December 6, 2012

Bradley Manning Fit to be Tied

Bradley manning public excessive punishment hearing

Manning testified last week that he felt drained and frustrated spending 23 hours a day in an 8-by-6 foot cell, sometimes without clothing, under conditions aimed at preventing him from hurting or killing himself. The brig commander rejected psychiatrists’ nearly weekly recommendations to ease Manning’s restrictions….

— from: Bradley Manning’s depression put him at risk, brig supervisor says (

Having experienced suicidal thoughts for eight days after his detention in Kuwait in May 2010, the military has used the fact ever since to keep Bradley Manning in extreme isolation allegedly protecting him from himself. After being held at Quantico then moved to Ft. Levenworth, Manning was seen briefly in public this week at Ft. Meade. The base is the sight of a pre-trail hearing to evaluate whether Manning’s extreme detention constitutes unusual punishment.

For our purposes, though, I’m mostly interested in the media’s use of this court illustration. It shows a military lawyer confronting Manning with a string of knotted bedsheets he fashioned together in Kuwait over thirty months ago. (How thoughtful of the government to save it.)

What is as twisted as the bedsheets, however, is the fact that the LA Times uses the drawing to illustrate its article about the hearing but provides no context or background for the image. (Caption below.) The closest they come is a line near the end of the story citing prosecutors saying: “Manning’s treatment was consistent with procedures for a prisoner who is considered a suicide risk.” Given the political prejudice surrounding Manning’s detention and persecution, it’s sloppy journalism at best. At worst, it’s The Times colluding with the government in framing Manning as a danger to himself. …Unless, what the illustration really conveys is the government’s wish to string him up first.

(photo: William Hennessy/AP caption: A rendering shows Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, right, as he testified at a pretrial hearing in his WikiLeaks case in Ft. Meade, Md..)

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Michael Shaw
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