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Photographers attempt to capture a picture of Julian Assange, believed to be in this prison van, leaving Westminster Magistrates Court on December 7, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Today I came across this image by Peter MacDiarmid. It converges a few threads I’ve noted before.

I don’t know how many times Assange went to court along the public streets of London but it’s worth looking at another of McDiarmid’s images, this time of Assange in the interior of a custody van.

SERCO, the company providing the custody van is as global as Wikileaks itself and specialises in lock-ups and government services.

The Wikileaks saga has gone relatively quiet recently. Bradley Manning’s circumstances are no longer top of the hour. The Bradley Manning Support Network describes his conditions of detention:

Although Bradley has not yet been tried, he has been held in solitary confinement since May 2010. He has been denied meaningful exercise, social interaction, sunlight, and has occasionally been kept completely naked. These conditions are unique to Bradley and are illegal even under US military law as they amount to extreme pre-trial punishment.

Contrary to this account are reports that Manning is no longer in total lockdown. In April, he was transferred to a medium security facility in Fort Leavenworth.

If we are to compare experiences, remember, Assange in the scenario above was also under pre-trial detention.

Solitary confinement or not, Bradley Manning – regularly the subject of bullying -is not in the best shape to cope with incarceration. In 2007, early in Manning’s army career, doctors reported he was “mentally unstable” and recommended he be “discharged immediately”. The recommendation was rejected and due to a shortage of computer intelligence analysts, Manning was recycled back into service and pushed through the system.

Currently, Manning is heavily medicated with anti-depressants.

The U.S. military has made no comment on Manning’s psychological condition other than to say it is being investigated. He faces court marshal in December 2011. Manning faces 52 years if he is found guilty. That’s a long time for someone who, according to this credible 18-minute presentation, is a shell already.

The theatre surrounding Assange’s charges, detention, court dates and bail are in stark contrast to the near invisibility of Manning’s transfers and detention. With Assange remaining bold, vocal and in the public eye, Manning’s invisibility is even more conspicuousness. By numerous definitions, it seems Bradley Manning is already fading away.

Pre-cast Concrete Prison Cell. Computer Rendering by Matt Scott

I was interested to read A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning, a blog post by David E. Coombs, the lawyer for Wikileaks’ leaker suspect Bradley Manning.

Manning has been in Quantico Confinement Facility, a maximum security military prison since July of this year. Manning is under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch. Whether Manning is a danger to himself or not we cannot know, but we can consider the strict regime such status brings in terms of scrutiny and the control the prison authority has over his waking (and sleeping) body.


At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up (on weekends, he is allowed to sleep until 7:00 a.m.). Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.

The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.

He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.

He does receive one hour of “exercise” outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in the room for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.

When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.

The body disciplined, no?


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