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Bradley Manning’s ‘Unlawful Pretrial Punishment’ Hearing, Day 2

UPDATE – 9:30 PM EST  About 7:30 minutes in here, I call in from Fort Meade to provide an update on the proceedings for HuffPost Live. Andy Greenberg, author of This Machine Kills Secrets, and Tim Lemke of Patch, who went to the rally at the gates yesterday, share insights as well.

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UPDATE – 6:40 PM EST Coombs asked Dr. Hoctor if reasons why Manning was on POI status were transparent. Hoctor answered, “It became clearer over time what was going on.  … I think they were really very worried about his safety and I don’t think they trusted any doctors.” He also mentioned suicides had been a problem in the military in general. There’d been suicide on base and a suicide in the brig.

He also said the commanding officers of the Brig decided “they were going to run the risk management aspect of this case. I just wish they would have told me that in more certain terms that was what they intended to do.”

UPDATE – 6:35 PM EST Another hearing extending late into the evening. And much to catch up on.

Navy Captain Dr. William Hoctor, the psychiatrist who was seeing Manning, took the stand. There was a lighter moment in the proceedings when Hoctor said dancing in his cell did not bother him. “He’s sitting in his cell all day,” he said. He’s “got to do something to amuse himself.”

This and “peek-a-boo” he was playing with the bars is conduct the commanders who have taken the stand – both Choike and Oltman – have cited this activity when justifying keeping him on prevention of injury status.

UPDATE – 2:25 PM EST Defense finishes cross-examination of Col. Oltman. Oltman grew increasingly disgusted with Coombs during questioning. Coombs kept going up to hand him a document (emails) to read.  He became agitated at one point: “Again, you’re going to hand me something to look at” and flipped his hands. He was tired of Coombs asking if he recalled something only to be handed a document minutes later confirming he did say what he could not recall.

UPDATE – 1:35 PM EST Oltman was asked about what he knew happened in the March 2 incident where Manning jokingly or in a matter-of-fact manner stated if he wanted to kill himself he could with his underwear waistband or flip-flops. He said this to a master sergeant who was talking to him about his POI status. (Papatke? We don’t get access to court records so guessing.)

Oltman said he was not aware of who he made this comment to or whether it was an idle comment where he was pointing out the absurdity of prevention of injury status. He did say that Barnes told him Manning’s comment was “defiant in tone.” He was not told he was smiling or joking. Oltman said, “My question would be given the status you’re in, why would you make a comment like that?” Why would you joke?

But, it was never relayed to him the context of why he said the comment that was used to justify taking away his underwear.

UPDATE – 1:00 PM EST The spokesperson the military has talking to the press has just shared his sense of why there is much less transparency in this court martial when compared to federal court cases. Military courts, he says, are ad hoc, created one time and are convened by General Court Martial Convening Authority. There’s no “comprehensive Army-wide or military-wide system.” They just don’t have a “technical system.” Also, the military takes very seriously “unlawful command influence.” For example, President Obama made comments. They’ve come up in the case. He said the military tries to “insulate” court martial proceedings from “any unwarranted instances of unlawful command influence.” They are careful nothing is published that would prejudiced the accused.

Now, the defense has gone to the judge and says it wants to post info and will redact to protect classified information and any information that contains personal identification details. The government cannot do this because if it put filings out into the public, according to the spokesperson, “it would expose the [government] to charges of unlawful command influence.” So, for example, the government showed nooses that Manning made in Kuwait. If that was put on the Internet, possible panelists could see and that might taint the fairness of a trial.

However, the press could have a sketch artist draw the noose photos and publish them because the defense would not be able to complain to the court that the government was tainting the proceedings. Plus, typically, court martial proceedings do not have the kind of media interest this case has and it is not usually a very long process.

He said there is a “way to get this information” through the Freedom of Information Act process. Really? That isn’t working because I filed a FOIA request with the Military District of Washington and the Judge Advocate General months ago that still hasn’t been filled or even denied.

