The only person to visit Wikileaks suspect Pte Bradley Manning in custody other than his lawyer says his health has declined in the past four months.
US journalist David House, who has been visiting him since September, told the BBC World Service he looked “frazzled”.
A Marine Corps spokesman said the military was keeping him “safe, secure and ready for trial”.
Although PFC Manning has been charged with giving secret government information to Wikileaks, he has not been indicted and no date has been set for his trial.
According to the BBC article, House said that the punitive conditions of Manning’s pretrial detention are “definitely weakening his mental state.”
Among other discomforts, Manning told House “that the blankets he is given are so heavy and uncomfortable they feel like carpet squares.”
“He said he would frequently wake up in the morning with carpet burn, a problem exacerbated by the fact that he is required to sleep in his boxers.”
I have not been able to find any explanations from either Quantico authorities or Pentagon officials about the security concerns that would necessitate that direct contact be maintained between the blanket and Manning’s bare skin.
On December 17, Major Chris Perrine, a public affairs officer at the Defense Department, stated that Manning was not being held in solitary confinement.
At the Pentagon, Col. Dave Lapan elaborated:
[It’s true that] … Manning is being held alone in a cell. “But just being in a cell by yourself doesn’t constitute solitary confinement[.]”
A separate statement by officials at the Quantico brig stated that Manning is a “maximum custody detainee,” which would seem to suggest that Manning IS being held in solitary confinement — unless, of course, prisoners held under maximum security conditions are housed among the general prison population.
The Raw Story provides this quote from the Quantico information office:
“A maximum custody detainee is able to receive the same privileges that a detainee classified as general population may receive. … A maximum custody detainee also receives daily television, hygiene call, reading and outside physical activity without restraint[.]”
But of course, David House’s article about his conversation with Manning indicates that Manning is not allowed to receive or read newspapers and is not permitted any outdoor exercise at all, with or without restraint.
House visits Manning twice a month, which is how he knows Manning’s health has deteriorated:
When Mr House first visited Pte Manning in September, he found him mentally “very alert” and, physically, he looked to be “in very good health”.
“Over the months, I’ve seen his condition deteriorate. Mentally, he now has trouble keeping up with some topics of conversation. He has bags under his eyes and he appears to be very weak.”
UPDATE: With regard to my statement above that “Although PFC Manning has been charged with giving secret government information to Wikileaks, he has not been indicted and no date has been set for his trial,” Logan Penza points out in comments that “Military law doesn’t use the same names for things and uses a somewhat different process. But Manning has been formally charged (here is the charge sheet specifying the same information that would be contained in an indictment).”
Logan is correct that there is no indictment in military law. I made a mistake in assuming this step existed in a military trial. It doesn’t. A grand jury indictment, in which the prosecution presents the charges before a grand jury, which then decides if the evidence is sufficient and credible enough to support the charges (and thus warrant a trial), exists only in civilian criminal proceedings. Having said that, the charge sheet does not take the place of, or fulfill the function of, an indictment. There IS a procedure in military law, called an Article 32 hearing, which substitutes for the normal indictment process. In an Article 32 hearing, the charges are thoroughly investigated by an independent, impartial Article 32 Investigating Officer, who determines whether there is sufficient basis on which to bring the charges to a general court-martial. PFC Manning can, if he wishes, waive his Article 32 rights, but if he does not, then the pretrial hearing must take place. In a “legal update and overview”which can be found here, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, writes that the pretrial hearing should take place early next year, with the trial taking place about four months after that.