Imprisoned US soldier Private Bradley Manning, who is charged with leaking huge amounts of classified data from military computer systems, is now under a much less severe confinement regime.
Manning's lawyer, David Coombs (a former Army judge and reserve Lieutenant-Colonel) reports in a recent blog post that his client's move from the US Marine jail at Quantico, Virginia (known as the "brig" in accordance with the Marines' nautical traditions) to the main US Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has resulted in a considerable improvement in quality of life.
At Quantico, Manning was held in solitary in his cell for 23 hours each day, had very limited access to reading material, was frequently awakened at night and compelled to strip before going to bed.
By contrast at Leavenworth he has a window giving natural light, a more comfortable cell with a desk, reading materials, pen and paper etc, and doesn't have his clothing taken away at night. He is confined to his cell for nine hours only at night, having access to a common area used by other pre-trial detainees for the rest of the day where there is a TV and an exercise treadmill. Manning and the other pre-trial inmates eat their meals in a cafeteria and get a two-hour outdoor exercise break. There is also access to a library and an indoor rec area.
Manning is also allowed to receive mail at Leavenworth: Coombs gives the address.
According to Coombs, the move to Leavenworth may have been motivated by intransigence on the part of Marine commanders at Quantico regarding their decisions to put Manning under maximum-security confinement and to deem him a personal-injury/suicide risk. These decisions together made his imprisonment in the brig much more arduous than it would otherwise have been.
The defense recently received reliable reports of a private meeting ... involving high-level Quantico officials where it was ordered that PFC Manning would remain in maximum custody and under prevention of injury watch indefinitely ... When challenged by a Brig psychiatrist present at the meeting that there was no mental health justification for the decision, the senior Quantico official issuing the order responded, "We will do whatever we want to do".
Coombs says he was in the process of preparing a writ of habeas corpus seeking a court ruling that the Marines' confinement regime violated Manning's rights to due process. He planned to cite a previous case in which the Marine Corps had illegally used maximum-security custody as a form of punishment.
Coombs suggests that the move to Leavenworth was motivated by a desire to avoid this writ.
"The news of the move came as a surprise to the defense [but] the timing did not," he writes, adding that he intends "to pursue redress at the appropriate time for the flagrant violations of [Manning's] constitutional rights by the Quantico confinement facility".
It's widely believed that the files Manning is accused of leaking were passed to the WikiLeaks website – in fact that they have made up almost all the site's interesting material in recent times (Iraq and Afghan "war logs", secret diplomatic cable trove, Baghdad gunship vids). However it appears that US investigators are having difficulty establishing court-worthy proof of this – which would be necessary to make a case against WikiLeaks for espionage – and thus far no US legal moves have been made against WikiLeaks or its colourful chief Julian Assange.
At the moment Assange™ remains on bail in the UK facing extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him regarding accusations of sexual offences made by women there. ®