The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention

by on December 17, 2010 · 15 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Peace Movement, War and Peace, World News

Bradley Manning - the real hero of WikiLeaks?

Editor: While the world and the media focus on Julian Assange and his recent release from British custody, Bradley Manning – the US Army GI who is accused of leaking the documents that WikiLeaks has released – languishes in military solitary confinement. Let’s not forget about Manning.

By Glenn Greenwald / Salon / December 15, 2010

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, 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.

Just by itself, the type of prolonged solitary confinement to which Manning has been subjected for many months is widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture. In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article — entitled “Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?” — the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, “all human beings experience isolation as torture.” By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person’s mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that “solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

cahlo December 18, 2010 at 7:27 am

pfc manning should have thought about this before he commited the treasonous acts………


Goatskull December 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

He probably did. The question whether or not he was justified in what he leaked. I’m on the fence with this. Did he put the lives of American troops at further risk? Did he leak top secret information of American troops knowingly killing innocent people? Those are things that have to be weighed out no?


Gary Ghirardi December 20, 2010 at 6:41 am

Who are responsible for treason Chalo are those who commit illegal wars and violence against democracy. Those are the real criminals. In a democracy the citizens may invoke a right of revolution in the face of the destruction of those rights. It is the right or duty, variously stated throughout history, of the subjects of a nation to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests.


RB December 20, 2010 at 9:09 am

In a democracy, we have elections to determine government policy.
In the military, privates don’t determine policy.
I missed were you see the right of revolution in the our Bill of Rights.
Perhaps this is in some pamphlet you failed to reference.
Beware of all extremes, they promote their own interest not the common good.


Gary Ghirardi December 20, 2010 at 9:30 am

Elections do not guarantee to protect a citizenry from tyranny. The right of revolution is a historical concept not from the Bill of Rights but from history extending to Ancient China, the Islamic Quran, and the Magna Carta for the English based in the just concept of overthrowing a bad ruler. For the U.S. Colonial Americans referenced as a right and duty to overcome the Tyranical King as a “natural right” not as a right of first redress or of an individual but of a society as an ultimate response to redress governmental corruption and repression. The Declaration of Independence is a document that asserts the right of revolution for the colonists attempting to assert their reasoning of this right as a natural law.

Many U.S. States, like the following from Pennsylvania, had similar constitutions that asserted this right similarly”

“All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.”


RB December 20, 2010 at 9:53 am

And the people exercised their power in the last two election. We have a President who is leading our effort in Afghanistan and a new democratically elected congress. The extremes have been rejected once again. The extreme views of both the far right and far left are the new tyranny the people face.

Merry Christmas


Gary Ghirardi December 20, 2010 at 10:55 am

The American people vote with a sense that they are participating in elections that will make a difference, that are democratic, but seem to be blind to how their government behaves internally and externally once the election is over. Should I hold you responsible, RB, for your vote, if your choice commits war crimes or violates international law? How about right now in Russia, or Congo, or Venezuela, Afghanistan, or any place that is not your place for that matter? Would you shed a tear if another “dictator” falls down because Obama just gives another speech about Democracy and Freedom and Our destiny as the world’s greatest nation while his Secretary of State and Ambassadors and Pentagon and CIA figure out how to manipulate the world like clay to further the interests of ….who? Democracy has never been a strong suit of Americans. It is just a word that makes people jump like puppets without demanding to see the walk. Read those Wiki-leaks instead of burying your head in your lack of history. The right of revolution is at bottom the natural right of preservation.


Gary Ghirardi December 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

Take a read from Wikileaks RB


RB December 20, 2010 at 11:20 am

I am not surprise that you worry about Chavez.
These are difficult time for all socialist and their discredited theories.


Gary Ghirardi December 20, 2010 at 11:35 am

I have learned what real democracy looks like walking in Venezuela. You won’t because you are afraid to look. What is discredited is the United States of America as an honest arbiter of democracy as evidenced by the Wiki-leaks revelations. There will always be difficult times for socialist living in a world where rich people hide behind the a shield of democracy while they work every sadistic intrigue to subvert populist governments.


Marilyn Steber December 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Okay, what exactly did he “leak”? Was that the action where American soldiers shot and killed civilians? The video taken by helicopter?
I’ve been searching for the charge sheet and it isn’t very clear to me what specificly he is charged with.


Old Hermit Dave December 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Yet he doesn’t even look Muslim. Are they by chance converting him to Islam so they can put him in Gitmo? Is it possible he once worked for Omar’s Cave Dialysis Company in Afghanistan and knew Osam Bin Laden? There must be some way they can tie this kid to 9/11/01 and then who will care what they do to him.


Goatskull December 20, 2010 at 11:42 am

As I mentioned before I am kind of on the fence about this. The simple fact is there are very strict rules and regulations about leaking classified info to the public, even if that info is clear evidence of military personnel committing murder against civilians and as an intelligence specialist PFC Manning is well aware of this. I’m sure he knew and understood the risk he took. We pretty much now have to wait and see when he does finally get his day in court (or court martial rather). While that tape obviously shows military people filling innocent civilians and even woo hooing and high fiving each other, did leaking that tape put further danger to troops out there. I don’t know. Maybe sometimes doing the right thing comes with a heavy price tag. I am going to wait and see and judge for myself with he finally stands trial.


Goatskull December 20, 2010 at 11:45 am

“While that tape obviously shows military people filling innocent civilians”

Oops I meant killing, not filling.


James December 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

If he broke the law he should pay the price. What that price is? not sure’


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