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WikiLeaks Suspect’s Dad: Bradley Manning ‘Being Humiliated’ But ‘Looks Good’

March 10, 2011 at 6:27 PM EDT
Kwame Holman previews an interview with the father of Pvt. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of stealing thousands of classified government documents and providing them to WikiLeaks. Brian Manning spoke to PBS' Frontline earlier this week about his son's arrest and his treatment during his imprisonment.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we turn to the interview with the father of accused WikiLeaks source, Pvt. Bradley Manning.

Kwame Holman puts it in context.

KWAME HOLMAN: Pvt. Bradley Manning is the 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst accused of stealing thousands of classified government documents and providing them to WikiLeaks. He is in custody at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Va., where he is confined to his cell 23 hours a day under what’s called a prevention-of-injury watch.

Last week, there was a change in his imprisonment. Manning was stripped of his clothing at night. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has reported the brig’s action followed his client’s complaint that the so-called prevention-of-injury restrictions on him were absurd. Manning said if he wanted to harm himself, he could do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear.

In an exclusive “Frontline” interview this week with correspondent Martin Smith, Bradley Manning’s father, Brian Manning, talked for the first time about his son’s incarceration.

MARTIN SMITH: You decided that you wanted to sit down and talk today because you want to complain publicly about the conditions of his imprisonment.

BRIAN MANNING, father of Pvt. Bradley Manning: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: And those conditions are?

BRIAN MANNING: Well, he’s being — his clothing is being taken away from him, and he’s being humiliated by having to stand at attention in front of people, male or female that I — as far as I know, you know, that are fully clothed.

MARTIN SMITH: Who tells you that?

BRIAN MANNING: I read it in the statement that was put out by his civilian attorney.

I mean, this is someone that has not been — you know, gone to trial or been convicted of anything. And that’s prompted me to — you know, to come out and go forward. I mean, they worry about people down in — you know, in a base in Cuba, but here they are, have someone in, you know, on our own soil and under their own control, and they’re treating him this way.

I mean, it’s — you know, I just can’t believe — you just can’t believe it. I mean, it’s shocking enough that I would come out of, you know, our silence, as a family, and say, you know, now then this — you know, you have crossed the line. This is wrong.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, the NewsHour asked the military for a response to Brian Manning’s assertions.

A statement from the Department of Defense said in part: “The circumstances of PFC Manning’s pretrial confinement are regularly reviewed, and complies in all respects with U.S. law and Department of Defense regulations.

“In recent days, as the result of concerns for PFC Manning’s personal safety, his undergarments were taken from him during sleeping hours. He was not made to stand naked for morning count, but on one day, he chose to do so. There were no female personnel present at the time. PFC Manning has since been issued a garment to sleep in at night. He is clothed in a standard jumpsuit during the day. None of the conditions under which PFC Manning is held are punitive in nature.”

In his interview with “Frontline,” Brian Manning says he saw no signs of suicidal intentions in his son.

MARTIN SMITH: How many times have you visited him?

BRIAN MANNING: Approximately eight or nine times.

MARTIN SMITH: During those visits, has he ever mentioned any complaint of any kind to you?

BRIAN MANNING: No. I always, you know, am conscientious enough to look him straight in the eyes and ask him a direct question. How are they treating you? Are you sleeping? Is the food OK? And he’s always responded that: Things are just fine.

MARTIN SMITH: How does he look?

BRIAN MANNING: He looks good.

MARTIN SMITH: And he doesn’t complain about being shackled?

BRIAN MANNING: No. He doesn’t complain at all about anything.

MARTIN SMITH: It wouldn’t be surprising for somebody in solitary confinement to be suffering a bit.

BRIAN MANNING: Oh, I’m sure.

MARTIN SMITH: It’s surprising to me that you described him as somebody who’s doing well.

BRIAN MANNING: He comes across to me as doing well.

MARTIN SMITH: He’s in solitary confinement. That’s tremendously difficult, psychologically and physically.

BRIAN MANNING: I understand that.

MARTIN SMITH: So, are you surprised that he’s doing as well as he is?

BRIAN MANNING: I’m happy that he’s doing as well as he is.

MARTIN SMITH: So, is there any reason that Bradley wouldn’t confide in you if things were tough for him there?

BRIAN MANNING: No.

KWAME HOLMAN: Brian Manning was himself in the service, the Navy, where he held a security clearance. Stealing and sharing classified information is wrong, he says, and the whole WikiLeaks situation angers him.

But he told Martin Smith he does not believe his son did what the Army has accused him of doing.

MARTIN SMITH: Does it surprise you that Bradley had access to this much information?

BRIAN MANNING: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: And what will you say if it turns out that he leaked these documents?

BRIAN MANNING: I don’t know. I mean, I’m not even — I’m not even letting those thoughts come into my head. I’m thinking positively.

MARTIN SMITH: Is that always easy to do?

BRIAN MANNING: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: You don’t think he had it in him to do this?

BRIAN MANNING: I don’t think that the amount and the volume of things and the environment he worked in, no, I don’t think so.

MARTIN SMITH: You don’t think it’s possible he — he could have had this kind of intent?

BRIAN MANNING: I don’t know why he would do that. I — I really don’t.

MARTIN SMITH: Was he patriotic?

BRIAN MANNING: I don’t think he followed any regime of any kind.

MARTIN SMITH: You don’t think he was a patriot of the United States?

BRIAN MANNING: I imagine he was just as much as you and I.

MARTIN SMITH: Well, you knew — he’s your son. You knew him. Was he patriotic?

BRIAN MANNING: It never came up. I mean, he never said anything anti-American.

MARTIN SMITH: He joined the Army.

BRIAN MANNING: At my twisting his arm, yes.

MARTIN SMITH: So, he joined the Army because you made him do it?

BRIAN MANNING: I didn’t make him. I twisted his arm and urged him as much as a father can possibly urge somebody.

MARTIN SMITH: He didn’t want to join the Army?

BRIAN MANNING: No, he did not. And he had expressed that.

MARTIN SMITH: Why did you make him — or why did you twist his arm to join the Army?

BRIAN MANNING: Because he needed structure in his life. He was aimless. And I was going on my own experience. When I was growing up, that’s the only thing that, you know, put the structure in my life was by joining the Navy. And everything’s been fine since then.

MARTIN SMITH: From talking to you, it doesn’t seem — I mean, you don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve. If you’re feeling something about his situation, I’m not hearing it.

BRIAN MANNING: There’s a certain point, you know, when — you reach where you can either accept things, you know, and — and try and do as much as you possibly can, and then there’s no point in dwelling upon it.

I mean, there relatively is nothing I can do at this point, except support him, you know, as a father would support a son that — that’s in this situation.

MARTIN SMITH: But that’s a very rational answer. Emotions don’t respond to that kind of logic.

BRIAN MANNING: Well, I guess I’m just a right-brained person. You know, I think logically.

MARTIN SMITH: But you raised this kid. You played with him. Now he’s sitting in a prison…

BRIAN MANNING: Right.

MARTIN SMITH: … facing severe penalties, very, very serious charges pending.

BRIAN MANNING: That’s correct.

MARTIN SMITH: I would guess that that is very hard to — to square.

BRIAN MANNING: Well, as I said, once — once you make the — the — can rationalize it to the point is that they’re — as I said, they’re — all the things I could possibly do, you have done, OK, and just wait for the next move on the chessboard.

I mean, all’s I can do is support him.

KWAME HOLMAN: More of Brian Manning’s interview will appear in a profile of his son Bradley in a special “Frontline” broadcast March 29, ahead of a documentary on WikiLeaks coming in May.