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.