The media had been anxiously awaiting the moment that the defense would call Pfc. Bradley Manning to the witness stand to testify on his confinement conditions while in pretrial confinement. On Thursday November 29 the defense called Manning to the stand and, for the first time, Manning spoke about the treatment he experienced while at Quantico—treatment which stirred outrage and developed into a scandal for the military.
Manning’s defense lawyer, David Coombs, said, “I know this is a little nerve wracking,” as Manning sat down. Coombs began with the day Manning was detained —May 27, 2010. He was brought into a room at FOB Hammer. He did not waive his rights. He then sat for an hour and a half waiting for his belongings to be brought to him in “brown paper bags.”
He remained there for two to three days being escorted everywhere but staying in living quarters. He had a pretrial confinement hearing at Camp Liberty in Iraq in the final days of May and then was placed by a magistrate in pretrial confinement.
Manning was transferred to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait and brought into a military tent that had two cage-like cells inside. It was 8 x 8 x 8 and had a rack and toilet. He was held there for 72 hours. He was here throughout the “indoctrination period”—the first part of his detention.
He said he was able to read a manual for guidance of inmates, “which is basically their booklet on rules in the facility.” It was pretty much all he could do. He had sheets, a pillow, some blankets, toiletry items and he stayed in the cell except when going to the shower. He was not allowed to talk to anyone but interacted with guards when they brought meals. He could not make phone calls.
Manning described how on the second day he collapsed in his cell. The lights were not on and the air conditioning was not working. The tent was hot and dark. Two figures came in the tent and started to talk to him. He couldn’t understand what they were saying and fainted. When he woke up, a Navy officer was standing above him. He fainted because he was “dehydrated.”
After “indoctrination,” he was brought to a tent with other pretrial detainees, where he stayed in the daytime and slept. It was a twenty-man tent. He was able to be in an open bay area. Wake-up call was at 2200 Military time. A typical day ended at 1300 or 1400.
He would have a brief recreation call every day and walk around outside. There was a track area in between the fences of the facility where he would go to chow. There was a dining facility tent. He would stay there with other detainees and in a recreation tent at other times.
In the recreation tent, there was an old TV set, VHS player and some library books. There were also a lot of “old VHS tapes.” He would spend between 4 and 10 hours in the tent and other times he would be in the recreation tent with the TV.
He had limited phone privileges but was able to call family. “I didn’t have a lot of phone numbers,” he explained. “I had my aunt’s phone number. That’s one I memorized.” When he did call his aunt, it had been nine days since he had contacted family. It was “good to know” he “wasn’t completely cut off from the world,” he said. Manning could also schedule phone calls with his attorney. There was a special area for phone calls.
Manning was moved from his open bay tent back to a segregated tent about two weeks into his confinement in Kuwait, possibly between June 14 and June 18. It was the tent with cages and cells. He was not told why he was moved back to this same cell he was in during “indoctrination.”
No detainee was in cell adjacent to him. He had sheets, a pillow, a pillow case, a uniform, a couple changes of clothes and books that he checked out of the library.
After being moved back to segregation, there still were no formal charges filed. He didn’t know what was going on. He was limited, he said, and it was “very draining.”
He was not sleeping much. “Nights were my days. Days were my nights. It all blended.” Generally, he said, he was a “social and extroverted person.” Being in a cell by himself was difficult.
His phone privileges were removed after three calls and they would not explain why. At the camp, they did not allow news. They did not allow radio. There was no way for him to get news of current events in the world.
Manning said he started to “deteriorate in terms of awareness of my surroundings and what’s going on.” Everything was “more insular and I sort of lived inside my head.”
Being ushered off of Fort Meade by Military Public Affairs…. But the story of Manning’s detention continues here.
Image by Clark Stoeckley under Creative Commons License.