Remember Bradley Manning? Wikileaks’ Forgotten Gay “Unparalleled Hero” Made to Sleep Naked in Jail

These days, Wikileaks is synonymous with Julian Assange. The ongoing court case against Assange for two counts of rape has almost subsumed the initial controversy of Wikileaks’ actual content; the Pentagon and federal government can both breathe a sigh of relief now that national attention is turned away from their indiscretions made public and towards pundits and internet personalities duking it out over whether an ideal of transparency trumps an individual’s crimes against women. Least important of all, it seems, is Wikileaks’ previous bad boy: Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who turned over the diplomatic and military files that Wikileaks went on to publish. Manning was arrested in May and charged with “aiding the enemy,” and detained in a military jail in Kuwait.

Julian Assange is living in a mansion outside of London. Bradley Manning is forced to sleep naked in his cell in Quantico every night.

The justification is that it’s necessary as a “precautionary measure” against self-harm, which is plausible given that he’s previously been placed on suicide watch. Of course, those conditions were pretty shocking as well:

[Manning’s lawyer], writing on his office website, said that on Wednesday, against the recommendation of two forensic psychiatrists, the commander of the Quantico jail, James Averhart, listed Manning as a suicide risk, which meant he was confined to his cell 24 hours a day. “He was stripped of all clothing with the exception of his underwear. His prescription eyeglasses were taken away from him. He was forced to sit in essential blindness with the exception of the times that he was reading or given limited television privileges. During those times, his glasses were returned to him,”

The details of why Manning has been ordered to maintain these precautionary measures are unknown; the brig commander says that he can’t disclose them “because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning’s privacy.” No longer technically on suicide watch, Manning is still stripped completely naked each night, and then has to leave his cell to stand in the hallway for morning inspection each day, still completely naked in front of all other prisoners and guards. His clothing cannot be returned to him until after the inspection, say his guards, because that would require waking him up early.

First Lieutenant Scott Villiard, a spokesman for Quantico, told the Washington Post: “The most important thing is that we’re not treating Private Manning any differently from anyone else that would be in the same classification. Whether it’s maximum custody or prevention of injury, he’s being treated the same as anybody else.”

Manning is also monitored by guards’ observation and video recording at all times. Including when he’s locked in his cell naked each night.

Julian Assange was released on bail nine days after his arrest.

It’s hard to find an argument to be made here. As with everything else the military does, there are no hard facts, no clues or policies in place to protect anyone that the government has decided it needs protection from. Probably this regulation is in place for all prisoners; there is no way to know whether Manning really is being treated “any differently from anyone else that would be in the same classification.” The classification of aiding the enemy, of being regarded a traitor to your country at 23 for leaking (among other things) a video of an American helicopter in Iraq firing on a Reuters photographer and his driver, and then also on a van that stopped to help the wounded men.

Maybe this isn’t because, as Manning’s supporters have claimed, he’s being pressured to implicate Assange as a conspirator in his betrayal of the state. Maybe it means nothing that Manning is (as far as we know) gay and Assange is (as far as we know) straight. Maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that our government regards its own privacy as its number one priority, especially when the secrets revealed might lead to it being held accountable for the lives of brown people in poor countries; maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that violence against women is considered really just a social faux pas, and that’s only if the women involved can prove with incontrovertible evidence that any violence occurred.

There is no way of determining the facts in those cases, and there may never be. The facts we do know are these: Assange is championed by many (though not all) major liberal voices, perhaps most notably Michael Moore, on the basis that the truths he is bringing to light are more important than any errors in judgment he may have made as an individual, while Bradley Manning is naked and forgotten in Quantico, his only comfort in the world the privilege of being allowed two blankets instead of one in his cell. (Although Anonymous has also indicated that they plan to come to his aid.) Assange is credited with Wikileaks’ potential to take the power of information away from the ruling bodies of the world, while Bradley Manning is vilified, despite the fact that his actions are almost identical to those of Daniel Ellberg’s leak forty years ago, and Ellberg is generally regarded by Democrats as an American hero. The facts are that Manning has not been convicted of a single charge, but has been in confinement for ten months straight.

Ironically (or maybe fittingly), one of Manning’s only supporters left seems to be Assange himself. “For him to now be in prison for 10 months in solitary confinement, without trial, is an abuse,” he said. “He is, whether the charges are true or not, America’s foremost political prisoner,” Assange added. “If these allegations are true, he’s an unparalleled hero.”

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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26 Comments

  1. Oh yeah? Violation of his privacy? Stripping the guy naked every night doesn’t seem to violate his privacy, but telling people WHY they’re stripping him naked is? Is he somehow only able to hang himself with his undies at night? Precautionary measures my ass.

  2. Pingback: Remember Bradley Manning? Wikileaks’ Forgotten Gay “Unparalleled Hero” Made to … – Autostraddle | PAULitics.US - Wake Up America

  3. Bradley Manning is not forgotten. Many of us are very concerned about the conditions of his confinement and I personally have been contacting my congressperson about it. Dennis Kucinich also cares and has requested to visit Mr. Manning. Please, people, make a noise. Chaarlie Sheen.

