Reviews of Bradley Manning’s Confinement Status May Have Suffered from ‘Unnecessary Command Influence’
A top correctional administrator and high-ranking Marine officer testified today during an “unlawful pretrial punishment” hearing in the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning that the process for reviewing Manning’s confinement conditions at the Quantico Marine Brig during his nine months of confinement may have been corrupt or conducted improperly.
Chief Warrant Officer Five Abel Galaviz was told that Master Sergeant Craig Blenis had served as a board member on the Classification & Assignment (C&A) Board meeting to review Manning’s custody and classification status every week. He informed Galaviz that MSGT. Blenis was Manning’s counselor and would fill out recommendations before the board meetings.
“Do you see a problem?” asked Manning’s defense lawyer David Coombs.
Galaviz answered, “I do.” He continued, “The individual making the recommendations should not also be serving as a board member.”
He also stated that the counselor would already have his opinion. His position should be to “make recommendations to others encouraging their support.” And, “For him to serve as a board member, I don’t think he is able to vote against his recommendation.” He also said there could be “unnecessary command influence.”
MSGT. Blenis testified on Sunday that there had never been a situation where he “recommended the status” and went against his recommendation. In all the board meetings during Manning’s confinement, he recommended Manning be kept in maximum custody and prevention of injury (POI) status.
Testimony has been presented that MSGT. Blenis filled out checkboxes indicating factors for re-classifying Manning on POI status.
Judge Army Col. Denise Lind asked CWO5 Galaviz about his statement that the counselor of a detainee should not serve on a C&A Board. CWO5 Galaviz responded this would be “putting a lot of confidence in the professionalism of the staff.” He said, “It can be suspicious.” People can say, “What kind of influence did that person have?” because the other two board members knew the vote. (Note: There are three people who serve on the Board.)
CWO5 Galaviz also examined the Brig Form that the C&A Board reviewing Manning’s custody/classification status filled out to determine whether to keep him on prevention of injury status/suicide risk or MAX/MDI, etc. He noticed there was no “point scale.” The scale is supposed to be there to add up to provide an “objective-based classification.”
Coombs highlighted the issue of an order from the Brig Officer-in-Charge (OIC)—CWO4 James Averhart—”Brig OIC approves and directs [detainee] remain in heightened security status i.e. POI until completes Sanity Board.” This was in place and at least MSGT. Blenis was aware of it.
CWO5 Galaviz said this “sounds to me like an order.” He also added, “Might have some influence. I would hope maybe a counselor or chair of the C&A Board would speak to the OIC and say we can’t do that. We shouldn’t do that.”
“I think it’s prejudging,” CWO5 Galaviz stated. If you made up your mind, why are we going through the motions here?”
CWO5 Galaviz was asked by the defense to address the issue of taking away Manning’s underwear during an incident on March 2, 2011. He confirmed the Brig could not remove a detainee’s underwear if they were not placed on suicide risk.
“Suicide risk is a higher level of supervision and, when you take steps to remove all clothing from an individual, to me that is taking steps to put someone on suicide risk status,” he stated. There could not be a “POI-plus status.”
In July 2011, POLITICO‘s Josh Gerstein reported on CWO5 Galaviz’s report in February that found the Brig had committed violations twice. In January 2011, it had failed to removed Manning from suicide risk as required. He was not removed on January 18 as he should have and was on the status until January 20.
It also found Averhart committed a violation on August 6 when he failed to remove Manning from suicide risk. Manning was not removed until August 11. Those violations were mentioned in testimony today.