Tag Archives: fort leavenworth

Two important developments, one conclusion: #FreeChelseaManning

This important announcement was delivered by lawyer David Coombs on prime-time US television the morning after his client, Pvt. Manning, was sentenced to 35 years detention in a military prison.

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

Thank you, Chelsea E. Manning

As Amy Davidson of The New Yorker put it, “In becoming Chelsea, Manning seems to say that life doesn’t end with a long prison sentence–which in itself is brave.”

Allowing for time served and deducted, David Coombs predicts that his client will be able to apply for parole in seven years’ time.  (This interview, conducted by Alexa O’Brien yesterday, is well worth watching in full). In the meantime, Coombs has pledged to fight for his client’s right to receive hormone therapy at Fort Leavenworth.

Yesterday, the Private Manning Support Network and Amnesty International launched a campaign for a Presidential Pardon for Chelsea – or, at the very least that her sentence be commuted to time served. I encourage all those reading this blog to sign that petition.

A note on names

It is important that all supporters of Chelsea Manning recognise her wishes and I wanted to say a few words about how this blog intends to do that. From now on, this website will have a home at www.ukfriendsofchelseamanning.org. Its masthead has also been changed.

The blog now called UK Friends of Chelsea Manning was set up in January 2011 to campaign for Chelsea Manning’s release from the inhuman conditions of solitary confinement imposed on her in the Quantico marine brig. It sought to do this primarily by involving the UK Government in her case. This was achieved in early April 2011.

As such, this is largely an archival site. Within its archives are an almost day-by-day account of what happened during that busy period. The blog also details early developments in the Manning support campaign, especially as they happened in the UK. External links to this site dating from that period redirect to either blog.ukfriendsofbradleymanning.org or the underlying wordpress.com address ukfriendsofbradleymanning.wordpress.com.

For reasons of continuity and preserving that historical record, I have decided to maintain both these addresses and mentions of Chelsea’s historical name as they appeared before today’s announcement. References to Chelsea from this point on will always use her preferred name and the female pronoun.

Update (26/8)

The Private Manning Support Network have made a formal announcement about their change of name here. Note that PVT Manning will remain correct style until her sentence has been served and she is formally discharged from the military.

Writing to Bradley Manning – new details

Bradley Manning has been transferred from Fort Leaveworth for the purposes of his arraignment at Fort Meade, Virginia.  It is not known whether he will remain in Virginia while awaiting his court-martial, which is expected to get underway in August.

David Coombs has posted Bradley’s new contact details over at his blog:

The new mailing address for PFC Manning is the following:
Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211
As previously noted, PFC Manning is eligible to receive mail from anyone who wishes to write to him. However, the confinement facility does place certain restrictions on what can be sent to PFC Manning. The facility will reject any mail that violates postal regulations or contains obscenity, blackmail, contraband or threats. In addition, the facility has the following restrictions:
a) PFC Bradley Manning cannot receive any cash, checks, or money orders. Due to this additional restriction, our office will ensure that PFC Manning has sufficient funds in his detainee account to purchase items.
b) Photographs are only accepted if printed on copy paper. A maximum of six (6) pages are allowed. Pictures on photograph weight paper are not allowed.
c) Incoming mail will be returned to the sender if, in the opinion of the facility, such mail falls into any of the following categories: 1) Contains inflammatory material or advocates escape, violence, disorder or assault; 2) Directly or indirectly threatens the security, safety or order of the facility; 3) Contains coded or otherwise undecipherable language that prevents adequate review of the material; 4) Is received with “Postage Due”; or 5) Contains items of contraband.

Statement on WikiLeaks release of US diplomatic cables

Wikileaks LogoYesterday evening WikiLeaks made their complete archive of US diplomatic cables available to the public. This publication appears to have been precipitated by an unintentional leak of a file containing the same material, involving one of their media partners. A statement from WikiLeaks explained the shift in approach, away from selectively publishing redacted cables over a period of several months:

“Revolutions and reforms are in danger of being lost as the unpublished cables spread to intelligence contractors and governments before the public.”

