Pentagon tries to tamp down Manning detention outcry with media tour
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas (AFP) – Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of leaking cables to WikiLeaks, faces far less restrictive conditions after being relocated to a new prison, according to the Pentagon.
Reporters taken on a tour of the new military detention facility in Kansas were not allowed to see Manning’s eight by two-meter (26 by six-foot) cell.
However officials said that he would be entitled to outdoor recreation, unlimited pay phone use and five visits a day.
Manning, accused of passing classified documents to the whistleblowing website, was transferred here from a US Marine base in Quantico, Virginia on April 20 after what his supporters described as unnecessarily harsh conditions.
But military officials insisted during a tour for journalists on Thursday that he will interact with other prisoners and enjoy a range of services in the freshly-painted facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Manning, who had spent most of his incarceration in isolation, will be placed in “medium custody” with other inmates, officials said.
His cell contains a simple bed, a metal toilet welded to the wall, a table and a stool, a picture handed to journalists showed.
“He’ll be able to congregate and commune with the other pre-trial prisoners in the housing unit and he will have recreation during the afternoon,” Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton told members of the media.
“He will be able to eat inside the dining facility with others prisoners.”
Reporters were then led on a tour of the facility, where they saw a new gym, an outdoor football pitch and two basketball courts.
Hilton said the facility includes a library, a dental clinic, a barber shop, daily visits and unlimited pay phone use, calling it all “a huge benefit, not only for good care but for security.”
“Anything we had to do on the outside, we can do it here,” she said.
Pentagon spokesman Thomas Collins said it was “highly unusual” to allow members of the press inside the facility, but that “it is important that the public understand the condition of confinement here.”
The newly-built facility houses some 150 prisoners serving terms of five years or less, including 10 who, like Manning, are awaiting trial.
Manning, a 23-year-old Welsh-born army intelligence officer, allegedly provided WikiLeaks with a trove of hundreds of thousands of sensitive US military and diplomatic documents.
His detention at Quantico, which included not only solitary confinement but also being forced to sleep naked, drew criticism from Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and the British government.
Manning had been imprisoned at Quantico since last July.
Collins said that is not unusual for prisoners to be relocated from Quantico after brief period of internment.
“Quantico is a facility designed for much shorter terms,” he said, adding that detention at the Virginia military base runs on average “about, two, two-and-half months.”
Officials said Manning has passed a battery of psychological and physical tests inmates undergo when admitted to Leavenworth.
He will rise at 5:00 am and sleep at 10:00 pm, his day organized around meals in the naturally-lit cafeteria, housekeeping activities, visits, recreation and time in the library — without Internet access.
Bad behavior, however, would see his khaki uniform replaced with a bright orange one and reduced access to showers and recreational activities.
Prisoners can receive up to five visitors a day, provided they are not “victims or witnesses,” Hilton said, adding: “No journalists allowed.”