Bradley Manning's Attorney on Manning's Conditions

Civil libertarians and Wikileaks advocates have protested that Bradley Manning, the suspected Wikileaker, is being held in degrading and inhumane conditions at the military base in Quantico, Va., and Manning's defense attorney, David E. Coombs, posted this update on Manning's conditions Thursday night:

PFC Manning was forced to strip naked in his cell again last night.  As with the previous evening, Quantico Brig guards required him to surrender all of his clothing.  PFC Manning then walked back to his bed, and spent the next seven hours in humiliation.

The decision to require him to be stripped of all clothing was made by the Brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Denise Barnes.  According to First Lieutenant Brian Villard, a Marine spokesman, the decision was "not punitive" and done in accordance with Brig rules.  There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning.  This treatment is even more degrading considering that PFC Manning is being monitored -- both by direct observation and by video -- at all times. ...

Coombs filed a complaint in January alleging mistreatment (Manning was kept in solitary confinement, had been stripped to his underwear and had his eyeglasses taken from him) and asking that his security level be lowered. Manning had been placed on suicide watch. At Salon, Glenn Greenwald has criticized Manning's solitary confinement as "inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation ..."

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morell defended Manning's conditions Thursday on MSNBC (video):

I wanted to see for myself. I went down with the department's general counsel. I came away impressed about how professionally the brig is run down at Quantico. There are only 30 cells in the brig down there, it's a relatively small facility, every one of those cells is identical, so the cell that Private Manning is being held in, even though he's a maximum security detainee there, one of two, is identical to the medium security detainees, the seven others there ...

It's not solitary in the sense that there's 30 people on a U-shaped corridor, so he's not in a hole, he's not away from others, he's allowed to have conversations with others on that corridor. The only difference, really, in how he's being treated, than the others, is outside of his cell. He does not take his meals in the chow hall, but nor do any other maximum security detainees. He doesn't exercise out in the prison yard, but nor do the others. He is allowed to exercise in a confined space alone, he's allowed to go to the gym if he prefers. He doesn't watch TV in the TV room, he watches in his cell--they roll a TV in front of his cell--he takes his meals in his cell, so he's not being treated differently than any other maximum security detainee, and not differently, really that much, from the medium security detainees. ...

He's been exemplary in terms of his behavior on the cell block. The issue for him, really, is he's being held in the manner he's being held because of the seriousness of the charges he's facing, the potential length of sentence, the national security implications, and also the potential harm to him that he could do to himself, or from others, frankly, who are being imprisoned there, if he were allowed to mix with the general population. So this is as much for his own good as it is because of the charges.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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