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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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.