Gawker Coughs Up a Misleading Hairball On Bradley Manning

By now you have probably heard of the serious issue regarding the dehumanizing and mentally debilitating conditions of Bradley Manning’s pre-trial detention by the US Military. Glenn Greenwald has written on the nature and import of the conditions, our own Dr. Jeff Kaye has described the medical and psychological harm from such tactics, as has Atul Gawande, and the UN Special Rapporteur has announced an investigation.

Into this serious legal, medical and psychiatric topic has stepped, of all sources, Gawker Media and its contributor John Cook with a condescending article titled “Bradley Manning Would Like Softer Blankets, Exercise, and More Television“. It is clearly a topic Cook and Gawker ought to leave to better informed and relevantly trained reporters.

Cook goes through several issues that have been noted about Manning’s detention including bedding, exercise availability and access to newspapers and television news, and casually dismisses them all individually with trite questions such as “does it sound like torture to you?”, “is it that big a deal, all things considered?”, and “is it the stuff of a U.N. investigation?”.

First off, Cook fails to consider the cumulative effect of those issues. Much more importantly, however, Cook completely ignores and fails to discuss the most important issue in the complaints about Manning’s detention conditions, the extreme isolation and sleep deprivation. This, however, is not a cute subject and should not be treated as fluff by Gawker. Dr. Jeff Kaye relates exactly how serious the isolation (which in Manning’s case must also be coupled with intentional sleep deprivation) can be on a subject such as Manning:

Solitary confinement is an assault on the body and psyche of an individual. It deprives him of species-specific forms of physical, sensory and social interaction with the environment and other human beings. Manning reported last weekend he had not seen sunlight in four weeks, nor does he interact with other people but a few hours on the weekend. The human nervous system needs a certain amount of sensory and social stimulation to retain normal brain functioning. The effects of this deprivation on individuals varies, and some people are affected more severely or quickly, while others hold out longer against the boredom and daily grind of dullness that never seems to end.

Over time, isolation produces a particular well-known syndrome which is akin to that of an organic brain disorder, or delirium. The list of possible effects upon a person is quite long, and can include an inability to tolerate ordinary stimuli, sleep and appetite disturbances, primitive forms of thinking and aggressive ruminations, perceptual distortions and hallucinations, agitation, panic attacks, claustrophobia, feelings of loss of control, rage, paranoia, memory loss, lack of concentration, generalized body pain, EEG abnormalities, depression, suicidal ideation and random, self-destructive behavior.

Most telling of the disingenuous and uninformed nature of the Cook/Gawker article is its critical reliance on irrelevant and misleading data from an impertinent study. Cook cites a University of Pennsylvania study on prison isolation:

But the bottom line is that there is nothing even remotely unusual about the conditions under which Manning is currently confined. There are literally thousands of people—by one estimate as many as 20,000 [pdf]—in this country in solitary confinement right now. It is a distressingly routine technique. To the extent that it is inhumane, illegal, unconstitutional, and violative of international law—which it may be—there are thousands of people in line ahead of Manning awaiting their U.N. investigations.

Gawker describes 20,000 people in solitary confinement in the US and equates them with Manning without noting the source they are citing is describing only prisoners that have been convicted, and most all of whom have factual circumstances requiring segregation. Manning is being held pre-trial, is presumed innocent and free and should not, according to consistent law, be imposed on or restricted any more than necessary to secure his appearance in court and safety.

In fact, there is statutory authority directly on point to this effect, Article 13, UCMJ, prohibits: (1) intentional imposition of punishment on an accused before his or her guilt is established at trial; and (2) arrest or pretrial confinement conditions that are more rigorous than necessary to ensure the accused’s presence at trial (See: United States v. Crawford, 62 M.J. 411).

I immediately notified Gawker of this critical error in their article by a response to their Twitter announcement of its publication. Gawker has not seen fit to correct their misleading and scurrilous article. Whether Gawker has the common decency to admit it or not, there is a huge difference, both legally and morally, between presumed innocent citizens being held pre-trial and convicted criminals with needs for specialized segregation or punishment. Bradley Manning is the former, not the latter.

