MONDAY 26th NOV: TWO AND A HALF YEARS PRETRIAL IMPRISONMENT
It’s two and a half years today since Bradley Manning, the 24 year old US soldier who, less than a decade ago was a schoolboy in Wales, was taken into custody in Kuwait, accused of releasing ‘Collateral Murder’, that chilling video, into the public domain.
The notion of a ‘speedy trial’ – every US soldier’s right under the legal guidelines for Courts Martial – seems to have been dismissed by the prosecution (the US Government) as an unwarranted luxury, not for the likes of whistleblowers, not for those who feel honour bound to uncover the eyes of others, especially not for Brad, who they went on to charge with the leaking of the most extensive cache of documents ever, and with whom they are plainly very angry indeed.
As well as the Apache video (which wasn’t even classified, just embarrassing), he was charged with leaking The Afghan War Diary, The Iraq War Logs, The Guantanamo Files, The State Dept Cables and The Granai Massacre video, for which revelations all who care about the pursuit of peace and justice in this world are much in his debt.
AIDING THE ENEMY ?
Brad was charged with releasing this information to WikiLeaks, and thence to us, the public, and here the government would argue, thence to the enemy, because in early March 2011, Bradley Manning was charged with
‘aiding the enemy’
a capital offence for which he could be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. And this is for what even a willfully stupid person could see is an ‘act of conscience’. Have a look at this if you are in any doubt.
THE SACRIFICE OF JEOPARDY
For his pains, Bradley, even though he has yet to be tried, has already been subjected to considerable abuse and punishment. The government have, according to his lawyer,
‘trampled all over his ‘speedy trial’ rights’
and he has been subjected to
‘unlawful pretrial punishment’ of a ‘most egregious nature’, which will ‘shock the conscience of the court’
We have come a long way with Brad since those gut wrenching days when we couldn’t believe what we were hearing about what they were doing to him in Quantico Brig –
not even because we didn’t believe it could happen, but because it was just so blatant, because they didn’t seem to care that people knew, and because they really seemed to think they would get away with it.
When Bradley was transferred to Quantico Brig from Kuwait on 29th July 2010, the Army press release said:
‘Preferral of charges represents an accusation only; Manning is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The case will be processed in accordance with normal procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.’
Well, more than two years and a whole heap of disregard of the UCMJ and the RCM, and of the presumption of innocence later, we’re going to be revisiting those days and looking at them again; it’s time to see if they really will get away with it, because we are now at the most crucial point in the Court Martial, excepting only the actual trial; the point when the defence will bring the motions to dismiss the charges for
a) ‘lack of a speedy trial’
b) ‘illegal pretrial punishment’.
THE PERMISSIBLE 120 DAYS BECAME 635: ‘LACK OF SPEEDY TRIAL’ MOTION
Although there are supposed to be no more than 120 days from being taken into custody to ‘arraignment’ (the formal start of the Court Martial process), Brad was held for 635 days before he was finally arraigned on 23rd Feb 2012.
About this abuse of process, David Coombs, Bradley’s lawyer, has complained that, not only have the prosecution no good reason for requesting most of the delays, but the convening authority (who can give permission for delays which then won’t ‘count’ towards the 120), were extraordinary lax in regulating the delays.
And that even the delays that the defence had to request were made necessary solely by the prosecution’s unacceptably slow production of evidence – ‘discovery’. On the basis of this denial of Bradley’s rights to a ‘speedy trial’, the defence therefore filed a motion on 19th September to dismiss all charges.
And at the last hearing on 7th and 8th November, we heard the testimony of those who authorised these delays as they took the stand for the prosecution opposing this motion, and were cross questioned by the defence. The defence case to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial will now be presented to the court at a hearing between 10th and 14th December.
Meanwhile, Bradley has submitted to the judge an offer to admit to certain ‘lesser included charges’ and this is being considered by her; as well as this, he has elected to be tried by Judge Lind alone (instead of a ‘panel’, jury).
Jeff Paterson points out the ‘whistleblowing’ place we have arrived at with this offered plea in his post on the Bradley Manning Support Network: ‘Analysis: Bradley Manning accepts responsibility for an act of conscience’. Well worth reading in full.
