A group of 250 legal experts including a former professor of United States President Barack Obama has written a letter condemning the U.S.' treatment of Bradley Manning, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst held responsible for leaking government documents to Wikileaks.
Mr. Manning, who was charged with giving the whistleblower website documents pertaining to the U.S. military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan and also a controversial cache of State Department cables, has been in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, for the last nine months.
Describing his conditions of confinement as “illegal and immoral,” Mr. Obama's former teacher at Harvard University, Laurence Tribe, joined numerous peers to argue that if Mr. Manning's harsh treatment was continued by the Pentagon, it may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture, defined as, “the administration or application…of… procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”
Mr. Manning's routine in the Quantico military facility confines him to his cell for 23 hours a day, the legal specialists wrote. They said during the remaining hour, he was only permitted to walk in circles in another room, with no contact with any person whatsoever.
Mr. Manning was also banned from dozing or relaxing during the day, subjected to constant monitoring, and during the past week he was said to have been “forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a “smock” under claims of risk to himself that he disputes”.
The letter said the Obama administration had supplied no evidence that Mr. Manning's treatment reflected any concern for his own safety or that of other inmates, and “Unless and until it does so, there is only one reasonable inference: this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.”
Numerous other groups and prominent individuals have called on the Pentagon to end it, some controversially. Last month, the former U.S. State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, resigned after calling the Pentagon's actions “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”.
Mr. Crowley, highest-profile casualty over the Manning affair thus far, however went on to say in media interviews that he had “no regrets” about his comments and argued that the manner of Mr. Manning's detention had “undermined the investigation into his role as the alleged source for Wikileaks”.