Bradley Manning is suffering inhumane isolation in prison that numerous experts say is a form of real torture.
AlterNet / By Joshua Holland
December 23, 2010/ Last week, Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of giving classified materials to Wikileaks, spent his 23rd birthday in the brig of the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. He has been convicted of no crime, but endures the kind of highly restrictive detention that's usually reserved for the most dangerous criminals in America's supermax prisons. He is kept isolated in his cell 23 hours a day, where he is cut off from most human contact, denied reading materials and personal items, prevented by the guards from exercising and regularly awakened from his sleep. He has been at Quantico for five months, following two months of detention in Kuwait.
The circumstances of Manning's detention gained prominence last week after Salon's Glenn Greenwald wrote a scathing exposé of what he called “conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.” As AlterNet's Sarah Seltzer noted, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has started a probe to determine whether Manning's solitary confinement constitutes torture under international law.
The Pentagon reacted to the story by claiming that Manning is “a maximum custody detainee” who can “receive the same privileges that a detainee classified as general population may receive … [including] daily television, hygiene call, reading and outside physical activity without restraint.” But David House, one of the few people able to visit Manning, said that Manning told him he'd only been allowed outdoors sporadically, and his exercise consisted of being placed in a room where he can only walk around in circles.
Manning also has a “Prevention of Injury” (POI) order that requires him to be constantly monitored by guards, and prevents him from having normal bedding. He has to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothes to the guards each night before sleeping under a “suicide blanket” – he told House it's “similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories, and similar in texture to coarse and stiff carpet.” Manning “expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns.” According to Greenwald, prison medical officials are administering him antidepressants.
POI orders are usually issued for brief periods of time for inmates who are judged to be suicidal or have not yet undergone a psychological evaluation. Manning has been evaluated, and there is no indication he is a threat to himself or others. He has been, by all accounts, a model prisoner.
Clinical psychologist Jeff Kaye spoke to House after his visit with Manning, and while he stressed that a complete evaluation of Manning's well-being is impossible without personal contact, he predicted that “Solitary confinement will slowly wear down the mental and physical condition of Bradley Manning.”
Solitary confinement is an assault on the body and psyche of an individual. It deprives him of species-specific forms of physical, sensory and social interaction with the environment and other human beings. Manning reported last weekend he had not seen sunlight in four weeks, nor does he interact with other people but a few hours on the weekend. The human nervous system needs a certain amount of sensory and social stimulation to retain normal brain functioning. The effects of this deprivation on individuals varies, and some people are affected more severely or quickly, while others hold out longer against the boredom and daily grind of dullness that never seems to end.
Over time, isolation produces a particular well-known syndrome which is akin to that of an organic brain disorder, or delirium. The list of possible effects upon a person is quite long, and can include an inability to tolerate ordinary stimuli, sleep and appetite disturbances, primitive forms of thinking and aggressive ruminations, perceptual distortions and hallucinations, agitation, panic attacks, claustrophobia, feelings of loss of control, rage, paranoia, memory loss, lack of concentration, generalized body pain, EEG abnormalities, depression, suicidal ideation and random, self-destructive behavior.
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Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks
http://www.ted.com/ The controversial website WikiLeaks collects and posts highly classified documents and video. Founder Julian Assange, who's reportedly being sought for questioning by US authorities, talks to TED's Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished -- and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the "Sixth Sense" wearable tech, and "Lost" producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at http://www.ted.com/translate. Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/top10