Bradley Manning, the former United States army intelligence officer jailed on suspicion of leaking U.S. government data to Wikileaks, will be moved from a military brig at Quantico, Virginia to a prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday.
The transfer will follow closely on intensifying criticism of the Pentagon for meting out harsh treatment to Mr. Manning, including allegations that he was kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, allowed no contact whatsoever with other inmates, and that he was stripped naked every night and forced to sleep in only a smock. Authorities have been quoted as saying that Mr. Manning faced restrictions to prevent self-injury.
His confinement has not been without controversy either, as a senior State Department official, Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley, resigned last month after describing Mr. Manning’s treatment by the Pentagon as “stupid.” Further a group of 250 top lawyers including a former professor of President Barack Obama wrote a letter describing Mr. manning’s conditions of imprisonment as “illegal and immoral.”
Further, a top United Nations official, Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez, said earlier this month that he was “deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the U.S. government,” after he was denied permission for unmonitored visits to Mr. Manning.
The latest step by the Pentagon, to move Mr. Manning to Fort Leavenworth, was announced by Jeh Johnson, Pentagon General Counsel, who said, “Given the length of time he has been in pre-trial confinement at Quantico ... and given what the likely period of pre-trial confinement in the future [is]... we reached the judgment this would be the right facility for him.” Mr. Johnson also speculated, “We are probably months off from a trial.”
However Mr. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, said that he was not officially notified of Mr. Manning’s pending move until twenty minutes before the Pentagon’s press briefing – “This is despite the fact that the Pentagon has “been thinking about this for a while,”” Mr. Coombs said.
Mr. Coombs however added that although the move came as a surprise its timing did not, because Mr. Manning’s defence team had recently received “reliable reports of a private meeting held on 13 January 2011, involving high-level Quantico officials where it was ordered that PFC Manning would remain in maximum custody and under prevention of injury watch indefinitely.”
At that meeting, when an attending psychiatrist “challenged” senior Quantico officials saying that there was no mental health justification for the decision, one of the prison officials said “he would not risk anything happening on his watch,” adding, “We will do whatever we want to do.”