ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell today disputed characterizations that Army Private Bradley Manning, charged with leaking classified information to WIkileaks, is receiving harsher treatment at the Marine brig where he is being detained.
Morrell told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that Manning’s detention is consistent with what other maximum security detainees at the brig in Quanitco, Virginia, would receive.
Manning supporters have alleged that he is being held in solitary confinement at the facility and facing tighter restrictions than other prisoners. “Assertions by liberal bloggers or network reporters or others that he is being mistreated, or somehow treated differently than others, in isolation, are just not accurate,” said Morrell.
“'He is in a cell by himself, but that is like every single other pretrial detainee at the brig,” said Morrell. “It just so happens that the configuration of the brig is that every individual is confined to his or her own cell.”
He added that Manning “is being held in the same quarters section with other pretrial detainees. He's allowed to watch television. He's allowed to read newspapers. He's allowed one hour per day of exercise,” Morrell said. Defense officials say Manning is allowed to exercise in an exercise room, but is not in his cell a rule consistent with the detention practices for all maximum security detainees at the facility.
Defense officials have said that Manning is currently the only maximum security detainee at the detention facility.
Morrell said Manning was placed under two days of suicide watch last week, a decision that was made at the brig commander’s discretion. The brig received a new commander this week as part of a scheduled rotation not related to that decision.
Manning is being detained under charges filed last summer that he leaked to Wikileaks a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians. But Manning is also suspected of having been behind the leak of thousands of US military documents from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well hundreds of thousands of State Department cables. Morrell said today that Manning is a “person of interest” in those leaks.
Manning had access to the documents while serving in Baghdad as an intelligence analyst.
Morrell said he could not get into specifics about the Manning investigations because of the ongoing investigation, but he told reporters that a press report that investigators have not found a direct link between Manning and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was “premature. “Any pronouncements about a connection or lack of connection, those that have been found or are yet to be found, are just premature at this point,” he said. “So I'd urge everybody to proceed with caution on this, and probably most stories, for that matter.”