State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said this week that the treatment of Private Bradley Manning by the Pentagon is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
Asked by ABC News if he agreed with that, President Obama said Friday that he’d “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.”
Pentagon officials, he said, “assure me that they are. 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.”
Asked if he therefore disagreed with P.J. Crowley, President Obama sidestepped the question, saying he’d responded “to the substantive issue.”
Manning was arrested in May 2010 after telling a former hacker that he had given documents to WikiLeaks. Earlier this month the Army filed 22 new counts against him including aiding the enemy, theft of public property or records, computer fraud, transmitting information in violation of the Espionage Act.
Crowley’s comments to an audience at M.I.T. were first reported by Philippa Thomas and Crowley confirmed to The Cable’s Josh Rogin that "What I said was my personal opinion. It does not reflect an official USG policy position. I defer to the Department of Defense regarding the treatment of Bradley Manning.”
On January 19, Amnesty International wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to “express concern about the conditions under which Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning is detained at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia.”
Manning is confined for 23 hours a day to a single cell, measuring around 72 square feet, equipped only with a bed, toilet and sink, the human rights organization said. “He has no association or contact with other pre-trial detainees and he is allowed to exercise, alone, for just one hour a day, in a day-room or outside.” Manning is being held under Prevention of Injury rules meaning he is “deprived of sheets and a separate pillow, causing uncomfortable sleeping conditions; his discomfort is reportedly exacerbated by the fact that he is required to sleep only in boxer shorts and has suffered chafing of his bare skin from the blankets.
The organization said that “the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning’s case appear to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive, in view of the fact that he has no history of violence or disciplinary infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offence. The conditions under which PFC Manning is held appear to breach the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992 and which states that ‘all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.’”
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said Manning’s cell is like that of “every single other pretrial detainee at the brig. It just so happens that the configuration of the brig is that every individual is confined to his or her own cell. He's being provided well-balanced, nutritious meals three times a day. He receives visitors and mail, and can write letters. He routinely meets with doctors, as well as his attorney. He's allowed to make telephone calls. And he is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig. So 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.”