An alert reader called out attention to this letter by a group of law professors calling for a justification for the reported conditions of PFC Bradley Manning’s pretrial confinement conditions and termination of harsh conditions that can’t be justified.
I’m not in a position to draw any conclusions about the accuracy of the reports of PFC Manning’s conditions or justifications for his actual conditions. But I have noted in the past that the facility where he is confined — the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico — had a pretrial confinee kill himself last January. Some measures that seem excessively strict at first blush may seem less so if there are grounds to believe that PFC Manning may harm himself and that the measures are designed to avoid a repeat of what occurred last year.
I’ve also noted the absolutely guano crazy Harper’s Magazine piece by Scott Horton opining that rather than committing suicides in their cells, three Guantanamo detainees “most likely” actually died at ” previously unreported black site at Guantánamo” where, Horton specultes, they died under interrogation by the CIA in June 2006. (There are so many problems with Horton’s piece, I won’t take the time to note them all. But even if one is exceptionally conspiracy-minded and is prepared to casually suggest that the 50 or so U.S. military personnel who signed affidavits inconsistent with the wild conspiracy theory are perjurers, how does one explain why released Guantanamo detainees refer to the three detainees killing themselves if they were actually killed by U.S. intelligence agents?) Unfortunately, some serious people who you would think would know better, such as Dahlia Lithwick, treated Horton’s piece as credible. If Horton’s fantastic allegations could be treated seriously, can you imagine what the reaction would be if PFC Manning were to kill himself during pretrial confinement at the Quantico brig? Without regard to any alleged specific condition of pretrial confinement, I can understand why officials at the Quantico brig might take extraordinary measures to ensure that PFC Manning doesn’t harm himself if there are any indications he might do so.