MSGT Adkins on the stand. Pic by C. Stoeckley.

A retired noncommissioned military officer, who was in charge of soldiers in the intelligence facility where Pfc. Bradley Manning worked, took the stand to testify during the sentencing phase of Manning’s trial at Fort Meade.

Paul Adkins, who left the military as a sergeant first class NCO after being downgraded, testified on incidences of “mental instability by then Spc. Bradley Manning.” These incidences were detailed in memorandums for record (MFRs) written by Adkins.

Adkins noted that he “decided to deploy Pfc. Manning given manpower issues.” He testified in military court, “We were a little short, I believe, on intelligence, and, additionally, we had a soldier who had recently had a heart attack who was staying behind as a rear detachment. So, I did not assess that we could get away with having two soldiers on rear detachment, especially with like a non-physical health issue.”  [Rear detachment is “responsible for remaining personnel and equipment and for assistance to families of deployed soldiers” and do not deploy with the unit.]

Asked by Manning’s civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, to elaborate on whether he had felt pressured to deploy Manning, Adkins said, “I would say there was not necessarily direct but more of an indirect pressure knowing how the unit wanted to make sure everyone who could possibly deploy would deploy.”

“I understand , at least I recall, knowing that I had seen the roster of the unit we were replacing and knowing we had other manpower allocations that would be taken from our shop, I felt the need to deploy him,” he stated. “In a perfect world, I think I could have left him back to make sure he was getting behavioral health care on consistent basis, but I also felt that his issue would not have warranted him remaining [in the continental United States] when we already had a soldier who was remaining there because of health issues.”

The first MFR was written on December 21, 2009,  to “ensure that Pfc. Manning’s therapist was receiving additional information in regards to his behavior.” It featured details on incident where Manning lost his room key and included a mention of an incident that occurred during a counseling session with Sgt. Daniel Padgett on December 20, 2009, where Manning flipped over a table with government computers on it and had to be restrained because an officer thought he was going for a weapon.

Manning was not removed from the intelligence facility or did not have his security clearance temporarily suspended. Adkins said he did not do this because he still felt that he was “providing valuable information and intelligence in regards to the threat he was assigned to analyze.” However, he felt that Manning needed extended therapy. Adkins also thought he was suffering from acute post-traumatic stress disorder.

On April 26, 2010, Adkins wrote another MFR for Manning’s therapists. It noted “continued incidences of mental instability” and that “events” had “reemerged and intensified over a period of two weeks.” This included “frequent catatonic periods and claims of disassociation.” Occasionally, during shift change, he would freeze during a briefing and not be able to continue speaking.

Coombs asked why Adkins did not remove Manning from the SCIF in April.

“We still had people going out on wire. And we still had people doing missions,” Adkins answered. “The biggest threat to our soldiers and to our operational environment emerged from the Shia insurgent groups, which Pfc. Manning helped analyze and helped assess. Again, I felt that his therapy would eventually bear fruit or I certainly hoped that to be the case and, knowing that if I removed him I would essentially in large part eliminate the fusion portion of fusion analysis for Shia insurgency, I felt that he was still producing products that were allowing us to neutralize the Shia threat.”

Adkins put this concern above Manning’s “instability,” which he testified “had to do with his erratic behavior.”  He even wrote in the memo that Manning’s “condition” was “deteriorating” and could be “detrimental to the good order of the unit.” He thought a “deeper medical condition” was affecting him.

A third memo was written in May 2010 with more details on Manning’s condition. Adkins had found Manning on the floor in a storage room in the intelligence facility in the fetal position. He had scrawled the words, “I Want,” into a chair with a Gerber knife. The knife was at his feet when Adkins entered the room to talk to him.

Oddly, Adkins did not remember if he asked Manning why the words “I Want” were scrawled in a chair. He also let Manning return to his workstation.

“Why, after observing what you saw with him, would you ever put him back at his workstation?” Coombs asked with incredulity in his voice. Adkins said there were tasks to do in regards to analyzing the threat. He was not taken to mental health immediately. Later, during the same shift, he punched his supervisor, Spc. Jihrleah Showman, in the face and had to be removed from the intelligence facility. He lost his security clearance and was moved to a duty position in the supply room.

On April 24, Adkins received an email from Manning with the subject heading, “My Problem.” He was formally counseled for not bringing this email to the attention of officers in the chain of command until June 3.

The email began, “This is my opinion. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time. It’s caused problems within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it. It is not something I seek out for attention, and I ‘ve been trying very, very hard to get rid of it by placing myself in situations where it would be imposible. But, it’s not going away. It’s haunting me more and more as I get older. Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it’s causing me great pain in itself.”

A photo was attached of Manning in drag. He was wearing a blond wig. He was wearing lipstick.

Coombs asked why this email was not shared with the brigade staff. Adkins told Coombs, he was “concerned initially when [he] received the email that had I forwarded it” the email “would be disseminated among brigade staff” or something like that and I really didn’t think at the time that having a picture floating around of one of my soldiers in drag was in the best interest” of the “intelligence mission.”

He added that he thought it was something for the therapists to handle.  Cpt. Steven Lim thought Manning should have been immediately removed from working in the intelligence facility after he received the email.

Adkins further explained why he did not inform commanding officers so he could have his security clearance potentially revoked.

“I felt throughout the deployment that Manning’s presence as an analyst was of importance to the mission, and my intent was to make sure, if I could possibly do it, that he could maintain his functionality as an intelligence analyst.”

Adkins received a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMAR) informing him he had failed to provided info directly related to the commander’s determination on whether to deploy Manning. He also had failed to provide info critical to whether to maintain Manning’s security clearance.

An administrative review board reduced his rank from master sergeant before he retired from the military.

The breakdown in leadership in the chain of command and the fact that Manning should never have been deployed because he was suffering from mental health issues is evidence the defense hopes the judge will consider when deciding how long to sentence Manning to prison.

Had he not been deployed, the world would have never seen any of the information he disclosed to WikiLeaks—the “Collateral Murder” video, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, the US State Embassy cables, the “Gitmo Files,” etc.

Another way of looking at all this is that Manning was suffering while he was deployed in Iraq. As he testified, “The Army, it was a good thing, but the Army isn’t for everyone.” He hoped he could complete his deployment and then leave the military and return home.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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