The U.S. army private suspected of giving classified data to WikiLeaks has been flown to a state-of-the-art prison where Pentagon officials said more extensive mental, emotional and physical health care is available.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that Manning arrived at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in mid-afternoon where he will undergo an in-depth assessment over five to seven days by medical staff.
Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer, said the move does not suggest that army Pte. 1st Class Bradley Manning's treatment at the marine corps base south of Washington was inappropriate.
But the transfer comes in the wake of international criticism about Manning's treatment during his detention at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va. And the conditions of Manning's detention have been the focus of repeated protests from human rights groups and lawmakers.
In response, Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, wrote on his blog that Manning's treatment at Quantico was substandard.
"While the defence hopes that the move to Fort Leavenworth will result in the improvement of [Pte.] Manning's conditions of confinement, it nonetheless intends to pursue redress at the appropriate time for the flagrant violations of his constitutional rights by the Quantico confinement facility," Coombs wrote.
Johnson, however, said that "The fact that we have made a decision to transfer this particular pretrial confinee ... should not be interpreted as a criticism of the place he was before."
Speaking to reporters Tuesday during a hastily arranged briefing, Johnson and Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal acknowledged that the marine prison was not designed to hold pretrial detainees for more than a few months.
"This is the right decision, at the right time," said Westphal.
"We were looking at a situation where he would need an environment more conducive for a longer detention."
The new detention facility, they said, will be more open, have more space, and Manning will have a greater opportunity to eat and interact with other prisoners there. They added that the move was in Manning's best interest because Leavenworth's Joint Regional Correctional Facility has a broader array of facilities, including trained mental, emotional and physical health staff.
Comprehensive evaluation on tap
Lt.-Col. Dawn Hilton, who is in charge of the medium-security detention facility at Leavenworth, said Manning will undergo a comprehensive evaluation upon his arrival to assess whether he is a risk to his own or others' safety. The 150 inmates there — including eight who are awaiting trial — are allowed three hours of recreation per day, she said, and three meals a day in a dining area.
She said the facility, which opened in January, is designed for long-term detention of pretrial inmates. Officials agreed that Manning's case, which involves hundreds of thousands of highly sensitive and classified documents, is very complex and could drag on for months, if not years.
Johnson said that Manning, who has been at the marine base for more than eight months, can be moved now because his interview in the Washington region to determine his competency to stand trial has been completed. That interview lasted one day and was done April 9.
Johnson also said he believes that Manning's lawyer was told about the move Tuesday. Coombs did not respond to a request for comment.
Manning faces nearly two dozen charges, including aiding the enemy, a crime that can bring the death penalty or life in prison.
His transfer to Leavenworth comes a bit more than a week after a UN torture investigator complained that he was denied a request to make an unmonitored visit to Manning. Pentagon officials said he could meet with Manning, but it is customary to give only the detainee's lawyer confidential visits.
UN denied unmonitored visit
The UN official, Juan Mendez, said a monitored conversation would be counter to the practice of his UN mandate.
A few days later, a committee of Germany's parliament protested about Manning's treatment to the White House. And Amnesty International has said Manning's treatment may violate his human rights.
Human rights activists have also staged protests near the marine prison.
U.S. President Barack Obama and senior military officials have repeatedly contended that Manning is being held under appropriate conditions given the seriousness of the charges against him.
A former intelligence analyst, Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, including Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, confidential State Department cables and a classified military video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver.