President Obama is increasingly being criticized for the way in which the Pentagon has decided to treat Bradley Manning (23), the WikiLeaks whistleblower. As documented earlier on this blog (and earlier before that), Manning is under a detention regime of enforced nudity, 23-hour isolation, and constant surveillance. As he is, according to his laywer, family and friends, not suicidal, this is clearly meant to intimidate him and possible future whistleblowers.
Just three days ago, the spokesman of the State Department Philip J. Crowley publicly criticized the treatment of Manning, calling it “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”.
And how does Barack Obama react to that? By firing the guy. That’s how this president deals with criticism regarding the torturous treatment of an American citizen and soldier at the hands of the US army on American soil, after an act of whistleblowing.
As Andrew Sullivan (a longtime Obama cheerleader) has written, Obama now officially “owns” the case of the treatment of Bradley Manning. But not only Sullivan is starting to get his doubts about this president; across the media spectrum, commentators formerly supportive of Obama are voicing their concerns about his decisions. Glenn Greenwald has a nice round-up:
Denunciations of the President from his own supporters are as intensive and pervasive here as they have been for other prior incident, if not more so. Matt Yglesias wrote that “to hold a person without trial in solitary confinement under degrading conditions is a perversion of justice” and that it’s a ”sad statement about America that P.J. Crowley is the one being forced to resign over Bradley Manning.” Andrew Sullivan — writing under the headline ”Obama Owns the Treatment of Manning Now” — said that Crowley was forced out “for the offense of protesting against the sadistic military treatment of Bradley Manning,” that “the president has now put his personal weight behind prisoner abuse,” and that “Obama is directly responsible for the inhumane treatment of an American citizen.” Meanwhile, Ezra Klein previews his denunciation of the President’s treatment of Manning and Crowley by announcing that it’s his first ever lede “that isn’t about economic or domestic policy” but rather is ”about right and wrong,” and then questions “whether the Obama administration is keeping sight of its values now that it holds power.” Those strong words are all from supporters of the President.
Elsewhere, The Philadelphia Daily News‘ progressive columnist Will Bunch accuses Obama of “lying” during the campaign by firing Crowley and endorsing “the bizarre and immoral treatment of alleged Wikileaks leaker.” In The Guardian, Obama voter Daniel Ellsberg condemns “this shameful abuse of Bradley Manning,” arguing that it “amounts to torture” and “makes me feel ashamed for the [Marine] Corps,” in which Ellsberg served three years, including nine months at Quantico. Baltimore Sun columnist Ron Smith asks: ”Why is the U.S. torturing Private Manning?,” while UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman — who only last year hailed Obama as “the greatest moral leader of our lifetime” and eagerly suggested on Friday (before Obama’s Press Conference) that Crowley was speaking for Obama — mocked Obama’s defense of the Manning treatment as “clueless on the Bush level” and now says of Crowley’s firing: ”The Torturers Win One,” lamenting Obama’s overt support for a policy that is ”unconscionable and un-American and borderline criminal.”
Not all is bad for Obama though. On the Republican right, his policies are increasingly finding approval…
HotAir‘s Ed Morrissey, as but one example, lavishly praises the President’s decisions: ”The White House acted appropriately in kicking Crowley out at State, and should be commended for taking quick action,” and then defends the conditions of Manning’s detention as appropriate and necessary. It really is quite striking — and quite revealing — how, at least in the areas about which I wrote most (civil liberties, secrecy, surveillance, privacy, war, due process, detention, etc. etc.), and for many of the specific controversies on which I’ve focused (WikiLeaks, Manning, indefinite detention, Afghanistan, drone attacks, the due-process-free assassination program, legal immunity for Bush officials, state secrets, etc.), the greatest support for the President’s policies (with a few early exceptions) are found, by far, among the same faction of America’s Right who so eagerly supported the Bush/Cheney policy framework.
Watch this harrowing PBS interview with Bradley Manning’s father. Check the Bradley Manning Support Network. You can donate to Bradley Manning’s legal defence fund here.
Alex Knapp at Outside the Beltway captures my feelings exactly when he writes about the depressed feeling he gets from the ‘mainstreaming of brutality’ that is going on in the US. Now I’m not surprised about that stuff coming from Republicans; what upsets me is how Obama – Obama, of all people – has made bipartisan and acceptable that people can be held indefinitely in prisons without a trial; that American citizens can get shot abroad without a trial if they are suspected of terrorism; and that whistleblowers get treated like the worst criminals. It runs against everything that America once stood for. And what was that thing about the audacity of hope again?
I’ve been trying for the past couple weeks to write about Bradley Manning, but I can’t. It makes me sick to my stomach. The whole trend of brutality and betrayal of American ideals over the past decade makes me sick to my stomach.
