Two people who were on their way this weekend to visit Pfc. Bradley Manning, the man accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and other information to Wikileaks, say they were detained at the military base where Manning is being held, apparently, they say, without reason.
David House, a hacker from Boston who says he has been visiting Manning since September, and Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, went to the Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia Sunday afternoon. They were hoping to visit Manning, as well as deliver a petition to the base calling for better treatment for Manning.
Manning’s lawyer has called the brig’s treatment of Manning abusive, as he’s being held in solitary confinement and stays in his cell for 23 hours a day. Last week, his lawyer filed a complaint with the base after Manning was placed on suicide watch, which further restricted his actions in the brig. The UN’s special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, has submitted a formal inquiry to the State Department about Manning’s treatment. Amnesty International has written to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying that the military’s treatment of Manning is “inhumane” and “unnecessarily severe.”
When House and Hamsher arrived on the base, they say, military police took their IDs and told them they could neither leave the base or proceed to the brig. The MPs also reportedly would not accept Hamsher’s digital proof of insurance and impounded her car.
They say they were held for two hours and released at 3 p.m. — when Manning’s visiting hours ended. They were not allowed to see him.
“I would not be surprised to learn they were also punishing him [House] for speaking out about Manning’s conditions,” Hamsher said in a blog post about the incident.
A spokesman for the base told the AP that the two were never detained. He said Hamsher’s car was towed after she failed to show proof of insurance, and after MPs determined her car’s license plates were expired.
Manning, who is 23, has been charged with eight crimes related to illegally leaking classified information. Manning is accused of leaking 250,000 diplomatic cables, tens of thousands of military dispatches from the war in Afghanistan and a video that shows U.S. forces opening fire on civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.
TPM has contacted Quantico to get more details about the incident. We’ll let you know when we hear back.
Late update: A spokesman for Quantico, First Lt. Brian Villiard, tells TPM that the incident was “certainly not political” and that the two weren’t detained per se.
“Standard operating procedure for the Marines that work at the gate is, if the vehicle has an invalid registration or cannot prove insurance, then that vehicle will be towed off base,” Villiard said, adding that the vehicle would be “inventoried” — that is, searched — first. “That kind of stuff takes time.”
He said guards do random registration and insurance checks, but in this case, they saw the license plates on Hamsher’s car were out of date as the car pulled up.
Villiard also said that Hamsher was ticketed and has a court date in civilian court in Alexandria.