Tag Archives: denise barnes

Bradley Manning no longer in solitary confinement – but it doesn’t end here

As of Friday morning, Kansas time, Bradley Manning will no longer be in solitary confinement, no longer under a Prevention of Injury Order and no longer under the kind of conditions that have made the Obama Administration the subject of widespread condemnation from around the world. The formal announcement was made at the end of a press tour of the Fort Leavenworth pre-trial facility yesterday evening.

According to Associated Press, Bradley will now be housed with other military inmates awaiting trial – in his own cell, but with access to a communal area- and will have the opportunity to associate with others during three hours of daily recreation time. He will now be able to make telephone calls and freely receive letters (once they have been inspected) for the first time since his arrest, almost a year ago – subject to a restriction of having only twenty items of correspondence in his cell at any one time. Some footage of where Bradley is to be housed may be viewed here. All of this is, in the main, clearly good news.

Nevertheless, we should be aware that what we are celebrating here is the move of a prisoner awaiting trial – a prisoner who has now been awaiting trial for almost a year, itself problematic – into conditions that befit an ostensibly civilised country. In passing Bradley at his initial assessment, Fort Leavenworth have implicitly accepted that the Quantico authorities were wrong in keeping Bradley under a Prevention of Injury Order for ten months, against the repeated recommendation of military psychiatrists, that James Averhart was wrong in putting Bradley on suicide watch (well, we knew that one already) and that Denise Barnes was wrong in stripping Bradley of his clothes and his dignity.

Bradley is not a suicide risk. If he were, he would not now be being housed with other prisoners. What happened to Bradley at Quantico was and continues to be an outrage against universally accepted minimum standards and common human decency. Redress simply must be sought for this in due course and we will continue to press for this to happen. It continues to be absolutely key that independent authorities such as UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez be allowed confidential access to Bradley so that he may talk freely about what he was forced to endure for those ten months. We have had no indication that the restrictions imposed under Bradley’s Monitoring Order have been lifted.

Do not be under any illusions that the US military have now decided to treat Bradley in civilised fashion out of the kindness of their hearts: they will have done this because this campaign – and its sister campaigns internationally – have made it absolutely impossible for them to do otherwise. We have taken the treatment of Bradley Manning to the highest level in at least three countries and publicised his plight to the extent that he is now the subject of wide popular support internationally. All of this has, clearly, made an enormous difference and is testament to the ability of those with valid concerns to provide effective oversight to the illegitimate use of government authority.

We must now turn our attention to the wider legal process and what is likely to happen to Bradley at trial. Subpoenas citing the controversial US Espionage Act have been issued this week, an ominous move that should remind us all that this stage of the process is drawing ever nearer. We have concerns about how any trial is likely to be conducted. We have already seen Barack Obama pre-judging Bradley’s guilt and this “unlawful command influence” seems likely to become an issue when this case comes before a judge. It is also important that any trial takes place in the full light of public scrutiny. More now than ever, justice must not only be done in this case, it must also be seen to be done.

Now that it has been confirmed that Bradley Manning may receive correspondence – albeit that he’s only allowed to hold on to 20 letters at any one time – you may like to take the opportunity to write to him. His address at Fort Leavenworth is the following:

Bradley Manning 89289
JRCF
830 Sabalu Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2315
USA

Update

Further details on Bradley’s conditions at Fort Leavenworth from National Catholic Reporter. Note the careful phrasing that indicates that Bradley Manning’s Monitoring Order, which prevents him from speaking to anyone other than his lawyer in monitored conditions in which he may incriminate himself, may well still be in place:

The commandant of the Fort Leavenworth facility, Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, said the suspected Army private’s new classification — which “starts tomorrow morning” — allows Manning to receive Army inspected mail freely, make phone calls, and meet with preapproved visitors.

Prisoners at the facility are housed separately depending on whether they have or haven’t faced trial. There are currently ten “pre-trial” prisoners at the facility, said Hilton. Each are placed in individual 80 square foot cells and are connected by a shared common room to three other cells.

