[Ppnews] Bradley Manning takes the stand: Quantico abuse, brig deception
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 30 10:56:32 EST 2012
Bradley Manning takes the stand: Quantico abuse, brig deception ---
courtroom notes, 11/29/12
/PFC Bradley Manning testified today to explain the brutal detention
conditions he suffered at the Quantico Marine brig, officials deceiving
him regarding how to change those conditions, and relaxed conditions at
Ft. Leavenworth. See day 1 notes
and day 2 notes
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. November 29, 2012.
Today PFC Bradley Manning took the stand to give much-anticipated
testimony about his detention conditions in Kuwait, at the Quantico
Marine brig, and at Ft. Leavenworth, explaining that he endured harsh
and needlessly restrictive conditions at Quantico, yet was put in much
less constrictive custody as soon as he was transferred to Ft.
Leavenworth. Furthermore, Quantico's brig counselor, Gunnery Sergeant
Blenis, misled Bradley about who was responsible for his abusive conditions.
Bradley answered questions from defense lawyer David Coombs for several
hours in Ft. Meade, MD, for the defense's motion to dismiss charges
based on unlawful pretrial punishment. First he explained his traumatic
experience in Kuwait, where he was brought to a military tent, forced to
stay in a metal cell that he said felt like an "animal cage," and was so
disoriented and isolated that he felt suicidal. He thought he was going
to die in Kuwait, felt "trapped" because no one told him what was
happening to him, and when he was transferred he figured he would be
sent to Guantanamo Bay.
When transferred to Quantico on July 29, 2010, Bradley was immediately
put on Suicide Risk watch, which is effectively solitary confinement
with guards checking on him every five minutes. Brig psychiatrists
recommended that Bradley's detention status be reduced to Prevention of
Injury (POI) watch in seven days, but Quantico officials didn't change
the status for nearly two weeks. On Suicide Risk, Bradley saw only 20
minutes of natural light each day, interacted with almost no one else,
and became increasingly anxious.
For the remainder of his nine-month stay, Bradley was then held on
restrictive POI watch, which he described as nearly the same as Suicide
Risk, though he was a model detainee and psychiatrists confirmed that he
posed no threat to himself or others. Suicide Risk and POI watch aren't
technically referred to as 'solitary confinement,' but Bradley was
segregated from the rest of the Quantico population. Seeing only the
reflection of sunlight down the hall, Bradley was largely cut off from
the world. The rooms adjacent to his were empty, and he wasn't allowed
to speak loud enough to communicate with the detainees much further down
On Suicide Risk, Bradley had to wear a coarse smock and sleep on a tiny
uncomfortable mattress. He was never given a pillow during his entire
time at Quantico, regardless of his custody status. Throughout his time
there, a fluorescent light blasted into Bradley's six-by-eight-foot
cell, 24 hours a day. When he turned his face from the light when trying
to sleep, brig officials woke him up to "make sure he was okay." On
Suicide Risk, this happened two or three times every single night, and
it still happened a few times a week on POI.
*Blenis deceives Manning about his conditions*
More and more stressed out, Bradley desperately wanted to be removed
from POI watch. Each time he met with brig psychiatrists and during most
of his interactions with the brig counselor, he asked what he could do
to get his status reduced. GYSGT Blenis, who met with Bradley at least
once a week, and who frequently gave him an 'A' grade as a detainee,
told Bradley that he was perplexed as to why the psychiatrists kept
recommending he stay on POI status. However, brig psychiatrist Cpt.
Hoctor testified yesterday that the exact opposite was true: Cpt. Hoctor
recommended almost every single week that Bradley be removed from POI
watch, and was exasperated that Quantico officials fully ignored his
advice. He believed "they had made up their mind" to keep Bradley in
Cpt. Hoctor told Bradley that he recommended normal treatment, and upon
hearing the conflicting messages Bradley didn't know whom to trust.
Since GYSGT Blenis and other Quantico officials continued to praise him
as a model detainee, with one of them saying he wished he had "100 PFC
Mannings," he thought Cpt. Hoctor might be deceiving him.
*Guards provoke Manning, officials remove his clothing*
The confusion, coupled with the repeated refusal of brig officials to
hear his arguments for ending the restrictive POI watch, led Bradley to
become withdrawn and to consider alternative channels to remedy his
situation, such as through his defense counsel.
A day after supporters of Bradley Manning protested at Quantico on
January 17, 2011, Bradley testified that staff guards handled him
gruffly, were curt with their orders, and then put him in an
intentionally confusing "shark attack environment" in which they barked
contradicting orders at him and yelled at him when he didn't follow
properly. Bradley became panicked, fell down in the recreation hall, and
said he "became emotional."
Bradley continued with his recreation time as usual after the incident,
but when he returned to his cell, he knew something was wrong. Guards
were whispering outside his cell, officials were passing by and
gathering outside, and then Brig Officer in Charge Averhart entered his
cell to yell at Bradley.
The two discussed the situation, seemed to relax, and then Bradley
brought up his POI status while he had the chance. Averhart felt
"insulted" and "furious" that Bradley would broach the subject, and he
reminded Bradley of his rank. Averhart left the cell, and GYSGT Blenis
asked Bradley to remove his clothes and informed him that he'd be back
on Suicide Risk.
Coombs then played two short videos that Quantico officials took of
GYSGT Blenis's response, in which he told Bradley, "We're not outside
rules and regulations with anything we're doing," when Bradley
countered, "But I'm not a suicide risk."
Bradley said that psychiatrists recommended he be removed from POI, and
GYSGT Blenis responded, "Who sees you every day?" GYSGT Blenis said that
Cpt. Hoctor's was "just a recommendation," and that "other factors" had
to be considered.
Bradley was forced to remain nude, except for his boxers during the day,
for the rest of his time at Quantico.
*Transitioning to life at Ft. Leavenworth*
Finally, Bradley testified about his transfer to Ft. Leavenworth on
April 20, 2011. After the multi-day 'reception process,' Bradley was not
deemed harmful to himself, and was immediately placed in medium
security. Bradley was shocked not to be in metal restraints, and felt
awkward. He was expecting to be placed in the same status as in
Quantico, and said he thought they'd "bring the hammer down."
At Ft. Leavenworth, which he called a "huge upgrade," Bradley was given
his clothes back, allowed to have basic toiletries he wasn't allowed to
have in Quantico, and was free to use the library, gym, common area, and
word processor just about whenever he pleased.
*Leavenworth commander confirms Bradley didn't need POI*
Just before Bradley's testimony, the defense called Ft. Leavenworth's
Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton telephonically to explain the
processes at Ft. Leavenworth to take in detainees, assess their mental
health, and determine their custody status.
Lt. Col. Hilton said that she never overruled a mental health
professional's advice regarding Suicide Risk. In fact, she said she made
it a priority to try to get detainees /off/ of Suicide Risk, knowing
that it affects their mental health, and if a detainee is not off of
Suicide Risk within 48 hours, she works to get the detainee into a
psychiatric ward. The longest she's ever had a detainee on Suicide Risk
was seven days -- an extreme case, and an extreme contrast with
Bradley's several months on that status.
Lt. Col. Hilton said Bradley has never appeared at risk of potentially
harming himself, and that he's been on medium security since his arrival.
Tomorrow, the government will cross-examine Bradley, Coombs will
re-direct follow-up questions, and Judge Denise Lind will ask him her
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