70 replies
  1. Phoenix Woman says:

    On hearing that Manning isn’t allowed to sleep outside of the prescribed times, and that his sole human interaction for the vast majority of his waking hours is being repetitively and rotely asked every five minutes “Are you OK?”, I was forcibly reminded that one of the methods of mind control attributed to religious cults like the Moonies and Scientology is to ensure that the newly-indoctrinated are never allowed more than a few moments to think uninterrupted. Even bathroom breaks are done in the presence of other cultists. The opportunity to reflect and to process one’s thoughts — something that can’t be done when one’s thoughts are interrupted every five minutes by a rote noise which demands your immediate response — is key to keeping one’s sanity and resisting brainwashing.

    • mattcarmody says:

      One of the things about Parris Island that stands out after 41 years is the first night there. After arriving at around 11:00 pm we were assigned racks (beds) and told to go to sleep. Within 20 minutes the drill instructors were in the room banging on garbage can lids making everyone get up and out of bed. This continued through the night.

      The first thing they did was deprive us of sleep and disorient us in order to make us this one big gelatinous mass they could go to work on.

      Of course our little taste of it is nothing compared to what Manning is probably being subjected to, but these were Marines doing it to us, also, and when Marines are confronted with an enemy they aren’t very nice.

  2. PJEvans says:

    Over at the Great Orange Satan, they’re reporting that the UN human rights people (particularly those involved with torture) are apparently going to be looking into Manning’s case. They’re emphasizing that he’s never been on suicide watch, isn’t violent, and without access to communications of any kind is certainly not going to be a danger to the country.

  3. Jason Leopold says:

    In conversations I’ve had with attorneys for about a dozen of the HVDs and other attorneys who represent Guantanamo detainees, one thing that they all say is that if there was a choice between shutting down Guantanamo and transferring the detainees to a Supermax prison they would rather keep Guantanamo open let the detainees remain there because of the fact they would be in solitary 23 hours a day and would go mad, for lack of a better description. I certainly hope I didn’t give the Obama administration a rationale for keeping Guantanamo open. But the attorneys say that at least the detainees, even the HVDs, have contact with people and can go out and walk around while they remain imprisoned without being charged, forever.

    Separately, I wonder if the UN involvement and stories about Manning’s treatment is what led the Army to announce it is conducting a formal investigation into how Manning “stole documents” (notice how the word alleged is missing from the headline?) He’s already been convicted.

    • bmaz says:

      Maybe, but quite frankly it makes sense for the Army to undertake such an investigation. In fact, I would be concerned if they did not.

  4. Frank33 says:

    The obvious conclusion is Gawker is part of the COINTELPRO against Manning. Will the Pentagon give Gawker a big fat Chrustmas bonus for fighting against the Antiwar surge? I say yes and Gawker is part of the Pentagon and Obama and Peter Peterson War against Americans who believe in the Constitution.

  5. Ruth Calvo says:

    If you recall, this is the same line that was introduced by wingnuts about Gitmo, that the prisoners were lucky to get such great treatment, even that they had really great food! It was just like hazing. Humanity is not a consideration for this element, as it hinders getting their way.

    • bmaz says:

      Quite frankly, for the most part the conditions at Gitmo probably are relatively preferable to solitary such as such detainees would get at a SuperMax, which is analogous to what is being given Manning.

      • Ruth Calvo says:

        btw, thanks for the post and comment. If you ignore unconstitutional and involuntary detainment I suppose it looks good to the right wing. Demands of the human condition have not occurred to them as rights.

        • bmaz says:

          It is an interesting dynamic. Pre-trial detention of those not yet convicted of any crime and that have no special consideration factors should be no more repressive than necessary. Here in Maricopa County, many criminal defendants I have dealt with cannot wait to get to prison and out of the county jails where they are held pre-trial, because the conditions are so much better in the prisons.