UNLAWFUL PRETRIAL PUNISHMENT MOTION – 27th NOVEMBER HEARING
Before the next ‘speedy trial’ dates, however; on Tuesday 27th November, Brad will be back in court for a different motion being brought by the defence; a motion to dismiss the charges because he was subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment, and the content of this next hearing will, in Bradley’s lawyer’s words:
MARCH 2011 to NOVEMBER 2012: STILL AT THE US EMBASSY, LONDON
Few of us would have predicted, when we came together at the US Embassy in March 2011 to demonstrate against the torture of Bradley Manning, that we would not even have arrived at his trial 18 months later.
Few of us would have predicted that we would have to wait until now to hear the illegal pretrial punishment that we were protesting challenged in court.
And few of us would have believed it would still be necessary for people to gather at the US Embassy on Tuesday 27th November 2012 at 2.00 pm to stand in solidarity with Brad again as the audio track of Collateral Murder plays and whilst Brad is in court in Fort Meade presenting evidence in defence of the motion to dismiss charges in respect of the ‘illegal pretrial punishment’ he was subjected to at Quantico.
Like coming full circle, we will again be focusing on:
THE SHAME OF QUANTICO BRIG
DEPRIVATION – A CHECK LIST
Apart from being held in solitary confinement (the effect of the ‘Prevention of Injury’ status which they kept Brad under most of the time, breaking with this only for the even more restrictive ‘Suicide Watch’) in a 6’ x 8’ cell which, just once a day, he left (walking in leg irons and shackled at his hands) for an hour’s ‘recreation’ in another room in which he was able to do little more than walk a figure of eight for the duration, Brad was also not permitted any form of exercise whatsoever in his cell; was severely restricted as to when and how he could access books or writing materials; was not allowed any personal possessions in his cell, and, being unable to access the internet, remained substantially cut off from news from the outside world other than that which he received from letters or occasional ‘non contact’, recorded, visits.
DRIP DRIP TORTURE – SOLITARY BUT NOT TRANQUIL
In a nightmare scenario reminiscent of the drip drip of water torture, he was also forced to respond every five minutes to the guards asking him if he was OK. At night he had to surrender his clothes other than his underwear to the guards, was denied a pillow or sheet – meaning he had to sleep under a rough blanket which caused chafing – and if the guards could not see his face at all times, they would wake him up – ostensibly to make sure he was alright – and again he would have to respond affirmatively before they would leave him to go back to sleep. Brad was held under Maximum Security Status, and he was the only prisoner at Quantico Brig with this status.
SINGLED OUT FOR PUNITIVE TREATMENT
David Coombs explained at the time why Brad was emphatically NOT ‘being treated exactly like everyone else in the Brig’ as Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon Spokesperson, was busy telling reporters in these words from a 26th Jan 2011 press briefing:
“He’s not being held in solitary confinement. That’s a misnomer….. He is not in isolation…….he is a maximum-custody detainee in a prevention-of-injury status. He is not on suicide watch. …..He is in a cell by himself, but that is like every single other pretrial detainee at the brig……
He is not going to receive special privileges, which is essentially what you are asking him to receive. He is being treated exactly like everyone else in the brig is being treated. That’s what’s appropriate. We treat them all equally. And I don’t understand why there would be a need for an exception to those rules to be made for Private Manning — or anyone else, for that matter.
…assertions by liberal bloggers, or network reporters or others that he is being mistreated, or somehow treated differently than others, in isolation, are just not accurate. And I’m glad you asked the question, so I had the opportunity, hopefully, to clear that matter up once and for all.”
ah, so that’s all right then….
But David Coombs immediately countered this on his blog with:
‘Every other detainee is allowed outside of their cell for the majority of the day. The facility is not locked down when they are walking in the brig. They do not wear hand and leg restraints outside of their cell. They are not escorted by guards when outside of their cell. Every other detainee is assigned to work details during the day. These work details allow them move freely within the facility and also outside of the facility whenever within the security perimeter.
Every other detainee is not subjected to constant monitoring or asked if they are okay every five minutes. Every other detainee is allowed to have sheets and a pillow. Every other detainee may have personal items in their cell. Every other detainee may have paper and pens in their cell in order to write to family and friends. Every other detainee may have any combination of 15 books or magazines in their cell at all times. Any other detainee can exercise in their cell during the day. No other detainee has to strip to their underwear at the end of the day and surrender their clothing to the guards.’
RESTRICTIVE STATUS INCREASED TO SUICIDE RISK / WATCH TWICE
There were two periods when Brad was humiliated beyond the regular POI and Maximum Security status by being stripped, on the pretext that he was a suicide risk.
