US soldier Bradley Manning, held in military custody facing charges of leaking large amounts of classified data, is to be moved to a different jail.
At present, Manning is being held in the US Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Virginia. According to an announcement by top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson, he will now be moved to the main US Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which has more extensive facilities.
"The fact that we have made a decision to transfer this particular pre-trial confine ... should not be interpreted as a criticism of the place he was before," Johnson told reporters.
According to military spokespersons, Manning will suffer a less arduous and isolating confinement regime at Leavenworth, where he is expected to be able to take longer exercise and recreation periods and mix with other prisoners more – for instance at mealtimes.
Manning's current regime has seen him locked in his cell for 23 hours a day and his clothing taken away at night. His Marine jailers have stated that these measures were required under their procedures as Manning was assessed by them as being a suicide risk.
Lt Col Dawn Hilton, commanding the medium-security Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Leavenworth, told the Press Association that her jail had more comprehensive facilities than the Quantico brig – including a range of qualified mental, emotional and physical health professionals. Following Manning's "imminent" arrival there he will be comprehensively evaluated to discover whether he presents a threat to himself or others, according to the colonel. The 150 prisoners already under her care – including eight awaiting trial – normally get three hours recreation per day and eat their meals in a common dining area rather than in their cells.
Johnson said that Manning had been held in Virginia so that he could attend an interview in the Washington area in order to determine his competence to stand trial. That interview having been completed on 9 April, the move to Leavenworth can now go ahead.
The conditions of Manning's imprisonment at Quantico had been roundly criticised in many quarters. An Obama administration official, PJ Crowley, was forced to resign after adding his voice to that criticism, and the British government had formally expressed concern on the matter to the US State Department.
It is widely believed that Private Manning's alleged leaking of classified data (obtained while working as a junior intelligence analyst at a base in Iraq) is the source of the huge trove of classified US files released in recent times by the WikiLeaks website and its mainstream-media partners. However this is unproven and reports have it that US prosecutors cannot establish a court-worthy link between Manning and WikiLeaks.
Manning will certainly face trial, and if convicted he seems likely to serve a lengthy sentence. It is far less clear that any US prosecution will be mounted against WikiLeaks or persons involved with it.
Colourful WikiLeaks supremo Julian Assange™ is at present in the UK, battling an extradition request by prosecutors in Sweden arising from sexual offence charges he faces there. ®