The American horror inflicted on Bradley Manning

If anybody doubts the brutality of the US “justice system” and the ways in which anybody deeply associated with Wikileaks is deemed an enemy of the state, the treatment of Bradley Manning is nothing less than torture. The reality of a tattered super-power. The Guardian reports:

Shortly before Bradley Manning was arrested in Iraq under suspicion of being the source of the vast transfer of US state secrets to WikiLeaks, he is alleged to have entered into a web chat with the hacker Adrian Lamo using the handle bradass87. “I’m honestly scared,” the anonymous individual wrote. “I have no one I trust, I need a lot of help.”

That cry for assistance was a gross under-estimation of the trouble that was about to befall Manning, judging from his testimony on Thursday. In his first publicly spoken words since his arrest in May 2010, delivered at a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland, the soldier painted a picture of a Kafkaesque world into which he was sucked and in which he would languish for almost one excruciating year.

Over more than six hours of intense questioning by his defence lawyer, David Coombs, Manning, 24, set out for the court what he described as the darkness and absurdity of his first year in captivity. The more he protested the harsh conditions under which he was being held, the more that was taken as evidence that he was a suicide risk, leading to yet more tightening of the restrictions imposed upon him.

He related how he turned for help to one particular member of staff at the brig at Quantico marine base in Virginia where he was taken in July 2010. He assumed that Staff Sergeant Pataki was on his side, so opened up to him.

“I wanted to convey the fact that I’d been on the [restrictive regime] for a long time. I’m not doing anything to harm myself. I’m not throwing myself against walls, or jumping up or down, or putting my head in the toilet.”

Manning told Pataki that “if I was a danger to myself I would act out more”. He used his underwear and flip-flops as an example, insisting that “if I really wanted to hurt myself I could use things now: underwear, flip-flops, they could potentially be used as something to harm oneself”.

The conversation took place in March 2011, some eight months into his stay at Quantico where he had been held in the most extreme conditions. He was under constant observation, made to go to the toilet in full view of the guards, had all possessions removed from his cell, spent at times only 20 minutes outside his cell and even then was always chained in hand and leg irons.

Manning felt good about his interaction with Pataki. “I felt like he was listening and understanding, and he smiled a little. I thought I’d actually started to get through to him.”

That night guards arrived at his cell and ordered him to strip naked. He was left without any clothes overnight, and the following morning made to stand outside his cell and stand to attention at the brig count, still nude, as officers inspected him.

The humiliating ritual continued for several days, and right until the day he was transferred from Quantico on 20 April 2011 he had his underwear removed every night. The brig authorities later stated that in their view the exceptional depriving of an inmate’s underpants was a necessary precaution, in the light of his ominous comments about using his underwear and flip-flops to harm himself.

If the marine commanders were guided in their treatment of Manning, as they said they were, by fears that he was suicidal, that assessment would certainly have been merited at the beginning of his captivity. Manning began his epic testimony by describing how he had a virtual mental breakdown soon after he was taken to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait following his initial arrest.

He was clearly terrified by the uncertainty in which he suddenly found himself. He had, by his own admission, recently committed a massive dump of government information from secure military computers to the website WikiLeaks, and now he was in the hands of army jailers with no knowledge about what was going to happen to him.

“I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t have formal charges or anything, my interactions were very limited with anybody else, so it was very draining.”

He was put on a schedule whereby he would be woken up at 10 o’clock at night and given lights out at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. “My nights blended into my days and my days into nights,” he told the court.

  • Kevin Herbert

    Another dark episode in the story of the demise of the Great Satan.

  • Ned

    Clearly the torturers in the Spanish inquisition could have learned something with this scenario. Nice to know that civilization and the professional society of professional torturers is well advanced with such techniques in our modern age of enlightenment.

  • Pingback: Manning takes stand at pre-trial hearing and speaks at length about his treatment by the military following his arrest in 2010 « Family Survival Protocol

  • examinator

    The twins (Doom and Gloom) are in fine form I see…. psst fellas life doesn't exist in the extremes .
    Quantico doesn't have a rack, an iron maiden, or branding irons.They already knew about solitary confinement , water boarding and iron boots etc.
    In the comments of the Guardian the other day there was a number of comments from some one with real experience of personalities and the conditions at Quantico.
    Broadly speaking he indicated that BM was neither the only nor the longest prisoner in to suffer these conditions. They spoke of some who have had these conditions for years.
    One should not forget the reason he was primarily there i.e. he was possibly rightly so a suicide risk and possibly at risk from other inmates.

    The key issue here is that the US military is hardly an enlightened organisation noted for is respect for the individual much less their "short comings".
    BM was at best a troubled young gay man unsuited for military service, even less for the US military. Keep in mind he was serving under the 'don't tell' mentality of the time. Additionally militaries tend to be hot beds of nationalism and conservative intolerance and group thinking.
    He had a emotionally troubled private and military record and was more than once considered for dismissal.
    Like all bureaucracies he was dumped in his position (a file and forget person)

    All this point's strongly to Examinatior's 4 th law of screw ups which states " to err is human but to really screw it up you need a bureaucracy and an emotionally charged mob."
    BTW Examinator's law of bureaucracies states " the bigger the bureaucracy the the more rigid and less humane it becomes" and there are few bureaucracies bigger than the US military .
    BTW with friends like some of his fans he doesn't need enemies. Clearly they don't understand *the presumption of innocence until proven in a court of law* in their haste they have presumed his guilt and martyred his already.

    BM should never have been in the Army and should have been discharged before he was put in the position he was. Guilty or not he appeared to be acting out some emotional (Walter Mittyesque) fantasy with his 'admissions' to the fellow hacker.
    Quantico is ill prepared for enlightened, medical, psychological (humane) Containment. Like most militaries it is predicated on the basis of compliance to stereotypic more, myopic authoritarian structures and punishment.
    Generally speaking and BM aside the conditions of incarceration at Quantico are appalling. Clearly more suited to the Brute Force and Ignorance (BFI) mentality of pre 20th century sanatorium philosophy.
    To be fair I doubt that they were deliberately intended to be akin to some Starzi interrogation cell rather their in ability/ lack of real knowledge training of how to deal with anyone other than the extreme stereotypical hardened psychopath.
    One should wonder where were the security protocols that allowed such alleged activity and was this whole thing a bureaucratic intolerance for a non compliant to the stereotypic standard.
    Either way BM highlights the clear rigidity and failing of the US military and the flawed overy conservative bias of the US it's self.