We have gone from being the first country that established the principle that prisoners of war should be treated respectfully to a country that operates black sites and sends prisoners to other countries to be tortured–when we don’t torture them ourselves.
In the American Revolution, the number one cause of death for American soldiers was maltreatment and disease in British POW camps. In the Civil War, Andersonville was a cause of national outrage. In the early 20th century, the United States emphatically supported the adoption of the Geneva Conventions. In World War II, German soldiers happily surrendered to Americans in the West, knowing they’d be well treated. But in the East, they fought the Russians to the last man because they knew they wouldn’t be.
Now, in the 21st century, we send robot planes to bomb civilians in a country that’s ostensibly an ally. We have prisons where people are routinely denied basic essentials, denied due process, are maltreated and tortured. We reverse decades of tradition and not only have legalized assassination, but have legalized assassination of United States citizens.
And there’s no outrage on Main Street. There’s no outrage in Washington. There’s only outrage on the internet. And half the internet rage is coming not from the acts themselves but rather partisan bullshit surrounding them. (“You only hate torture when Bush does it!” “You only hate it when we do it to white people!” “Nuh-uh!” “Uh-huh!”)
The first time I voted in a Presidential election, in 2000 (for Harry Browne), no part of my consideration of any of the candidates had to do with whether they wished to torture people or assassinate American citizens. It didn’t have to be, because it wouldn’t cross anybody’s mind to have a position on it. Americans don’t torture. That was our position. We were a shining city on a hill. You can’t torture people in the basement if you’re trying to set an example of decency to the world.
In 2004, this became a partial voting issue, as John Kerry oh so politely pointed out that maybe throwing people into a prison might be a little wrong? Maybe? But since at the time Kerry seemed to be supporting whichever way the wind was blowing, it didn’t seem to matter as much. (In the end, I voted for “None of the Above.”)
Then in 2008, one major reason why I voted for Barack Obama was because he forcefully claimed to be opposed to such policies. And I was mad that that was actually a voting issue for me, because you’d think that not torturing people is a moral no-brainer.
But, as it turned out, Obama lied.
Now, as I look to vote in 2012, I realize that just like in 2000, no part of my consideration for any of the candidates will involve their positions on torture, war crimes, secret prisons, renditions, etc.
Because both candidates will be in favor. Without apology.
The NYT reports that Bradley Manning (23) - the American soldier who originally passed the Iraq helicopter video, the Iraq and Afghan war logs and the US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks – is being treated in an increasingly inhumane way in the cell in which he is locked up in Quantico, Virginia. He is now permanently stripped of this clothes during the night and the morning inspection, where he stands along the other detainees. This comes in addition to his 23-hour solitary confinement; his one hour of outside-cell time, during which he is shackled and must walk around all time; his deprivation of exercise; and the constant surveillance he is under. Bradley Manning, even though he is not suicidal and has acted like a model detainee (although he’s increasingly showing signs of psychological duress) has been forced to endure this treatment for the past ten months.
Four days ago, charges of ‘aiding the enemy’ have been filed against him, which could theoretically lead to the death penalty.
Let’s be clear about this: Bradley Manning’s treatment amounts to torture. Forced nudity is a breach of the standards of the Geneva Conventions, and prolonged solitary confinement is torture anyhow. And this is being done under one President Barack Obama. Manning is the person thanks to whom we know that American soldiers in Iraq shot innocent civilians from an Apache helicopter; thanks to whom we know how high the death toll of the Iraq War really was; and thanks to whom we know all those revelations from the WikiLeaks cables, that are still coming out. They even played a role in the Tunisian uprising, leading to the historic events of the past few weeks. In other words, this person is a hero if there ever was one. And yet, even though he has not been convicted of any crime, he is being handled in a manner reserved for the worst criminals in Supermax prisons (or terror suspects in Guantánamo Bay).
Here’s an excerpt from the chat logs between Adrian Lamo (the guy who turned him in) and Manning, revealing the latter’s motivations for revealing information being held secret to the public:
Manning: [B]ecause it’s public data. . . . it belongs in the public domain -information should be free – it belongs in the public domain – because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge – if its out in the open . . . it should be a public good.
Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?. . .
Manning: well, it was forwarded to [WikiLeaks] – and god knows what happens now – hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms – if not, than [sic] we’re doomed – as a species – i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens – the reaction to the [Baghdad Apache attack] video gave me immense hope; CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed; Twitter exploded – people who saw, knew there was something wrong . . . Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here. . . . – i want people to see the truth . . . regardless of who they are . . . because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
So this is how the American government treats whistleblowers. And it is all happening under the watchful eye of President Obama, who as a candidate in 2007 said the following things:
They will be ready to show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with. That we are not a country which preaches compassion and justice to others while we allow bodies to float down the streets of a major American city.
