Curious: Bradley Manning’s father cites Coombs on ‘humiliation,’ says son ‘looks good’

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

The Bradley Manning saga gets still more intriguing. Brian Manning, Bradley Manning’s father and himself a military veteran, has told PBS’ “Frontline” that he has visited his son “8 or 9 times” (we have previously been led to believe that Manning supporter David House and Manning’s lawyer David Coombs have been his only visitors) … and that from what he’s seen and heard from his son, the young Army private is “doing fine.” It’s a flat contradiction of the torture claims that have taken hold in the media and pro-Manning online community.

Other tidbits from the “Frontline” interview with David Manning (which you can watch above or at the foregoing link):

- The elder Manning says he essentially forced his son to join the military because Bradley was “aimless.”

- Brian Manning says that what he knows of Bradley’s “humiliation” he “read in a statement from” his son’s attorney.

- He says he “looked his son in the eye” and “asked him a direct question” about how he was being treated, and was told by his son that he was being treated “fine.” (UPDATED)

- Brian Manning doubts his son could have accessed or distributed the classified material he is accused of stealing and distributing, an important point which seems to dovetail with the government’s initial attempts to prove he was aided by Julian Assange (a route that increasingly appears to be a dry lead, but which leaves open the question of who in fact might have helped Manning “add unauthorized software to a government computer” and download unauthorized information as alleged).

A few snippets from the interview transcript:

In an exclusive “Frontline” interview this week with correspondent Martin Smith, Bradley Manning’s father, Brian Manning, talked for the first time about his son’s incarceration.

MARTIN SMITH: You decided that you wanted to sit down and talk today because you want to complain publicly about the conditions of his imprisonment.

BRIAN MANNING, father of Pvt. Bradley Manning: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: And those conditions are?

BRIAN MANNING: Well, he’s being — his clothing is being taken away from him, and he’s being humiliated by having to stand at attention in front of people, male or female that I — as far as I know, you know, that are fully clothed.

MARTIN SMITH: Who tells you that?

BRIAN MANNING: I read it in the statement that was put out by his civilian attorney.

I mean, this is someone that has not been — you know, gone to trial or been convicted of anything. And that’s prompted me to — you know, to come out and go forward. I mean, they worry about people down in — you know, in a base in Cuba, but here they are, have someone in, you know, on our own soil and under their own control, and they’re treating him this way.

I mean, it’s — you know, I just can’t believe — you just can’t believe it. I mean, it’s shocking enough that I would come out of, you know, our silence, as a family, and say, you know, now then this — you know, you have crossed the line. This is wrong.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, the NewsHour asked the military for a response to Brian Manning’s assertions.

A statement from the Department of Defense said in part: “The circumstances of PFC Manning’s pretrial confinement are regularly reviewed, and complies in all respects with U.S. law and Department of Defense regulations.

“In recent days, as the result of concerns for PFC Manning’s personal safety, his undergarments were taken from him during sleeping hours. He was not made to stand naked for morning count, but on one day, he chose to do so. There were no female personnel present at the time. PFC Manning has since been issued a garment to sleep in at night. He is clothed in a standard jumpsuit during the day. None of the conditions under which PFC Manning is held are punitive in nature.”

But on the subject of his son’s treatment, Brian Manning said this:

MARTIN SMITH: How many times have you visited him?

BRIAN MANNING: Approximately eight or nine times.

MARTIN SMITH: During those visits, has he ever mentioned any complaint of any kind to you?

BRIAN MANNING: No. I always, you know, am conscientious enough to look him straight in the eyes and ask him a direct question. How are they treating you? Are you sleeping? Is the food OK? And he’s always responded that: Things are just fine.

MARTIN SMITH: How does he look?

BRIAN MANNING: He looks good.

MARTIN SMITH: And he doesn’t complain about being shackled?

BRIAN MANNING: No. He doesn’t complain at all about anything.

MARTIN SMITH: It wouldn’t be surprising for somebody in solitary confinement to be suffering a bit.

BRIAN MANNING: Oh, I’m sure.