PFC Bradley Manning remains imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth in retaliation for being the alleged whistle-blower who provided these cables to WikiLeaks. After over 15 months in detention, he is still awaiting military trial. His legal team is preparing for a round of pre-trial hearings that could begin as early as next month.

Conversations that have been attributed to Bradley Manning suggest that the intent of releasing documents to WikiLeaks was to allow journalists the ability to explore evidence of wrongdoing in order to stimulate reforms and debate.

Whomever provided these documents to WikiLeaks would have expected the same sort of confidence, as any source, for the material to be handled with care. Regardless of whether a former WikiLeaks staffer or a media partner was ultimately responsible for breaking this confidence, our focus remains on using this information to help level the playing field for those struggling against injustice around the world.

Just this week, previously unavailable evidence of illegal behavior and other critically important information has emerged from this material. A cable from Beijing reveals that China’s rapidly expanding nuclear power sector is utilizing old technology that leaves reactors dangerously vulnerable to otherwise avoidable meltdown. Another cable from Baghdad provides details about the execution of Iraqi civilians, including children and infants. This information should never have been withheld from the public domain.

We will not relent in our demand that the Obama administration drop all charges against PFC Bradley Manning, and not only because of the unlawful pre-trial punishment he has endured. If Bradley Manning is indeed the source of these revelations, he should be given a hero’s welcome home for his courage in standing up for justice and government transparency.

Quantico: We Still Need the Full Facts

Bradley Manning was moved from the Quantico marine brig at the end of April after many months spent in a particularly severe form of solitary confinement. That his conditions have now improved does not in any way reduce the need for the breaches of his rights that occurred at Quantico to be investigated and for appropriate redress to be made.

Last month the US Navy provided its formal response to the charge that Bradley was put under suicide watch for inappropriate reasons back in January. Despite the fact that the then Commander of the Quantico brig, James Averhart was removed from his post as soon as information about what had happened came to light, Juan M. Garcia, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, decided that Averhart had not “exceeded his authority” in the way he dealt with the case. As both the fact of Averhart’s departure and the confused, panicked way in which it was effected are highly suggestive of wrongdoing being discovered and hurriedly acted upon, this decision was a little surprising.

Today, Politico have revealed details of an internal Quantico review from February. It is worth noting that Politico have met with considerable obstruction on the part of the Marine corps in their attempts to access this report; indeed, their first two Freedom of Information Act requests were rejected, and the subject of two successful appeals to Navy officials to have those requests reinstated.

The information that Quantico have been keen to keep hidden is that, in his report dated 23 February, Chief Warrant Officer Abel Galaviz found that Averhart and his colleagues had broken Navy rules by not removing Bradley from suicide watch status “immediately” when a medical officer recommended this course of action:

“Once the medical officer’s evaluation was provided to brig staff, steps should have been taken to immediately remove him [Bradley Manning] from suicide risk, to a status below that”

Galaviz’s report mentions two separate periods in which Bradley was not removed from suicide watch quickly enough: in January 2011, it took three days for Quantico to implement a medical recommendation and in August 2010 Bradley spent a full five days under unnecessary suicide watch. This means that, in both cases, medical personnel advised almost immediately that putting Bradley Manning under suicide watch was not appropriate.

Colonel Daniel Choike rejected these findings in his response of 1 March 2011, only to advise that, as soon as it was announced that Bradley was leaving Quantico, on reflection the brig should in fact update its procedures so that such incidents do not happen in future:

“If a medical officer determines that a detainee is no longer considered a suicide risk, that finding is binding on the PCF staff and the detainee shall be removed from suicide risk.”

This week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendéz issued a second rebuke to the US Government for not allowing him to have an unmonitored meeting with Bradley Manning, as customary rules would warrant:

“… I need to ascertain whether the conditions he [Bradley Manning] was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.”