During the tour of the six-month-old facility, members of the press were able to see its indoor recreation center, work rooms, outside recreation area, medical facilities, and an empty cell block which Army officials said was similar to the one where Manning is housed.

Each of the cells contained a metallic toilet and sink, along with a bed and metal seat attached to the wall. There was a light switch on the wall inside the cell. Army officials said the space gives the prisoner 35 square feet of “unencumbered space” which can be used for exercise, including jogging in place.

Medium custody prisoners are afforded three hours of recreation each day, one hour of which is outdoors, Hilton said. They also have allotted time each day to use a recreational library. No internet use is allowed by inmates.

The indoor recreation facility was housed inside a large, gym-like structure with six basketball hoops and about a dozen stationary exercise machines. The outdoor area, located on the north side of the complex, was about a football field long, with an open grass field, two basketball courts, and more exercise equipment.

Hilton said prisoners’ visitors must be approved by the facility. While visits by journalists are forbidden, visits from nongovermental organizations such as Amnesty International are decided “on a case by case basis.” Prisoners are allowed to have up to five visitors at one time.

Update II

As was widely expected, Bradley Manning has been found fit to stand trial.

Update III

In the wake of David Coombs’ confirmation that Bradley’s conditions have indeed changed, the Bradley Manning Support Network have issued a press release making clear the contribution of the campaign in getting this done. The Guardian have picked up the story today and they make due note of the British dimension.

Barack Obama on Bradley Manning – “We’re a nation of laws!”

On Thursday morning Pacific Time, a group of Bradley Manning supporters staged a flashmob at a Barack Obama fundraising event in San Francisco. Even more amazingly, one of those supporters, Logan Price, was able to question the US President directly afterwards:

Here’s a close-to-verbatim account of what was said:

So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.

And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

[Q: Didn't he release evidence of war crimes?]

What he did was he dumped

[Q: Isn't that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?]

No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.

I suppose it’s reassuring to hear the US President reaffirming the importance of the rule of law (if not, unfortunately, the principle of innocent until proven guilty). Nevertheless, if “we don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate” maybe he should point this out to James Averhart, who decided off his own back that suicide watch could be used as a means of punishment rather than protection.

Barack Obama might also want to have a quiet word with Denise Barnes about the use of forced nudity as a punitive measure. The President may moreover find it worthwhile to talk to that “senior official” at Quantico who reportedly ruled back in January that Bradley Manning should never have his Prevention of Injury Order lifted, against the repeated recommendations of Quantico psychiatrists. This same official is quoted as saying: “We’ll do whatever we want.”

It seems increasingly evident that at least one civilian and at least one military official at the Pentagon has come to the conclusion that these three individuals and their – how should I put this? Interesting use of initiative? – now have the potential to cause them very serious problems indeed once David Coombs’ writ of habeas corpus receives due consideration. There is ample precedent in case law that members of the US military are entitled to due process in that they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise and that procedures for the relief of their conditions need to work in a fair way and not be subject to the predetermination of military authorities.

Not only do the acts of certain individuals at Quantico risk putting the entire legal process against Bradley Manning in jeopardy, should those inividuals be found to be at fault, there is a mechanism by which they may be found personally responsible. Article 93 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides that “Any person … who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” If the US is indeed a “nation of laws”, then they should have reason to be concerned.

(Many thanks to Marcy Wheeler whose close analysis of who has been saying what to whom provided the impetus for this post.)

Update I

A great piece has just been posted at WLCentral that takes a different – somewhat more pessimistic – slant on Obama’s words, noting that the US President is an individual who very much can “make decisions about how the law operates”:

Ideally, the US is a nation of laws but in reality it is not. The Executive Branch led by the President of the United States can choose what legal restrictions to abide by and what not to and it can choose what violations of the law to prosecute and what not to prosecute.

