Tag Archives: firedoglake

Current Bradley Manning Resources

As may be obvious, this blog hasn’t been updated in a while. That may or may not change as Bradley Manning’s court martial proceeds at Fort Meade but, in any case, the following list of resources are essential reading on the current situation:

Court Martial Transcripts

Freedom of the Press Foundation are crowdsourcing a team of stenographers to cover the court martial. Files of morning and afternoon sessions are being uploaded here daily.

In addition, useful livetweeting and/or daily roundups of proceedings at Fort Meade are being produced by Nathan Fuller for the Bradley Manning Support Network, Chase Madar for The Nation, Rainey Reitman for Huffington Post, Kevin Gosztola for FireDogLake and Alexa O’Brien. For visuals, your one-stop shop is Clark Stoeckley.

Pre-Trial Documents

Full transcripts of the pretrial phase can be found at Alexa O’Brien’s website, which includes a wealth of useful analysis and background information (the witness profiles and reconstructed appelate list are especially useful if you plan on delving into the full detail).

Bradley himself made two statements during the pretrial phase, which are both indispensible reading. The first dealt with the pre-trial treatment Bradley Manning experienced at the marine brig at Quantico (contemporary coverage of which is extensively covered in this blog’s archives) and Camp Arifjan in Kuwait (which had not previously been entered onto the public record).

The second statement, which has been justly celebrated, is Manning’s “naked plea” – presented as such in order to introduce discussion of morality into a legal process that admits of none.  Miraculously, audio of this important historical document is also available, courtesy of an unknown observer of the proceedings.

A partially complete collection of court orders and submissions from the pre-trial phase has today been released by the US military.  That this has happened is largely thanks to those who have fought in the courts for access to documents that should have been publicly available for many months.

If you’re pushed for time, the two Manning statements are where you start.

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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.

Bradley Manning is leaving Quantico – but does this really change anything?

News broke last night (Tuesday) of Bradley Manning’s “imminent” move from the Quantico marine brig to a new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The Department of Defense held a press conference at 5.30pm their time on Tuesday, putting forward their reasoning for moving Bradley and for doing so at this particular time. The transcript and video of the press conference are available to view in full, but here’s a short clip:

Jeh Johnson, General Counsel at the Department of Defense here argues that, due to Bradley having now given the personal interview required for his mental competency (706 Board) hearing, his “presence in the Washington DC area is no longer necessary for that purpose,” notwithstanding that the review is still ongoing and may not report for a while yet. He went on to say the following:

Many will be tempted to interpret today’s action as a criticism of the pre-trial facility at Quantico. That is not the case. We remain satisfied that Private Manning’s pre-trial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects, and we salute the military personnel there for the job they did in difficult circumstances.

At this juncture of the case, given the likely continued period of pre-trial confinement, we have determined that the new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth is the most appropriate one for Private Manning going forward.

That the conditions Bradley has been experiencing have been up until now have been “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards” is, obviously, highly questionable. Moreover, as P.J Crowley has remarked on twitter this afternoon, these remarks could very well be interpreted as an admission that mistakes had been made in keeping Bradley at Quantico for such an extended period. An unnamed military official has been even more candid (“The marines blew it.”)

Other revealing points from the full press conference included:

  • Army Secretary Joseph Westphalcommenting that the detention facility at Fort Leavenworth was a “medium security” one, which offered many resources – but there was no assurance that Bradley Manning would be transferred to a medium security regime from the maximum security plus prevention of injury order he suffers under currently, or that he would be granted access to any of those resources. Should Bradley’s regime continue as it is at present, he would likely be housed in the special confinement unit of the pre-trial facility, which has been described to me as follows:

    These cells are even worse than where Bradley is now, in that the room Bradley will be confined in for 23 hours will have a solid door with only a thin horizontal slot through which meals and mail can be slid through, and a panel at the bottom of the door that guards can open to chain his ankles together before he leaves the cell. Instead of guards constantly watching him through bars, he will have security cameras in his cell. He will have a glass pane for outside light, but not be able to see out or talk to anyone. The isolation is going to be even crueler, if that’s possible.

