WASHINGTON – Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the accused source of the WikiLeaks document scandal, will be moved from the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia to a state-of-the-art facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday.
Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's general counsel, told reporters the decision to move Manning was not a response to international criticism surrounding his treatment at Quantico, rather because the Kansas-based facility will better "meet Private Manning's health and welfare needs given the possibility he will remain in pretrial confinement."
Manning has been held at the maximum-security detention facility at Quantico since July. Combined with time he spent in Iraq he has been in military custody for 10 months.
During that time Manning's lawyer has filed numerous complaints, arguing his client was unfairly classified as a maximum-security detainee who posed a risk to his own health. At times Manning was made to stand at attention in the nude at the front of his cell in the morning. He is kept in his cell 23 hours a day, where he was prohibited from exercising. He gets one hour outside a day and eats alone, unlike most other detainees. Officials have said all those measures were for his own protection.
Amnesty International has said Manning's treatment may violate his human rights and a committee of Germany's parliament has also raised concerns about his treatment to the White House. Even State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley was forced to resign last month after calling Manning's treatment "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid."
The average stay at Quantico for military detainees who have to go to trial is just under three months. Pentagon officials said they would have moved Manning to a more comfortable setting sooner, but building a case against Manning was taking longer than expected and military lawyers in Washington needed him to be close by for interviews.
The trial is still months off, according to the defense officials.
Johnson eventually conceded that if it weren't for all the media attention surrounding Manning, the issue of where he should be held would not have come to his level.
"I won't say that his conditions at Quantico had nothing to do with this," Johnson said. "What we are saying is that given the length of time he's been in pre-trial confinement at Quantico, given the point at which we are with the [investigation] process, and given what the likely period of pre-trial confinement in the future will be, we decided to take a look at whether there is another facility suitable for him at this juncture."
Army LTC Dawn Hilton, who oversees detention Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Ft. Leavenworth, said the new facility is better designed for long-term incarceration. After his initial risk assessment Manning will have regular access to a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a licensed social worker. It's also likely he'll have three hours a day of "recreation time" as well as interaction with other detainees.
For security purposes the Pentagon wouldn’t say when Manning will be transferred, but Johnson said it's "imminent."
Manning is the alleged source of hundreds of thousands of secret military communications relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars, as well as nearly a quarter million classified diplomatic cables. It's also believed he provided WikiLeaks with a secret military video that shows the deaths of two Reuters journalists during a U.S. combat mission.
He faces over 20 charges and a maximum sentence of life in prison.