Chelsea ManningCommunityThe Dissenter

Bradley Manning Was Ordered to Sign ‘Voluntary Statements’ at Quantico

Sketch by Clark Stoeckley

Pfc. Bradley Manning, during proceedings in an “unlawful pretrial punishment” hearing on November 30, was cross-examined by the government. During the cross-examination, the government had Manning address “voluntary statements” he signed, which were “equivalent to sworn statements.”

Maj. Ashden Fein said they were mostly used when there was an “exception” and recreation call was “cut short.” Manning replied, “That was whenever they said I had to fill one out. I was confused by that and uncomfortable with this particular document.”

On December 14, 2010, Quantico Marine Brig, where Manning was held in pretrial confinement for 238 days, did not have the ability to do recreation time so they told Manning to fill out a voluntary statement.

“They did not have enough time,” Manning said. “They ordered me to fill it out.”

On December 20, Fein stated recreation time was “voluntarily changed” and then this “voluntary statement” occurred.

On December 21, another “voluntary statement” was signed by Manning. He was not able to go outdoors. (Manning speculated it might have been snowy.)

On Christmas, recreation time was shortened but he refused to sign a statement. Manning said it was “getting unusual.”

“It had a section, which I started to cross out where it says I have been sworn to this statement. I wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “I wasn’t sure it was legal.”

When Manning did this, the duty brig supervisor was not happy. He had received a command to sign as an order. “Here is a voluntary statement. Sign this,” Manning recounted. And, later, CWO4 James Averhart came to talk to him about the form and was unhappy about how he had crossed parts out.

On December 28, again, Fein said he signed a “voluntary statement” that pertained to foregoing recreation time for a television show. Manning corrected Fein saying, it had been because he was on sleep medication and so a television had been secured.

Sergeant Garnett came to him and said, “Fill this out.” Manning crossed out “sworn.” He crossed out “free and voluntary.” He crossed out a “lot of wording of this language” on the form.

On January 16, 2011, there was a television show he wanted to see. He asked if he could have recreation call later. The same sergeant came by and told Manning to fill out a “voluntary statement.” This time it did not have “sworn language,” but it did say voluntary at the top and he crossed that out and changed it to something else.

On January 20, he was refused recreation call due to a schedule clash with a television call. He was asked to fill out a form again and was really “uncomfortable filling these out.” He didn’t want to “refuse a direct order” and “didn’t know what to do.”

On February 16, he was ordered to fill out a “voluntary statement” to cancel a recreation call that he did not want to attend, according to Fein. Manning said he would come back from the Sanity Board and the Brig would be settling down for the day. They would inform him he was not going to be able to do recreation call.

He could try to refuse filling out the form, but they would just throw it away. One time, Sgt. Garnett took a form and “ripped it up.” He said, “Fill this out in the way I told you to fill it out.”

“I brought this up with Mr. Coombs and I was just told to not deal with any of these voluntary statements,” Manning said. “It was very uncomfortable.” He was advised by his defense lawyer, David Coombs, to not fill out any more “voluntary statements.”

There clearly was not anything “voluntary” about these statements. How does one, especially in a military brig, refuse to sign a form when they are already in cruel confinement conditions? Obviously, he was going to find some way to resist the process while also signing the form. He put his protest against the form in writing by crossing parts out.

Fein pressed him on this suggesting he “opted” to sign these statements. But Manning maintained he did not want to sign these. He described one instance where they had not been able to execute recreation call before Taps. They gave him a form and told him to fill it out.

“I was uncomfortable,” Manning stated. “I didn’t know if they were trying to cover themselves.”

He explained a “sworn statement” is “very serious.” It is a “declaration under penalty of perjury,” seemingly trying to inform Fein he recognized he might have to answer questions about these forms at some point.

“There was one moment—it was probably toward the December time frame—where they went to statements routinely,” Manning said. He remembered being told it was against Navy regulations to cross out and remove voluntary language. He added he was told he had to fill this out and could not flatly refuse.

Why the government pressed Manning on this issue is unclear. Manning was pretty sharp when it came to pushing back against the line of questioning Fein was pursuing. Fein wanted to suggest Manning was not objecting to recreational calls being canceled, but it is clear he was ordered or coerced into signing forms.

This is yet another element of the “unlawful pretrial punishment” that Manning experienced. It reveals another element of the corruption inside the Quantico Marine Brig that fueled the keeping of a high-profile detainee on prevention of injury (POI) status, even when his psychiatrist was telling Brig officers to take him off because he posed no risk to himself.

The Brig did not want Manning there for more than ninety days. Col. Daniel Choike, former Quantico Brig commander said this much on the first day of this hearing. The forms were another way they took their frustration with having Manning in their Brig out on Manning himself.

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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."