President Obama, administration, and military officials have insisted for months that the pre-trial confinement conditions of suspected Wikileaker Pfc. Bradley at the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va., including effective solitary confinement and periods of forced nudity, were in the best interest of Manning’s apparently frail mental health.
“With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards,” Obama told reporters March 11. “They assure me that they are,” he said. “I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.”
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in January that Manning’s confinement conditions were based, in part, on his “well-being.”
A Marine Corps spokesman, First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, told me in March that Manning was forced to sleep nude because Manning was under “prevention of injury” status a the brig.
Strange then, that Pentagon officials announced yesterday that Manning would be pulled out of Quantico and sent to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, partly because of his mental health. At Leavenworth Manning will get more exercise, interact with other detainees, and see better doctors.
The commander of the Ft. Leavenworth facility Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, said Manning would get good food, three hours of recreation time each day indoors and outdoors and regular interaction with other inmates. “I have psychiatrists…I have a licensed social worker, I have a licensed psychologist on staff 24/7 to help all of the prisoner population,” she added.
Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson told reporters yesterday that, “Without commenting on Private Manning’s particular situation, mental health support, mental health infrastructure, was a consideration in looking at Leavenworth and other facilities.”
“I won’t say that his conditions at Quantico had nothing to do with this,” Johnson said. He said of Leavenworth, “It’s got a lot of mental health support.”
Army Under Secretary Joseph Westphal said, “Private Manning is a – is a soldier, and our responsibility as an Army is not only to adjudicate his case, but also to take care of him while he is in pre-trial confinement.”
It looked awkward: Manning was held in effective solitary confinement and sometimes faced forced nudity for the benefit of his mental health. Now Manning is being moved to a very different environment for the benefit of his mental health.
Another possible calculation is that Manning’s confinement at Quantico was an embarrassment. As Johnson put it: “I think it is fair to say that because this case has been in the media, people at Dr. Westphal’s level and my level have been involved in this process, and that’s fair to say.”