Bradley Manning in good spirits ahead of court-martial in WikiLeaks case
In an interview with the Guardian, Manning's aunt describes her nephew's life in jail – and how he's been able to stay optimistic
Ed Pilkington in
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 29 May 2012 13.25 EDT
Bradley Manning's aunt said he keeps up to date with subscriptions to Scientific American, the New Yorker and the Washington Post. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Two years into his military confinement for allegedly being the source of the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, Bradley Manning is keeping himself in a relatively positive state of mind, buoyed by trust in his lawyers and the support of close family and backers from around the world.
With a full court-martial scheduled for September, which could result in the
The intelligence analyst, who was arrested two years ago this week at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad, spends his days reading, exercising or watching television with other military inmates of the brig at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and an institution at an undisclosed location in the Washington area where his aunt visits him.
As told by his aunt, who asked not to be named to avoid media attention, Manning comes across as a quiet, bookish individual with interests in the interface between science and philosophy, as well as world affairs. He has subscriptions to Scientific American, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair and has requested a daily copy of the
He borrows regularly from the relatively well-stocked library at
"He doesn't ask for any popular books," his aunt said.
Manning also follows the news avidly, both internationally and domestically. "When I'm talking to him, he'll often mention something political that's going on around the world; he's definitely keeping up with what's going on," said the aunt.
At face value Manning's predicament appears serious. He is charged with 22 counts relating to the transfer of some 700,000 secret documents from US secure computers to WikiLeaks.
The charges include aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, theft of public records and computer fraud.
Attempts by his lawyers to have many of the counts dismissed have so far failed and the military prosecutors are pursuing the case against him aggressively.
The nadir in his treatment over the past two years came in early 2011 when, over a period of weeks, he was held in isolation at
He protested about the treatment, which was later classified as a form of torture by the UN special rapporteur. Amnesty International recently cited Manning's regime at
Yet the soldier's treatment has improved dramatically and with it his spirits. He was moved to
"The situation in
The other reason for his relatively cheerful state is that he has total faith in his defence team. "Bradley has tremendous confidence in David Coombs," she said, referring to his lead civilian lawyer. "He seems pretty optimistic about how things are going and encouraged that the case is now moving along."
Manning and Coombs speak at least once a week, and spend hours together discussing legal strategy when the soldier is brought to the Washington area ahead of pre-trial hearings in Fort Meade, Maryland. The next hearing will be on 6 June.
Occasionally, Manning expresses discouragement at what he sees as the lack of co-operation he is getting from the
The other explanation for Manning's relatively bouyant mood is the support he receives from his immediate family in
Graham Nash, the songwriter with the band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, said that "this is supposed to be a nation of laws. If so, why are we torturing a man who truly believed that he was doing his duty to his country and to his own soul?"
The Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who has been closely involved with the private's Welsh family, said: "It is an outrage that Bradley Manning is still being held two years after he was first arrested. He should not be made the scapegoat for the errors of the
Writing in the Guardian, Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of
Similar sentiments are contained in Manning's bulging mail bag. His aunt said the soldier receives many letters each week from around the world.
He is also very aware how closely the media is watching his case. After his first pre-trial hearing in
He feels a little self-conscious about being in the spotlight, but hugely thankful none the less. "He feels good that people haven't forgotten him," she said.
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This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 13.25 EDT on Tuesday 29 May 2012. It was last modified at 14.03 EDT on Tuesday 29 May 2012.
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