Bradley ManningI guess we should be glad The New York Times is checking up on Bradley Manning at all. Between August 9 and December 16 they published exactly zero articles about the man Julian Assange called “the world’s pre-eminent prisoner of conscience.” Meanwhile Bradley has been in the brig at Quantico Marine Corps Base since July. Supporters have become increasingly concerned that he is being mistreated, perhaps to pressure him to testify against Mr. Assange.

The Times piece begins with the obligatory caricature of the Wikileaks founder. Although Assange has about 90% name recognition, it felt nonetheless compelled to remind readers that he is the “flamboyant founder of WikiLeaks, [who] is living on a supporter’s 600-acre estate outside London, where he has negotiated $1.7 million in book deals.”

To find out if the accusations of Bradley being mistreated by the military are true, The Times asked the military. Not surprisingly, a Quantico spokesman said no. The reason Bradley has been on prevention-of-injury restrictions for almost six months, he explained, is that military medical experts and brig guards recommended it. It would have been nice if The Times had asked specifically about the military psychologist who supposedly cleared him months ago. It would also have been nice to know if anyone has ever been on prevention-of-injury watch, with five minute checks, for months at a time. And lastly, could he confirm that Bradley’s one hour of exercise daily consists of walking figure eights in an empty room?

Instead The Times let the Quantico spokesman read from an internal report on Bradley’s treatment: “Pfc. Manning is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig,” the report allegedly says, “His treatment is firm, fair and respectful.” The Times neglected to ask if every other detainee stays on prevention-of-injury restrictions for months and months, but why quibble.

The Times inquired as to why the case is moving so slowly and was offered a variety of explanations: Computer crimes take a long time to investigate. Bradley still needs a mental health evaluation. All parties need to get the necessary security clearances. The defense is the one who asked for the delay. (Bradley’s lawyer says otherwise on his website, which The Times visited, but it chose not to follow up on the conflicting accounts.)

The Times asked if Bradley’s privileges are being restricted to pressure him to testify against Mr. Assange. The Army answered that Bradley has not spoken with civilian investigators or prosecutors. The Times thought it unnecessary to pursue this non-answer.

And so ends The Times investigation of the treatment of Bradley Manning. Its huge readership has been falsely reassured that he is being treated just like anyone else. Nothing will change.

What else is left for the article to say? Oh, yes. The obligatory mention of “the accusations of sexual misconduct [Mr. Assange] faces in Sweden.” Apropos of nothing.

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