Army opens prison for media review

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Army officials are opening the doors to the military prison in Kansas where they are holding an Army private suspected of illegally passing U.S. government secrets to the WikiLeaks website.

Pfc. Bradley Manning was moved last week from the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth amid criticism over his treatment and confinement.

Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins said the media tour of the military’s medium-security prison at Fort Leavenworth would show the conditions under which the Army holds Manning as he undergoes further evaluation.

“Clearly, Pfc. Manning is an unusual circumstance,” Collins said.

He said Manning would soon be completing the pretrial evaluation that all inmates go through when they arrive at a prison.

Manning is suspected of having obtained the classified documents while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. He is awaiting a determination by the Army on whether he’s mentally competent to stand trial. He faces nearly two dozen charges, including aiding the enemy, a crime that can bring the death penalty of death or life in prison.

The Fort Leavenworth prison, which opened late last year, was built near the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, the military’s maximum-security prison for inmates sentenced to at least five years confinement, including those sentenced to death.

About 150 inmates are at the medium-security prison, Collins said, including others awaiting military trial. The prison is the northern edge of the fort, which is also home to the Army’s Command and General Staff College.

Manning was transferred to Fort Leavenworth amid international criticism about the 23-year-old’s treatment during his detention in the Washington area. At Quantico, Manning was held in maximum security in a single-occupancy cell and was allowed to wear only a suicide-proof smock to bed each night.

Pentagon officials denied Manning was being treated improperly and said he was moved to a more suitable location for longer periods.

Kevin Zeese, organizer of the Bradley Manning Support Network, said it was clear that pressure from Manning’s supporters and international observers was having an effect on President Barrack Obama’s administration.

“This tour is an effort to relieve the pressure, but we will not let up until Manning is treated properly,” Zeese said.

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.

Zeese said Manning’s actions were that of a “whistleblower” not traitor to his country.

“He is not charged with giving documents to Iran or any other enemy, or selling them to the highest bidder,” Zeese said. “He is accused of leaking the documents to the media so the American people would know what our government is doing.”

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