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Three Months Ago Bradley Manning Was Largely Forgotten, But Not Anymore -- What Changed?

With Manning gaining wide attention, it's worth recalling that three months ago he was largely forgotten. Here's what happened.

The following article first appeared at the Nation.For more great content from the Nation, sign up for theiremail newsletters here.

Ten months after he was arrested for allegedly leaking classified material, including diplomatic cables, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was very much in the news this week -- with the military bringing 22 new charges against him, including "aiding the enemy" (unspecified) to being stripped naked for seven hours at the prison the past two nights.  His supporters and attorney David Coombs continued to charge that the conditions of his confinement were overly harsh and punitive, while the Pentagon continues to deny that.

With Manning gaining wide attention now, it’s worth recalling that three months ago he was largely forgotten. How did so much change?  Here's some background if you have just tuned into Manning's case recently:

Even amid the vast Cablegate coverage, as I trace in my new book The Age of WikiLeaks, Manning got little notice, although the blog FireDogLake kept on the case. Then, on December 15, Glenn Greenwald at Salon delivered a strong piece on Manning’s “inhumane detention.”

He charged that the conditions constituted “cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.” (A key point: The private has not yet been convicted of anything.)

Liberal blogs highlighted Greenwald’s piece and two days later the Guardian carried a report on Manning’s health “deteriorating.” He was subject to some form of suicide watch, but it seemed to his attorney more punitive than necessary.

On December 19, Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, supplied some fresh details: “PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day. The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay. He receives each of his meals in his cell. He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets.”

The same day, NBC Nightly News paid a visit to Manning’s hometown in Oklahoma. A former Marine there said he should be executed. Others were not much more sympathetic. Lester Holt, the correspondent, suggested that some felt that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy then in effect might have contributed to Manning’s decision to break ranks.

Four days later, David House, who had befriended Manning, filed a report at FireDogLake (which had been following the soldier’s plight closer than any site) on his recent visits with Bradley Manning at Quantico. He contradicted many of the military’s claims about his treatment.

On December 27, Glenn Greenwald revived a key component of the Manning saga, by ripping Wired for a “journalistic disgrace.… For more than six months, Wired’s Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed—but refuses to publish—the key evidence in one of the year’s most significant political stories: the arrest of US Army PFC Bradley Manning for allegedly acting as WikiLeaks’ source.… This has long ago left the realm of mere journalistic failure and stands as one of the most egregious examples of active truth-hiding by a ‘journalist’ I’ve ever seen.” Of course, he was referring to the unpublished portions of the Manning-Adrian Lamo chat logs.

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