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Screaming in Bradley Manning’s Trial

3:04 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning’s trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion.  I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down.  Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.

Image of Bradley Manning

On Bradley Manning’s apology

I don’t blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court’s mercy.  He’s on trial in a system rigged against him.  The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago.  He’s been convicted.  The judge has been offered a promotion.  The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor.  Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone’s ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence?  Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong.  But — wow — does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom.

This was the sentencing phase of the trial, but there was no discussion of what good or harm might come of a greater or lesser sentence, in terms of deterrence or restitution or prevention or any other goal.  That’s one thing I wanted to scream at various points in the proceedings.

This was the trial of the most significant whistleblower in U.S. history, but there was no mention of anything he’d blown the whistle on, any of the crimes exposed or prevented, wars ended, nonviolent democratic movements catalyzed.  Nothing on why he’s a four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.  Nothing.  Every time that the wars went unmentioned, I wanted to scream.  War was like air in this courtroom, everybody on all sides militarized — and it went unnoticed and unmentioned.

What was discussed on Wednesday was as disturbing as what wasn’t.  Psycho-therapists, and relatives, and Bradley Manning himself — defense witnesses all — testified that he had been wrong to do what he’d done, that he’d not been in his right mind, and that he is a likable person to whom the judge should be kind.

Should likable people get lesser sentences?

The prosecution focused, with much less success I think, on depicting Manning as an unlikable person.  Should unlikable people get heavier sentences?

What, I wanted to scream, about the likability of blowing the whistle on major crimes?  Shouldn’t that be rewarded, rather than being less severely punished?

There were some 30 of us observing the trial on Wednesday in the courtroom, many with “TRUTH” on our t-shirts, plus six members of the news media.  Another 40 some people were watching a video feed in a trailer outside, and another 40 media folks were watching a video in a separate room.  The defense and prosecution lawyers sat a few feet apart from each other, and I suppose the politeness of the operation was preferable to the violence that had led to it.  But the gravity of threatening Manning with 90 years in prison seemed belied by the occasional joking with witnesses.

Before he’d become a criminal suspect, Manning had written in an online chat:

“If you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do? . . . or Guantanamo, Bagram, Bucca, Taji, VBC for that matter . . . things that would have an impact on 6.7 billion people . . . say… a database of half a million events during the iraq war… from 2004 to 2009… with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures… ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective?”

Manning made clear what his concern and motivation were:

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Bradley Manning Wins Peace Prize

6:12 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

U.S. whistleblower and international hero Bradley Manning has just been awarded the 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Award by the International Peace Bureau, itself a former recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Manning is a nominee this year.

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Bradley Manning, Peace Prize Winner

A petition supporting Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize has gathered 88,000 sinatures, many of them with comments, and is aiming for 100,000 before delivering it to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo.  Anyone can sign and add their comments at ManningNobel.org

The International Peace Bureau (IPB) represents 320 organizations in 70 countries.  It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910.  Over the years, 13 of IPB’s officers have been Nobel Peace laureates. See ipb.org

The Sean MacBride prize has been awarded each year since 1992 by the International Peace Bureau, founded in 1892. Previous winners include: Lina Ben Mhenni (Tunisian blogger) and Nawal El-Sadaawi (Egyptian author) – 2012, Jackie Cabasso (USA, 2008), Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka, 2007) and the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2006). It is named after Sean MacBride, a distinguished Irish statesman who shared the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, and is given to individuals or organisations for their outstanding work for peace, disarmament and human rights.

The medal is made of “peace bronze,” a material created out of disarmed and recycled nuclear weapons systems, by fromwartopeace.com  The prize will be formally awarded on Sept. 14 in Stockholm, at a special evening on whistleblowing, which forms part of the triennial gathering of the International Peace Bureau. See brochure at: PDF.

IPB’s Co-President Tomas Magnusson said,

IPB believes that among the very highest moral duties of a citizen is to make known war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is within the broad meaning of the Nuremberg Principles enunciated at the end of the Second World War. When Manning revealed to the world the crimes being committed by the U.S. military he did so as an act of obedience to this high moral duty. It is for this reason too that Manning has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In more general terms it is well known that war operations, and especially illegal ones, are frequently conducted under the cover of secrecy. To penetrate this wall of secrecy by revealing information that should be accessible to all is an important contribution to the struggle against war, and acts as a challenge to the military system which dominates both the economy and society in today’s world. IPB believes that whistleblowers are vital in upholding democracies – especially in the area of defense and security. A heavy sentence for Manning would not only be unjust but would also have very negative effects on the right to freedom of expression which the U.S. claims to uphold.