  6. Kassandra says:

    Well, of course some right wing totalitarian bullshit site is going to notice that some people are waking up to the mistreatment of this young man. Can’t have that.
    After all, in their eyes, he’s a traitor!
    Which is really odd since they’re the ones screaming so loudly about “Constitutional rights” which they seem to have rewritten along with their odious bible.
    I’m just surprised they haven’t noticed Obama’s indefinite detention order for anyone suspected of whistle-blowing or any other activity the president may feel harmful to full government secrecy. Or maybe they have and fully approve.

    Meanwhile, this came out a few days ago but was finally posted on the Google news homepage:
    US allows trade with blacklist countries: report
    I think this proves the lie of terrorism once and for all anyway. I thought there were sanction on Iran?
    But in this pure capitalism utopia we’ve moved into , anything goes, I guess as long as the Big can get bigger and the Rich , richer.

    • VORE says:

      A lot of people see him as a traitor and there is validity in that view. If he is being detained as described that is too harsh, but collectively America isn’t losing sleep over it because of what it appears he did.

      Which by the way, if Assange and Wikileaks are so righteous in their views of transparency then why don’t they just disclose their source(s)?

      Rather hypocritical don’t ya think?

      • PJEvans says:

        troll, Assange says that Wikileaks is set up so they don’t know who the sources are. To protect the sources, I would think, from people like you.

      • Adam503 says:

        “A lot of people” believe the earth is 6000 years old and cavemen rode dinosaurs like cowboys rode horses.

        Lots of people believe lots of stupid shit. Bradley Manning is a Fed. whisleblower. He turned in key evedence in a war crime investigation. Federal whistleblowers are supposed to get whistle-blower protection.

  7. Margaret says:

    This is a comment I just left at mediamatters. It’s very relevant here:

    The incestuous DC media isn’t interested in covering news. They are only interested in being the privileged toadies for the ruling caste. The want the access so they can rub elbows and get invited to the right functions, not so they can get the scoop or the facts. When you have pundits talking openly about getting the right kinds of connection­s because of the parties and others married to ex administra­tion officials, something is wrong in paradise. The vaunted fourth estate has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the other three. It is now one monolithic ruling caste and people who pay attention to them are complicit in their own ignorance and in the corruption of our system of government­.

    Gawker is trying to become relevant and the way to do that is to suck up to authority or at least that’s the theory. The same thing happened to Josh Marshall, Matt Yglesias and Nate Silver to name just a few.

    • 300SDL says:

      That says it very well. And to think we spend all those trllions in the Cold War trying to stamp out the Soviet Union only to have the lameass media adopt their state run media tactics.

  8. TomThumb says:

    Sometimes I think Cook and other writers had the velvet clothed mother monkey dolls for mothers. The unresponsive, cloth-covered dolls who delivered neither mercy, nor kindness nor words of praise. So they expect none for their fellow monkeys as they received none for themselves. How else is it possible to learn to be sadistic?

  9. Margaret says:

    I got this a couple of weeks ago:

    This weekend we discovered that Gawker Media’s servers were compromised,
    resulting in a security breach at Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Gawker, Jezebel,
    io9, Jalopnik, Kotaku, Deadspin, and Fleshbot. As a result, the user name
    and password associated with your comment account were released on the
    internet. If you’re a commenter on any of our sites, you probably have
    several questions.

    We understand how important trust is on the internet, and we’re deeply
    sorry for and embarrassed about this breach of security. Right now we
    are working around the clock to improve security moving forward. We’re
    also committed to communicating openly and frequently with you to make
    sure you understand what has happened, how it may or may not affect you,
    and what we’re doing to fix things.

    This is what you should do immediately: Try to change your password in
    the Gawker Media Commenting System. If you used your Gawker Media
    password on any other web site, you should change the password on those
    sites as well, particularly if you used the same username or email with
    that site. To be safe, however, you should change the password on those
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    We’re continually updating an FAQ ( with more
    information and will continue to do so in the coming days and weeks.