MARTIN SMITH: It’s surprising to me that you described him as somebody who’s doing well.

BRIAN MANNING: He comes across to me as doing well.

MARTIN SMITH: He’s in solitary confinement. That’s tremendously difficult, psychologically and physically.

BRIAN MANNING: I understand that.

MARTIN SMITH: So, are you surprised that he’s doing as well as he is?

BRIAN MANNING: I’m happy that he’s doing as well as he is.

MARTIN SMITH: So, is there any reason that Bradley wouldn’t confide in you if things were tough for him there?

BRIAN MANNING: No.

And when he was asked about the alleged crime itself, Brian Manning said he doubted his son stole classified data as he is charged with doing:

KWAME HOLMAN: Brian Manning was himself in the service, the Navy, where he held a security clearance. Stealing and sharing classified information is wrong, he says, and the whole WikiLeaks situation angers him.

But he told Martin Smith he does not believe his son did what the Army has accused him of doing.

MARTIN SMITH: Does it surprise you that Bradley had access to this much information?

BRIAN MANNING: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: And what will you say if it turns out that he leaked these documents?

BRIAN MANNING: I don’t know. I mean, I’m not even — I’m not even letting those thoughts come into my head. I’m thinking positively.

MARTIN SMITH: Is that always easy to do?

BRIAN MANNING: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: You don’t think he had it in him to do this?

BRIAN MANNING: I don’t think that the amount and the volume of things and the environment he worked in, no, I don’t think so.

MARTIN SMITH: You don’t think it’s possible he — he could have had this kind of intent?

BRIAN MANNING: I don’t know why he would do that. I — I really don’t.

Smith went on to ask Brian Manning whether his son is “patriotic,” and that led to a strange formulation in which the father seemed to imply that Bradley Manning essentially has (or had) no ideologically moorings at all, either pro- or anti-American, and that he essentially twisted his son’s arm to get him to join the service, because he was “aimless.” (Brian Manning is a Navy veteran.)

The whole thing is incredibly strange, and contradictory of some of what we’ve heard, including out of State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, who resigned over his statements about Manning’s confinement. It also seems that like human rights groups, bloggers, and even the mainstream media, Mr. Manning’s only source of information about the alleged mistreatment of Bradley Manning comes from Manning’s lawyer (and in the case of the media and bloggers, from David House.)

The questions mount:

- Is Brian Manning lying, and if so, why would he lie to protect the people who are allegedly not just mistreating, but actually torturing his son, according to House, Glenn Greenwald and others?

- Would Bradley Manning lie to his father about his treatment, and if so, why?

- What is the real condition of Bradley Manning, who David House has alternately described as mentally destroyed and lucid in chatting about world affairs?

PBS “Frontline” will air the full Brian Manning interview as part of a Wikileaks documentary March 29th, that should be interesting viewing for anyone following this story.

Related: The TRR Manning File

UPDATE: And now for an incredibly dishonest headline, followed by as skewed a write-up of a story as I’ve seen. I guess Glenn Greenwald has finally bullied Wired into submission.

And from OsborneInk: Bradley Manning is no Daniel Ellsberg

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7 Responses to Curious: Bradley Manning’s father cites Coombs on ‘humiliation,’ says son ‘looks good’

  1. Brezzydee says:

    If this guy is in super max prison, he is supposed to be in a cell for 23 hours a day. He get 3 meals a day and clean clothes. That is better treatment than some homeless people get. So I am not sorry for him. No one is not torturing this guy. Because he is not worth people losing their rank and or money over him.

    I think he is lying to get sympathy. So is his lawyer. I read some article yesterday where the commanding officer there said. Manning striped down himself and stood at attention. No one did that to him. They did say they gave him a hospital gown to sleep in. Manning is trying to play crazy so he can’t get hard time.

    He put lives and the US in danger. I have no sympathy for him. Giving away US secrets. Hell and I am a liberal.

