Yesterday on Twitter, Salon's Glenn Greenwald promised followers a forthcoming story detailing allegations of torture against Private First Class Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking to WikiLeaks. Manning, you may recall, is currently in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
"A major story brewing is the cruel, inhuman treatment - torture - to which Bradley Manning is being subjected: more to come shortly," Greenwald pledged on December 14. Greenwald's story was published early this morning.
So what was Greenwald's big scoop? What's the "torture" that Manning is subjected to?
If you said that he's in solitary confinement, can't watch MSNBC, and doesn't get a soft pillow with his cot, you guessed correctly (emphases mine):
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a "Maximum Custody Detainee," the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. [Quantico official] Lt. [Brian] Villiard protested that the conditions are not "like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole," but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.
Manning is barred from communicating with any reporters, even indirectly, so nothing he has said can be quoted here. But David House, a 23-year-old MIT researcher who befriended Manning after his detention (and then had his laptops, camera and cellphone seized by Homeland Security when entering the U.S.) is one of the few people to have visited Manning several times at Quantico. He describes palpable changes in Manning's physical appearance and behavior just over the course of the several months that he's been visiting him. Like most individuals held in severe isolation, Manning sleeps much of the day, is particularly frustrated by the petty, vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets, and suffers from less and less outdoor time as part of his one-hour daily removal from his cage.
This is why the conditions under which Manning is being detained were once recognized in the U.S. -- and are still recognized in many Western nations -- as not only cruel and inhumane, but torture. More than a century ago, U.S. courts understood that solitary confinement was a barbaric punishment that severely harmed the mental and physical health of those subjected to it. The Supreme Court's 1890 decision in In re Medley noted that as a result of solitary confinement as practiced in the early days of the United States, many "prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition . . . and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better . . . [often] did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community." And in its 1940 decision in Chambers v. Florida, the Court characterized prolonged solitary confinement as "torture" and compared it to "[t]he rack, the thumbscrew, [and] the wheel."
Greenwald has since updated his story to note that Lt. Villiard "claims there is one factual inaccuracy in what I wrote: specifically, he claims that Manning is not restricted from accessing news or current events during the prescribed time he is permitted to watch television."
So I guess Manning can watch MSNBC after all.