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire recently wrote:

I have chosen to nominate U.S. Army Pfc Bradley Manning, for I can think of no one more deserving. His incredible disclosure of secret documents to Wikileaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere.

Maguire explains how far-reaching Manning’s impact has been:

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Bradley Manning’s Nobel Peace Prize

12:25 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Free Bradley Manning Banner

Free Bradley Manning Banner

Whistleblower Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he should receive it.

No individual has done more to push back against what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism” than Bradley Manning. The United States is the leading exporter of weapons and itself spends as much preparing for more wars as the rest of the world combined.  Manning is the leading actor in opposition to U.S. warmaking, and therefore militarism around the world.  What he has done has hurt the cause of violence in a number of other nations as well.

And right now, remaining in prison and facing relentless prosecution by the U.S. government, Manning is in need of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel’s will left funding for a prize to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding, unlike some other peace prize recipients.  In addition, his secret trial — with a potential death sentence — could use all the attention that can be shined on it.

The people of the United States and the rest of the world have learned more about the intentions of the U.S. government from Bradley Manning than from anyone else.  “Thanks to Manning’s alleged disclosures, we have a sense of what transpired in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have an image of how Washington operates in the world,” author Chase Madar wrote in his book about Manning’s whistleblowing.

“Thanks to those revelations we now know just how our government leaned on the Vatican to quell opposition to the Iraq War. We now know how Washington pressured the German government to block the prosecution of CIA agents who kidnapped an innocent man, Khaled El-Masri, while he was on vacation. We know how our State Department lobbied hard to prevent a minimum wage increase in Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation.”

Manning revealed a secret U.S. war in Yemen, U.S. records of massive civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, video of a U.S. helicopter attack on civilians and their rescuers in Baghdad, and facts about the corruption of numerous governments including those of the United States, Tunisia, and Egypt.  In those last two nations Manning’s revelations contributed to nonviolent pro-democracy movements.

Among the revelations made by Manning through WikiLeaks is the extent of time and energy the U.S. State Department puts into marketing U.S. weapons to the world’s governments.  We all have a better understanding of the work that is needed for peace as a result of this exposure of “diplomacy” as consisting so greatly of weapons selling.

The Guardian newspaper and BBC Arabic detailed last week how the United States armed and trained Iraqi police commando units that ran torture centers and death squads.  Maggie O’Kane, executive producer of the documentary, said: “I hope this film will be a legacy that actually says, ‘If you want to go to war, this is what war means. It means 14-year-old boys being hung up and tortured. It means men being turned on spits. And that’s called counter-insurgency. . . .’  This would not be coming to light if it hadn’t been for Bradley Manning.”

Not only has Manning done the most to resist militarism, but he has done it for its own sake, and not by chance or for any ulterior motive.  This is made clear by his recent statement in court and by his earlier communications in the chat logs that have long been a part of his case.   Manning was horrified by crimes and abuses.  He believed the public should know what was happening.  He believed democracy was more important than blind subservience in the name of a “democracy.”

Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Movement in the Icelandic Parliament, the Pirates of the EU; representatives from the Swedish Pirate Party, and the former Secretary of State in Tunisia for Sport & Youth.  The nomination states, in part:  “These revelations have fueled democratic uprisings around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on the foreign and domestic policies of European nations, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S. troops from the occupation in Iraq.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee (send them a note) can either begin awarding the peace prize to opponents of war or continue on its current course — one which already has many questioning, not whether Manning is worthy of the prize, but whether the prize is worthy of Manning.
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What Bradley Manning Means to Us

8:11 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Chase Madar’s new book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, pulls together the essential facts that we should try to somehow deliver to television viewers and victims of our education system.  The subtitle is “The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History.”

Image by Bradley Manning Support Network.

The book looks at Manning’s life story, his alleged action (leaking voluminous materials to Wikileaks), the value of the material he made available to us, the status of whistleblowers in our country, the torture inflicted on Manning during his imprisonment, the similar treatment routinely inflicted on hundreds of thousands of U.S. prisoners without the same scandal resulting, and the value of running a society in accordance with written laws.

