Bradley Manning’s ‘Unlawful Pretrial Punishment’ Hearing, Day 6
8:36 PM EST Something that has come up consistently throughout proceedings is whether or not a detainee could be held at Quantico on POI and as a medium custody detainee or did all detainees on POI status have to be held in maximum custody. MSGT. Blenis said Quantico changed the policy after Manning left Marine Corps headquarters pushed down policy that detainees could be held in medium custody and be placed on POI or suicide risk.
He suggested it happened about a month and a half later. He said it was just for Quantico because he is now stationed at Camp Pendleton and that is not the policy. It was directed from the Marine Corps just to the Brig. Blenis said, “Once it came, like I said, it was really unorthodox…Took me a long time to wrap my head around.” And, “When I say to someone who’s never heard it before, they look at it like I am crazy.”
This is like the Marines trying to rebuild Quantico’s image after having held Manning at the facility.
8:35 PM EST Judge Denise Lind, who has asked some pretty solid questions throughout the hearing, asked MSGT. Craig Blenis about the impact of POI status on Manning. Blenis claimed he never noticed a huge weight gain or loss. His “mental state” was not “apparently eroding.” Coombs followed up after the judge. He would not go along with idea that being distant or withdrawn was result of POI status.
8:30 PM EST The scene in the video was like something out of Robert Greenwald’s lesser-known film, “In the Custody of Strangers,” starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, about a young man who winds up in solitary confinement after committing a minor crime.
8:25 PM EST The video exchange contained key discussion between MSGT. Blenis and Manning over why he was on POI. The conversation is transcribed in the defense motion and on page 33-34. Here’s an excerpt.
…PFC Manning: Yes, but I’m trying not, I’m trying, I’m trying to avoid the concern, and it’s actually causing the concern. I mean, cause, I’m getting … every day that passes by, I’m getting increasingly frustrated, I’m not going to lie. Because I’m trying to do everything that I can not to be a concern, therefore I appear as though I am causing more concern. Or I … Or it seems that I’m causing more concern or everybody’s looking for something to cause concern. So that’s what frustrates me. … Trying to work out the most politically correct way of …
8:20 PM EST Proceedings come to a conclusion for the evening. The hearing will resume on Wednesday, December 5.
6:50 PM EST We’re going to be watching a video of Manning in his cell. The government just spent 20 minutes verifying that a transcript of the video was accurate.
6:40 PM EST Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart (Brig OIC) ordered a log book solely for entries on Bradley Manning. MSGT. Craig Blenis says this was “rare.” One of the entries was Manning dancing in a rave-type style in his cell.
6:35 PM EST MSGT. Blenis sent an email when heat was out in Quantico Brig with line, “If you’re cold, the latest issue of Manning Times should keep you warm.” He was referring to weekly reports on Manning to the chain of command.
5:36 PM EST MSGT. Blenis was asked about questioning Manning on nooses he made while confined in Kuwait. Coombs said, “You actually asked him about nooses and said “he looked at you all retarded.” Blenis said yes, because he was “dumbfounded.” Manning didn’t know what he was talking about.
4:30 PM EST Defense cross-examination has been going for at least one hour. MSGT. Blenis sent an email to Navy Captain Dr. William Hocter indicating “media would be knocking” on the door “fairly often” once Manning arrived. He also told Hocter Pfc Manning had been deemed high risk to himself from as high as a major general in the Army. He knew people high in the chain of command would be watching.
2:45 PM EST MSGT. Blenis shared his thoughts on Manning being taken off medication. He suggested from a conversation on Manning being suicidal Manning admitted he had been suicidal in Kuwait. MSGT. Blenis asked what had changed. Manning said nothing. MSGT. Blenis figured something had to change. Manning suggested he was no longer suicidal cause he had been put on medication. The psychiatrist was taking him off the medication, reducing it gradually. MSGT. Blenis said he thought, “So if pre-meds, you’re suicidal post-meds you’re not, but now we’re going back to pre-meds, doesn’t this put us back at square one?”
That would not be a decision MSGT. Blenis could make. He did not have the professional skills or knowledge of psychiatry to make a decision about whether the doctor taking Manning off medicine was appropriate or not. However, it shows the kind of attitude toward mental health treatment in the Brig. He would not want Dr. Hocter telling him to setup a Standard Operating Procedure that kept Manning in strict confinement conditions for pure security purposes and how to do that. They would say he was out of his lane.
