I'll be very interested to hear how people who argued so long and loud on Daily Kos that there was nothing amiss with Bradley Manning's detention conditions at Quantico will react to this news. Of course, many of them argued that David E. Coombs is not a credible source on Manning's detention conditions, since he is Manning's attorney. If that is your position, then you are free to dismiss the following information as well. However, I am gratified to see that things have improved for Manning.
Before I continue, a disclaimer: this diary is simply to share information about how Bradley Manning's detention conditions have changed. In no way am I arguing in this diary that the essential injustices committed against Manning have been resolved. I'm still suspicious that Manning's 6th Amendment rights are being violated by this long detention. I am not a lawyer, though. David Coombs is; let's hear what he has to say about Manning's detention at Fort Leavenworth.
First, a recap: on April 20th, Bradley Manning was transferred from the Marine brig in Quantico, VA, where he had been held since July 2010, having been transferred there from Kuwait, where he was first arrested. The conditions of his detention at Quantico have been well-covered here at Daily Kos and elsewhere.
Now that Manning is being held at Fort Leavenworth, the conditions of his detention have changed remarkably. According to a blog post by his attorney David Coombs:
Unlike at Quantico, PFC Manning cell has a large window that provides adequate natural light. His cell also has a desk, a bed, and a toilet. The cell is approximately 80 square feet. He is provided with a normal mattress, sheets and a pillow. None of his clothing is taken away from him at night. PFC Manning is able to have all of his personal items in his cell, which include his clothing, his legal materials, books and letters from family and friends. He is also able to have a pen and paper at all times in his cell, and is able to write whenever he chooses.
PFC Manning is housed in a special area of the confinement facility, along with other pre-trial detainees. Each pre-trial area (including PFC Manning’s) has four cells, and each pre-trial detainee is assigned to his own cell. The cells are connected to a shared common area, with a table, a treadmill, a television and a shower area.
Mr. Coombs also provides a link to an Army website that gives an overview and photos of the facility at Fort Leavenworth where Manning is being held. According to this website (typo in original):
The Special Housing Unit is a multi-floor design with 48 individual cells. The correctional specialist's control panel is located in a secure observation booth. There are four areas of four cells each designated for pretrial prisoners awaiting trial.
This is where Pfc. Bradlwy Manning will be located. The pre-trial living area and daily activities are separate from the general population. Pre-trial prisoners are also segregated from general population prisoners for all meals and recreation.
However, pre-trial prisoners like Manning, are able to interact with each other in a common area just outside their individual cells. Pre-trial prisoners also receive three hours of recreation daily and are able to watch television, read or engage in other personal activities while in their housing unit.
In other words, the conditions of Manning's confinement have shifted to be much more in line with what you'd expect for a pre-trial detainee being held on non-violent charges: he's in medium security, free to interact with other pre-trial detainees every day, with multiple hours of rec time and much more access to common areas than before.
Now, I find this a little jarring, because I learned from so many comments on Daily Kos that Manning clearly was being held in isolation at Quantico because other detainees would harm him for his allegedly treasonous acts. But it seems that the Army does not share this view, as they allow him much more freedom of movement now that he is out of the custody of the Marines.
Also, are we to believe that, after months and months of being held on prevention of injury watch at Quantico, Manning suddenly turned a corner and is no longer a threat to himself? Maybe...but it seems plausible that outside pressure, including from Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the United Nations, may have played a role in vastly improving the conditions of his detention.
On April 29, the New York Times reported in a brief item that a panel of experts has determined that Manning is competent to stand trial. Per this report, no date has been set yet, but this may show that some forward progress on his trial will come soon.
I am glad that Manning's detention conditions have improved, and I am hopeful that he will go to trial soon. However, we still need answers: why was he held at Quantico under such deplorable conditions for so long? If he really was a threat to himself or otherwise merited the treatment he received at Quantico, why all of the sudden could his detention conditions change so dramatically? Why is the Army still refusing to answer questions from the UN, and why can't Congressman Kucinich visit?