Demonstrators show support for Bradley Manning, August 2010
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Former Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking classified information (specifically a video showing U.S. military in Iraq firing on civilians and two journalists), continues to experience intense solitary confinement in the Quantico Marine Brig in Virginia. The accused military whistleblower, whom the army filed 22 additional charges against days ago, has now been stripped naked two nights in a row.
The decision to require him to be stripped of all clothing was made by the Brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Denise Barnes. According to First Lieutenant Brian Villard, a Marine spokesman, the decision was "not punitive" and done in accordance with Brig rules. There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning. This treatment is even more degrading considering that PFC Manning is being monitored -- both by direct observation and by video -- at all times. The defense was informed by Brig officials that the decision to strip PFC Manning of all his clothing was made without consulting any of the Brig's mental health providers.
This is "degrading treatment," Coombs concludes, that is "inexcusable and without jurisdiction." This is "an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated...No other detainee at the Brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation." But, no other detainee is at the center of a case that US military and government officials seem to have decided to use as an example case that could put in fear in any other military or government official who might seek to disseminate information to any organization like WikiLeaks in the future.
Indeed, since being put in the brig, the military has sought to break the spirit of Manning. David House, a close friend and frequent visitor at Quantico, described visiting Manning and how in the last months he has gone from someone who could carry a conversation to a person who is in an utterly catatonic state. House believe
House began to visit Manning in September. By late November, it became clear that he was more and more often too exhausted to talk with House during visits.
The military is under a lot of pressure to link Manning to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which they have been unable to do. Recent charges suggest they may be trying to implicitly link him to WikiLeaks. The Article 104 charge of "aiding the enemy" might indicate the military or government considers Wikileaks to be "the enemy." But, it also could mean that the military or government thinks simply giving this to a media or news organization to be published is "aiding the enemy" because, when published, the contents were made available to members of the Taliban, al Qaeda, etc enabling enemies to use the information against the US.
A charge of "aiding the enemy" does give the military the ability to give Manning the death penalty if convicted on that charge. Military lawyer Jon Shelburne does not think there is any real reason right now to believe that the chief military officer will go back on what he has indicated and give Manning the death penalty. However, he admits until the trial is complete there's no way to be certain that would not be considered more seriously.
Most importantly, Shelburne adds, the charge of "aiding the enemy" now makes it possible for the military to possibly give Manning life in prison without parole.
The military has placed Manning under a "prevention of injury order," which means he has been put on suicide watch. This gives the military the authority to subject Manning to harsher confinement conditions and restrictions--not allowed to socialize or eat with other detainees, not allowed to work in the brig, not allowed to exercise and be out of cell except for one hour every day, only allowed to exercise by walking in circles, etc. And, all of these conditions are conditions which Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon's press secretary, has consistently downplayed or outright lied about when talking to media during press conferences.
Morrell has said he is being treated the same as other detainees. House contends a "word game" is being played. Manning is the only "maximum security detainee" in Quantico. When officials say that he isn't being treated any differently than other detainees, military is essentially saying "he is treated the same as himself."
The nature of solitary confinement makes it increasingly possible for one to say that he is being broken down like a detainee might be broken down at Guantanamo Bay prison. David Frakt, lawyer for detainee Mohamed Jawad (who was accused of attempted murder after he threw a grenade at a passing American convoy on December 17, 2002), explained in his closing argument before a military commission how solitary confinement or isolation was used against Jawad. He described two periods, one that appeared to be standard practice and another that he says "was ordered by intelligence officials upon the recommendation of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team psychologist to socially, physically and linguistically isolate this teenage boy in order to create complete dependence on his interrogator."
"This period of segregation occurred from September 17 to October 16, 2003 and was specifically intended to break Mr. Jawad and to devastate him emotionally. The isolation failed in its purpose of persuading Mr. Jawad to admit throwing the hand grenade; he continued to assert his innocence. But it did have the other desired effect of causing emotional devastation. Prison records indicate that he tried to commit suicide on December 25, 2003"
Assange reacted to the latest charges and the military's ongoing treatment of Manning saying they were "trying to make an example" out of Manning.
That might be the case. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, points out the Obama Administration has gone after five whistleblowers, nearly twice as many whistleblowers as all previous US presidents combined. And, he notes the military appears to be seeking to discipline Manning and mount a prosecution that under civilian law in America would be nearly impossible.
Ellsberg is struck by the thought that if executed Manning would be the first American to be executed for giving information to Americans since Nathan Hale. He recalled that Nathan Hale said, "I regret that I have but one life to give," and compared him to Manning who in the chat logs indicated he was prepared to go to jail for life or be executed.
The intention of Manning is clearly alleged in the Wired Magazine chat logs between Manning and hacker and federal informant Adrian Lamo. The logs, Ellsberg notes, indicate that Manning had no intention of aiding any enemy. He believed that by releasing the information he would be promoting debate and discussion on events and issues that were being kept secret.
Professor Kevin Jon Heller, who is cited in Glenn Greenwald's post on the military's new charges against Manning, writes in reaction to the charges, "if the mere act of ensuring that harmful information is published on the internet qualifies either as indirectly "giving intelligence to the enemy' (if the military can prove an enemy actually accessed the information) or as indirectly "communicating with the enemy' (because any reasonable person knows that enemies can access information on the internet), there is no relevant factual difference between Manning and a media organization that published the relevant information." This is exactly what Greenwald sought to emphasize in his post on Salon.com.