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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

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.

All this was memorialized by his lawyer, David Coombs, and is available to anyone at his blog.  As Coombs also reported:

In response to this specific incident, the Brig psychiatrist assessed PFC Manning as “low risk and requiring only routine outpatient followup [with] no need for … closer clinical observation.”  In particular, he indicated that PFC Manning’s statement about the waist band of his underwear was in no way prompted by “a psychiatric condition.”

Given these circumstances, the decision to strip PFC Manning of his clothing for several nights was clearly punitive in nature.

On the same day the blogger published her ill-informed and intemperate post, editorials appeared in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, two of the country’s largest and most prestigious news organizations, reinforcing exactly this point.

Text from the original press release is below:

Media Advisory For March 20, 2011

Contacts: Pete Perry 202.631.0974, Trevor Fitzgibbon 202.406.0646, Naomi Seligman 310.617.4577

Bradley Manning Rally at Quantico-Sunday, March 20, 2:00 PM

Daniel Ellsberg, Ret. Col. Ann Wright and Veterans to March in Support of American Hero

Hundreds to Gather to Condemn Abu-Ghraib Treatment at Quantico as Un-American

WASHINGTON – Supporters of Pfc. Bradley Manning will hold a rally to support the private and condemn his inhumane treatment at the Quantico brig on Sunday, March 20 at 2:00 PM near Quantico. The Bradley Manning Support Network will be joined by Daniel Ellsberg, Retired Col. Ann Wright, representatives for Veterans for Peace and hundreds of others to protest the Abu-Ghraib treatment of an American soldier which Sec. of State Hilary Clinton’s spokesperson, PJ Crowley, described as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the Department of Defense.”

Despite the recommendations of three forensic military psychiatrists, the Brig Commander at Quantico refuses to lift the POI (Prevention of Injury) status and change Pfc. Manning’s confinement classification from MAX to Medium Custody In (MDI), which has kept PFC Manning in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for the past eight months.

On the evening of March 2, 2011 PFC Manning was inexplicably 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 and it is now unclear when or if this treatment will end.

WHO: Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Paper’s Whistleblower Ret. Col. Ann Wright Representatives from Veterans for Peace, Bradley Manning Support Network and others

WHAT: Rally in support of Pfc. Bradley Manning

WHERE: Quantico — in neighboring Triangle. Will be followed by a march to the intersection of Rt. 1 and Fuller Road where the main entrance to Quantico is located

WHEN: Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 2:00 PM ET

Firedoglake.com will be broadcasting the rally live via ustream.

For more information please contact Pete Perry, 202.631.0974/pete4peace@gmail.com or Trevor FitzGibbon at 202.406.0646/ Trevor@FitzGibbonMedia.com, Naomi Seligman, 310.617.4577/Naomi@FitzGibbonMedia.com

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Driving Directions: From I-95 heading south, take Exit 150A to Route 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway); turn right (south) onto Route 1; travel approximately 1 mile; the Museum’s entrance is on the right.

From I-95 heading north, take Exit 150 (Jefferson Davis Hwy); turn right (south) onto Route 1; travel approximately 1 mile; the Museum’s entrance is on the right.

After parking in the museum’s parking lot, walk back to Rt. 1 and turn left. Cross over Joplin Road and in another 30 yards you will be at the rally point. It is on the left hand side of Rt. 1.

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