The table of contents sounds predictable, but the most valuable parts of Madar’s book are the tangents, the riffs, the expansions on questions such as whether knowing the truth does or does not tend to set us free.  Does learning what our government is up to help to improve our government’s behavior?  Has the rule of law become an empty phrase or worse?  Who is standing up for Bradley Manning, and who should be?

Madar does not pretend indifference to the fact that Manning took great risk and has greatly suffered for blowing the whistle on countless criminal and immoral actions.  The first sentence of the book is “Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” as of course he does — unless that medal is now too tarnished by its actual recipients including George Tenet and L. Paul Bremer.  Madar remarks:

“Thanks to Manning’s alleged disclosures, we have a sense of what transpired in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have an image of how Washington operates in the world.  Thanks to those revelations we now know just how our government leaned on the Vatican to quell opposition to the Iraq War.  We now know how Washington pressured the German government to block the prosecution of CIA agents who kidnapped an innocent man, Khaled El-Masri, while he was on vacation.  We know how our State Department lobbied hard to prevent a minimum wage increase in Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation.”

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They Only Lock Up Heroes at Quantico

9:51 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

If Bradley Manning turns out to be the hero he appears to be, he will not be the first “detained” at Quantico.

In fact, Quantico once locked up the most decorated Marine in history, a Marine who would have been running the Marine Corps rather than getting locked up by it if he had known how to brown-nose the swivel-chair commanders as he called them, a Marine who had helped create Quantico years before, the first senior officer in the U.S. military to be arrested in the 65 years following the Civil War, and a serious fearless principled democratic hero whose heroism had nothing to do with the nasty tasks he took on as a U.S. Marine.

And do you know what they locked him up for? For revealing that Benito Mussolini had run a little girl over in his car and not even stopped.

And do you know what this Marine’s most heroic deed was, one still to come after his Quantico “detention”? He foiled a plot to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt and install himself as a puppet dictator for Wall Street. He turned down power, just as Bradley Manning turned down riches and risked his future life.

Have you guessed that I’m talking about Smedley Darlington Butler? If not, please sue the U.S. Department of Education. It has let you down, ripped you off, and swindled every one of us.

Prior to his detention at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, Smedley Butler had conquered the Boxers and taken over Beijing, single-handedly destroyed democratic hopes in Nicaragua and Haiti, ruled Haiti as an all-powerful Marine-Corps-Imperial-Consul, turned a disease-ridden swamp where US troops were dying in France before even making it to the front in World War I into a clean and healthy city from which troops could courageously depart to kill and die and be mentally ruined, and served as Director of Public Safety in Philadelphia in which job he enforced the prohibition of alcohol on the high and mighty thus earning their eternal hatred.

Then Butler, much beloved by World War I veterans, let slip that remark about Mussolini’s murdering of a little girl with his sports car. President Hoover and his Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who was already scheming to get a second world war going, were outraged, as was the corporate and pro-fascist US media. Butler was immediately confined to a house (better than Manning’s six-foot cell) at Quantico. But the public was outraged at Hoover and Stimson, and evidence came out to support Butler’s story. He also told a story about Hoover himself. During a siege in China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, Butler said, he and his troops had been disgusted to find an American engineer hiding and cowering in a basement with women and children. They had dragged him out, roughed him up, and forced him to take up duty on the city wall; and that man had been Herbert Hoover.

Butler was released from Quantico, just as Manning should be, and was restored to full rank but shortly chose to retire. Butler became a writer and a public speaker and produced the powerful denunciation of U.S. foreign policy that is “War Is A Racket,” explaining in “Common Sense” magazine:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico … safe for American oil interests. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested … Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”

Butler rallied the spirits of World War I vets as they camped in Washington D.C. demanding to be compensated. Douglas MacArthur then Mubaraked the veterans with bullets and teargas and chased them out of town, earning the scorn of all survivors, forever shaming the U.S. government, preventing a second term for Hoover, and making the GI Bill following the next global spree of mass-murder almost inevitable. (And you thought starting a war in Korea and trying to get a THIRD world war going was the ugliest thing MacAurthur had done.)

When the war profiteers and Wall Street plutocrats who had opposed compensating the veterans later hatched a plot to create a fascist dictatorship and remove FDR from office, MacArthur promised them the support of the US Army, but even the banksters understood that the half-million angry veterans they sought to use wouldn’t follow MacArthur as far as they could throw him. There was only one man they would follow unquestioningly, and that was Smedley Butler.

