Five months ago, on April 22, 2011, more than 400 citizens converged on Quantico Marine Base to protest the pre-trial conditions of alleged Wikileaks whistleblower US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. Thirty-four protesters were arrested, with three found guilty of obstruction of traffic charged a $15 fine. Manning was arrested on May 26, 2010, on a U.S. military base in Iraq on suspicion of giving classified material to the website WikiLeaks.
Manning still in pre-trial confinement after 560 days
Manning was charged on July 5, 2010 with transferring classified materials on his personal computer, and communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source. An additional 22 charges were added on March 1, 2011, including wrongfully obtaining classified material for the purpose of posting it on the Internet knowing that the information would be accessed by the enemy; the illegal transmission of defense information; fraud; and aiding the enemy. In April, 2011, he was found fit to face a court martial and currently awaits the first hearing.
Conditions during pre-trial confinement at Quantico Marine Base
As soon as he was transferred from Kuwait to the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Virginia on July 29, 2010, Manning was held in solitary confinement and forced nudity. He was classified as a "maximum custody detainee" and held under a "Prevention of Injury" designation for nine months until he was transferred in April 2011. A Prevention of Injury order is just short of suicide watch and means that guards check the cell every five minutes and the prisoner is not allowed to sleep during the day. Manning was not allowed to sleep between 5 am (7 am on weekends) and 8 pm, and if he tried to, was made to stand or sit up. At Quantico, he was detained in a 6 x 12-foot cell, with no window, and only a bed, toilet and sink. He ate his meals in his cell. Manning could walk outside his cell only while shackled and for only one hour. He was allowed to keep only one book and one magazine in his cell.
He was required to remain visible to
the guards at all times, including at night, which meant that he had no sheets
and no pillow except for one built into his mattress. Until March, 2011 he was
required to sleep in boxer shorts, and had experienced chafing of the skin from
the heavy blanket which was designed so it could not be shredded.
On March 2, 2011, Manning was informed that an Article 138 complaint filed in January by his lawyer, that requested he be removed from maximum custody and prevention-of-injury watch, had been denied. This resulted in him being required to sleep without clothing and to present himself naked outside his cell for morning inspection, which his lawyer described as ritual humiliation. From March 10 onwards, he was given a wrap-around smock with Velcro fasteners to sleep in. In response to the incident, the brig psychiatrist classified him as at "low risk of suicide."
Public outcry against conditions of Manning's confinement
Amnesty International called the conditions "harsh and punitive." In April, 2011, 295 scholars, including legal scholars and philosophers signed a letter saying the conditions the Marines kept Manning in amounted to a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
In March, 2011, State Department spokesperson and retired US Air Force Colonel P.J. Crowley resigned from his government position after he stated, "What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defense." Crowley's statement forced President Obama to address for the first time the issue of Manning's handling at Quantico marine base in Virginia. Obama defended the way Manning is being treated, saying he had been reassured by the Pentagon that his confinement was appropriate.
President Obama prejudiced the case against Manning by his statement that Manning "broke the law." In a video recording at an April, 2011 fundraiser in San Francisco, California, Obama responded to a questioner, "I can't conduct diplomacy on an open source. ...That's not how ... the world works. If I was to release stuff, information that I'm not authorized to release, I'm breaking the law. ... We're a nation of laws. We don't individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate ... He broke the law."
Manning transferred to an appropriate pre-trial confinement facility one month after Quantico arrests
After the publicity concerning Manning's treatment, the rally and the arrests, one month later on April 20, 2011, the Pentagon transferred him to a pre-trial confinement portion of a medium-security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There, the prevention-of-injury order was lifted, Manning's clothes are not removed at night, he has a normal mattress and he has a cell with a large window with natural light. He now can have contact with other pre-trial detainees, write whenever he wants, and keep personal objects, such as books and letters, in his cell.
Manning will turn 24 on December 17, 2011.
Quantico arrests on March 20
Following a rally across the road from the Marine Base, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg led a small group of veterans and military mothers to the front gate of the base, and four veterans and one military mom across the road to place flowers at the replica of the Iwo Jima memorial, located on public property to the side of the gate. Police had blocked off the memorial and forced the representatives to put flowers on the pavement, which the reps felt was an act of disrespect for veterans. When re-crossing the road, several of these reps sat down in the intersection. Traffic had already been blocked in both directions by the police.