16 December, 2010 — Democracy Now!
A high court in London has upheld a decision to grant bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. But what about U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning? The Army intelligence analyst has been held for the last seven months on suspicion of leaking the massive trove of government documents to WikiLeaks. Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald says Manning is being held under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment—and even torture. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we do have breaking news from—CBS News is reporting that Julian Assange will remain under close supervision after moving to a friend’s house in southern England. But why don’t we move on with this segment of the show, and we’ll continue to follow that.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Sure. Well, a high court in London has upheld the decision to grant bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Conditions of his release include a bail of more than $300,000 in cash, the wearing of an electronic tab, and obeying a curfew. He has been detained in London since his arrest last week on an international warrant to face sex crimes allegations in Sweden.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the New York Times reports federal prosecutors are looking for evidence of any collusion between Assange and Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the massive trove of classified government documents. Justice Department officials are reportedly trying to find out whether Assange encouraged or even helped Manning to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did, they believe they could charge Assange as a co-conspirator in the leak. The Times reports the Justice Department is under intense pressure to make an example of Assange as a deterrent to further mass leaking of documents.
AMY GOODMAN: While all eyes are on Julian Assange, little is being said about the plight of Bradley Manning. He’s the 22-year-old U.S. Army private who was arrested in May and has been in detention ever since. For the past five months he’s been held at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. Before that, he was held for two months in a military jail in Kuwait.
In a new report, Glenn Greenwald, the political and legal blogger at Salon.com, writes that Manning is being held under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment, and even torture. Glenn Greenwald is joining us now via Democracy Now! video stream from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Glenn. We are getting the latest news from London. The reports are that Julian Assange will be released. Bail was upheld. One of the details that are being hashed out, the ankle tag—he has to wear an ankle bracelet—may not work well in the large mansion where he will be staying. He’s staying at Ellingham Hall, a 600-acre, 10-bedroom mansion owned by Captain Vaughan Smith, a former Grenadier Guards officer who runs the Frontline Club, a journalist haunt in London. So, that’s the latest news out of London. Go from the latest on Julian Assange, where all spotlight is focused on him, to someone who is not so well known, remains behind bars, Bradley Manning, Glenn Greenwald.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. And, of course, Bradley Manning is the 22-year-old Army private who is alleged, though not at all proven or convicted, to have been a source for not only the diplomatic cables that were just released but also the trove of documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the video that showed an Apache helicopter attacking unarmed civilians and killing two journalists in Baghdad, as well as other undisclosed—yet undisclosed information that WikiLeak appears to possess.
As you said, he’s been held for seven months without being convicted of any crime. And the conditions that I recently discovered he’s being held in are really quite disturbing. And this has been true for the entire seven-month duration of his detention. He is in solitary confinement, and he’s not only in solitary confinement, which means that he’s in a cell alone, but he’s there for 23 out of 24 hours every day. He is released for one hour a day only. So, 23 out of the 24 hours a day he sits alone. He is barred from even doing things like exercising inside of his cell. He’s constantly supervised and monitored, and if he does that, he’s told immediately to stop. There are very strict rules about what he’s even allowed to do inside the cell. Beyond that, he’s being denied just the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, such as a pillow and sheets, and has been denied that without explanation for the entire duration of his visit, as well. And there is a lot of literature and a lot of psychological studies, and even studies done by the U.S. military, that show that prolonged solitary confinement, which is something that the United States does almost more than any other country in the Western world, of the type to which Manning is subjected, can have a very long-term psychological damage, including driving people to insanity and the like. It clearly is cruel and unusual; it’s arguably a form of torture. And given that Manning has never been convicted of anything, unlike the convicts at supermaxes to whom this treatment is normally applied, it’s particularly egregious.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Glenn, in January we interviewed Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon in Boston and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. We asked him to talk about the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners.
DR. ATUL GAWANDE: The science of what happens to people deprived of social contact, is they have to fight for their sanity. And many lose their sanity. That reality, that we are social beings in our physiology, led me to ask the question, is solitary confinement, the way we’re practicing it now, torture? And you can’t read the cases—and I describe the cases of both hostages and people who are in prisons—and conclude that, number one, those experiences are different. They’re the same. Number two, you can’t conclude that it’s not torture.
What we have observed—and we’ve learned this from both hostages and from prisoners—is that you, first of all, you begin to lose the speed of thinking. You slow down to the point of needing sleep for hours a day and yet being tired. And then it advances to a point where you can dissociate, you begin losing touch with reality. One prisoner I spoke to, for example, after three months, you’re allowed to get a television, which he looked forward to as a chance for maybe a kind of social connection in the world. But by that point, he found the television was talking to him, asking him to kill people, and he had to stow it underneath his bunk just to be able to survive and live through this.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Glenn Greenwald, you’ve written about how other governments around the world deal with these kinds—or react to these kinds of detention conditions. Could you talk about that?
GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. I mean, there are different levels of solitary confinement. I mean, there’s the full-on sensory deprivation that they do at Florence. And as I indicated in my piece, what’s being done to Bradley Manning is not quite to that level. He does get a certain amount of TV time, 15 minutes, 20 minutes a day, where they stick a TV in front of his cell, for example. They claim that he’s able to try and communicate with the detainees through the walls on either side of him, which is obviously not real social interaction. But he is alone in his cell 23 out of 24 hours a day.
And there are European courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces treaties to which E.U. states are bound, including the Convention Against Torture and just the general human rights treaties, that bar the extradition of any citizens to any country where they’re likely to be subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. And there are currently war on terror detainees, whom the United States considers highly important detainees, who are contesting their extradition in these European courts on the ground that if they are extradited to the United States, they will be subjected to the kinds of inhumane and cruel treatment which E.U. courts ban, primarily solitary confinement. And there are case laws—cases in E.U. jurisprudence where they have refused to extradite prisoners to some countries, such as Bulgaria, on the grounds that solitary confinement is a form of torture, and therefore countries are bound not to transfer their citizens there without at least a guarantee that they won’t be subjected to those sorts of tactics. Other countries around the world, in response to pressure from Amnesty and others, such as Tunisia, have all recently renounced the practice of solitary confinement for any more than a few days at a time, except in the most extreme cases of extremely violent prisoners. So what the United States is doing is really a departure from Western norms in terms of how people are imprisoned, especially pretrial detention, where the person has been found guilty of nothing.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, we’re going to come back to you after break. He’s a constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger at Salon.com. He’s talking about Bradley Manning, who’s been charged with the release of the documents, actually getting the documents that ultimately were released by WikiLeaks. And the latest news out of London, it appears that Julian Assange will be released. His bail was upheld. And we’ll give you more on that in a minute. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We were just showing the images outside the courthouse in London, and for radio listeners, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. This is Democracy Now!, and I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez. Our guest on Democracy Now! video stream from Brazil is Glenn Greenwald, the constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon.com. His latest piece is about Bradley Manning.
Now, Glenn Greenwald, as Julian Assange is now being released, he’ll be staying in the home of the head of the Frontline Club, a journalist club in London. A debate over whether his ankle bracelet will work in the mansion, so that’s what they’re working out now, these final details, as we broadcast this. Explain exactly what Bradley Manning has been charged with, because I think that’s often confused, as well.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. As of now, he’s been charged basically with transmitting classified information without authorization, not treason or anything along those lines. And those charges, given the magnitude of what he’s alleged to have transferred, carries a very significant prison term. I believe it’s up to 72 or 80 years. And there’s certainly an expectation that the government could add much more serious charges still, as serious as those are, to Manning’s—to the panoply of accusations that Manning faces. And that seems to be what the government here is doing, as there’s actually, as you indicated earlier and we, I think, are going to talk about, a New York Times article this morning that suggests that the government is trying to pressure Manning into cooperating and giving incriminating testimony in order to enable them—excuse me—to have a case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And what it appears is that the government is using both the repressive conditions and the threat of more serious charges still as a means of coercing him into doing that.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, Glenn, I wanted to ask you about that article, because it includes the shocking revelation that the government may actually be trying to turn Manning, who they say is the guy who actually gathered all of the documents, against Assange as a way of going after Assange. This whole issue of looking at Assange as a co-conspirator, as someone who colluded with Manning in grabbing all of these documents, raises questions, as any journalist knows—and I’ve been in the business for more than 30 years—when a whistleblower comes to you and says, “Look, I have important information,” the first thing you do is say, “Well, I would need some documentation of what you’re alleging. You’ve got to—can you get some emails, can you get some documents, that will back up your assertions?” And so, to now say that that is colluding with the whistleblower, to get this information illegally from the government, would really create a major problem for journalists in this country and around the world.
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I’m really glad you made that point, Juan, and I really hope that more journalists will and do. The dilemma that the government is facing is the following. They are, on the one hand, facing significant political pressure to take serious action against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, meaning prosecution or worse. On the other hand, though, there’s really no way to prosecute Julian Assange and WikiLeaks without criminalizing the very essence of investigative journalism. WikiLeaks has done nothing that every good investigative journalist doesn’t do all the time. There are multiple journalists in the United States who have Pulitzer Prizes sitting on their shelf for having obtained and then published very serious classified information that the government insisted posed grave national security harm. And so, in order to get around this, they’re trying to distinguish WikiLeaks from other journalists.
