David Coombs Speaks; Trial Rescheduled for March 2013


Bradley Manning’s defence attorney, David Coombs, gave his first public presentation at an event organised by the Bradley Manning Support Network in Washington D.C. on 3rd December.

Around 100 supporters and press attended the evening at All Souls Church, which was streamed live by the BMSN and C-Span (here).

Coombs spoke for around twelve minutes and took (pre-submitted) questions from the press for about another ten minutes.

david coombs event poster

Other speakers were Emma Cape of the BMSN; Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights – Julian Assange’s and WikiLeaks’ legal representative in the U.S.; whistleblowers Jesselyn Radack and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, and Kevin Zeese – steering committee of BMSN.

The video (which you can watch below – scroll to the end of this post) is the first half of the programme – Emma Cape 1.55, Michael Ratner 7.30 and David Coombs 23.30.


Emma Cape of BMSN spoke first to briefly introduce the Bradley Manning Support Network, outlining its beginnings by referring to ‘Collateral Murder’ and the first news of Brad’s arrest, and then talked of the beneficial effects of the leaks and highlighted what has been achieved by the campaign to date.


Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights – Julian Assange’s and WikiLeaks’ legal representative in the U.S. – then told us movingly about the day he spent in the court room last Thursday, when Bradley gave, for the first time, a detailed account of the horrors of his confinement. Michael likened these to ‘Rumsfeld techniques’ – bright light, stress positions, no clothing, solitary. He described the experience of watching and listening to Brad as the

‘most devastating day I’ve spent in a court room’

A great cheer of applause went up when he said:

‘David Coombs has done an extraordinary job for Bradley Manning’

and another when he thanked the journalists who have covered every hearing for us – Kevin, Alexa, Nathan, Adam, (and he also mentioned Chase and Josh).


Coombs gave a revealing, personal insight into his professional and personal relationships with Brad and on working on such a landmark, historical case, striking a balance between scathing critique of Brad’s treatment and professional respect for the military tribunal process.

david coombs


On Brad’s pretrial punishment, about which he plainly holds very strong views:

“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched… in our nation’s history as a disgraceful moment in time. Not only was it stupid and counter-productive, it was criminal”

‘an entire group of individuals…chose to turn a blind eye to how Bradley was being treated; those who could effect change, did not’

On the pressures in the court room:

“I’m enjoying my opportunity to cross-examine those who had Bradley Manning in those conditions for nine months.”


He said that he was confident that when this is over it will be the longest record of trial in US military history. Admitting that he had, at first, felt intimidated on occasions by what he was up against – the unlimited resources and personnel of the US government as represented by the counsel to his right in the court room, and

‘especially when the president of the United States says ‘your client broke the law’ ‘ –

he told us that, nevertheless, he no longer felt intimidated, that he no longer felt alone

‘because I turn around (in the court room)and I see the support behind me -I see…what I affectionately call ‘the truth battalion’. They wear a black shirt – it has the word ‘truth’ on it – and they’re behind me, and when I look there I know that I also have unlimited personnel and unlimited resources.’

artsuperheroes bmsn

and how he is also reassured in this by the website iambradleymanning.org which he visits frequently (he said at least once a day), to recharge his batteries.

iam bradley manningbm-still-3

It’s amazing, he said, the power of those simple words:



He brought a message from Brad, one which he endorsed himself – he was to thank us especially for ‘caring about him’, and he said it for himself too.

‘I thank you for caring about Brad’


brad early striped shirt

He revealed that he found Brad one of the most intelligent people he had worked with and that Brad hopes to return to college, maybe join some campaign group and go into public service, perhaps even into public office one day. When asked why, Brad explained:

“I want to make a difference. I want to make a difference in this world.”

This was good to hear, but David Coombs had a further point. He said:

I can tell you that, standing here today, I hope that someday soon Brad can go to college, I hope some day soon he can in fact go into public service….

….but I am confident as I stand here today that Brad doesn’t have to worry about making a difference in this world…

he HAS made a difference.

and the room erupted! It was the real high point of the speech. Later in question time he was asked what Bradley was like and said:

‘Well I think Brad is prob one of the more intelligent people I’ve ever met. Brad has the ability to talk about a wide range of topics, but he’s a young man obviously though, and with that he has limited  experiences,

going on to say something about Brad’s character that he obviously felt was key to understanding Brad:

‘but Brad does a lot of things really from the heart: he tends to care a lot about people and so his conduct and his actions are usually driven by that.’


Of the political issues involved in the case some of his views were made clear when, on the critical issue of ‘aiding the enemy’ he expressed his wider concerns for how this was to be viewed in general, not just in Brad’s case.  Being asked about aiding the enemy as a threat to the press and whistleblowers in the age of the internet he said:

‘This is why its a very important case for everybody. If you can possibly aid the enemy by giving information to the press with no intent that the information land in the hands of enemy, and if by that mere action alone you can be found to have aided the enemy, that’s a scary proposition.

Right there that would  silence a lot of critics of our government, and that’s what makes our government great: that we foster that criticism, and oftentimes, when its deserved, we make changes.

So this is a serious offence not just for my client I think, but for everybody in America to be paying attention to; what it means to aid the enemy, and hopefully it means something more than just giving information to the press.’

And this address should also finally allay any fears about how Coombs views Bradley’s defence viz a viz whistleblowing. Coombs made direct reference to the irony of President Obama signing into law on Tuesday The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act at the very same time as he (Coombs) was defending Bradley in court.

‘How can you reconcile the two?’ he said, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question’

And he concluded by making a specific comparison between Brad and Daniel Ellsberg, whose courage and sacrifice he said had been judged well by History:

‘I hope that History will judge Pte 1st Class Bradley Manning in a similar light’

THANKS to Clark Stoeckley again for court room art http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkstoeckley/


There is a new provisional trial diary.

The ‘Unlawful Pretrial Punishment’ hearing continues TODAY until FRIDAY 7th;                     then resumes MON 10th – WEDS 12th

(more updates on previous days in this very important motion hearing now available at http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/12/503661.html )

OTHER REPORTS at http://bradleymanning.orghttp://dissenter.firedoglake.com/author/kgosztola/  follow @carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanlfuller

FOR BRAD’S TESTIMONY see also http://wiseupaction.info/2012/12/01/bradley-manning-star-witness-us-military-on-trial-ja/

The next hearing dates are 8th -11th JAN, 16th, 17th JAN, 5th – 8th FEB,

and then (and the Judge stressed these trial dates were very provisional lol)                             TRIAL either 6th MARCH or 18th MARCH

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