Defense Describes Bradley Manning’s “Unlawful Pretrial Punishment” in Solitary Confinement

by | August 11, 2012

David E. Coombs, attorney for accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning, has made public a motion “to dismiss all charges owing to the unlawful pretrial punishment to which PFC Manning was subjected while at Marine Corps Base, Quantico.” Manning spent close to nine months in solitary confinement in the Brig at Quantico, from July 2010 to April 2011, before being transferred into less restrictive conditions at Fort Leavenworth.

Manning was held in conditions that were denounced as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez. His lawyer is now arguing that they were also in “flagrant violation” of military code. Keep in mind that Manning had not–and still has not–been convicted of any crime, nor had he been accused of any disciplinary violations while in custody.

According to the motion, as summarzied on Coombs’s website, “a decision had been made early on at Quantico to keep PFC Manning in MAX Custody and in Prevention of Injury (POI) status — in effect, the functional equivalent of solitary confinement.” The motion further argues that “Multiple psychiatrists at the Quantico Brig recommended for almost nine months that PFC Manning be downgraded from POI status.  The psychiatrists informed Quantico Brig officials that PFC Manning’s POI status was not warranted because he did not present a risk to himself and that the POI status was actually causing PFC Manning psychological harm.  The psychiatrists’ recommendations were outright ignored by Quantico officials.”

The defense claims it has documents that “reveal that the senior Brig officer who ordered PFC Manning to be held in MAX and in POI was receiving his marching orders from a three-star general. They also reveal that everyone at Quantico was complicit in the unlawful pretrial punishment, from senior officers to enlisted marines.”

Many aspects of Bradley Manning’s conditions of confinement at Quantico will sound familiar to the tens of thousands of American prisoners who have spent time in solitary confinement in supermax prisons and Special Housing Units. Additional restrictions were put in place supposedly because he was at risk of harming himself, though they in fact seem only to have added to his torture. According to the summary of the motion:

PFC Manning was placed in a 6×8 cell with no window or natural light. Owing to his classification as a MAX detainee, PFC Manning was subject to the following restrictions:
  • PFC Manning was placed in a cell directly in front of the guard post to facilitate his constant monitoring.
  • PFC Manning was awoken at 0500 hours and required to remain awake in his cell from 0500 to 2200 hours.
  • PFC Manning was not permitted to lie down on his rack during the duty day. Nor was PFC Manning permitted to lean his back against the cell wall; he had to sit upright on his rack without any back support.
  • Whenever PFC Manning was moved outside his cell, the entire facility was locked down.
  • Whenever PFC Manning was moved outside his cell, he was shackled with metal hand and leg restraints and accompanied by at least two guards.
  • From 29 July 2010 to 10 December 2010, PFC Manning was permitted only 20 minutes of “sunshine call.”  Aside from a 3-5 minute shower, this would be the only time PFC Manning would regularly spend outside his cell.  During this sunshine call, he would be brought to a small concrete yard, about half to a third of the size of a basketball court.  PFC Manning would be permitted to walk around the yard in hand and leg shackles, while being accompanied by a Brig guard…
  • From 10 December 2010 onward, PFC Manning was permitted a one hour recreation call.  At this point, the Brig authorized the removal of his hand and leg shackles and PFC Manning was no longer required to be accompanied by a Brig guard…
  • PFC Manning was only authorized non-contact visits.  The non-contact visits were permitted on Saturdays and Sundays between 1200 and 1500 hours by approved visitors.  During these visits, he would have to wear his hand and leg restraints.
  • PFC Manning was required to meet his visitors in a small 4 by 6 foot room that was separated with a glass partition.  His visits were monitored by the guards and they were audio recorded by the Brig…
  • PFC Manning was only permitted non-contact visits with his attorneys. During these visits, he was shackled at the hands and feet.
  • PFC Manning was not permitted any work duty.
Owing to PFC Manning being placed on continuous POI status, he was subject to the following further restrictions:
  • PFC Manningwas subject to constant monitoring; the Brig guards were required to check on him every five minutes by asking him some variation of, “are you okay?” PFC Manning was required to respond in some affirmative manner.   Guards were required to make notations every five minutes in a logbook.
  • At night, if the guards could not see him clearly, because he had a blanket over his head or he was curled up towards the wall, they would wake PFC Manning in order to ensure that he was okay.
  • At night, only some of the lights would be turned off.  Additionally, there was a florescent light in the hall outside PFC Manning’s cell that would stay on at night.
  • PFC Manning was required to receive each of his meals alone in his cell.  He was only permitted to eat with a spoon.
  • There were usually no detainees on either side of PFC Manning.  If PFC Manning attempted to speak to those detainees that were several cells away from him, the guards would order him to stop speaking.
  • PFC Manning originally was provided with a standard mattress and no pillow. PFC Manning tried to fold the mattress to make a pillow so that he could be more comfortable when sleeping.  Brig officials did not like this, so on 15 December 2010 they provided him with a suicide mattress with a built-in pillow…
  • PFC Manning was not permitted regular sheets or blankets.  Instead he was provided with a tear-proof security blanket.  This blanket was extremely coarse…The blanket did not keep PFC Manning warm because it did not retain heat and, due to its stiffness, did not contour to his body.
  • PFC Manningwas not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.
  • PFC Manningwas only allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read.  If he was not actively reading, the book or magazine would be taken away from him.  Also, the book or magazine would be taken away from him at the end of the day before he went to sleep.
  • For the last month of his confinement at Quantico, PFC Manning was given a pen and five pieces of paper along with his book.  However, if he was not actively reading his book and taking notes, these items would be taken away from him.
  • PFC Manning was prevented from exercising in his cell.  If he attempted to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he would be forced to stop.
  • When PFC Manning went to sleep, he was required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.
  • PFC Manning was only permitted hygiene items as needed. PFC Manning would have to request toilet paper every time he wanted to go to the bathroom; at times, he had to wait for guards to provide him with toilet paper.
  • There was no soap in his cell.  PFC Manning requested soap to wash his hands after using the bathroom; guards would sometimes get the soap, and sometimes not.
  • PFC Manning was not permitted to wear shoes in his cell.
  • PFC Manning was initially only permitted correspondence time for one hour a day; after 27 October 2010, this was changed to two hours per day.