Once was on 18th January 2011, when, seemingly in response to an informal demo at the gates of the Brig, he was bullied by the guards, abused by James Averhart, the Brig Commander, and then stripped, deprived of his prescription glasses, and forced to remain naked in his cell without being able to see, for 48 hours on ‘Suicide Watch’.
This episode was explained in a letter that was released on Coombs’ 10th March 2011 blog while we were planning the 20th March protests, and we decided to end the protest by hearing it as it is from Brad – and ‘giving him the mic’. Read it – it’s shocking.
The other episode was presided over by Denise Barnes, and was the last straw for the Quantico regime, the real ‘shooting themselves in the foot’, for when, between 2nd March 2011 and the 6th March 2011, she ordered that Bradley be stripped naked at night, have all his clothes removed from his cell, and (this is what really did it) stand naked for roll call, the whole world erupted! And ultimately this is what got Bradley moved.
We heard through David Coombs how Bradley Manning was, on the night of 2nd of March 2011, ‘inexplicably stripped of all his clothing’,
‘Last night, PFC Manning was inexplicably stripped of all clothing by the Quantico Brig. He remained in his cell, naked, for the next seven hours. At 5:00 a.m., the Brig sounded the wake-up call for the detainees. At this point, PFC Manning was forced to stand naked at the front of his cell.’
We were astounded the next night that, although the Brig knew Coombs was ‘telling the world’ about it, the Brig still said that this would continue ‘indefinitely’, and seemed unconcerned about anyone’s reaction.
We later learned from Coombs how it had come about:
‘On Wednesday March 2, 2011, PFC Manning was told that his Article 138 complaint requesting that he be removed from Maximum custody and Prevention of Injury (POI) Watch had been denied by the Quantico commander, Colonel Daniel J. Choike…….
In response to PFC Manning’s question (enquiring what he could do to alter his status), he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm.’
And then there was this first ‘word out’ from Brad himself, hitherto an unknown ‘voice’ and this, at the time, was incredibly heartening, as it was so sparky and we’d been so worried:
‘PFC Manning then 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.’
and this from a young person who had been subjected to abuse, bullied and isolated and, not only that, had just learned that the charges against him had now had ‘aiding the enemy’ added to them – a charge which can carry the death penalty. Pretty amazing!
They obviously thought so too, because retribution was swift, and in an instant response which shouts ‘vicious’ off the page…
‘without consulting any Brig mental health provider, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes used PFC’s Manning’s sarcastic quip as justification to increase the restrictions imposed upon him under the guise of being concerned that PFC Manning was a suicide risk……’
and that’s why, we learned, he had been stripped at night and forced to stand naked at roll call except….
‘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.” ‘
In response to all this, and especially to, unbelievably, the Brig stating that this ‘being stripped and made to stand naked’ was ‘set to continue indefinitely’ the International Support Network www.bradleymanning.org called for worldwide protests to take place on 20th March 2011 and we began to plan our US Embassy demo.
On 7th March, the Brig made the concession of giving Brad a suicide ‘smock’ and from then until he left Quantico, he was forced to wear this at night.
So how did this acute abuse, end?
WHISKED FROM QUANTICO TO FORT LEAVENWORTH – APRIL 19th
By April of 2011……..
the protests from the street –
beginning here with the earliest I can find – Ciaron and his fellow Catholic Worker, both wearing photos of Brad in solidarity at the 29th Dec 2010 (Holy Innocents) Northwood HQ Anti War demo and reported in the Northwood and Uxbridge Gazette…..
and culminating in the 20th March ‘London Demonstration in Support of Bradley Manning at the US Embassy’ – ‘Stop the Torture of Bradley Manning’ – which around 100 attended, with key speakers such as Bruce Kent, Peter Tatchell, Loz Kaye of Pirate Party, as well as Ben, Ciaron, Naomi, Vicky, Payday’s Giorgio and Global Women’s Strike’s Didi Rossi, the teenagers from Wales and music and song, Serena and Daniel in Guantanamo kit and the young sound engineer who valiantly kept the mic and amp under control and even someone who videoed it – 16 separate videos and 1 whole thing at ‘1991 phoenix 1991’ (youtube) which I have just discovered (give us a shout if you’re reading this, phoenix!)