This being so, the author argues that when a figure with this kind of discretion openly dispenses with any sensitivity to the case being sub judice, the ramifications are very serious indeed:

Displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case. In the same way that criminal and civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz suggested former President George W. Bush was prejudicing the legal process against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he declared [he had] “willfully and repeatedly done great harm” and refused to participate in an event with Assange.

Update II

Michael Whitney at firedoglake clarifies that the writ of habeas corpus David Coombs was considering filing is now “moot” as a result of the move. Shame.

Update III

Barack Obama’s predetermination of the case against Bradley Manning is now being picked up by mainstream media outlets. CBS are now covering the story, the New York Daily News (whose record on reporting this case is not great) concede it “may have run afoul of Presidential protocol” and Politico actually cite a couple of commentators unafraid to take the President to task:

“The comment was not appropriate because it assumes that Manning is guilty,” Steven Aftergood, a classified information expert at the Federation of American Scientists, told POLITICO. “The president got carried away and misspoke. No one should mistake a charge for a conviction – especially the nation’s highest official.”

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice and military law expert, predicted that before the end of the day the White House will have issued a corrective statement.

That “corrective statement” has yet to appear.

Update IV

An updated version of the Politico article includes a not-terribly-convincing response from the White House:

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama was in fact making a general statement that did not go specifically to the charges against Manning. “The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act,” he said Friday night. “He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically.”

This is, to say the least, an interesting interpretation of the sentence “He broke the law.”

Politico then cite Steven Aftergood and Eugene Fidell on the likelihood of Obama’s comments having an influence on Manning’s court martial:

Aftergood and Fidell agreed that Obama’s remarks — while unfortunate — probably will not affect whether Manning will receive a fair trial. “It’s not that hard to ensure that unlawful command influence hasn’t in fact prejudiced the right to a fair trial,” Fidell explained. “If the case goes to a court marshal, the military court will have to make sure that none of the members of the military jury have been influenced by the president’s stated belief that Manning broke the law.”

It is not surprising that the White House is keen to play down this incident. Military case law indicates that “pretrial publicity itself may constitute unlawful command influence” (United States v. Simpson, 58 MJ 368) and, if this is raised at court martial, the US Government will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the case has not been prejudiced. (United States v. Reed, 65 M.J. 487) Should unlawful command influence be proven, incidentally, then dismissal of the case is possible “as a last resort.” (United States v. Douglas, 68 M.J. 349)

Update V

Glenn Greenwald has now written a typically excellent piece on all this, pointing out the hypocrisy of Obama calling the US a “nation of laws”:

…it’s long been clear that this is Obama’s understanding of “a nation of laws”: the most powerful political and financial elites who commit the most egregious crimes are to be shielded from the consequences of their lawbreaking — see his vote in favor of retroactive telecom immunity, his protection of Bush war criminals, and the way in which Wall Street executives were permitted to plunder with impunity — while the most powerless figures (such as a 23-year-old Army Private and a slew of other low-level whistleblowers) who expose the corruption and criminality of those elites are to be mercilessly punished. And, of course, our nation’s lowest persona non grata group — accused Muslim Terrorists — are simply to be encaged for life without any charges. Merciless, due-process-free punishment is for the powerless; full-scale immunity is for the powerful. “Nation of laws” indeed.

Greenwald also draws attention to this interesting precedent of a US President pre-judging a criminal case. This example involves Richard Nixon and, as Greenwald points out, what Obama has done is arguably far worse:

Amazingly, this incident … is highly redolent of the time Richard Nixon publicly declared Charles Manson’s guilt before the accused mass murderer had been convicted. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, was at Nixon’s side when he did it and immediately recognized the impropriety of Nixon’s remarks, and the White House quickly issued a statement claiming that Nixon misspoke and meant merely to suggest Manson had been “charged” with these crimes, not that he was guilty of them. Obama’s decree was worse, of course, since (a) Obama has direct command authority over those who will judge Manning (unlike Nixon vis-a-vis Manson’s jurors); (b) Manson’s jurors were sequestered at the time and thus not exposed to Nixon’s proclamation; and (c) Obama is directly responsible for the severe punishment to which Manning has already been subjected (h/t lysias).

