With all the news about the new charges brought against alleged Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning, the fact of his abusive treatment under onerous Maximum Security and Prevention of Injury (POI) conditions of confinement don't get enough attention in the mainstream press. Perhaps the latest revelations by Manning's attorney, David E. Coombs, will make America stand up and take notice.
Besides conditions of solitary confinement, harassment day and night, restriction of reading material, making him walk in shackles if he leaves his cell, inability to communicate with any other prisoners, we must now add degradation and humiliation. Do we need to be reminded that Bradley Manning has not been convicted of any crime?
From Coomb's report this afternoon:
Last night, PFC Manning was inexplicably stripped of all clothing by the Quantico Brig. He remained in his cell, naked, for the next seven hours. At 5:00 a.m., the Brig sounded the wake-up call for the detainees. At this point, PFC Manning was forced to stand naked at the front of his cell.As Manning's attorney says, this kind of treatment is "degrading... inexcusable and without justification." It comes on top of the imposition of isolation, cynically imposed in the name of protecting the young private, when in fact, it is fashioned to torture him, or at least impose cruel, inhumane treatment, both of which are violations of torture law and treaties.
The Duty Brig Supervisor (DBS) arrived shortly after 5:00 a.m. When he arrived, PFC Manning was called to attention. The DBS walked through the facility to conduct his detainee count. Afterwards, PFC Manning was told to sit on his bed. About ten minutes later, a guard came to his cell to return his clothing.
Manning's attorney noted that in a Department of Defense news conference the other day, DoD spokesman Geoff Morrell agreed that PFC Manning "has been exemplary in terms of his behavior on the cell block," leading Mr. Coombs to comment: "Other detainees typically are removed from Maximum custody and from POI watch once they demonstrate, through their behavior, that the conditions are no longer warranted. Under Secretary of the Navy Instruction (SECNAVINST) 1649.9C, Maximum custody and POI are intended to be used sparingly and for a limited duration of time. Despite the Navy Instruction, PFC Manning remains subject to unduly harsh confinement conditions."
The latest manifestation of the Pentagon's animus against Manning is the use of degrading and humiliating treatment. Forced nakedness is exactly the kind of treatment meted out in the torture techniques approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and used at Guantanamo, and by the CIA in their black site prisons. We can see now that in their impeccable power, the U.S. government feels it must strip a young accused person totally in their power and leave them naked in their cell for hours. For what purpose? It can only be to demonstrate their power and to psychologically attempt to break down the prisoner.
This latest atrocity should be strongly condemned by all proponents of human rights and justice. This is cruel treatment. It should stop, and Manning should immediately be taken off POI, at the very least. But then, to any thinking person, it makes no sense that Manning is in prison, while the war criminals that killed tens or hundreds of thousands in Iraq, and gave military orders to ignore torture and turn prisoners over to be tortured, walk free.
Update: Alert commenter Mad Dog noticed this important part of David Coombs' article, chilling in its open avowal of continuing abuse. Referring to the imposition of forced nakedness, Coombs reports that "PFC Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight." Meanwhile, Trudy B. has sent me a link to a Kate Zernike and David Rohde's June 2004 piece in the New York Times, on the "pervasive pattern" of forced nakedness at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo and elsewhere.
It got so bad at Abu Ghraib that in October 2003, Zernike and Rohde wrote that "Red Cross monitors were so alarmed by the number of nude detainees that they halted their visit and demanded an immediate explanation. 'The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was "part of the process,"' the Red Cross wrote in a report in February."
I guess that's the case now at Quantico. "Part of the process" is what torture has now come down to, embraced on U.S. soil against an American citizen. Those wanting to do something can contribute to The Bradley Manning Advocacy Fund. 100% of contributions to this fund will be used to pay expenses related to the advocacy and defense of Bradley Manning.