Firm Fires Back At Blogger Allegations Over Manning Rally Press Release

This week, a press release was issued (text after the jump) with details about a rally planned for March 20 in support of Pfc. Bradley Manning. Manning is being held on a Marine Corps base in Quantico, V.A. on charges that he’s responsible for turning over classified information to Wikileaks. He’s been held since July, and some have called into question his treatment while in custody, saying that Manning has been abused. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley resigned from his post last week over his criticism of the way Manning is being held.

Pfc. Bradley Manning. Photo: Associated Press
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In a blog post on Monday, Susan Katz Keating,  a former Washington Times reporter, author, and blogger, accuses FitzGibbon Media of lying in the aforementioned release. FitzGibbon specializes in PR focused on issues like human rights and nuclear proliferation. Among the clients listed on the firm’s website are The National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, MoveOn, Pearl Jam, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In a post titled “Bradley Manning P.R. Flak Admits Deliberate Lie; Refuses to Correct Deceptive Press Release,” she says Manning’s treatment is based on his threats of suicide, and provides what she says is a transcript of a conversation she had with FitzGibbons principal Naomi Seligman. You can read the post here.

We contacted Seligman for a response.

In an email, Seligman wrote the following:

This blogger has maliciously distorted a routine conversation about an upcoming event. Her game of gotcha and hasty characterization of my responses as lies cast doubt on her judgment, her professionalism and her honesty.

I never at any point agreed that our advisory was misleading. I wanted to get off the phone with a hostile blogger and did not wish to engage with her wild and unwarranted accusations. Anyone who reads her purported transcript of our exchange will see that is exactly what I was doing.

To be clear, we do not represent Bradley Manning directly, as the blogger suggests. We work with theBradley Manning Advocacy Fund, an independent public advocacy effort.

The blogger’s main point, that there is a reasonable justification for PFC Bradley Manning’s treatment in the Quantico Brig because he made a serious threat to commit suicide, is contradicted by the facts.

As PFC Manning’s lawyer David Coombs has laid out as a matter of factual record, on the evening of March 2, 2011 PFC Manning was stripped of all his clothing by the Quantico Brig and left naked in his cell for the next seven hours. His clothes were returned to him the following morning only after he stood to attention in front of the rest of the clothed inmates, still naked. The same thing occurred the following night and morning.

The blogger asserts: ‘Before Manning lost his night clothes, he openly talked about suicide. He didn’t just mention it in passing. He specifically told someone how he would kill himself. In suicide prevention lingo, this falls under the category of “having a plan.” Which requires intervention.’

She is flat-out wrong about this.  PFC Manning continues to protest  against his POI (Prevention of Injury) status , which has kept him in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for the past eight months. He has the support of three forensic psychiatrists, who agree he poses no threat to himself.

Earlier this month, in frustration at being denied removal from Maximum Custody and POI Watch, PFC Manning remarked that the POI restrictions were “absurd” and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.

Without consulting any Brig mental health provider, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes used that sarcastic quip from PFC Manning as justification to increase the restrictions imposed upon him.  PFC Manning was not, however, placed under the designation of Suicide Risk Watch. This is because Suicide Risk Watch would have required a Brig mental health provider’s recommendation, which the Brig commander did not have.