  4. It IS normal treatment insofar as prisoners are regularly intimated, harassed, and humiliated. I suspect his treatment in that regard though is more extreme than other inmates receive.

    But um, from what I know (which is not very much) what Manning released to Wikileaks was not anywhere near the Pentagon Papers that Daniel Ellberg leaked.

    :/ the world makes me sad sometimes.

        • Isn’t the whole point that the US govt is looking more and more like some nazi islamic monstrous nut job institution. What are we fighting for? The right to kill innocent people with impunity (9 Afghani kids killed by US forces last week while collecting wood – google it), and treat “alleged” leakers of information with an inhuman monstrouness that compares to burying someone alive and throwing stones at them? Manning HASN’T BEEN TRIED. Isn’t the fight for a system of justice that is, you know, just? The US govt’s torture of Manning is no different to Gadaffi’s torturing of people opposed to his rule, or the brutal scare tactics of Iran’s revolutionary guard.

  5. It has been 8 months like he said IF he wanted to he could have done it with his underwear, It is obvious after 8 months he does not want too so why are these military thugs stripping him of his dignity maybe if this is spread around they will give him his underwear back. (since he is gay maybe the military officer in charge wants to keep looking at him to get his trills)

  6. This guy should be treated fairly and humanely while in prison, but he is certainly no hero. People that save lives and dedicate themselves to others are heros – not pissed off government workers who leak documents.

    • As a member of the service I would like to thank your for this comment. While he should be treated humanely he is not a hero, and its degrading to gay service men and women that so many suggest this has something to do with him feeling upset about DADT and the like. The lack of regard in releasing these documents, has put many of us in quite a bit of danger. I say this having just finished in Afghanistan doing linguistics and have to work with the Afghan people, who many who’s full names have been listed in this Wikileaks are now suffering the consequences.

      • “The lack of regard in releasing these documents, has put many of us in quite a bit of danger.”

        How, specifically have the documents released put you in danger?

        “I say this having just finished in Afghanistan doing linguistics and have to work with the Afghan people, who many who’s full names have been listed in this Wikileaks are now suffering the consequences.”

        Can you please elaborate? There’s not a shred of evidence that any Afghan informant has been harmed as a result of the leaks.

        http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/01/19/wikileaks

        If there had been such an instance, I’m sure the Pentagon would be using it to drive yet another nail in Manning’s coffin.

    • He is leaking documents to appeal to a cause greater than himself – exposing hypocrisy and the reality that exists for those in countries the U.S has damaged is work that I would consider heroic.

  7. Glad to see Bradley Manning on the front page of Autostraddle, great article!
    Bradley Manning always seems to remain unmentioned, except for a brief period of time during the Egyptian Revolution when CNN interviewed Courage To Resist’s spokesperson (or something like that)

    Maybe now people will stop asking me if my “Free Bradley” shirt says “Free Weezy”

  8. Bradley Manning is a hero to me. American foreign policy needs to be exposed. The US government, whether Republican or Democratic seems to believe that it is above international law. And how about the support of dictatorships, Noriega, Ghadafi, etc etc etc. Saying that Bradley Manning risked lives is a joke – American foreign policy risks lives, and American lives are not the only important ones, contrary to popular belief.

  9. ‘whether an ideal of transparency trumps an individual’s crimes against women. ‘

    I’m sorry but I think in reality anyone who has even attempted to educate themselvess on this topic know this is simply a ploy to damage Wikileaks and Julian Assange – but besides that I think we should practice treating Assange innocent before he is proven guilty.

  10. “The facts we do know are these: Assange is championed by many (though not all) major liberal voices, perhaps most notably Michael Moore, on the basis that the truths he is bringing to light are more important than any errors in judgment he may have made as an individual…”

    That statement is false. None of the major liberal voices speaking on Assange’s behalf have asserted that Assange shouldn’t be held to account for his alleged crimes, nor that his work with Wikileaks should excuse any “errors in judgement.”

    What many on the left, including many feminists, have pointed out, is that Assange has yet to be charged with any crime, and that the international effort to extradite him is very clearly politically motivated.

    It is possible that Assange committed sexual assault, but we should not act as if the allegations have already been proven, and it is fair to be highly suspicious of this unusual use of state power in a rape case, especially given the open calls to murder Assange, with officials like VP Biden calling the accused a “terrorist.”

    Assange is under house arrest in a mansion. He wears an ankle bracelet and reports to the police nightly. He may have it better than Manning, at the moment. But, guilty of rape or not, he’s a marked man. Of course, straight male privilege is real, but we risk overstating it in this case. And it serves no good to contrast Assange’s current conditions with the deplorable treatment of Manning. Manning is certainly not forgotten by any of the Wikileaks supporters I follow.

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