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Today Glenn Greenwald exposedthe inhumane conditions under which alleged leaker Bradley Manning is being held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. I recommend clicking over to read the whole piece, but I will post a few excerpts so that we may discuss it here. I know that Bradley Manning isn't necessarily the most popular person around here, but I hope that, after reading the Greenwald piece, even those at Daily Kos who hate him with a passion may agree that the current conditions of his detention are unwarranted.

Greenwald's piece on Manning is mostly based on original reporting and has been mainly confirmed on-the-record by an official from Quantico. Greenwald describesthe detention conditions for his five months at Quantico like this:

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement.  For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell.  Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions.  For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch).  For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs.  Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not "like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole," but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.

(In an update, Greenwald acknowledges that a Quantico spokesperson contacted him after publication to dispute that Manning is not allowed access to news).

Greenwald points out what should already be evidently clear to anyone reading this: by holding Manning in isolation, he is being treated like one of the worst of the worst criminals, such as those held in the supermax facility in Florence, Colorado. Of course, these prisoners have been convicted of crimes and have established themselves as extraordinarily dangerous while behind bars. Per Greenwald, Manning is not accused of misbehavior in prison, and, of course, he has not been tried or convicted of any crime. And the crime that he is alleged to have committed is nonviolent in nature.

Is this solitary confinement warranted? You may think it is, but do you know how psychologically punishing solitary confinement is? Greenwald points his readers to an excellent article by the doctor and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande, who examined the nature of solitary confinement and demonstrated that enforced solitude in and of itself is a type of torture that can lead to diminished mental functions and serious negative psychological impact. And yet the non-violent accused leaker Bradley Manning is being continuously subjected to this harsh punishment, a punishment that former detainee Senator John McCain wrote "crushes your spirit." Greenwald writes, referencing Dr. Gawande's article:

When one exacerbates the harms of prolonged isolation with the other deprivations to which Manning is being subjected, long-term psychiatric and even physical impairment is likely.  Gawande documents that "EEG studies going back to the nineteen-sixties have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement."  Medical tests conducted in 1992 on Yugoslavian prisoners subjected to an average of six months of isolation -- roughly the amount to which Manning has now been subjected -- "revealed brain abnormalities months afterward; the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious or, yes, solitary confinement.  Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury."  Gawande's article is filled with horrifying stories of individuals subjected to isolation similar to or even less enduring than Manning's who have succumbed to extreme long-term psychological breakdown.

Leaving aside your opinion about what Bradley Manning is alleged to have done, do you think that this kind of detention could possibly be warranted in this case?

Originally posted to Lost Left Coaster on Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 08:59 AM PST.


Is solitary confinement warranted for Bradley Manning?

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