PJ Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs at the US state department and a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, has ‘launched a public attack on the Pentagon’ over the treatment of Bradley Manning, says the Guardian. Manning is the soldier accused of passing thousands of secret government documents to WikiLeaks. He was arrested last year after he revealed that he had leaked video of a helicopter attack that killed two Reuters photographers and Iraqi civilians, and also some 260,000 diplomatic cables and intelligence reports. Last week, Manning was accused of an additional 22 charges, including ‘aiding the enemy,’ a crime that can carry the death penalty.
Since July, Manning has been held in solitary confinement in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va; he is condiered a maximum security detainee and is under a special set of restrictions intended to prevent self-injury, though his supporters say that he is not suicidal. Manning is confined to his cell 23 hours a day. Reports surfaced last week that he was jailed naked. The March 11 Guardian reported further details of his treatment in prison, including Manning’s own account as detailed in an 11-page legal letter to the US military that his lawyer has released.
Manning sets out in his own words how he has been “left to languish under the unduly harsh conditions of max [security] custody” ever since he was brought from Kuwait to the military brig of Quantico marine base in Virginia in July last year. He describes how he was put on suicide watch in January, how he is currently being stripped naked every night, and how he is in general terms being subjected to what he calls “unlawful pre-trial punishment”.
It is the first time Manning has spoken publicly about his treatment, having previously only been heard through the intermediaries of his lawyer and a friend. Details that have emerged up to now have inspired the UN to launch an inquiry into whether the conditions amount to torture, and have led to protests to the US government from Amnesty International.
The most graphic passage of the letter is Manning’s description of how he was placed on suicide watch for three days from 18 January. “I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness.”
The Guardian quotes Crowley saying that Manning is being ‘”mistreated”‘:
‘”What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defence.”
As the Guardian says: Crowley’s comments, which he said were ‘on record,’ are the ‘first sign of a crack within the Obama administration over the handling of the WikiLeaks saga’ and ‘the first time anyone within the administration has expressed concern about Manning’s treatment.’ The comments were posted on the personal blog of BBC news correspondent Philippa Thomas. The remarks are, she says, ‘an extraordinary insight into tensions within the administration over WikiLeaks.’
And while we can debate about the import of Manning’s leaking of thousands of classified US government document, the kind of treatment and humiliation he is being subjected to in Quantico—with his glasses and almost all his clothes taken away from him—is simply very troubling.
Photo by Takver.