BRADLEY MANNING TESTIFIES FOR FIRST TIME
There’s not room here to really do justice to Brad’s testimony. Read the reports from the courtroom for 29 and 30 Nov for the detail (links at the end of this post), see also this post and read Alexa O’Brien’s full transcript.
Understandably, after two and a half years, there was excitement at the prospect of hearing Brad speak for the first time at any length, and more mainstream media interest than usual. First impressions from two independent reporters were expressed in these tweets:
“Bradley Manning is smiling & energetic while giving testimony. Very intelligent. Really great to hear from him finally” Kevin Gosztola
“Amazing to hear Manning. Solid voice. Matter of fact. A kind smile, which he uses a lot. And earnest” and a few days later: “Manning is not a push over, and Manning is not weak. He is actually extraordinarily smart, well spoken, respectful, and tough.” Alexa O’Brien
Brad described the first weeks of his detention when he was moved from Iraq and held in what he described as an “animal cage” in a tent at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for three days of ‘indoctrination’, at one point passing out from the heat and dehydration. For a couple of weeks he was moved to another tent in the camp with other prisoners, but then without explanation was placed back in segregation in the cage, for part of each day at first but later completely segregated from other inmates.
He talked of a camp regime where wake up call was late evening and bedtime middle of the day, and once segregated, he had no access to news and no information about what might happen to him. He was extremely isolated, became disorientated, had suicidal thoughts and in his own words “started to fall apart”.
When Brad was moved again at the end of July 2010, he had no idea where he was headed, fearing Guantanamo Bay or Djibouti, so he was very relieved to find himself back on the US mainland and happy to be at Quantico, in a solid building with air conditioning. Although he hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, he was immediately required to answer questions and fill in psychological forms and subjected to “shark attack” tactics by guards, following which he was put on suicide risk (SR) watch, then after two weeks Prevention of Injury status.
He was also a Maximum Custody (MAX) prisoner, which involved further restrictions. SR watch included being checked by guards every five minutes, only 20 minutes of natural light a day, fluorescent light constantly on (Brad would be woken if he slept turned away from this), 20 minutes a day exercise in full restraints and he required the assistance of a guard to stand up in these, segregated from other inmates, no personal effects in his tiny 6′ x 8′ cell. At one point his glasses were taken from him but this annoyed the guards as he couldn’t see well enough to ascertain their rank in order to address them correctly!
Coombs taped out the size of the cell and its furniture on the courtroom floor and had Brad stand in it, also to put on the ‘suicide smock’ that had been too uncomfortable to sleep in, had induced a skin rash and from which Brad had required help to free his arms.
Brad testified that POI status was almost identical to SR.
MIND GAMES FROM ‘COUNSELLOR’
Master Sergeant Craig Blenis was supposed to be Brad’s ‘counsellor’ and he blamed the continuing POI on the psychiatrists. However, the psychiatrist Hocter was telling Brad that he was recommending POI status be removed. Brad’s initial reaction was to mistrust Hocter but he eventually found out that it was Blenis recommending that POI should continue. Brad asked Blenis about getting a job in the brig and was told he could do this if his custody status changed which it never did.
Without work but supposedly ‘on duty’ from 5am-5pm every day, Brad wasn’t even allowed to lie down on his bed, or lean his back against the wall and he described some of the activities he engaged in to relieve the boredom, including dancing to get around the ‘no exercise’ rule and spending a lot of time at his mirror which he described as “the most interesting thing” in his cell. Brad was not allowed toilet paper in his cell so would “stand to attention and shout: ‘Detainee Manning requests toilet paper!’”.
18TH JAN 2011 – PUT ON SUICIDE RISK (SEE ART.138 REBUTTAL)
Brad testified that after a protest by supporters outside the brig on 17 January 2011 he was treated curtly and gruffly by guards the following day and subjected to another “shark attack” with guards firing conflicting orders at him during recreation time during which he briefly became emotional and fell down.
Later, Brig Officer in Charge CWO James Averhart came into Brad’s cell to question him about the incident and yelled at him. When he’d calmed down, Brad raised the issue of his POI status which made Averhart mad again, and he ordered him to be placed on suicide watch. The guards came in and Blenis asked him to remove his clothes. He was only allowed his boxers. His glasses were also taken away, rendering him effectively blind.
Brad also described how he had stopped visits by his father who had told him he would not go to the media but had immediately done so, and by supporter David House because Brad didn’t want him to “stir up” the media.
THE ‘HUGE UPGRADE’ OF FORT LEAVENWORTH
Once he was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Brad was immediately put on Medium Custody status, given back his clothes, had association with other detainees, was allowed to use facilities like the library, gym and common room. He described the change as a “huge upgrade”.