    While the DoD may say that Brad will be eating in a common area and get to go outside for up to 3 hours of exercise, this is in reality a privilege granted to inmates who are “good prisoners” after they get there, and Brad has been denied every single privilege available to him no matter how well he behaves.

    The likeliness of this eventuality may be indicated by the fact that Army Press updated the special housing unit web page on Monday, in advance of the press conference in which Bradley’s move was officially announced.

  • Jeh Johnson, drawing on his experience of federal trials remarking that, when Bradley does return to Washington to face trial (which he must to as he remains under the jurisdiction of the military authorities there) his trial may very well prove to me “a multi-month if not multi-year experience.”
  • Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, the Commander of the pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth, admitting that any changes to the conditions of Bradley’s confinement would be “based upon the initial assessment when he comes into the facility and environment and how he assimilates into the environment.”

Finally – and intriguingly for those who have been watching the UK campaign closely – when asked about the timing of the decision to move Bradley Manning, Jeh Johnson admitted that “We began to look at this a couple of weeks ago.” This dovetails almost exactly with the timing of Ann Clwyd’s adjournment debate of the evening of Monday 4th April, when it was promised that a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington would be making a second diplomatic protest to their counterpart at the US State Department, this time with the background of an official recognition that Bradley Manning is a British citizen by descent.

As reported here earlier today, Ann Clwyd has said that “I am pleased that the campaign to draw attention to the appalling detention treatment of Bradley Manning appears to be having some results, in that he is to be moved to another prison which the US Department of Defense claims will provide better conditions.” We agree with Ann that any indication of better conditions is, at the moment, purely based on the words of the Department of Defense – and, as discussed above, they were careful not to promise that Bradley Manning’s status as a maximum security prisoner under a prevention of injury order will change.

Given that Department of Defence statements on how Bradley Manning is being treated have not been conspicuously reliable in the past (how shall I count the ways? Let’s start with this, this, this and this – not to mention this), we believe that the onus is firmly on the DOD to demonstrate in due course that Bradley’s treatment has improved so that it meets internationally accepted minimum standards. Lifting the Monitoring Order that prevents respected authorities from visiting Bradley in conditions of confidentiality would probably be a good way of achieving this in the first instance and would do much to demonstrate that the DOD is serious about being seen to treat Bradley Manning in a civilised fashion.

(big thanks to Michelle Tackabery for all the background information on Fort Leavenworth)

Update I

Press releases have been issued by Dennis Kucinich and the Bradley Manning Support Network. The latter makes the important point that the move to Kansas places Bradley at some distance from his legal counsel and much of the US side of his family. However, if the Pentagon reckoned that the move would prevent high-profile protests like that seen at Quantico a month ago happening again, they will disappointed: local activists are getting organised and a demonstration is already being planned for 4th June.

Update II

The always-instructive Chirpinator has compiled a selection of Tuesday night’s reaction to the announcement of Bradley’s move on twitter.

Update III

Bradley Manning is now at Fort Leavenworth. His family have welcomed the move with Bradley’s aunt Sharon expressing the view that the ongoing campaign was responsible for these latest developments.

Update IV

Good to see that Amnesty feel similarly to us:

“We believe sustained public pressure for the US government to uphold human rights in Bradley Manning’s case has contributed to this move” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas.

“We hope Bradley Manning’s conditions will significantly improve at Fort Leavenworth, but we will be watching how he is treated very closely. His conditions at Quantico have been a breach of international standards for humane treatment of an untried prisoner.”

The organisation will be monitoring the conditions under which Bradley Manning is confined at Fort Leavenworth following the risk assessment Manning will undergo upon arrival there, which could last up to a week.

“Until this assessment, it is still not possible to know how Bradley Manning is going to be treated, and what restrictions he will be under at the new detention centre,” said Susan Lee.

“Bradley Manning is entitled to be treated humanely and, as an unconvicted prisoner, to the presumption of innocence and to be held under the least restrictive detention conditions possible.”