    Gawker Media

    Don’t sign up unless you enjoy spam

  10. VORE says:

    Jeff Kaye has no objectivity when it comes to matters and topics such as these – he sees conspiracies everywhere and believes the our interrogations of terrorists should be limited to saying please and offering them cookies for information.

  11. Cellar47 says:

    Gawker is much better suited to tracking Barry Diller’s boytoys than it is dealing with poor Bradley Manning.

    • Margaret says:

      I don’t even remember which outlet I had a gawker account with. I have avoided a whole lot of websites since my computer got compromised. I was glad to find out which account it was though.

  12. dude says:

    I know this is almost too obvious to say, but the criticism we all should have about the Gawker is the extreme view taken over punishing people.

    Criminals (or those under suspicion) broke the law, got caught, and are therefore not entitled to a shred of human dignity. They are to be made examples. Like murderers who deserve execution, the example of certain death for committing a crime will deter. The example of un-coddled suspects will deter the mere contemplation of crime.

    This is an ingrained attitude with Gawkers. Disproportionate, unfailingly rigid, fearful. Paranoid.

  13. ruh17 says:

    Thanks for the post bmaz. I always enjoy reading your work.

    Gotta love a country that treats its heros like shit before they are ever found guilty of anything. This kid put his life on the line for me and the collective you and we repay him by throwing him under the bus even though the real crimes were in all of the information that was leaked. And they receive no punishment.

    I haven’t looked everywhere but I haven’t ever seen a statement by manning or his attorney saying that he is innocent. Has such a statement been released?

    • sona says:

      good riposte along with PJEvans’

      there’s one issue that people like vore miss altogether in their haste the grab the megaphone to parade patriotism to the state and that deals with the process of democracy itself – that latter demands transparent accountability of elected officials’ and public servants’ conduct rather than secrecy

      an open society should not compromise democratic processes on the alter of national security that thrives on state secrets because the the state is supposed to know what is best

  14. Frank33 says:

    Which by the way, if Assange and Wikileaks are so righteous in their views of transparency then why don’t they just disclose their source(s)?

    You are as dumb as a neo-con. Let me explain who the source is. The source of these government documents is the United States Government. They have been paid for and they belong to me, as a taxpayer. You probably do not want to know the neo-con secrets. So please bury your head in the sand, much deeper.

    But most intelligent people do want to know the truth. Wikileaks revelations of the neo-con secrets reveal universal lies about the Clash of Civilizations. It is all a fraud. The “authorities” conceal the Saudi and ISI terrorists. That is because “Homeland Security”, and the many other Secret Police spy organizations are criminals. The Constitution is just the old piece of paper to them.

    Our hijacked government lies about everything and everything is secret and classified. But the important fact about repression, is that the oppressors need to use it more and more to keep control.

  15. tejanarusa says:

    I’m in despair over how widespread it has become to assume guilty unless proven innocent, and to pretend treating an accused person like one convincted of heinous crimes is perfectly all right.
    Funny how those who take this view scream bloody murder – for a lawyer to get them out, out! – when they or theirs find themselves arrested.

    I feel as if I’m in a waking nightmare thinking of all the unconvicted, untried, uncharged people like Manning and those in Guantanamo that our government blithely plans to keep there forever!

    I’m glad my Republican lawyer father is not alive to see this. Despite very conservative beliefs (in the old sense), he conveyed to me early that everyone, everyone, no matter how terrible the crimes accused of, deserves vigorous defense and fair trial. And he didn’t even practice criminal law.

    bmaz, thanks for keeping us up to date on this terrible story.

  16. tejanarusa says:

    haven’t looked everywhere but I haven’t ever seen a statement by manning or his attorney saying that he is innocent. Has such a statement been released?

    He hasn’t actually been charged with anything, you know.

    • ruh17 says:

      I know this. Doesn’t answer the question though. Has anybody on manning’s side released a statement that he has broken no laws?

      • bmaz says:

        There is no reason to make such a statement and it is beyond foolish for any person in his position to say anything not required to be said. His lawyer seems to know what he is doing, and thus there is no such foolishness.