And what they first tried to do was to say, well, WikiLeaks just recklessly publishes, indiscriminately publishes, everything. And, of course, that’s totally false, because WikiLeaks has published only a tiny sliver of the cables that it has received and has worked closely with these newspapers around the world to decide what ought to be published. And what they’re trying to do now is to say that WikiLeaks, unlike journalists, isn’t merely a passive recipient of classified information but is actively trying to induce the leak of classified information the way that a spy would.
But as you just pointed out, and as cannot be emphasized enough, whenever journalists are aware or become aware of classified information that they want to publish, they take all kinds of affirmative steps to encourage more documents to be given to them, to encourage the source to allow their publication, to contact other people in government to try and get even more classified information to confirm what they’ve learned or to elaborate on it. Journalists are very rarely mere passive recipients of classified information—one day you just sit there, and it shows up in your email box. Journalists, good journalists, always take affirmative and active role in trying to get more classified information and secure the right to publish classified documents. And if this is the theory that they’re going to use to try and criminalize WikiLeaks, that’s at least as much of a threat, if not more so, to investigative journalism as simply charging them under the Espionage Act for publishing classified information standing alone.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, I want to play a clip of what Daniel Ellsberg had to say about Bradley Manning. Daniel Ellsberg is perhaps the country’s most famous whistleblower. In 1971 he leaked the secret history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, known as the Pentagon Papers. We’ve interviewed him a number of times about WikiLeaks. This is what he said about Bradley Manning when he recently spoke to us.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: What Lamo reports Manning is saying has a very familiar and persuasive ring to me. He reports Manning as having said that what he had read and what he was passing on were horrible—evidence of horrible machinations by the U.S. backdoor dealings throughout the Middle East and, in many cases, as he put it, almost crimes. And let me guess that—he’s not a lawyer, but I’ll guess that what looked to him like crimes are crimes, that he was putting out. We know that he put out, or at least it’s very plausible that he put out, the videos that he claimed to Lamo. And that’s enough to go on to get them interested in pursuing both him and the other. And so, what it comes down, to me, is—and I say throwing caution to the winds here—is that what I’ve heard so far of Assange and Manning—and I haven’t met either of them—is that they are two new heroes of mine.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Daniel Ellsberg talking about Bradley Manning, the intelligence private in Iraq who is believed to have downloaded many, many documents from the U.S. government and released them to WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange. That’s who he’s talking about. And as we broadcast this, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange is expected to walk out any minute from the London court. He will be basically under house arrest. I mean, he will be wearing an ankle bracelet. He’s put up $300,000 bail. And the latest news that’s come out of The Guardian newspaper in Britain is that it wasn’t Swedish authorities but British authorities who decided to keep him in jail, though they had granted him bail a week ago, or 48 hours ago. Can you talk about the significance of what you believe is happening here around issues of extradition?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, ironically, it’s the WikiLeak documents, among other things, that show how closely the United States and the British government work on virtually every single aspect of the war on terror. There were documents, for example, very incriminating documents, that made a lot of news in Great Britain, but not, of course, in the United States, that showed that there was a vaunted investigation launched by the British government into their role in misleading its citizenry into attacking Iraq, and diplomatically they were assuring the United States and Bush officials that they would be shielded and protected from embarrassing revelations as part of that procedure. And, of course, the Obama administration received the same assurances, and sought them and received them. And so, the British and the United States have long been working hand-in-hand on all kinds of abuses of due process and other attacks on liberty throughout the war on terror.
And so, it would be very surprising if they weren’t collaborating on what to do about Julian Assange. And I think, clearly, the fact that the British are so eager to keep him behind bars, in a case where, under normal circumstances, that would never happen, and now they’re going to have an ankle tag on him so they know his whereabouts all the time, certainly, the reasonable assumption is that that’s part of the effort to make sure that if and when the United States wants to extradite him, they will at all times have him under their thumb.
AMY GOODMAN: And Bradley Manning could face death?
GLENN GREENWALD: Absolutely. I mean, there’s no question that those charges could entail the death penalty, certainly if—not the ones now, but the ones they’re threatening to impose, including treason. And clearly, that’s something they’re going to hang over his head to try and get him to say the things they need him to say to make a case against WikiLeaks.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, thanks so much for being with us, constitutional law attorney, political and legal blogger for Salon.com, speaking to us from Brazil.