- Kevin Gosztola
For more than two and a half years, the military has been prosecuting Pfc. Bradley Manning for allegedly releasing classified information to WikiLeaks and this Saturday, February 23, he will have been imprisoned without trial for one thousand days.
The military judge in his court martial at Fort Meade ruled on January 8 that he was punished “unlawfully” during his nine months of confinement at the Quantico Marine Brig in Virginia. He was given a 112-day sentencing credit.
In March 2012, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez released a report where he condemned how the military had imposed “seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone” who had “not been found guilty of any crime.” He stated the treatment he had endured was “a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.”
Mendez contended Manning had been held in conditions of solitary confinement, since he was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day. Judge Army Col. Denise Lind disagreed. She concluded in her ruling the government had “not held” Manning in solitary confinement because that means “alone and without human contact.” There were no doors separating him and there were regular walkthrough visits by commanding officers. He had human interaction.[The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has represented clients in solitary, criticized the judge's conclusion.]
Manning is no longer being held at Quantico. After media began to report on his confinement conditions in December 2010, supporters pushed to have him moved from the facility. Then-State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley said he believed how Manning was being treated was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” The attention his case was receiving led the military to move him to Leavenworth in Kansas on April 20, 2011, where he is now.
Remarkably, when Manning arrived at Leavenworth, he was allowed to move about without restraints for the first time in nine months. He was “concerned about it” because he was not used to being able to move freely. He went through the intake process without any shackles and expected to be subjected to the restrictive conditions he had been subjected to before at Quantico. A staff sergeant issued him some items and brought him to his cell. He entered the cell and the door closed. It was a “huge upgrade” and “completely different” from Quantico.
Throughout his confinement at Quantico, the Brig claimed to be afraid he would harm himself and they kept him on “prevention of injury” (POI) watch, a clinical psychiatric status for detainees who pose a risk to themselves. He was kept on this status even though a medical officer objected. He was also put on suicide risk twice and, when the medical officer recommended he be taken off that status, the Brig commanding officer disobeyed his recommendation.
On March 2, 2011, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes abused her authority and took Manning’s underwear away from him. Manning was frustrated with being kept on POI. He had been on the status for a long time. He was not doing anything to harm himself. He was not throwing himself against the walls or trying to drown his head in the toilet. So, he expressed to a superior officer, Master Sergeant Brian Papakie, that if he really wanted to commit suicide, he could use the waistband of his underwear. This was his way of communicating that, if he really wanted to act out, he would “generally act out.” If he wanted to hurt himself, he would use the things he had here now. But, the Brig took this statement and used it to justify keeping him in a status where he slept naked with two coarse and stiff suicide blankets for the rest of the nights that he was at the prison.
The following morning Manning stood naked at parade rest during morning count after an officer said something from an observation room that led Manning to believe he could not use his blankets to cover himself until he was given his clothing. No Duty Brig Supervisor objected to a soldier standing there naked. This was a moment that further galvanized support for having Manning moved from Quantico, and, in court, during deliberation over whether Manning was “unlawfully punished,” no officers could explain why Manning was permitted to stand naked (some even suspected he chose to stand naked because it would generate media attention).
This article originally appeared on the blog The Dissenter.