Tag Archives: freedom of information

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.”
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Statements of Support

STOP PRESS: News has reached me that Ann Clwyd has directly challenged the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in Parliament about the case of Bradley Manning. More on this soon.

We are extremely pleased to have received the following statements of support in the past 24 hours.

Bill Wilson, who represents the West of Scotland in the Scottish Parliament raised the “degrading treatment” of Bradley Manning in the Scottish Parliament earlier this week. This is the first time Bradley’s case has been addressed directly in one of this country’s representative bodies – although it is surely not the last. We would like to extend our gratitude to Dr Wilson for being willing to stand up and be counted on this issue.

“You can tell WikiLeaks is useful by the desperate efforts made to close it down and to persecute those who post information on it. Freedom of information is fundamental to democracy; illegal and immoral acts are easier within societies which heavily censor information. Whistleblowers are amongst the most courageous members of our society, risking career and reputation for the truth. They are one group of people of whom society can never have enough. Bradley Manning is one of two things – a man of singular courage who has blown the whistle on horrific and illegal acts, or an innocent victim incorrectly identified as a whistleblower. Either way his treatment, which amounts to torture, is unacceptable. If the UK and the USA are indeed the good guys, and the “terrorists” and “dictators” the bad guys, why do their methods appear so similar?”
Dr Bill Wilson MSP (SNP, West of Scotland)

Rhys Sinnet is Plaid Cymru’s candidate for the Welsh Assembly in Preseli Pembrokeshire – the constituency where Bradley attended school as a teenager and where his mother still lives. We are thrilled to have received such strong support for Bradley locally.

“Regardless of whether he is guilty of the offences with which he is charged, and whatever view one takes of the seriousness of those offences, the treatment of this young man is wholly unacceptable. He has been in solitary confinement for eight months, subjected to many other deprivations and humiliations, including being forced to spend the night naked and be woken from sleep after every hour. Prison psychiatrists have clearly stated that there are absolutely no medical grounds for the ‘suicide watch’ being used to justify this treatment, which has been condemned by human rights and mental health organisations and is currently being investigated by the United Nations as possibly constituting torture. Bradley Manning is a UK and a Welsh citizen through his mother. We call on the UK Government to challenge the legality of what is in effect pre-trial punishment, and on the Welsh Government to support the campaign for fair treatment for Bradley Manning.”
Rhys Sinnett, Prospective National Assembly Candidate (Plaid Cymru, Preseli Pembrokeshire)

Finally, this weekend, the Pirate Parties International held their conference in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The following resolution was signed by 14 national Pirate Parties, including those from the UK, Germany and almost every western European country. It is incredibly inspiring to hear about the breadth of support for Bradley across the continent and we are hugely grateful to all the national Pirate Party delegations concerned.

Conference notes the appalling treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of passing material to Wikileaks. It is important to note that he is not convicted of any crime. Currently he is under military arrest, where he has been for nearly 300 days. He has been held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day in a tiny windowless cell. He has been under intolerable psychological pressure. He has been forced to strip naked.

Now he faces a new set of charges, including “aiding the enemy”. This charge is a capital offence – it opens up the possibility of the death penalty. It is a sad day when someone just accused of trying to expose war crimes is treated worse than those who actually commit them.

Therefore Pirate Party International urge:
* The immediate end of the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning.
* Pirate Parties and members to take part in the international protests at the charges and the conditions [of] Bradley Manning. March 20th will be a day of protest in the US and Europe, a further demonstration is planned in Berlin for March 26th.
*The British government to intervene and request consular access, as Bradley Manning is entitled to British citizenship due to his Welsh mother.
Sponsor: Loz Kaye: Leader Pirate Party UK

Loz Kaye has kindly agreed to speak at London’s #March20 event this Sunday outside the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square. The full list of speakers will be confirmed very shortly.