The society “to maintain the Constitution” (the Tea Party couldn’t have named it better) tried to recruit Butler. He led them on and then ratted them out to a congressional committee. Too big to jail, then as now, the plotters, including George W. Bush’s grandpa, were not prosecuted for treason but did agree to stop fighting against the New Deal. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Time Magazine attacked Butler, and the history books obediently excised this little incident from our children’s education during the past 75 years, but Congressman John W. McCormack, chair of the House Un-American Activities Committee credited Butler with saving the republic.

If we do what needs to be done, Bradley Manning may someday receive similar praise.

Pick up a book called “Devil Dog.” It even has cartoon pictures.

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie” http://warisalie.org

Punishing Bradley Manning for the Crimes of Others

5:39 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Bradley Manning, alleged U.S. Army whistleblower, is in two ways — one likely, the other certain — being punished for the crimes of others.

On Monday a crowd that I was part of staged a protest at Quantico, where Manning has been imprisoned for several months with no trial. At the last minute, the military denied us permission to hold a rally on the base, so we held it in the street blocking the entrance to the base. This visibly enraged at least one of the guards who attempted unsuccessfully to arrest a couple of us.

On Tuesday, for no stated reason whatsoever, Manning’s jailers put him on suicide watch. This meant that he was isolated for 24 hours a day instead of 23, the glasses he needs to see were taken away, and other harsh conditions imposed. Two days later, for no stated reason whatsoever, Manning was taken off suicide watch again. It appears likely that he was punished in response to our protest. As a result, we’re all going to crawl under our beds and hide, promising never to use the First Amendment again in our lives.

Just kidding! Instead, we’re planning larger protests. And Manning’s lawyer has, for his part, filed a complaint and threatened to sue over Manning’s mistreatment. These colors don’t run, as someone might say.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that the Marine Corpse (sic) momentarily believed Manning to be suicidal the day after a protest. And yet we know for certain that Manning is being punished for the crimes of others. When you witness a crime, you are obliged to report it. This is exactly what Manning has allegedly done, for a great many crimes. And it is all Manning has allegedly done.

Material released by Wikileaks and alleged to have originated with Manning has revealed, among many other crimes, secret and illegal wars and missile strikes, support for a military coup, obstruction of justice, numerous war atrocities, complicity in torture, illegal spying, lawless imprisonment (now experienced by Manning himself as well), the granting of retroactive immunity to criminals, and bribery.

When the U.S. government screams that this information has endangered the innocent and then admits that it hasn’t done any such thing and is really no big deal at all, don’t be fooled. It is, in another sense, a very big deal. The reason the government says that informing the public is far more dangerous than informing foreign nations is the same reason that Manning allegedly chose to give the information to the public rather than enriching himself by selling it to another nation: majority rule is threatening to oligarchs. The reason Congressman Peter King says he’d rather see the United States bombed than U.S. citizens learn this information about their government’s behavior is because the behavior is serious indeed, deadly so.

Bradley Manning has, if the allegations are true, risked his life to shine a light on a government that has come to operate in almost complete secrecy. Manning has shown the courage and wisdom of some of the revolutionaries who got this country started. That he is being punished for it tells us something about what our government has become.

Free Bradley Manning on Monday

6:59 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

There are conflicting accounts of exactly how Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower on countless U.S. government crimes, has been illegally punished for 8 months so far, pre-trial. There’s no denying that this young man who allegedly sought to make his government’s actions known for the public good and did not seek to profit thereby has been denied a speedy trial. The question is to what extent he has already been punished, and even cruelly and unusually punished, without having been convicted of any crime. But the accounts differ less than it at first appears. And there is one sure way to find out the facts.

Let’s look first at what Glenn Greenwald reported on December 15th. Greenwald wrote that he had interviewed “several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed.” In Greenwald’s account, Manning had been a model detainee and had never been on suicide watch, but had been declared from the start a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” and had been held from the start in “intensive solitary confinement . . . for 23 out of 24 hours every day . . . he sits completely alone in his cell.”

In Greenwald’s account, Manning is forbidden from exercising in his cell and is under “constant surveillance.” He has, or at least had at this time, no pillow or sheets. And during his one hour out of his cell he is barred from accessing any news (apparently meaning on television or radio) according to some of Greenwald’s sources, presumably including David House, a friend of Manning’s whom Greenwald cites, but not according to Lt. Villiard. According to Greenwald, “Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not ‘like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,’ but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.” Greenwald did not say whether Manning’s cell was silent or whether he could hear the voices of other prisoners or guards. He did not say whether the cell had a window or access to daylight. He did say that Manning was being administered regular doses of anti-depressants. I am assuming no one outside the military is able to confirm what drugs Manning has actually been administered or whether they have all been antidepressants, and that Manning himself cannot confirm this. But there is one way to find out.

