PFC Bradley Manning is the man accused of providing classified information to the Wikileaks project. He is currently being held in the brig of the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA, where he has been for the last five months.
He’s being held in conditions any reasonable person would describe as solitary confinement—isolated in his cell for 23 hours a day, denied reading materials or personal contact, and prevented by guards from exercising except during the one hour per day he’s allowed out of his cell. There’s a debate over whether Manning’s treatment constitutes torture as defined by various international agreements over the treatment of prisoners.
Stephen mentioned a support group for Manning in his Daily Rumpus, and I’m including it here as well.
PFC Manning has been an adjunct to most of the Wikileaks discussion until recently, when news of his treatment was released, and even now the majority of the coverage is focused on journalistic ethics rather than on what Manning allegedly did or why he did it. The two main groups involved in this spat are Wired, who’s done a great deal of reporting on the story, and Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com. You’re welcome to wade through the charges and counter-charges if you wish.
The problem, from my mind, about most of the arguments surrounding PFC Manning and Wikileaks and Julian Assange is that most of the discussion is being done between groups who want to sanctify their side, who want to see their heroes as above reproach, with a fair amount of misinformation thrown around as well. The reality is almost always uglier than that. Julian Assange can be both a hero for being the public face of Wikileaks and a rapist. PFC Manning can be considered a hero for leaking these materials and can also be guilty of espionage. Though there’s little doubt Manning’s treatment is inhumane, especially for someone yet to stand trial. There are no simple answers in any of this—there are no simple questions, for that matter, except in the minds of those who want to limit the discussion so that only their side comes off as heroic, or aggrieved, or right.