That is not who we are.
Yes we can, President Obama. Change we can believe in.
For more about this, read Glenn Greenwald. Also check the Bradley Manning Support Network. You can donate to Bradley Manning’s legal defence fund here.
OK. So what now? First, Assange may win the trial in Sweden. That’s perfectly possibly. Second, I honestly doubt he’d be extradited to the US from a EU country. That’s because on the one hand, there have been no charges filed against Assange in the US yet (as it’s not even sure he committed any ‘crime’ that’s currently in the books), and on the other hand, if there will be, there are of course serious concerns about his life and health.
The United States today ranks among the developmental countries in the world when it comes to treatment of prisoners (especially political prisoners, like Assange would be); in that respect, the US is on par with Libya and China. Just consider the treatment of detainees on Guantánamo Bay, and that of the WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning. These people are being deprived of basic human rights, being solitarily confined for months or years on end (which amounts to torture). They come out of it scarred for life. So, if European norms and values with respect to the rule of law mean anything at all, there will be no extradition to a country like the United States.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. Assange will appeal, his legal team confirmed. If this is unsuccessful, he will be extradited to Sweden in 10 days.
Assange has been fighting extradition since he was arrested and bailed in December. He has consistently denied the allegations, made by two women in August last year.
At a two-day hearing earlier this month, his legal team argued that Assange would not receive a fair trial in Sweden. They said the European arrest warrant (EAW) issued by Sweden was invalid because the Australian had not been charged with any offence and that the alleged assaults would not be legitimate extraditable offences.
Assange fears that an extradition to Sweden would make it easier for Washington to extradite him to the US on possible charges relating to the release by WikiLeaks of leaked US embassy cables.
If this was to happen, Sweden would have to ask permission from the UK for the onward extradition. No such charges have been laid, though the website’s activities are under investigation in the US.
With all the fuss about either the WikiLeaks cables or the Anonymous hacks, the fate of Bradley Manning, the 22-year old private in the U.S. Army who allegedly leaked the Apache helicopter video, the Afghan and Iraq war documents and the U.S. embassy cables to WikiLeaks, has received scarce attention.
The indispensable Glenn Greenwald, however, has a large piece about the conditions of Manning’s detention. For seven months straight, Manning has been held in solitary confinement (a treatment normally reserved for the worst convicted criminals) in Kuwait and Quantico, Virginia. He only has one hour of outside time a day, and has even been denied sheets and a pillow. He is not allowed to exercise, and is under constant surveillance to enforce this. Also, he has no access to news and current evens programs. This is based on interviews with friends and relatives, as well as a Quantico brig official.
Conceivably, even though Manning has acted as a model detainee with no disciplinary problems, he is now starting to show signs of psychological stress and exhaustion; and is treated with antidepresssants as a result. As Greenwald notes, the complete isolation of solitary confinement is considered torture by many nations. Moreover, Manning has not even been convicted of anything! Yet, he is receiving the treatment normally reserved for the worst criminals in Supermax prisons.
Please spread word of this injustice far and wide. Manning is the guy thanks to whom we know about the Apache helicopter incident, the higher death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-run United Nations espionage program, Pfizer’s smear tactics in Nigerian drug experiment trials, and so much more.
You can donate to the legal defense fund of Bradley Manning here.
- Update: MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has a segment on the inhumane conditions of Manning’s detention. Also, Glenn Greenwald appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss this.
Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, isolated entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.
Manning is barred from communicating with any reporters, even indirectly, so nothing he has said can be quoted here. But David House, a 23-year-old MIT researcher who befriended Manning after his detention (and then had his laptops, camera and cellphone seized by Homeland Security when entering the U.S.) is one of the few people to have visited Manning several times at Quantico. He describes palpable changes in Manning’s physical appearance and behavior just over the course of the several months that he’s been visiting him. Like most individuals held in severe isolation, Manning sleeps much of the day, is particularly frustrated by the petty, vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets, and suffers from less and less outdoor time as part of his one-hour daily removal from his cage.
That is plainly what is going on here. Anyone remotely affiliated with WikiLeaks, including American citizens (and plenty of other government critics), has their property seized and communications stored at the border without so much as a warrant. Julian Assange — despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime — has now spent more than a week in solitary confinement with severe restrictions under what his lawyer calls “Dickensian conditions.” But Bradley Manning has suffered much worse, and not for a week, but for seven months, with no end in sight. If you became aware of secret information revealing serious wrongdoing, deceit and/or criminality on the part of the U.S. Government, would you — knowing that you could and likely would be imprisoned under these kinds of repressive, torturous conditions for months on end without so much as a trial: just locked away by yourself 23 hours a day without recourse — be willing to expose it? That’s the climate of fear and intimidation which these inhumane detention conditions are intended to create.