***

On December 18th, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs wrote about Manning’s treatment on his website. Coombs used two terms to describe Manning’s detention: “maximum custody” and “Prevention of Injury (POI) watch.” Coombs continued:

“His cell is approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length. The cell has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet. . . . [H]e is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards. He is allowed to watch television [apparently in his cell] during the day. The television stations are limited to the basic local stations. His access to the television ranges from 1 to 3 hours on weekdays to 3 to 6 hours on weekends.”

Coombs continued, describing the cell: “He cannot see other inmates from his cell. He can occasionally hear other inmates talk. Due to being a pretrial confinement facility, inmates rarely stay at the facility for any length of time. Currently, there are no other inmates near his cell.

“From 7:00 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., he is given correspondence time. He is given access to a pen and paper. He is allowed to write letters to family, friends, and his attorneys. Each night, during his correspondence time, he is allowed to take a 15 to 20 minute shower. On weekends and holidays, he is allowed to have approved visitors see him from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. He is allowed to receive letters from those on his approved list and from his legal counsel. If he receives a letter from someone not on his approved list, he must sign a rejection form. The letter is then either returned to the sender or destroyed.

“He is allowed to have any combination of up to 15 books or magazines. He must request the book or magazine by name. Once the book or magazine has been reviewed by the literary board at the confinement facility, and approved, he is allowed to have someone on his approved list send it to him. The person sending the book or magazine to him must do so through a publisher or an approved distributor such as Amazon. They are not allowed to mail the book or magazine directly to PFC Manning.

“Due to being held on Prevention of Injury (POI) watch: PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day. The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay. . . . He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets. However, he is given access to two blankets and has recently been given a new mattress that has a built-in pillow.

“He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell. He is only allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read in his cell. The book or magazine is taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep. He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop. He does receive one hour of ‘exercise’ outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in the room for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell. When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.”

***

On December 23rd, David House posted his own report on Manning’s condition:

“In his five months of detention [not counting two previous months in Kuwait], it has become obvious to me that Manning’s physical and mental well-being are deteriorating. What Manning needs, and what his attorney has already urged, is to have the unnecessary ‘Prevention of Injury’ order lifted that severely restricts his ability to exercise, communicate, and sleep.”

“Manning has been living under the solitary restrictions of POI for five months despite being cleared by a military psychologist earlier this year, and despite repeated calls from his attorney David Coombs to lift the severely restrictive and isolating order. POI orders are short-term restrictions that are typically implemented when a detainee changes confinement facilities and these orders are lifted after the detainee passes psychological evaluation.”

House quotes from a Daily Beast report of an interview with Coombs stating that Manning was initially — and the article implies, baselessly — placed on suicide watch: “When he was first arrested, Manning was put on suicide watch, but his status was quickly changed to ‘Prevention of Injury’ watch (POI), and under this lesser pretense he has been forced into his life of mind-numbing tedium. . . . Both Coombs and Manning’s psychologist, Coombs says, are sure Manning is mentally healthy, that there is no evidence he’s a threat to himself, and shouldn’t be held in such severe conditions under the artifice of his own protection.”

House quoted statements the Pentagon released in response to Greenwald’s report: “A maximum custody detainee is able to receive the same privileges that a detainee classified as general population may receive. . . . A maximum custody detainee also receives daily television, hygiene call, reading and outside physical activity without restraint. . . . Pfc. Manning, as well as every other maximum custody detainee, is allotted approximately one hour of television per day. He may view any of the available channels. . . . Pfc. Manning is allotted one hour of recreation time per day, as is every other maximum custody detainee. Depending on the weather, his recreation time may be spend indoors or outdoors. Activities may include calisthenics, running, basketball, etc. . . . Pfc. Manning, as well as all other detainees, is issued adequate bedding.”

House wrote that Manning had denied to him, during recent visits, some of the military’s assertions:

“Manning related to me on December 18 2010 that he is not allowed to view international news during his television period. He mentioned that he might theoretically be able to view local news, but his television period is typically from 7pm – 8pm such that no local news is playing in the Quantico, VA area. Manning told me explicitly on December 18 2010 that he is not, nor has he ever been, allowed newspapers while in confinement. When I said ‘The Pentagon has stated that you are allowed newspapers’, his immediate reaction was surprised laughter.

