In a recent interview, the soldier accused of leaking documents to secrets website WikiLeaks disputed an official account of the conditions of his confinement.
US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning told Firedoglake’s David House that claims that he is allowed exercise, proper bedding and access to news are simply untrue.
Manning has been been held at the Quantico brig in solitary confinement for five months. For two months prior to that, he was detained in a military jail in Kuwait.
In mid-December, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald noted that the conditions in which Manning is held “constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.” Greenwald based his assertion on statements made by by Quantico brig official Brian Villiard.
The next day, the Quantico information office disputed Greenwald’s findings. “A maximum custody detainee is able to receive the same privileges that a detainee classified as general population may receive. … A maximum custody detainee also receives daily television, hygiene call, reading and outside physical activity without restraint,” they said.
According to Villiard, Manning is allowed to receive one hour of television per day and view any of the “available channels.” Villiard also said that Manning is allowed one hour of recreation per day. “Activities may include calisthenics, running, basketball, etc,” he claimed.
Manning told House that he had not been outdoors in four weeks and is only allowed to walk indoors for one hour a day. “When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he did indeed receive exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise,” House wrote.
With regards to the claim that Manning is allowed access to newspapers and current events, Manning laughed and said he has not been able to read a newspaper since he has been there. He does get television privileges for one hour a day, but has never seen a news broadcast on the “available channels.”
While Jeff Paterson, the man that runs Manning’s legal defense fund, observed that Manning’s solitary confinement is consistent with a suicide watch, Quantico’s mental health officials have said he is not a suicide risk. Quantico refers refers to the treatment as a prevention of injury (POI) order.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs appealed for a change in conditions.
When he was first arrested, Manning was put on suicide watch, but his status was quickly changed to “Prevention of Injury” watch (POI), and under this lesser pretense he has been forced into his life of mind-numbing tedium. His treatment is harsh, punitive and taking its toll, says Coombs.
Both Coombs and Manning’s psychologist, Coombs says, are sure Manning is mentally healthy, that there is no evidence he’s a threat to himself, and shouldn’t be held in such severe conditions under the artifice of his own protection.”
As a part of the POI order, Manning receives special “non-shreddable” bedding. “I’ve held it, I’ve felt it, it’s soft, I’d sleep under it,” Villiard told The Daily Best.
But the Manning compared the bedding to a lead X-ray apron that has the texture of coarse carpet. “He stated explicitly that the blankets are not soft in the least and expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns,” House said.
House concludes that Manning’s POI order should be lifted immediately and is asking his readers to sign a letter that he plans to deliver to the Quantico brig next month.
Speaking to MSNBC Wednesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called Manning a political prisoner.
“If we are to believe the allegations, then this man acted for political reasons,” he said. “He’s a political prisoner in the United States. He has not gone to trial. … Human rights organizations should be investigating the conditions under which he is held and, really, is there due process there?” Assange said.
The United Nations office that deals with torture issues on Wednesday said that it is investigating a complaint over Manning’s detention.