It is now abundantly clear that the US Navy is not capable of reviewing the actions of its own personnel and submitting to public oversight, even where those actions have generated wide concern at home, abroad and within the US administration itself.  In light of this domestic failure, Juan Mendéz must now be allowed the access he needs to carry out his investigation into Bradley’s treatment, which includes full and confidential access to Bradley himself, without delay.

Update

The Bradley Manning Support Network have issued a press release, which includes the following statements:

“The memos revealed today by Politico confirm that military officials repeatedly violated their own standards of detainee treatment while PFC Manning was held in abusive pre-trial confinement conditions at the Quantico brig.  Commander Averhart should never have been put in a position to reject the military’s investigation into his own unprofessional conduct,” said Kevin Zeese, an attorney with the Bradley Manning Support Network.  “Justice demands that the charges against PFC Manning be dropped, because the government has acknowledged that they have abused the rights of a soldier in their custody.”
“President Obama can no longer hide behind his subordinates in claiming that the treatment of PFC Manning has met ‘basic standards’ of conduct,” added Jeff Paterson, a co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network.  “Clearly, by the government’s own admission, the treatment of PFC Manning has fallen far short of the standards demanded by the Constitution.”

RevolutionTruth: an Open Letter to Bradley Manning

RevolutionTruth Bradley Manning campaign

We are thrilled that citizen-driven media project RevolutionTruth have decided to launch a campaign in solidarity with Bradley Manning. This is their second major campaign, following a hugely successful appeal for Wikileaks, which has now resulted in the production of a short film that includes contributions from around the world (as well as from a US film director of note). A further film on Bradley Manning will be forthcoming and has the full support of this campaign and the Bradley Manning Support Network: we encourage you to sign the open letter and submit your video message.

Bradley,

We hope that this letter finds you healthy and strong. You have already seen adversity that most people do not bear in a lifetime, and we are sadly aware of the hardships you face. We are sending this letter to you in the hopes that our feelings of support may help you to bear these days. We want you to know that we, people all over the world, are fighting for you. We can gladly say that we are many.

Your case has become a great symbol to all of us. It has bound us together in an awareness of our shared interests, shared responsibilities, and shared fate. There is much that we do not know, but irrespective of the truths of your particular case, your flag has become the standard of an indefatigable civil movement, straddling generations and borders, striving inexorably against the great injustices of our time, for which the injustices you suffer are the tragic emblem. Your tenure in that small prison cell has reached across the world, moving many people, ushering a generation to awareness and action. Your name is on all our lips, and your face, for us, is an icon of moral courage.

You stand accused of upholding justice when her bearers let her banner fall. You are accused of actions that no law should rightly prohibit while remaining law. When the law is turned against conscience and courage, it is turned against itself. Our society has lost its way.

Your prosecution under this ruse of justice is already written into history as a persecution, not of one man, but of us all. It is not a single injustice, but an injustice to end the pretense of justice. It is unique and urgent. It is wrong that you suffer, while those who committed the crimes that were exposed, who started a horrific and unjustifiable war based on lies, are excused. Whether you did what you are accused of or not, what you have gone through since your arrest would be unimaginable for most of us. You are a hero among us. We cannot, and will not, turn away from supporting you.

We are keenly aware of your sacrifice. Be strong for us, Bradley, because we know that you suffer as one of us, for us. We will be relentless in our efforts to see justice done by you. Accept our fellowship, and know this: you are forever ours now and we salute you, and forever thank you.

We hold you in our hearts. We stand with you.

We are all Bradley Manning.
Your brothers, sisters, friends,

The undersigned.

One Year On: What We Have to Do and How We’re Going to Do It

The first anniversary of Bradley Manning’s arrest falls this week and events are being held worldwide to mark this.