“. . . Manning stated to me on December 18 2010 that he has not been outside or into the brig yard for either recreation nor exercise in four full weeks. He related that visits to the outdoors have been infrequent and sporadic for the past several months.”

“. . . Manning related to me on December 18 2010 that he does not receive any substantive exercise and cannot perform even basic exercises in his cell. When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he did indeed receive exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise.”

“. . . Manning related to me on December 19 2010 that his blankets are similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories, and similar in texture to coarse and stiff carpet. He . . . expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns. The problem of carpet burns was exacerbated, he related, by the stipulation that he must sleep only in his boxer shorts as part of the longstanding POI order. Manning also stated on December 19 2010 that hallway-mounted lights shine through his window at night. This constant illumination is consistent with reports from attorney David Coombs’ blog that marines must visually inspect Manning as he sleeps.”

***

On January 14th, Scott Shane of the New York Times published the military’s claims:

“The military rejects accusations that Private Manning has been mistreated. ‘Poppycock,’ said Col. T. V. Johnson, a Quantico spokesman. He insisted that the conditions of confinement were dictated by brig rules for a pretrial detainee like Private Manning. The soldier has been designated for ‘maximum custody’ — applied because his escape would pose a national security risk — and placed on ‘prevention-of-injury watch,’ restrictions imposed so that he does not injure himself. That status is based on the judgment of military medical experts and the observations of brig guards, Colonel Johnson said. Guards check Private Manning every five minutes but allow him to sleep without interruption from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., when only dim night lights are on, unless they need to wake him to be certain he is breathing. Colonel Johnson denied that Private Manning was in solitary confinement, as has been widely claimed, saying that he could talk with guards and with prisoners in nearby cells, though he could not see them. He leaves his 6-by-12-foot cell for a daily hour of exercise, and for showers, phone calls, meetings with his lawyer and weekend visits by friends and relatives, the colonel said. The prisoner can read and watch television and correspond with people on an approved list. He is not permitted to speak to the media. ‘Pfc. Manning is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig,’ said an internal military review concluded on Dec. 27 and read to a reporter by Colonel Johnson.”

***

What qualifies lights as dim is open to debate. Making certain someone is breathing has the same effect as maliciously interrupting their sleep for no good reason. The guards do not converse with Manning, according to his lawyer. And being permitted to talk to other prisoners by shouting to other cells is all very good, unless those cells are empty. His exercise is not described here. He may be being treated like every other prisoner would be if they were put permanently on POI status, but are they? I understand from someone who has spoken with Villiard that he admits the duration of Manning’s POI status is unusual. And I understand from the Eighth Amendment that cruel and unusual punishment is illegal, as is any punishment prior to a trial, and as is denial of a speedy trial (see the Sixth Amendment).

Manning’s lawyer has asked repeatedly to have the POI status lifted and received no response. He is now asking that Manning be freed until trial:

“Due to the lack of response from the confinement facility, the defense, pursuant to the provisions of Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.) 305(g), filed a request earlier today with the Garrison Commander to direct the release of PFC Bradley Manning from pretrial confinement. This request is based upon the fact that the confinement conditions currently being endured by PFC Manning are more rigorous than necessary to guarantee his presence at trial, and that the concerns raised by the government at the time of pretrial confinement are no longer applicable.”

This is the one way to learn the truth of the matter: Free Bradley Manning.

There is also a way to hide even more: keep Manning in a condition that is almost guaranteed to damage his mind, and then conduct a secret trial.

Bear in mind that the materials Manning is alleged to have made public were available to some 3 million people while “secret.” That’s more people than some governments employ. Manning apparently believed the rest of us had a right to know what was being done with our money and in our names. On Christmas Eve, Manning released this statement through his lawyer:

“I greatly appreciate everyone’s support and well wishes during this time. I am also thankful for everything that has been done to aid in my defense. I ask that everyone takes the time to remember those who are separated from their loved ones at this time due to deployment and important missions. Specifically, I am thinking of those that I deployed with and have not seen for the last seven months, and of the staff here at the Quantico Confinement Facility who will be spending their Christmas without their family.”

If you are as concerned about Bradley Manning’s condition as he is about his jailers’, you can join in a demonstration outside the brig where he is held on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, January 17th in Quantico, Va. Our demand will be a simple one: Free Bradley Manning!