On December 13th relatives of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who leaked classified documents to the website WikiLeaks, told the online publication WalesOnline that US authorities tortured her using some of the techniques exposed in the CIA torture report made public on December 9th.
Manning’s relatives said that in the two years before her trial she suffered the humiliation of being stripped naked and kept in solitary confinement for long periods. The treatment echoes parts of the recent Senate intelligence committee report which described the CIA’s brutal treatment of terror suspects.
“What really hurt me was the treatment Chelsea received in Quantico two years before the trial: stripped naked, kept in solitary confinement, made to stand in a corner, everything taken away,” said Sharon Staples, Manning’s aunt.
The terms of Manning’s detainment meant she was kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, checked on every five minutes (US authorities called this a “prevention of injury order”) and sometimes kept naked in her cell. She was not permitted to have a pillow or sheets.
Debate over Manning’s treated has been ongoing since her arrest. According to The Guardian, 250 US legal scholars signed a letter in 2011 saying the conditions could be considered torture and called Manning’s treatment illegal and unconstitutional.
Others have considered her interrogation justified and accused her of being a traitor. US authorities have said that the leaks passed on to WikiLeaks could have put US lives at risk.
Manning (then Bradley) was a U.S. Army intelligence analyst responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. The leaks included videos that showed unarmed civilians being shot at and killed, including journalists from the news outlet, Reuters.
On July 30 2013, Manning was found guilty of 20 counts, including espionage, theft and computer fraud. She explained that her actions had been intended to encourage debate, not to harm the United States.
Chelsea’s mother Susan Manning said: “Chelsea will be 27 years old on 17 December and this will be the fifth birthday she’s spent in prison.
“It breaks my heart to think of her missing out on her freedom, all because she told the truth instead of covering it up. Chelsea was brought up to be truthful.
“When she was small her grandmother lived with us and she always said to the children: ‘If you can’t tell the truth, don’t bother speaking’.”
In a recent interview with the human rights organization Amnesty International, Manning talked about why speaking out is worth the risk, “First, I would point out that life is precious. In Iraq in 2009-10, life felt cheap. It became overwhelming to see the sheer number of people suffering and dying, and the learned indifference to it by everybody around me, including the Iraqis themselves. That really changed my perspective on my life, and made me realize that speaking out about injustices is worth the risk. Second, in your life, you are rarely given the chance to make a difference. Every now and then you do come across a significant choice. Do you really want to find yourself asking whether you could have done more, 10-20 years later? These are the kind of questions I didn’t want to haunt me.”