Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, testified on Thursday, November 29.
Nobody would explain to Manning why he was not able to be taken out to be with other detainees. He did not have a good understanding.
“I was a mess,” Manning said. “I was just really starting to fall apart.”
Guards engaged in what Manning called a “shakedown.” Two to three times a day this would happen. The guards would have him sit down in his cage facing away and they would enter and tear apart everything in his cell. He did not know what they were looking for or if they were searching for anything.
About June 12, 2010, he yelled uncontrollably and started banging his head. Manning said his memory of this was “very vague.” He had “just fallen apart.”
He said he usually knew what was going on before he was in confinement. “I have a solid knowledge of what’s going on in terms of [my] job and family,” he explained. He knew current events that are going on. He was “grounded pretty firmly” and knew how to connect to the rest of the world. But, after having that cut off, he started to not understand everything. “Living inside limited surrounding,” his “world just shrunk to Camp Arifjan and then that cage.”
Manning talked to a mental health professional named Captain Richardson when he was breaking down. Richardson addressed fact that Manning was making nooses out of bed sheets.
The nooses were found when guards did a shakedown and came into his cell. They tore his stuff up and he thought,“I am going to die and I am in a cage and I don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s how I saw it”—an “animal cage.”
Manning told the court he had contemplated taking his life but it was “futile.” He had no means to do it. There wasn’t anything to hang a noose on if he made one. It “felt pointless” to try and commit suicide.
He was in this cell for the next 30 days until he was moved to Quantico. Again, he stated, “my world had just shrunk. It just shrunk to this 8 X 8 metal cell. I didn’t know what time it was.”
Richardson gave him some medication—a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) like Celexa or Zoloft. It “started to flatten him out.” He was not as anxious anymore, but in the first days, it caused nosebleeds and nausea. He says he received a half dosage, not the full dosage.
On July 29, 2010, he was removed from his cell. He was now feeling more stable. He knew he was “stuck here.” He didn’t know what was going to happen at this point, he said. But, he figured “I’d ride it out.”
He did not know where he was going. An executive officer (XO) came and said he was being transferred to another facility. “That’s all the information we have,” the officer said to Manning.
Manning started to get his belongings together. It was sundown. The door to his tent was open. His belongings were “inventoried.” They took the smock away and gave him clothing. They brought him to a facility “where he had a full physical done.” He filled out paperwork and received his belongings. By that time, it was dark. He left Camp Arifjan at about 1 am and was taken to convoy vehicles that went to the airport in Kuwait City.
From the stand, Manning said he speculated where he was going. “I didn’t think I was going anywhere in the [contiguous United States],” he said. He hoped it was Mannheim, Germany, and not the alternative: Guantanamo or Djibouti.
“I had been conveyed some severity of the charges, but I didn’t really have a lot of guidance legally because of having guards listening,” he explained. “I didn’t know how the American detention system worked.”
He arrived in Kuwait City. He was put on a charter plane that was a “commercial airliner.” It was for military personnel being moved somewhere. A captain came on the intercom and said they’d be arriving in Mannheim in the next hours. Now he knew where they were going at this stage in the transportation process.
In Mannheim, he was removed completely from the plane in full restraints. He was a detainee although he was still in his Army combat uniform. He sat in an area for an hour and a half and then was put back on the plane.
There was a different captain flying this plane. He still had no idea where he was going. Then the captain said they were going to arrive at Baltimore Washington International Airport. “We were going CONUS.” And Manning hoped they would stay in CONUS.
“I didn’t think I was going to set foot on American soil for a long time,” he explained. “Felt a lot better knowing that at least” he would be in the continental United States.
The plane landed and Manning was taken through customs. They filed paperwork. He was transferred through. Officers got a rental car and then he was removed from a holding area and put into a Dodge Charger.
The car headed for Quantico. Manning did not know where they were going, but he said he could see they had a Google Maps print out that had the destination as Quantico.
On the plane to Quantico, Manning did not know where he was going and was in restraints and could not get comfortable. Was it rendition? It almost seems like rendition. And, he would be subjected to incredibly restrictive confinement conditions while he was held at Quantico.
He arrived in the early evening, “maybe about 6 pm.” By then, he had been up for “over 24 hours.” He had slept for “maybe 90 minutes” on the plane from Germany to BWI because of the restraints.
When Manning first got to Quantico, he was taken to a processing area. There he was transferred administratively in terms of paperwork and then he was taken to a changing area where he was strip-searched. They checked his scars, marks and tattoos.
Guards then ordered him to fill out paperwork. He was taken to a “dark room next door.” A corporal asked him a lot of questions, including questions about suicide.
He was asked if he had psychological disorders, his name, his address—they tried to overwhelm him. “Shark attack,” he said. Everything he did was wrong. They were showing him who was in charge. He didn’t know what the bulkhead was and, when he was ordered to face the bulkhead, he didn’t do what was expected because he didn’t know.
The guards swarmed him while he was sleep deprived. He said twice to a question that he was not suicidal. They examined the paperwork. They had him cross things out because it was wrong in terms of dates. “They have their dates differently,” Manning said.
Because he was on suicide watch, he had to put something down on a form. He did and was not thinking. He wrote something down about committing suicide and was eventually moved to his cell after talking to Navy Captain Dr. William Hocter.
Human rights officials would even denounce the treatment as torture months later.
The story of Manning’s detention based on his testimony will continue tomorrow with a description of what it was like in the brig from July to December 2010.