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Government: Bradley Manning’s Confinement Conditions Justified by ‘Odd Behaviors,’ Lack of Communication

Maj. Ashden Fein

A significant pretrial hearing in the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier being prosecuted by the United States government for allegedly releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, concluded on December 11. For more than ten days, the defense and government had witnesses testify on Manning’s treatment while he was confined at Quantico Marine Brig in Virginia. The hearing ended with closing arguments from the defense and government.

The defense delivered its closing argument first (a full report on the argument can be read here). The government presented its closing argument in the afternoon. The following is a report on much of what the government stated in their argument and what the judge asked the government to further address.

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Following a lunch recess, the government had military prosecutor Major Ashden Fein step up to give a closing argument. He started by outlining the law to the judge, as if she might need a reminder. An officer must have knowingly and deliberately violated regulations. The judge must determine whether there was an intent to punish Manning, was it so excessive to constitute punishment and/or did officers abuse their discretion.

Fein declared, “The US government argues Quantico staff had one interest – to protect Manning from harming himself and others while ensuring he was present for future proceedings.” The treatment was not “so excessive to constitute punishment” when considering factors like the potential length of sentence (life without parole), poor family relationships and home conditions, low tolerance of frustration and “disruptive behavior.”

Judge Army Col. Denise Lind asked at what point did the “disruptive behavior” start. Fein said it started in Kuwait “in documentation that came” with Manning to Quantico. The judge asked when it happened after arriving at Quantico. Fein told the judge it began with an incident on January 18, 2011.

The government proceeded to argue, with the exception of two times, officers had not abused their discretion. There were two periods in Manning’s confinement August 6-11 in 2010 and January 18-20 in 2011 when Manning had not been taken off suicide risk when medical officers advised the Brig officer-in-charge (OIC). For seven days, Manning was improperly held on suicide risk and the government conceded the defense should receive 1-for-1 credit or seven days for this abuse.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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