From ‘culpable’ to ‘responsible’ – Will James Averhart be Sanctioned?

Following on from yesterday’s revelation about Quantico Brig Commander James Averhart placing Bradley Manning under suicide watch for two days for reasons that had nothing to do with medical need, potentially exceeding his authority in doing so, there have been conflicting reports tonight about whether he will be the subject of an official investigation – and, after unravelling the confusion, the short answer to my question is no, he won’t.

Remarkably, CNN managed to run three completely contradictory reports in the space of a few hours. Here is a screen capture of the original report (huge thanks to emptywheel @ firedoglake.com who was smart enough to save this):

Original CNN report on Averhart investigation - later retracted

Original CNN report on Averhart investigation - later retracted

 

A Pentagon spokesman, Col. David Lapan is cited as the source for the information that an investigation is ongoing on the basis that Averhart did not have the necessary medical authority to impose a suicide watch, which is after all supposed to be a therapeutic measure rather than a punitive one. The investigation spoken about would presumably be that arising from David Coombs’ Article 138 complaint of 21st January. Pretty heartening stuff, isn’t it?

Alas no. Just an hour or so later, CNN issued an official retraction attributed to the very same Pentagon spokesman. No detail here other than a flat denial of the preceding story.

(CNN) — CNN has retracted a story dealing with questions surrounding the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning at the Marine Corp Base Quantico in Virginia. Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said Tuesday that there is no investigation into the decision last week to put Manning, who has been charged with leaking classified government documents to Wikileaks, on suicide watch.

A little later, yet another, fuller, story emerged, which completely turned things around by defending the actions of Averhart. Lapan is not cited this time, instead the quote is in the rather more familiar name of Lieutenant Brian Villiard, who is the regular Quantico press liaison. This is what he had to say.

“The brig commander has the ultimate responsibility to determine what status a detainee is given. He based the decision on information from psychological professionals, the medical staff and the Marine guards who are interacting with him around the clock. The commander was absolutely within his right. Not just his right, his responsibility,” said Lieutenant Brian Villiard.

From potentially culpable behaviour to responsible practice within just a few hours! What actually went on in this rather embarrassing PR kerfuffle is anyone’s guess – it’s not clear whether Lapan’s story changed, and if so why, or whether CNN just misunderstood him – but I’ll update if new information emerges.

Update

Developments there were! As of this afternoon (Wednesday), James Averhart has been relieved of his position as Quantico Base Commander, to be replaced by Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes. I think we all owe it to ourselves to feel quite pleased about this news.

We also have another classic “yeah, right” moment from CBS when they report that:

A base spokesman claims the complaint and Averhart’s removal are not related, and that the decision to replace Averhart was made back in October, CNN reports.

Justifiable schadenfreude aside, Bradley Manning’s lawyer David Coombs has gone on the record with some guarded optimism about what this change might mean for his client:

“We are hopeful that she will do a complete review of Pfc. Manning’s custody situation,” attorney David Coombs, told CNN. Manning’s current situation “is unwarranted and unnecessary while he awaits trial,” Coombs added.

And it does indeed appear that Bradley will be visited by a forensic psychiatrist this week. That psychiatrist will make a recommendation to a ‘classification and assignment board’, which in turn will advise Denise Barnes about what kind of treatment Bradley should be receiving. Let’s hope that the new Quantico top brass makes the right decision and starts giving Bradley the respect he deserves. After the events of this week, Barnes can be sure the world will be watching to make sure this happens.

Update II

I just wrote a comment about this on today’s (Thursday) WL update in The Guardian, including a reference to that DOD briefing I have not written about directly so far. I am sorely tempted to take this to pieces line-by-line, but others better informed than I have already done a fine job, which would make it a bit of an indulgent exercise.