Pvt Bradley Manning, accused of leaking US government documents to Wikileaks, continues to endure harsh treatment at Quantico Brig in Virginia, and one of his few allowed visitors says the detainee’s mental and physical health continues to “degrade."
David House, an IT specialist from Boston, has told Spiegel Online that Manning’s solitary confinement denies him the ability to exercise, to access newspapers, or to go outdoors. As a result of the long-term treatment, House said:
“I have watched my friend degrade over time -- physically, mentally and emotionally.”
In an interview with Spiegel Online, House spoke about the charges against Manning, his harsh treatment, and delay tactics by the US government in denying Manning the right to a speedy trial.
While military officials and the prosecution are on record stating they will not seek the death penalty for Manning, House points out they are not the ones doing the sentencing:
“The judge can completely ignore the prosecution’s advice.”
House works for the Bradley Manning Support Network, an organization campaigning on behalf of the alleged whistleblower who has been held in solitary confinement conditions since first apprehended last May in Iraq.
Transferred to Quantico, Manning has been held there for eight months. The outcry over Manning’s treatment first broke with a story by Salon’s Glenn Greenwald last December. Since then, a growing number of prominent people and organizations, including Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Amnesty International (AI)l, and most recently, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), have spoken out over Manning’s conditions, all on record saying it constitutes a form of torture.
AI has launched an investigation over human rights violations in Manning’s treatment. Kucinich reports the US military is giving him the runaround in his attempts to personally visit Manning at Quantico, and PHR is on record stating that Manning’s physicians at Quantico are violating “their ethical duties as doctors” in allowing the harsh treatment to continue.
The Obama administration condones the treatment, with the US president saying he has asked officials at the Pentagon if Manning’s conditions at Quantico “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are,” the Guardian notes.
Obama is also on record during his hope-and-change presidential campaign defending the rights of whistleblowers, noting on his website back then that those who expose corruption are committing “acts of courage and patriotism” and those acts should be “encouraged, rather than stifled,” according to Der Spiegel.
In the interview, House bases his comments on first-hand experience, through visits with Manning at Quantico. Watching the effect that Manning’s confinement is producing, House noted:
“From first-hand observation of Bradley, I can say that I do not know how solitary confinement could be classified as anything other than torture -- a horrible, inhumane thing.”
Regarding the case being produced against Manning by the government, House said it has repeatedly thrown “stumbling blocks” in Manning’s right to a speedy trial in order to keep him confined for a longer period of time, a move that can be perceived as further weakening Manning’s emotional and mental state before trial.
According to House, the major portion of trial, “if not the whole trial,” will be conducted in secrecy.
House commented on the the question of whether he thought the release of the Collateral Murder video - a video taken aboard a US gunship helicopter in Iraq that shows the killing of 11 civilians, including two Reuters employees, and the wounding of two children - was a criminal act that many in the US have portrayed it to be:
“I believe that individuals who witness outrageous crimes against humanity taking place have an obligation, not just as a US citizen but as a human being, to bring these injustices to light.”
Among those speaking out against Manning’s treatment is Daniel Ellsberg, someone who became a household name over the Pentagon Papers scandal that forced President Nixon to resign. After President Obama made comments last week that he is assured Manning’s treatment is within guidelines, On Saturday, in the Guardian, Ellsberg suggests Obama needs to get a grip:
When that criminal behavior ordered from the Oval Office came out, Nixon faced impeachment and had to resign. Well, times have changed. But if President Obama really doesn't yet know the actual conditions of Manning's detention – if he really believes, as he's said, that “some of this [nudity, isolation, harassment, sleep-deprivation] has to do with Private Manning’s wellbeing”, despite the contrary judgments of the prison psychologist - then he’s being lied to, and he needs to get a grip on his administration.
If he does know, and agrees that it’s appropriate or even legal, that doesn’t speak well for his memory of the courses he taught on constitutional law.
The Bradley Manning Support Network was created to offer support for Manning’s defense fund. To date it has raised more than $100,000 with much of the funds going to Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs.
House is calling for Manning’s right to a speedy trial and stepped up pressure from the international community for taking “the option of executing a whistleblower off the table.” In the interview, House said:
“We need the action of every citizen in the entire world who values the principles of government transparency.”