        • ruh17 says:

          I understand what you’re saying but I don’t see any harm in releasing a statement that he has done nothing wrong. If only to have it in the news cycle and build public support and pressure. That couldn’t hurt his case if it ever goes to court. One if the reasons that so many people assume guilt is because that’s all that the sheeple see in the news cycle. Given how this is playing out in the court if public opinion I don’t see the harm in building support for his side.

          • bmaz says:

            For instance if you later want to enter a guilty plea, you then have a prior inconsistent statement. Is this fatal, no of course not. But smart people dealing with the criminal justice system never, ever, say anything that they do not have to or that serves a specific and valid purpose in their defense scheme. Such a statement at this point does neither. His innocence is legally presumed at this point, him making a statement does not further that.

            • ruh17 says:

              Makes sense. Considering his treatment I think maybe the presumed innocence is not presumed at all by those in power.

              Edit:: you obviously have much more faith in the justice system of this country than I. All this is assuming he receives a fair trial, or any trial at all. Which, at this point, I wouldn’t hold my breath for.

              • bmaz says:

                Oh, I do not assume that; but it is still smart to attack it as smart as you can on your end. There are many ways to be hurt in the justice system, it is wise to insure that shooting yourself in the foot is not among them.

                • ruh17 says:

                  Agreed. I would love to see a heartfelt interview with a family member, his mom maybe. 60 minutes or some other mainstream outlet where a lot of people will see. I just feel that this Is a case that will sway one way or the other with public opinion. It’s sad that public opinion can have an impact on legal action but that’s the America we live in.

  17. 300SDL says:

    “The State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”

    Henry David Thoreau

  18. MadDog says:

    OT – Heading off to the annual MadDog Family Xmas Eve gathering, so I wanted to wish one and all a Happy Holiday!

    And for those who misplaced it from years past, here again is my famous Hot Cheese Dip recipe:

    Hot Cheese Dip

    1 # ground beef
    1 Lg onion, chopped
    1 – 16oz can stewed tomatoes (drained) or same of diced tomatoes
    2 – 4oz can chopped green chilies
    2 # Velveeta
    Seasonings: Chili powder, chopped garlic, hot sauce and Tabasco sauce to taste.

    Saute ground beef and onions. Drain.
    Add stewed tomatoes and green chilies.
    Add the above to a microwaveable container.
    Cut cheese in square inch size pieces and add to the mixture.
    Add the seasonings.

    Place the container in the microwave and heat. I usually run it for 1 minute at at time at High and then take it out to stir the mixture. Continue to heat until the cheese is thoroughly melted.

    Keep warm in a crockpot on low heat (or do as I do and just keep in the microwavable container and zap it warm).

    Serve with tortilla chips.

    Lastly, I usually downsize the ingredients for this recipe in 1/2 for the meat eaters. The other half I make with no ground beef and that seems to please the veggies in my family just fine. *g*

  19. fatster says:

    According to The Independent, Bradley Manning is Under-Appreciated Person # 1

    Johann Hari: The under-appreciated heroes of 2010


  20. orionATL says:

    thanks bmaz for this no b-s post on gawker.

    this theme of mocking manning for the treatment his legal team and supporters think he deserves,

    which has appeared elsewhere in the media,

    is truely contemptible.

    i have to wonder, who paid john cook what, to copy this theme and repeat it under his name.

    ” manning wants softer blankets” says cook sarcastically.

    the bedding manning uses now is so heavy and so much like carpet that he has to be careful as he sleeps lest he get carpet burns.

    boy would i love to take a tough-talking, soft-bodied slug like john cook and put him under manning’s blankets for a week – not to mention the sleep interruptions by guards.

    manning has resisted this torture for 7 months.

    that soft-bodied slug, john cook, would’t last two weeks in this marine brig under these circumstances.

    “why write crap like this?” is the larger question.

    i believe there has got to be money involved for peddling covert lies of the sort cook is peddling.

    aside from money, what is writing inaccurate and insensitive crap like this going to do positively for cook’s career or gawker?

    thete’s a mystery of motive here hanging in the air.

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