The international campaign in support of Bradley Manning has scored some notable successes: we have brought the facts of Bradley’s detention to a wide audience, we have elicited the concern of many influential people and we have ensured that the British Government, which has a special responsibility towards Bradley as a dual citizen, made efforts to secure his welfare. As a result of these successes, we have secured Bradley’s transfer from the brutal and arbitrary regime of the Quantico marine brig to a different facility at Fort Leavenworth. But there is still much to do.

We must ensure that Bradley is treated in a humane and civilised fashion. Bradley’s regime at Fort Leavenworth is undoubtedly an improvement on what went before, but we will be monitoring to ensure that that continues to be the case.

Past violations of Bradley’s rights must be recognised. The conditions that prevailed at Quantico for nine long months are still under investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez. The sacking of James Averhart this January proved that, not only had the brig authorities not met minimal standards of human rights, they also utterly failed to abide by the rules the US military sets for itself. At the time of Bradley’s transfer to Fort Leavenworth his lawyer David Coombs had been preparing a writ of habeas corpus based on reports of arbitrary and illegal administration in relation to Bradley’s case. All of this needs to be thoroughly investigated and, if appropriate, reparation should be made.

Bradley’s trial must be fair. The legal case against Bradley is now moving ahead and we have concerns about how it is likely to proceed. Barack Obama has already made a declaration of Bradley’s guilt (“He broke the law”) and, as the US Commander in Chief, he is the ultimate superior of all of Bradley’s jurors. This use of command influence raises questions as to whether Bradley’s trial can be carried out in a fair way in a military court.

Bradley’s trial must be open. Military guidelines demonstrate that there is a strong presumption in favour of courts martial being as public as possible. Our understanding is that the US military are seeking to try Bradley in conditions that are largely shielded from public view. Given the critical role public scrutiny has played to date in securing Bradley’s welfare, this is unacceptable.

Bradley’s voice must be heard. Bradley’s visitation arrangements are still subject to a monitoring order that means that all visits, other than legal ones, must be listened in to and anything that Bradley says may be used against him. This must end: Bradley deserves the chance to speak in confidence to an outside authority who can report back on his conditions at Fort Leavenworth and at Quantico. Whether that authority is Juan Méndez, an official from the British Embassy, a representative from Amnesty, Dennis Kucinich or Ann Clwyd is less important than that that visit can happen.

What you can do

After almost a year of being cut off from the outside world, Bradley can now receive correspondence. Write a letter to him at the following address:

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

The UK Government has a special responsibility towards Bradley, who is of course a British citizen. Henry Bellingham has said that the Government has “a responsibility to listen” to concerns raised about Bradley’s treatment – and the actions the UK Government takes on Bradley’s behalf are directly related to how vocal we can be in making those concerns heard.

  • Write to your MP and let them know that we still have concerns about Bradley, in particular that he receive a fair trial.
  • Ask your MP to sign EDM 1624. This is a useful measure of the extent of support Bradley has in Parliament.
  • Approach your other representatives, be they Assembly Members, Members of the Scottish Parliament, or Members of the European Parliament and encourage them to set up a Statement of Support for Bradley.

Tell other people about Bradley. Whether you’re holding a full-scale demo, a benefit event or just discussing things with a friend, spreading the word about Bradley’s case is incredibly valuable. As will have become obvious this week, much of the media coverage of this issue coming from the US is likely to be negative and misleading.

It’s also worth remembering that Bradley’s case isn’t happening in isolation: it’s part of a much larger offensive by the current US adminstration against whistleblowers and those who would support them. The combined impact of these actions is to send out a very worrying message: that citizens should not be able to know what it is their governments are doing and should not be able to challenge them. By educating those around you about the important role whistleblowers play, you can do much to improve Bradley’s position.

The task ahead of us may seem immense, but we should be optimistic. Dedicated campaigns on behalf of UK citizens facing disproportionate sanction in the United States have scored some remarkable successes over the past 24 hours. We have already achieved a great deal – and with concerted effort, we should be able to do more. Onwards!

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.