Manning’s Father Condemns Treatment of Imprisoned Sonby Kim Zetter, m.wired.com
March 10th 2011
The father of suspected WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning says the military has crossed a line in its treatment of his son and called the conditions under which he was being imprisoned “shocking.”
Brian Manning broke his silence to a PBS Frontline correspondent this week after the U.S. Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Virginia, where his 23-year-old son is being held, stripped the soldier of his clothing and forced him to stand at attention in the nude and sleep naked. Manning’s defense attorney has called the brig’s move “inexcusable” and “degrading treatment.”
“This is someone who has not gone to trial or been convicted of anything,” Brian Manning told Frontline. “They worry about people down in a base in Cuba, but here they are, have someone on our own soil, under their own control, and they’re treating him this way…. It’s shocking enough that I would come out of our silence as a family and say … you’ve crossed a line. This is wrong.”
His exclusive interview with Frontline marks the first time the elder Manning has publicly spoken since his son was incarcerated at the brig last July after being charged with eight counts related to illegally downloading classified information and passing it to an unauthorized party. Last week the Army filed 22 additional charges against the young soldier, including a capital offense that makes him eligible for the death penalty.
Frontline is preparing a profile on Bradley Manning to be aired March 29 on PBS as well as an hour-long documentary on WikiLeaks to air in May. Producers decided to release these clips early after Brian Manning said he wanted to go on record protesting the military’s treatment of his son.
His statements were released on the same day that his son’s attorney published an 11-page document from the soldier addressing the military’s “improper” treatment of him.
In a statement released to PBS, the Defense Department disputed that Manning was made to stand at attention in the nude.
“In recent days, as the result of concerns for PFC Manning’s personal safety, his undergarments were taken from him during sleeping hours,” the statement reads. “PFC Manning at all times had a bed and a blanket to cover himself. He was not made to stand naked for morning count but, but on one day, he chose to do so. There were no female personnel present at the time. PFC Manning has since been issued a garment to sleep in at night. He is clothed in a standard jumpsuit during the day.”
Manning was arrested last May in Iraq after telling a former hacker that he had leaked vast amounts of classified material to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks. He was subsequently transferred to Kuwait, where he was detained for about two months before being moved to the brig in Virginia.
For most of his time at the brig, Manning has been held in highly restrictive pretrial confinement while awaiting a mental-health hearing to determine if the court-martial case against him will proceed to the next step. Designated a maximum-custody detainee under prevention-of-injury watch, or POI, he is confined to his cell for all but an hour a day and has a number of other restrictions placed on him.
Until recently he was allowed to sleep only in boxer shorts and was told the restrictions were meant to prevent him from harming himself. But last week, that changed.
After authorities denied an appeal from the soldier to ease up on his conditions and cited risk of self-harm as justification, Manning quipped to prison personnel that he could just as easily harm himself with the elastic waistband in his boxer shorts. That’s when a chief warrant officer at the brig ordered Manning stripped him of his undershorts as well, according to Manning’s civilian defense attorney David Coombs, who recounted the incident on his blog.
Coombs called the move “clearly punitive in nature.”
In January, Coombs filed a formal complaint after his client was abruptly placed on suicide watch by the commander of the brig. During the suicide watch, Manning was confined to his cell around the clock, while a guard sat outside watching him. He was also stripped to his underwear, and his prescription eyeglasses were taken from him and returned only during the one hour a day when he was permitted to watch television and read.
Despite all of these conditions, and his opposition to them, Manning’s father told Frontline that his son didn’t seem to be suffering from his confinement at the brig. He said he had visited his son eight or nine times and had been assured by his son that he was fine.
“He doesn’t complain at all about anything,” Manning said. “He comes across to me as doing well. … I’m happy that he’s doing as well as he is.”
He added that there was no reason his son would hide feelings from his father if he were suffering.
Asked to comment in general on the leaking of classified information to WikiLeaks, Manning replied that “whomever released these documents, … I believe that it was the wrong thing to do.”
Manning, a former U.S. serviceman who once held a security clearance himself, said it was “black and white” that soldiers entrusted with classified information don’t leak it. “You just don’t go there,” he told Frontline.
Manning, in his only previous interview, told Wired.com last May that he was shocked by his son’s arrest.
“I was in the military for five years,” he said at the time. “I had a Secret clearance, and I never divulged any information in 30 years since I got out about what I did. And Brad has always been very, very tight at adhering to the rules. Even talking to him after boot camp and stuff, he kept everything so close that he didn’t open up to anything.”
Asked by Frontline what he would say if it turned out his son did leak the documents he replied, “I’m not even letting those thoughts come into my head. … I don’t know why he would do that. I really don’t.”
He disclosed to Frontline that his son had never wanted to join the military and only signed up after his father pushed him to do so.
“I didn’t make him,” Manning told Frontline. “I twisted his arm and urged him as much as a father can possibly urge somebody. … because he needed structure in his life. He was aimless.”
Original Page: http://m.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/03/brian-manning
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