  2. gn says:

    I have no opinion about Manning’s innocence or guilt beyond noting the seriousness of the charges. And indeed, shoqvalue was absolutely right when he warned some months ago that this “Manning is being tortured” story was unverified, and its sources were bloggers with known agendas and defense counsel, whose job is to fiercely advocate in a very biased fashion for a criminal defense client.

    It would be like the NYT reporting the Gotti trials from sources which (a) had a known and preexisting axe to grind against prosecutors; or (b) were directly representing Gotti himself/criminal defense attorneys.

    No one would accept such a scenario as credible.

    Yet when President Obama is the target of this type of propaganda, seems like anything goes and any over the top, unproven accusation is heralded by the media. Really f-ed up situation and the sophistry involved with attempting to label Manning’s treatment as “torture” speaks really poorly of what some blogs have become.

  3. bmull says:

    JREID: When you say “we” will you please say “I” instead because I for one was aware of the things you claim are new revelations.

    BREZZYDEE: Manning is not supposed to be in Supermax conditions. He is supposed to be in the minimum confinement necessary to ensure his presence at trial. And what do you know about SuperMax? It is intentional sensory deprivation to induce a calm submissive state. I’d take being homeless anyday. Heck I’d take the death penalty.

    GN: A lawyer cannot lie about the facts of the case. They can try to shade them. You will never hear Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer claim she didn’t take the necklace, only that she didn’t steal it. If a lawyer said otherwise they could be disbarred. As for The NYT, here’s an editorial you might be interested in: nytimes.com/2011/03/15/opinion/15tue3.html?

  4. Anna Luc says:

    I very much appreciate your blog and the professionalism of your posts. I read you daily. So I was concerned when the bullet point below was quoted on another site.

    He says he “looked his son in the eye” and “asked him a direct question” about how he was being treated, and was told by his son that he was feeling “humiliated” at having to stand at parade rest while naked, but that otherwise, he was being treated “fine.”

    This statement is supported by neither the video nor the transcript. In the material you presented here, Brian Manning said that his son had not complained of his treatment to him at all. It would be great if you could update this post with a link that supports or corrects this bullet point.

  5. jreid says:

    @Anna –
    The formulation is a combination of the following responses from Brian Manning:

    MARTIN SMITH: And those conditions are?

    BRIAN MANNING: Well, he’s being — his clothing is being taken away from him, and he’s being humiliated by having to stand at attention in front of people, male or female that I — as far as I know, you know, that are fully clothed.

    BRIAN MANNING: No. I always, you know, am conscientious enough to look him straight in the eyes and ask him a direct question. How are they treating you? Are you sleeping? Is the food OK? And he’s always responded that: Things are just fine.

    MARTIN SMITH: How does he look?

    BRIAN MANNING: He looks good.

    MARTIN SMITH: And he doesn’t complain about being shackled?

    BRIAN MANNING: No. He doesn’t complain at all about anything.

    Probably should have said “being” humiliated (dad’s view) rather than “feeling humiliated.”

    Thanks!

    Joy

  6. J Albers says:

    No one has ever said Manning was being “waterboarded” or had bamboo inserted under his nails. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if a US citizen was being held in strict isolation by an enemy. It would be considered tantamount to psychological torture.

    The fact that were having this ‘conversation’ here, just further exposes the hypocrisy pervasive in this country. If THEY do it to US, it’s wrong. If WE do it to THEM, they had it coming. BS!

    Long term solitary confinement is a difficult condition to withstand and can result in significant psychological stress. The only reason to hold Manning under these conditions is to “break” him psychologically. In many other contexts we accused our “enemies” of torturing US citizens by doing what our government is doing to Manning.

    BTW, nice taking Brian Manning’s comments out of context.

  7. Jim says:

    Bradley Manning is no Daniel Ellsberg?

    Daniel Ellsberg apparently disagrees with that assessment. Vehemently.

    http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-19/us/wikileaks.ellsberg.manning_1_daniel-ellsberg-pentagon-papers-young-man?_s=PM:US

    http://www.jamesadomian.com/iambradleymanning-daniel-ellsberg-i-was-bradley-manning

    But keep talking to yourself and waving those pom-poms.

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