Bradley Manning Takes the Stand: The Beginning of Confinement at Quantico
Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, testified yesterday. The defense cross-examined him on the confinement conditions he experienced.
In a previous post, I continued a presentation of the testimony from Manning on his detention in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan. I also described how he was transported from Kuwait to Quantico Marine Brig and how the brig began to process him. I’ll now continue the story of Bradley Manning’s detention and go as far as I can until court proceedings resume this morning with more testimony from Manning, who will be cross-examined by the government.
As Quantico Brig officers began to move Manning to his cell, they asked him if he wanted a shower. He was tired and just wanted to go to sleep because he had been in transit for two days.
Initially, Manning thought “it was great” to be in a “brick and mortar building” that had air conditioning, solid floors, running water and other amenities he had not had during his confinement in Kuwait. He was happy to be in the DC/Baltimore/Virginia area because he had lived in Maryland and knew that there was family who could visit him.
Manning was placed on suicide risk throughout the “indoctrination period.” He was a “maximum custody” detainee. He was not to have family visits but the brig made an exception and allowed his aunt to visit. He was also able to to meet now-Major Thomas Hurley as a temporary defense counsel.
After suicide risk, he was downgraded to Prevention of Injury (POI) status. This required Brig officers to check on him every five minutes. They would open the door to the observation booth and ask him if he was okay. Manning would always have to respond as a “courtesy.”
He had expressed interest in being assigned a work detail. Master Sgt. Blenis conveyed a job would be available if his custody level changed. He said, “I am more of a clerical guy. I work good with paper. I’m not very good with physical stuff.” And he expressed interest in working in the library and even indicated he would be willing to “implement” a “system to organize” the library if it “was not already in place.”
The cell Manning was assigned to was within sight of the observation booth. There were cells adjacent to him, which were kept vacant.
Manning’s defense lawyer, David Coombs, directed Manning to leave the witness stand for testimony on the specifics of his cell. Taped out on the floor was the cell and he stood around it describing details.
The cell was 6 X 8 feet. He had a “rack,” a mattress on a large metal fixture where he he slept. It was maybe two feet off the ground. There was a toilet and sink about “waist high”—maybe three and a half feet. Nothing obstructed the view of the toilet. The observation room was slightly offset but right across from his cell and could view his entire cell.
He was given a POI blanket. It was made out of coarser fabric and was “straight out of the box.” The blanket was heavy and inflexible. It wasn’t comfortable and was “abrasive” on his skin. It gave him a rash.
Manning put on the suicide smock he had to wear for a portion of his confinement at Quantico. He described how it was similar to the one he wore and highlighted an incident where he had been lying on a rack trying to sleep and his arms went into it and became stuck. A corporal had to come into his cell to release him.
He took off the smock and began to describe the suicide mattress he had to use. It had a pillow built into the mattress. It was a lot harder to bend compared to the typical mattress in the special quarters.
Manning returned to the witness stand and recounted what he would do while he was in his cell twenty-three and a half hours a day. He would “sit or just do something.”
“I would try to keep myself occupied. Try to think of something to do,” Manning shared. “Normally sit on rack, sir. Sometimes they would allow me to have my legs up on rack in an Indian-style position” but sometimes that was unauthorized.
There was no natural lighting directly coming into the cell. He had no reasonable way to access natural light. He could see a window down the hall from his cell if he took his head and put it on the cell door and looked through a crack in the grating. If he did that, he could see a reflection of the window. Otherwise, there was no natural light.
The cell was lit with a fluorescent light. Outside of his cell was a fluorescent light that would blast full light including during the night.
Manning had to have his feet toward the observation area with his head at the back of his cell so they could see his face. Right in front of him throughout the night was this fluorescent light.
In the beginning of his confinement, he was only permitted to have a rulebook. He was able to have his prescription glasses after the first couple days.
Manning shared how he could read without his glasses but he would have to put what he was reading up to his face and that would worry officers because then they could not see his face.
An average day for Manning began with reveille. Lights would be turned on. He would be given limited access to a razor to shave. The count would be announced (but sometimes he was not able to do hygiene before count and would take care of that after reveille).
Counts would occur throughout the day. Chow would be delivered at meal times. He would have “sunshine call” for twenty minutes where he could go outside in “full restraints.” Now-Master Sgt. Blenis would take him outside.
He was not permitted to lie down at any point on his “rack” or bed because all hours were considered “duty status.” He had to sit up from 0500 to 1700. Even during holiday periods, he was subjected to this regime.
More soon….The court is about to be back in session with Manning taking the stand to answer questions from the government.