Yesterday the Pentagon surprised everybody – including Bradley Manning’s lawyer – with news that the accused Wikileaks whistleblower will be moved from the Quantico brig in Virginia to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The Pentagon’s lawyer, Jeh Johnson, announced Manning’s transfer in a snap press conference (video embedded) that revealed the government’s strategy: take Manning to a place “not in the Washington[, DC] area” where he will “likely be in pre-trial confinement for a while.”
What was obvious in the Pentagon’s press conference yesterday was they plan on keeping Manning in Fort. Leavenworth for quite some time. Despite being held for 11 months, including 8 in abusive conditions at Quantico, there are no plans to try Manning any time soon. And the Pentagon made it clear:
the possibility that he will remain in pre-trial confinement for an additional time […]
and then when you look forward at the likely time before this case goes to trial, […]
And given the length of time it appears he’ll be in pre- trial confinement, we believe that at this point, this was an appropriate thing to do. […]
what the projected likely length of time of the pre-trial phase of this case […]
given the length of time — in the future it looks — it looks as if he’ll be in pre-trial confinement. […]
given what the likely period of pre-trial confinement in the future will be […]
And so if you’re in a place for what we expect will be a longer period of pre-trial confinement, […]
But it is a place where if you’re going to be confined for a longer period of time, […]
this is a complex case, and we are probably months off from the trial of this case. […]
Message received: Manning’s going to be held for as long as the Pentagon damn well pleases. Which is probably something they’d have communicated to his lawyer, yes? No. Manning’s lawyer wrote on his blog yesterday that he found about his client’s “imminent” transfer the same way we did: by reading it in the news.
Like many others, the defense first learned of PFC Manning’s move to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas by reading that a government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, leaked the information to the Associated Press. The defense was not officially notified of PFC Manning’s pending move until twenty minutes before the Pentagon’s press briefing. This is despite the fact that the Pentagon has “been thinking about this for a while.” Although the news of the move came as a surprise to the defense, the timing did not.
All three Pentagon officials at yesterday’s press conference made a big deal that the Kansas facility was medium-security, and that Manning would have the ability to interact with other prisoners, eat in the mess hall, and otherwise be treated like a normal prisoner. Except for that’s not true – yet. That’s the best-case scenario.
Jeh Johnson said that Manning’s transfer to Leavenworth was “imminent” – so it’s probably safe to assume he’ll be there in the next couple of days, if he’s not there already. Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton, who is the commander of the Fort Leavenworth facility where Manning will be held, said that Manning will be subject to a 5-7 day evaluation upon arrival that will determine his security, access, and basic treatment.
LT. COL. HILTON: Absolutely. I don’t know what he was allowed to do at the — at the Quantico brig. But what I can tell you is when he first arrives into the facility, he’ll receive an in-depth risk assessment, initial assessment. And during this phase, anywhere from five to seven days, we try to make sure that he’s assimilated into the population, and that we assess his internal and external risk. After that, typically when he — when we have finished assessing his risk, he will be housed with the other pre-trial inmates. And a typical day is three square meals a day in a dining facility that the post-trials eat at. He’ll receive open recreational time for three hours during the day, both indoors and outdoors. And he’ll have the capability to interact with other pre-trial inmates on a routine basis.
There is no guarantee that Manning’s treatment will be any better than his abuse in Quantico. Right now, it seems it’s all dependent on this initial evaluation. Manning’s lawyer doesn’t seem hopeful, either:
While the defense hopes that the move to Fort Leavenworth will result in the improvement of PFC Manning’s conditions of confinement, it nonetheless intends to pursue redress at the appropriate time for the flagrant violations of his constitutional rights by the Quantico confinement facility.
The Pentagon can’t run away from their abuse, either. Manning supporters have already organized a protest outside Leavenworth for June 4.
[Full transcript of the Pentagon presser on Manning’s transfer here.]