WASHINGTON — Bradley Manning, a US serviceman held for allegedly passing classified documents to WikiLeaks, is headed to a US military facility for a potentially "multi-year" stay with an upgrade in conditions, the Pentagon has said.
Manning's imminent transfer to a Kansas military facility with less harsh detention conditions comes after intense criticism of his detention conditions in Quantico, Virginia.
"At this juncture of the case we have decided that the new joint correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is the most appropriate facility for Private Manning for continued pretrial detention," Jeh Johnson, the general counsel of the Department of Defense, said at a news conference.
The 23-year-old Welsh-born US army intelligence officer, who allegedly provided the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks with a trove of secret documents, has been imprisoned at Quantico since July 2010.
Manning's detention conditions, which have included solitary confinement and being forced to sleep naked, have drawn the attention of Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and Britain. Amnesty International in February called Manning's detention "harsh and punitive" and urged Britain to intervene on his behalf.
Johnson insisted the move to Leavenworth had nothing to do with those complaints.
"Many will be tempted to interpret today's action as a criticism of the pretrial facility at Quantico," he said.
"That is not the case. We remain satisfied that Private Manning's pretrial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects," Johnson said.
But in any event, where before Manning had no visitors, now he will be allowed some.
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Where before he was alone apparently 23 hours a day, now he will be able to interact daily with other pretrial detainees.
"From experience in federal criminal cases, a federal criminal case is very often a multi-month if not multi-year experience," Johnson noted.
And with a lengthy, potentially years-long pre-trial phase ahead, the Kansas facility offers more support for Manning, Johnson said.
"It has the expertise and capability to provide continued long-term pre-trial confinement for Private Manning," he explained.
"The facility, which opened in October and opened a pre-trial confinement capability in January, is a state-of-the-art complex with the best and widest range of support services available to pre-trial prisoners within the Department of Defense corrections system, to include resident medical and mental-health care staff."
Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton, the commander of the Kansas prison, said Quantico was not intended for long-term incarceration, while Leavenworth Prison was designed for longer stays.
"I have the capacity to hold not only the pretrial prisoners, but post-trial prisoners sentenced up to five years," Hilton said. "And with that comes all the support staff that Private First Class Manning may need.
"I have a state of the art facility and I have the experienced staff. It's more than just the facility, it's the staff," she said.