2:40 PM EST Master Sgt. Craig Blenis shared his take on counseling Manning. In November 2010, Manning started to talk to him more and actually started to engage in conversation. Week to week he stated to speak more. After 7 to 8 weeks, he “stopped talking again.” And, “Once he stopped speaking to me, that went on for three or four weeks. Then he started speaking to me again but that was also a brief two weeks.” After that, he pretty much stopped talking until transferred from Quantico to Leavenworth.
12:58 PM EST Returning from lunch recess very soon. Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, who was Programs Chief and counselor of Manning at Quantico during his confinement, will take the stand as a government witness. And he is the final witness of the day, which presumably means the proceedings will conclude for the day after his testimony completes.
12:45 PM EST Alexa O’Brien has a good series of tweets of articles addressing the suicide epidemic in the military and the stigma of mental health in the military. This is key because the suicide epidemic has come up when officers have discussed keeping Manning on maximum custody or prevention of injury (POI) status.
Here are the articles that O’Brien tweeted (from the media center here at Fort Meade): “In suicide epidemic, military wrestles with prosecuting troops who attempt it“; “Suicide epidemic in Army: July was worst month, Pentagon says“; “Stigma of Mental Health Treatment in the Military” (academic report); and “Army suicides for 2012 surpass last year’s numbers.”
So far, one can see the Brig officers did not take the mental health evaluations seriously. They also, instead of getting Manning more psychiatric help, were content to keep Manning on maximum custody or POI for safety or security purposes and that essentially meant he was being subjected to strict conditions.
12:35 PM EST Coombs questioned Jordan about whether the Quantico Brig officer-in-charge (OIC) had an order to approve Manning for “heightened security” and also POI until the Sanity Board completed its review. Staff Sgt. Jordan said he didn’t recall putting out an order.
The government objected to this line of questioning. The judge decided to allow the questions. Coombs asked if Staff Sgt. Jordan would be surprised if there was a “standing order of maintaining Pfc. Manning in POI until completion of Sanity Board was in weekly reports.” Staff Sgt. Jordan said no he wouldn’t “given the nature of the reports.”
Staff Sgt. Jordan was not aware of any order from CWO4 Averhart, who had been Brig OIC, to keep Manning on POI until completion of the Sanity Board. He also did not think if there was a standing order it would “negate the need” for a Classification & Assignment Board for Manning.
Coombs followed up asking if the Brig OIC was “ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in the Brig.” Staff Sgt. Jordan agreed. And Coombs had no further questions.
12:08 PM EST There hasn’t been much of an argument that the officers in Quantico Brig were homophobic or transphobic. We see some of that bubbling to the surface today in some testimony.
The defense filed a supplemental motion to the main “unlawful pretrial punishment” motion that is at the center of current proceedings.
Here’s a part worth noting:
…An even more troubling email is sent by ***Redacted*** on 4 March 2011, a couple of days after PFC Manning had been placed on Suicide Risk after the comments about his underwear ***Redacted*** wrote the following email to ***Redacted***, ***Redacted***, ***Redacted*** and ***Redacted***:
Make sure he is not standing at attention naked for evening count right before taps. You should be taking his panties right before he lays down.
…The fact that a senior enlisted would refer to a detainee’s undergarments as “panties” in correspondence with four subordinates demonstrates not only incredibly poor judgment, but also a culture where anything goes. The Defense also believes that the “panties” comment reflects intolerance and homophobia on the part of ***Redacted*** (and likely the other enlisted at the Brig)…
Who sent this email is not known yet. The person who sent it may take the stand before the proceedings are over.
12:07 PM EST Exchange David Coombs had with Jordan on his size. Coombs said, “Obviously, you’re a big guy.” You’re six foot nine. Big height difference. Manning’s five foot two. One hundred and five pounds. He said, “Weigh little more? SSGT Jordan, “Slightly, slightly, sir.” The gallery laughed. Coombs asked if he could have been intimidating to Manning. SSGT. Jordan said something to the effect that he would never stand in a way that was intimidating. He added that he believed when he “first got through” meeting Manning he would have been able to see the “type of person” he was and realize he wasn’t intimidating.
12:05 PM EST We’re on lunch recess now. Staff Sgt. Jordan concluded his testimony. Now-Master Sgt. Craig Blenis is up next. Proceedings resume at 1 pm EST.
12:00 PM EST In Bradley Manning’s January 14, 2011, classification and review report, Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan, a counselor, wrote down in the remarks section, “[Sec Nav Detainee] has potential gender identity disorder and is pending a 706 Sanity Board hearing.” Jordan said, when asked why he wrote that by Coombs, he believed “when he was first brought into confinement I believe he gave an alias of Breanna Elizabeth Manning.” Coombs followed up asking, “If a detainee has a gender identity disorder, would that be a factor to put a detainee in POI?” Jordan answered, “Depends on how that individual is affected by that.” He also said, when asked, he had considered this in his decision to keep Manning on POI but it did not weigh heavy.
11:20 AM EST Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan:
11:19 AM EST The medical assessment Dr. William Hocter submitted to Classification & Assignment Board that reviewed Manning’s status on January 14, 2011, indicated Manning did not “pose a threat to himself.” It also urged if detainee “requires enhanced security for other reasons please consider writing a separate SOP.”
11:15 AM EST Staff Sgt. Jordan kept saying, “Snapshot of one day” shouldn’t color your entire time or “snapshot of one conversation” should not paint the whole picture. This was his line after Coombs presented counselor notes to show Manning was engaging in conversation. He was engaging in activities that would indicate he was not thinking about hurting himself or committing suicide.
11:03 AM EST January 11, 2011, Manning talked with Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan, a counselor, about how excited he was to get to the month of March because “he enjoys watching college basketball.” Specifically, “he enjoys March Madness,” the college championship.
Coombs discussed this with Staff Sgt. Jordan and said, “At least until the championship, which is a four week period,” a detainee is “probably not going to commit suicide.” Staff Sgt. Jordan responded that a tragic event could happen and push someone over the edge. (Like if a detainee lost one of his Final Four picks in first or second round?)
11:00 AM EST Trial date pushed to March. Judge Army Col. Denise Lind announced new trial calendar up through February and then stated the trial will begin March 6 or 18, but, “At this point in the proceedings, it is impossible to say with certainty when we are actually going to trial.”
Next hearings will be December 5-7 and then December 10-12.
Pfc. Bradley Manning’s ‘unlawful pretrial punishment’ hearing, which has been ongoing for much of the past week, continues today. The government will continue to make its argument that it did not subject Manning to any kind of punishment while he was held at Quantico.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan will return to the witness stand to be cross-examined by the defense. Jordan would interact with Manning on a daily or every other day basis. He is from the Army and was detailed to go work at Quantico. Like previous officers who took the stand, he told the government he had considered Manning’s medical evaluation, past behaviors, how he had been behaving and “potential future behavior.”
Following Jordan’s testimony, Master Sgt. Craig Blenis (who was a gunnery sergeant when Manning was at Quantico) will take the stand following SSGT. Jordan. He was the Programs Chief and Manning’s counselor. It has become clear through testimony that Blenis had the most interaction with Manning while he was confined in his cell. And he was filling in checkboxes on forms and offering firsthand accounts of Manning’s behavior in his cell that were playing a key role in decisions by the Classification & Assignment (C&A) Board.
Proceedings for today will come to an end after Blenis’ testimony. Argument on this motion will pick back up on Wednesday, December 5 and continue at least through Friday, December 7. There are potentially 12 more witnesses that could be called by the government when argument resumes and/or by the defense during rebuttal. The witnesses come from the chain of command that was making decisions related to Manning’s confinement.
The judge would not decide on the motion immediately at the conclusion of the hearing. If she chooses to award credit for time served because she finds the defense has a good argument that Manning was a victim of “unlawful pretrial punishment,” she might not announce the exact credit immediately. She could choose to make public the number she decided to grant during the sentencing portion, according to a military legal expert speaking to the press at Fort Meade.
Less media here today than yesterday. There is still a pretty good amount of press here (especially when considering it is a Sunday).
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 of Bradley Manning.