Stripped naked every night: Bradley Manning speaks out

US soldier arrested on suspicion of releasing files to WikiLeaks says he is suffering unlawful punishment.

US soldier arrested on suspicion of releasing files to WikiLeaks says he is suffering punitive, unlawful treatment.

Bradley Manning, the US soldier being held in military prison on suspicion of having released state secrets to WikiLeaks, has spoken out about the conditions he is enduring at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia. In an 11-page legal letter released by his lawyer, David Coombs, Manning describes what he claims is punitive and unlawful treatment.

He describes being placed on suicide watch for three days from 18 January:

I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness.

He also talks about the ongoing practice of being stripped naked every night and made to stand nude for parade:

The guard told me to stand at parade rest, with my hands behind my back and my legs spaced shoulder-width apart. I stood at parade rest for about three minutes . . . The [brig supervisor] and the other guards walked past my cell. He looked at me, paused for a moment, then continued to the next cell. I was incredibly embarrassed at having all these people stare at me naked.

The legal letter, addressed to the US military authorities, was drawn up in response to the recent decision to keep Manning on a restriction order called Prevention of Injury (PoI). This means that he is kept in his cell alone for 23 hours a day and checked every five minutes by guards. This is despite the fact that none of his psychological evaluations has suggested he has suicidal tendencies or any inclination to harm himself.

Observation records consistently describe Manning as "respectful, courteous and well spoken".

Time magazine quotes a Marine Corps spokesman, First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, saying that officials made an "event-driven" decision to order Manning's night-time nudity. He declined to provide details, citing Manning's privacy.

Earlier this month, my colleague Sophie Elmhirst interviewed David House, the only person to visit Manning in prison apart from his lawyer, who gave some insight into the harsh conditions he faces:

I can't really describe how bizarre it is to see a 110-pound, five-foot-three individual done up in chains from his hands to his feet, connected at the waist, so he can't really move.

House also pointed out that officials' claim that Manning is held in the same conditions as other "maximum-custody" prisoners is meaningless, as he is the only maximum-custody detainee at Quantico.

The UN is launching an inquiry into whether the conditions amount to torture.

Bradley Manning.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.