with Genny and Co spreading the word in Wrexham, North East Wales on the same day,
not to mention those at Quantico itself, where 30 arrests occurred,
and those in many other cities around the world at the same time;
the protest from 295 top lawyers (including Obama’s own professor, Laurence Tribe) who signed an open letter to the administration: ‘A Statement on Private Manning’s Detention’.
the protests from Amnesty International who twice wrote objecting to the treatment Bradley was being subjected to;
and from an online Avaaz petition which garnered over 500,000 signatures in a few days;
and, even, we were assured, the protests from the British Government, who (it transpired in a parliamentary debate mobilised by Ann Clwyd on 4th April- column 868 – 10.26pm) had mentioned it to the US administration via the British Embassy in Washington on 29th March, after acknowledging Brad’s Welsh parentage, something Naomi had been blogging about since 18th Jan 2011 and something others had been writing to their MPs about;
and not forgetting the protest of the State Dept spokesperson, P J Crowley, who famously dubbed the way Brad was being treated as ‘ridiculous, counter-productive and stupid’
and on being asked if he was ‘on the record’ thought for a second when there was ‘an uncomfortable pause’ and then obviously decided to ‘go for it’ and said ‘Sure’.
and then of course was inevitably ‘resigned’ by the State Dept two days later…..
……all this had finally proved more than the US authorities could handle, and on 19th April, without any warning to anyone (David Coombs said in his blog post that he was informed 20 minutes before the press release to announce it), they whisked Brad off from the maximum security status in solitary at Quantico Brig, where his treatment had caused worldwide outrage, to one of the least punitive pretrial regimes at the newly built Fort Leavenworth, described on the US military’s website as ‘state-of-the-art’:
‘The Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, or JRCF, is the newest Department of Defense correctional facility. It is a state-of-the-art, 464-bed, medium/minimum custody facility with a 48-bed special housing unit built to comply with American Correctional Association Standards. It officially opened on Oct. 1, 2010 and received its first military prisoners four days later.’
All change! And as David Coombs said….this taken alone proved that the treatment meted out to Brad at Quantico was totally without justification.
‘The facts surrounding PFC Manning’s move to Fort Leavenworth and his almost immediate downgrade to Medium Custody make it clear that his detention conditions at Quantico were unnecessary and improper.’
MORE DETAIL ABOUT HOW IT WAS UNDER P.O.I. and MAX
The conditions of Bradley’s imprisonment under the ‘POI’ ‘Maximum Security regime have been listed in more detail by David Coombs here in a summary of the motion he filed on 10th August 2012. New information has emerged such as Brad not being permitted soap with which to wash his hands – he had to ask for it every time he needed it; he had to ask for toilet roll every time he needed it and (it goes without saying) had to often wait on the guards for these things.
And this is another point which is significant for his discomfort:
‘PFC Manning was not permitted to lie down on his rack during the duty day. Nor was PFC Manning permitted to lean his back against the cell wall; he had to sit upright on his rack without any back support.’
This is the motion which will be argued in this next hearing – 27th November to 2nd December.
This same blog post also touches on the discovery we made in July that the regime Bradley was being held under could be ‘traced up the chain of command to a three star general ‘ something which will obviously be ‘coming up’ in court! And it deals with the two occasions when Bradley restrictive status was actually increased and he was stripped as well. So it’s a good one to read.
PROPS IN COURT
The defence has obtained permission from the judge to have one of the suicide mattresses Brad had to sleep on actually in court for this motion , and also one of the coarse suicide ‘smocks’, which, in response to the public outcry at his being made to strip at night and stand naked at roll call, they gave him to wear in bed (it was too large, hideously uncomfortable and also nearly strangled him one night when it got caught round his neck). Well the judge wanted to see for herself just what they’re both like.
BRAD ON THE STAND?
And probably the most riveting thing to anticipate is the likelihood of Brad himself taking the stand sometime in the middle of the week.
There apparently is a ‘missing’ video – Bradley has insisted they videoed a specific sequence in one of the ‘stripping’ times, and the defence has sought ‘discovery’ of this from the prosecution, but, surprise, surprise, the prosecution do not recognise the existence of any video other than the ones they have already handed over.
In the discussion regarding this in court, Coombs alluded to the fact that Brad would go into the witness box to testify as to it’s existence.
Presumably, that’s what will happen? We’ ll have to see.
Watch this space……because this next few weeks should impact the trial very significantly…