Details Emerge on Imprisonment Conditions for Alleged WikiLeaker

Bradley Manning been in solitary confinement for five months, starved for news, sleep deprived, and getting carpet burn from his blankets, according to one who visited him

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WikiLeaker Bradley Manning's confinement is not quite as cushy as that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is under house arrest in an ornate British mansion. Manning is in solitary confinement at a military prison in Quantico, Virginia, and is permitted one hour of exercise a day--walking in figure eights in an empty room. (Sit-ups are forbidden.)

The military says Manning is being treated like any other prisoner--with chances to exercise outdoors, access to TV and newspapers--and that he has "adequate bedding," an assertion at odds with Manning's description of weird, heavy, carpet-like blankets. David House visited Manning at Quantico and, writing at FireDogLake, insists that "that the Pentagon’s public spin ... sharply contradicts the reality ... In his five months of detention, it has become obvious to me that Manning’s physical and mental well-being are deteriorating." House explains that Manning is under a Prevention of Injury order, which is typically given to soldiers when they move to a new facility and lifted when they pass a psychological evaluation. But Manning's been under a POI for five months, and is not considered a suicide threat.

Meanwhile, UN is looking into whether Manning's treatment constitutes torture. The current debate:

  • More Details of Manning's Treatment  Salon's Glenn Greenwald, who first reported Manning's condition last week, continues his coverage. Requirements include that
Manning respond to guards all day, every day, by saying 'yes' every 5 minutes (even though guards cannot and 'do not engage in conversation with' him); and various sleep-disruptive measures (he is barred from sleeping at any time from 5:00 am - 8:00 pm, and, during the night, 'if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him'). ... It may or may not fall short of actual torture -- it's good that the U.N. will now formally investigate that question -- but either way, it's designed to degrade both Manning's psyche and resistance to incriminating WikiLeaks and is highly likely to achieve both.
  • If He's a Suicide Risk, He Should Be in a Hospital  Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice who teaches at Yale Law School tells The Huffington Post's Daphne Eviatar that if these conditions are being enforced because the Pentagon thinks Manning might kill himself, then "he should be in a hospital rather than a brig." Fidell added that the WikiLeaker's treatment is "not customary."
  • This Is Torture, Xeni Jardin says at Boing Boing. "The sleep deprivation, movement deprivation, solitary confinement, and other elements of his current condition amount to torture, by widely accepted definitions. "
  • This Isn't Torture, John Cook writes at Gawker in a forceful rebuttal:
[T]he bottom line is that there is nothing even remotely unusual about the conditions under which Manning is currently confined. ... It is a distressingly routine technique. To the extent that it is inhumane, illegal, unconstitutional, and violative of international law--which it may be--there are thousands of people in line ahead of Manning awaiting their U.N. investigations. And to use the word 'torture' to describe Manning's treatment--based on what we know so far--undermines the noble effort over the past decade by people like Greenwald to define that word in a way that criminalizes the perverse techniques employed by the Bush Administration. Even those who argue that solitary confinement is indisputably torture acknowledge that the confinement must be lengthy in order to qualify. Manning has been imprisoned for six months. You are not being tortured if you are denied access to a newspaper.
  • Julian Assange Is a Distraction, argues Matttbastard at Comments from Left Field. "Seriously, how much real estate and bandwidth has been wasted ... on the romantic, straight-from-a-lost-Neal-Stephenson-manuscript exploits of this psuedo-revolutionary hacker messiah?" Manning is the real story here, he asserts. "That what Manning is enduring is not necessarily abnormal within the US military prison system is no excuse, but rather a further indictment of DoD policy."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.