As does Dennis Kucinich on the reliability of DOD statements:

“Frankly, I don’t believe anything they say when it comes to Bradley Manning.”

Complete footage of Kucunich’s Wednesday interview with MSNBC may be viewed at firedoglake.

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.

Why Sunday’s Visit Was Cancelled: Quantico Admit Improper Behaviour

The truth comes out – and, surprise surprise, it has nothing to do with vehicle licensing or tax discs.

According to MSNBC, military officials at Quantico have admitted that the suicide watch Bradley Manning was subjected to for two days last week was done without the appropriate authority and for an illegitimate reason. Here are the critical two paragraphs:

Military officials said Brig Commander James Averhart did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call.

The official said that after Manning had allegedly failed to follow orders from his Marine guards. Averhart declared Manning a “suicide risk.” Manning was then placed on suicide watch, which meant he was confined to his cell, stripped of most of his clothing and deprived of his reading glasses — anything that Manning could use to harm himself. At the urging of U.S. Army lawyers, Averhart lifted the suicide watch.

Firedoglake also carry the story here.

Just to reiterate, Bradley Manning was placed on suicide watch, as a punishment, by a military official (a senior one) without the requisite medical authority to do so. This fits in with the general pattern of Bradley Manning’s pre-trial detention at Quantico – medical provisions being used as a means of punishment. The Prevention of Injury Order Manning currently suffers under is another example of this.

The good news is that, on this occasion, David Coombs was able to take pretty swift action to have the thoroughly illegitimate suicide watch lifted. The bad news is, of course, that Marine determination to not have this confirmed by Bradley Manning directly before they were ready to admit it themselves led to him having to do without a much-needed visit after what must have been a very difficult week indeed.

Update

The Guardian have published what I think is a really good article on this today. It’s worth reading, not least because there is some information about the Washington press corps starting to ask questions about this situation, which is pretty incredible in some ways and shows that a proper debate on this may finally be beginning. I’ve also submitted a couple of long comments here and here. I’ll apologise for my verbosity in advance; it’s not always something I can help.

“An Egregious Breach” – Bradley Manning denied prison visit

Earlier today, David House and Jane Hamsher of firedoglake arrived at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia to visit Bradley Manning – as David House has been doing since September – and to deliver a 42,000 signature petition protesting against the conditions of Bradley Manning’s pretrial detention. They were not able to do either.

House and Hamsher were detained on the grounds of the base, not only unable to enter the brig, but also unable to leave, for two full hours – the full time allotted to Bradley Manning for visits from the outside. Full details of this detention are given in this statement.

I think it’s worth remembering what David House himself said in his CBC interview a couple of days back:

Do you think you’ll get a chance to see Bradley Manning tomorrow, when you’re in Virginia?

I think I will. I have had some trouble in the past actually making it into the brig due to security precautions on the base. I do not think the brig would deny access to what has become one of his only visitors. To do so would be an egregious breach on the part of the brig. I cannot imagine them doing that.

This action, then, from the Quantico authorities marks a real step up in their intimidation of Manning and his supporters. House and Hamsher’s visit had been previously announced to the proper authorities and guards on the ground were candid about their orders to frustrate both the visit and the delivery of the petition having come from the top (see also this and this).

It’s appalling to even have to think about this, but this action from Quantico comes hard on the heels of public protests outside the complex, the letter from Amnesty and renewed legal protest from Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs. It is probably also significant that this was David House’s first attempt to see Manning after speaking out about what Bradley has been experiencing, most recently after his two-day spell under suicide watch last week. Cancelling visits is, of course, something that will harm Bradley Manning directly – as per usual Glenn Greenwald is on the money here – so, if we are to frustrate the Marine top brass’ aims, spreading the news about what has happened today is critically important.

Update I
I’ve just seen that chomp.fm have prepared an emergency broadcast on this subject.

Update II
Here’s Jane Hamsher’s account of what happened at Quantico. David House will attempt to visit Bradley again next weekend.

Update III
Now covered in The Guardian too. I’m not holding my breath for the New York Times article.