At the end of the spokesperson’s explanation, he mentioned something about how MDW might be going through all the filings in this court case to find a way that they could be posted for all press to access so that the press could have a central location to go to for reference. This, he seemed to say, was why individual FOIA requests haven’t been filled. I do not know how he knows this, but – FYI – the Center for Constitutional Right’s case (of which I am a plaintiff) that is pushing for the press to have access to records is still in the process of being decided by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA).

UPDATE – 12:30 PM EST  As noted previously, Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Christopher Greer sent an email joking about Manning having his underwear taken from him:

 …As Dr. Seuss would say, I can wear them in a box. I can wear them with a fox. I can wear them with socks. I can wear them in the day so I say. I can’t wear them at night. My comments gave the staff a fright…

This came up in testimony because Col. Oltman (Security Battalion Commander at Quantico) responded, “Sam I am.” He said he was joking about the “context” that Greer would “direct it to Dr. Seuss.”

UPDATE – 11:49 AM Similar to Choike, Oltman did not know two of the guards that Manning said harassed him on January 18 during a recreation call were removed by a Duty Brig Supervisor. This is important because this incident was being cited to keep him on POI status.

UPDATE – 11:42 AM Coombs pressed Oltman on the policy that Lt. Gen. Flynn, after March 10, would make final decision on any changes to Manning’s confinement conditions or designation/status. If he rejected, nothing would be put down in writing.

UPDATE – 11:40 AM Contrary to what Choike testified yesterday, Oltman admitted the weekly reports went from CWO Averhart or CWO Barnes to him then on to Choike and, importantly, up to Lt. Gen. George Flynn, the base commander.

UPDATE – 11:30 AM Brief recess. Former Security Battalion Commander at the Quantico Brig, Col. Robert Oltman, took the stand. David Coombs, Manning’s defense lawyer, cross-examined. He indicated it was never a “close call” for him—whether to take Manning off MAX custody or prevention of injury (POI) status.

Coombs asked, “Why did you believe as security battalion commander needed to be in MAX custody or POI status? Oltman said, “Can’t say I ever went through the process in my mind as to whether he should be in MAX custody or not.”

Oltman added it didn’t appear Brig staff and him “developed a relationship of trust” as far as how he interacted and carried himself. Was that reason enough to keep him on MAX and POI ? He continued saying Manning only spoke when he was spoken to, did not feel like engaging in banter with the guards or his counselor. He knew Manning was intelligent. When he was better socially, the “way he’s acting” was like he was “going through the motions” to be downgraded.

Original Post

The court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, resumed yesterday. The defense began to elicit testimony from witnesses on confinement conditions Manning endured while imprisoned at the Quantico Marine Brig for argument on an “unlawful pretrial punishment” motion.

The first witness to take the stand today is Colonel Robert Oltman. At Quantico, he was above Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart or Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes and below Quantico Brig commander Daniel Choike. Then, behavioral specialists are expected to take the stand: Navy Captain William Hoctor and Rick Malone and Kevin Moore of Walter Reed Army Medical & Psychiatry Center.

Yesterday, Choike testified for over three hours about how the Brig handled Manning and kept him classified as a maximum custody detainee (MAX) and on POI status. Coombs elicited testimony about how the decision to keep Manning in restrictive conditions was tied to the completion of a Sanity Board report. He also had Choike address the amount of focus high-level officers at the Brig had on ensuring messages on Manning’s confinement were controlled in the media.

Army Col. Judge Denise Lind had a line of questions that wound up eliciting some key testimony. Particularly, she was able to get Choike to admit the Brig was not a place for long-term confinement. It was adequate for 90 days. When he found out Manning was being transferred to Quantico, he told Brigadier General Karl Horst of the Army that he was concerned about “long-term pretrial confinement.” Choike informed the brigadier general he did not “believe Manning should be detained more than 90 days at the Brig.”

*For more from yesterday’s hearing, here’s a full report posted that includes highlights from his testimony.


Most of the media here yesterday returned for the second day of proceedings. This hearing is getting a lot of attention because of the anticipated testimony Manning is supposedly going to be giving on his confinement at Quantico later in the week.

I am here covering the proceedings. Check here and at the top of the post for updates throughout the afternoon/early evening. Also, follow @kgosztola for the latest developments in the court martial.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."