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

A retired military officer, who was the highest ranking military officer 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 officer 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. [cont’d.]

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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