Dear Secretary Gates:
I write to request that I be able to visit Private First Class Bradley Manning at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. As you know, I am concerned about reports of his treatment while in custody that describe alarming abuses of his constitutional rights and his physical health. A March 2009 article by surgeon Atul Gawande discusses the effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates and prisoners of war: “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.” Studies highlighted that such prisoners, months after being released, revealed severe brain abnormalities mirroring those who had endured significant physical head trauma.On Thursday, Rep. Kucinich had made a detailed query to Gates, and there is no word as to whether or not anyone from the Pentagon responded, prompting today's letter. In Kucinich's Thursday letter, he referenced reports indicating PFC Manning is not only undergoing severe psychological stress caused by the highly unusual routines the young soldier is forced to endure, but also to the recent report in the Washington Post that Manning "was known by the Army to have had mental health problems even before his deployment to Iraq." Yesterday's letter from Kucinich to Gates concluded with this:
Private Manning’s guilt or innocence is a question for adjudication and his treatment at Quantico severely undermines the presumption of innocence as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and raises questions as to whether he is truly able to stand trial. His care while in the custody of the Department of Defense is the responsibility of the U.S. Government and as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform it is my duty to conduct effective oversight.
Thank you for your attention to this request. I look forward to your prompt reply.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress
Now, reports indicate that the Army has taken Pfc. Manning, a soldier with documented mental health problems, and confined him under conditions that are almost guaranteed to exacerbate his mental health problems. If true, the Army’s treatment would obviously constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
If these reports are true, the Army must end the extreme conditions of Private Manning’s confinement, and provide him with the mental health treatment that the Army recognized he needed even before his deployment to Iraq. At the very least, the Army must explain the justification for confining someone with mental health problems under conditions that are virtually certain to exacerbate those problems and explain the danger he now presents that only these extreme conditions of confinement can avoid.