According to the complaint, at one point, after he suffered an apparent anxiety attack and then protested his conditions, a Brig official “placed PFC Manning in Suicide Risk status, over the recommendation of a Brig psychiatrist.” For two days he was confined to his cell, permitted to wear only his underwear during the day, and forced to sleep naked at night; his eyeglasses were also taken away. After he complained about his conditions again, Manning was “required to wear a heavy and restrictive suicide smock which irritated his skin and, on one occasion, almost choked him.”

As Matt Williams writes at the Guardian:

The defence motion is brought under Article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It states that “no person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence.”Under Article 13, if a judge decides that a member of the armed forces has been illegally punished before trial, he can grant the prisoner credit on the amount of time they have already served in custody, or can even dismiss all charges outright.

For more detailed readings of the motion, see Kevin Gosztola’s blog at Firedoglake and Kim Zetter’s post on Wired.

Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway (1936-2021) was the founder and co-director of Solitary Watch. An investigative journalist for over 60 years, he served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice and Mother Jones, reporting domestically on subjects ranging from electoral politics to corporate malfeasance to the rise of the racist far-right, and abroad from Central America, Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia. Earlier, he wrote for The New Republic and Ramparts, and his work appeared in dozens of other publications. He was the co-director of two films and author of 20 books, including a forthcoming posthumous edition of his groundbreaking 1991 work on the far right, Blood in the Face. Jean Casella is the director of Solitary Watch. She has also published work in The Guardian, The Nation, and Mother Jones, and is co-editor of the book Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement. She has received a Soros Justice Media Fellowship and an Alicia Patterson Fellowship. She tweets @solitarywatch.

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  • Lloyd Cata

    Mr. Manning is fortunate. I didn’t get the suicide mattress and blanket. See my cell was
    ‘designed’ by the NIH just for the purpose of psychologically breaking a man.

    If you think that is fiction, you can ask Jose Padilla who probably cannot even speak legibly today from the psychological torture.

    Yes, it is cruel, but not unusual, since my case was 40 years ago.

  • Alan CYA # 65085

    If he is in the GP this is will be his most likely fate. It’s an educated guess.

    Justice Justice of Texas wrote in 1999:

    “prison inmates continue to live in fear – a fear that is incomprehensible to most of the state’s free world citizens. More vulnerable inmates are raped, beaten, owned, and sold by more powerful ones. Despite their pleas to prison officials, they are often refused protection. Instead, they pay for protection, in money, services, or sex.

    Correctional officers continue to rely on the physical control of excessive force to enforce order. Those inmates locked away in administrative segregation, especially those with mental illnesses, are subjected to extreme deprivations and daily psychological harm. Such practices and conditions cannot stand in our society, under our Constitution.”

    Here is a quote from the Supreme Court?

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Farmer v. Brennan:
    “The horrors experienced by many young inmates, particularly those who are convicted of nonviolent offenses, border on the unimaginable. Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but it is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self-esteem accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure.”

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