US military brig officials order whistle-blowing suspect to sleep naked

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Photo of Bradley Manning in 2009.
Image: Daniel Clark.

United States soldier Bradley Manning, accused of leaking US state secrets to WikiLeaks and detained under restrictive conditions at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia since July 2010, was ordered Wednesday to sleep stripped of all clothing. According to his attorney, this condition was imposed because Manning made a "sarcastic quip" about the harsh conditions of his confinement.

For most of the eight months he has been held there, Manning has been required to sleep only in his boxer shorts because he has been under "prevention of injury watch," according to First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, a spokesman for the Quantico facility. David Coombs, Manning's legal representative for the upcoming court marshal, said that on Wednesday Manning complained of his clothing restrictions and joked that if he wanted to, he might be able to harm himself "with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops."

On Wednesday night, the brig commander determined that Manning must give up his boxer shorts also. Villiard said, "The intention is to ensure the safety and security of the detainee and make sure he is able to stand trial." Villiard, citing privacy rules designed to protect the detainees, did not explain how Manning could harm himself if allowed to wear his underwear.

Coombs said Manning was not put under a suicide watch because that would have required the decision of a mental health professional. As a result of the tightening of Manning's conditions, he will be required for the indefinite future to sleep naked in his cell, and endure, according to Coombs, the "humiliation of standing naked at attention for the morning roll call".

In a statement, Senator John Kerry suggested recent publicity will cast light on Manning's situation and the balance between humane treatment and suicide prevention: "I think that a lot of people are now reviewing this very, very closely, people have weighed in, myself included, I think that analyses are being made. ... And I'm convinced that there will be real scrutiny with respect to that issue."


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