On Wednesday's Newsroom, CNN hyped the concerns of psychiatrist Terry Kupers over the imprisonment of Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning. Kupers labeled Manning's months-long solitary confinement "cruel or inhumane treatment, and by international standards, they constitute torture." The guest also claimed that "nobody has been accused of crimes like Bradley Manning's."
Anchor Carol Costello noted in her introduction to her interview of Kupers (which aired 47 minutes into the 10 am Eastern hour) that "Manning, the man accused of giving Wikileaks classified documents, spent most of the last nine months in solitary confinement. One psychiatrist tells CNN that amounted to torture, and it could have done more harm than good." An on-screen graphic trumpeted this charge: "Wikileaks Suspect 'Tortured': Doc: Months of solitary does permanent damage."
Once she greeted her guest, the CNN personality stated that "Private Manning is no longer in solitary confinement, I understand. They- he has one hour a day where he's out, and for most of the day he can communicate with other prisoners. So is that better?" Kupers, a part-time member of the faculty at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California, replied that "social contact is better....He has been entirely deprived for a very long time, seven or eight months, and that is known to cause mental illness, and the prevalence of suicide in those kind of conditions is extremely high. So for those reasons, it's a very stressful situation for him."
Costello then noted that "the threat of suicide was there. That's why he was forced to sleep naked because he was trying to kill himself with his clothes," and asked, "So, what do you do?" The psychiatrist made his first hint that Manning's rights had been trampled upon: "If he is truly suicidal, then what he needs is to be removed from conditions that are known to cause suicide, such as solitary confinement, and to be put in treatment. It isn't okay to strip him of his clothes. The Constitution guarantees humane conditions for people, and this was a violation."
Kupers finally specifically accused the military of torture after Costello followed up by bringing up the armed services' separate system of justice:
COSTELLO: But this is a military prison. It's not like a prison that normal people go to when they commit crimes in the United States. Many people would argue that this man is a traitor to his country, and he's being treated accordingly.
KUPERS: Well, always, there's some rationale for human rights abuses for torture, and that's what the military is claiming here. They're claiming they're preventing suicide when actually they're putting him in the precise conditions that cause suicide, and they're depriving him of rights that United States citizens have even if they're in the military. The Constitution still applies.
Near the end of the interview, the psychiatrist tried to set Manning apart as he continued to accuse the military of wrongdoing:
COSTELLO: So, what do you suggest? Should he be treated differently than other prisoners who have been accused of similar crimes?
KUPERS: Well, nobody has been accused of crimes like Bradley Manning's. He has not turned information over to any foreign government. Rather, he has released documents. A lot of people are saying he's a whistleblower. This is something that needs to be determined in court. He is pre-trial. But he is being put into conditions that are considered an Eighth Amendment violation, that is, they constitute cruel or inhumane treatment, and by international standards, they constitute torture. This is not okay. He hasn't been convicted of anything.
COSTELLO: Well, I'm sure military personnel would beg to differ. But thank you for your perspective. Terry Kupers is live from Berkeley today. Thank you.
Actually, the guest is making a distinction without a difference. While the private allegedly didn't disclose the classified information to a foreign government, he is still accused of "communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source." It doesn't matter whether that "unauthorized source" is a foreign government or unaffiliated organization.
CNN let Kupers expound on his take in a column which they posted on a their website on Wednesday. He went much further in his condemnation of the military than he did during his interview with Costello:
Clearly, Manning's treatment violates these constitutional guarantees and international prohibitions against torture. Why? Have we permitted our government, under the cloak of security precautions, to set up a secret gulag where conditions known to cause severe psychiatric damage prevail? As a concerned psychiatrist, I strenuously object to this callousness about conditions of confinement that predictably cause such severe harm.
— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.