"He was under observation throughout the night, with a fluorescent light located right outside the cell blazing into his eyes. While asleep he would frequently cover his eyes with his suicide blanket, or turn on to his side away from the light, and on those occasions, sometimes three times a night, the guards would bang on his cell bars to wake him up so they could see his face. ... He was forbidden from taking exercise in his cell, and ... allowed out of the cell for at most one hour a day for the entire nine months at Quantico."
The official reason given for this treatment was Manning's mental health; he was supposedly a "suicide risk" who must be kept under special measures. This assessment by the brig commander was refuted by the brig's own psychiatrist, who testified during this week's hearing:
"The psychiatrist who treated the WikiLeaks suspect, Bradley Manning, while he was in custody in the brig at Quantico has testified that his medical advice was regularly ignored by marine commanders who continued to impose harsh conditions on the soldier even though he posed no risk of suicide.
"Captain William Hoctor told Manning's pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade that he grew frustrated and angry at the persistent refusal by marine officers to take on board his medical recommendations. The forensic psychiatrist said that he had never experienced such an unreceptive response from his military colleagues, not even when he treated terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo.
"'I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had never experienced anything like this. It was clear to me they had made up their mind on a certain course of action, and my recommendations had no impact,' Hoctor said.
"By 27 August 2010, Hoctor testified, he had spent enough time with Manning to recommend a further easing of conditions. From then on he advised in a regular weekly report that Manning should be ... returned to the general brig population.- Advertisement -
"The blanket denial of his expert opinion was unprecedented in his quarter century of practice, the psychiatrist said. 'Even when I did tours in Guantanamo and cared for detainees there my recommendations on suicidal behaviour were followed.'
"Hoctor said he openly protested about the thwarting of his expert opinion at a meeting with the commander responsible for the brig, Colonel Robert Oltman, on 13 January 2011. ... Hoctor said that the marine commanders should no longer pretend they were acting out of medical concern for the detainee. 'It wasn't good for Manning. I really didn't like them using a psychiatric standard when I thought it clinically inappropriate,' Hoctor said.
"The court heard that Oltman replied: 'You make your recommendations, and we'll do what we want to do.'"- Advertisement -
This is the treatment that Barack Obama upheld in his one public comment on the case, in 2011. Obama said that Manning's treatment was "appropriate and meeting our basic standards." In a private fundraiser that year, Obama went further and declared Manning -- who is yet to stand trial -- guilty: "He broke the law." As Horton said, the government had made up its mind "on a certain course of action" -- trying to break Manning's mind and will in its larger goal of punishing WikiLeaks for its multiple revelations of Washington's crime and folly around the world. And from brig commander to commander-in-chief, it followed this course with admirable discipline.
As Pilkington notes, it was one of Manning's efforts to show how sane he was -- and his misplaced trust in a guard -- that led to the most infamous aspect of his imprisonment: the forced nudity that his captors found so titillating:
"[Manning] related how he turned for help to one particular member of staff at the brig at Quantico marine base in Virginia where he was taken in July 2010. He assumed that Staff Sergeant Pataki was on his side, so opened up to him.
"'I wanted to convey the fact that I'd been on the [restrictive regime] for a long time. I'm not doing anything to harm myself. I'm not throwing myself against walls, or jumping up or down, or putting my head in the toilet.'
"Manning told Pataki that 'if I was a danger to myself I would act out more.' He used his underwear and flip-flops as an example, insisting that 'if I really wanted to hurt myself I could use things now: underwear, flip-flops, they could potentially be used as something to harm oneself.' Manning felt good about his interaction with Pataki. 'I felt like he was listening and understanding, and he smiled a little. I thought I'd actually started to get through to him.'
"That night guards arrived at his cell and ordered him to strip naked. He was left without any clothes overnight, and the following morning made to stand outside his cell and stand to attention at the brig count, still nude, as officers inspected him.
"The humiliating ritual continued for several days, and right until the day he was transferred from Quantico on 20 April 2011 he had his underwear removed every night....- Advertisement -
"All this is what the Times and AP have reduced to nothing more than being 'locked up alone in a small cell' and having to 'sleep naked for several nights.' Nothing at all about the draconian restrictions; nothing at all about 'shakedowns,' wake-ups, 24-hour surveillance in bright light (even on the toilet), isolation, chains, deprivation, betrayal, interrogation, and forced nudity -- not just when he was sleeping (in bright light, under observation) but also out in corridors, while 'officers inspected him.'"
All of this has been erased by the "objective" reporting of the NYT and AP. None of this is to be known or considered by serious, respectable people. It didn't happen. It doesn't matter. Manning is a whiner who made America look bad, and in doing so, he helped a website that made America look bad. That's all that really matters. The details of his treatment -- not to mention the details of what he and WikiLeaks revealed -- are unimportant. You don't have to think about it. Just nod your head, shrug your shoulders, and go about your business.