Live from Ft. Meade: courtroom updates, 12/11/12
December 11, 2012 — Bradley Manning’s Article 13 motion hearing continues today in Ft. Meade, MD, as the defense and government will make their closing arguments. Yesterday, the witnesses portion culminated with Quantico brig commander CW2 Denise Barnes, Army Captains Joe Casamatta and Bruce Williams, and Quantico Deputy IG Maj. Timothy Zelek.
CW2 Barnes testified that she was told after removing Manning’s underwear on March 2, 2011, that future changes to his handling instructions would need to be approved first by three-star General George Flynn. Cpt. Casamatta testified that he was never told that psychiatrists recommending removing Bradley from restrictive conditions, and that if he had, he would have done more to intervene or at least understand why he was kept on those conditions. Check in here throughout the day for live updates, as courtroom reporter Nathan Fuller writes from Ft. Meade. Send questions and corrections to [email protected], and follow us on Twitter at @SaveBradley.
3:14 PM — Article 13 concludes. The government painted a portrait of Bradley as someone who’s baseline behavior was erratic — citing his Kuwait breakdown, his intake statement about suicide that he was “always planning, never acting,” his January 18, 2011, anxiety attacks, and his comment on March 2, 2011, that if he really wanted to, he could kill himself with the elastic band of his underwear. He said the brig staff tried to understand Bradley on a daily basis, and his lack of communication prevented that rapport. While never directly asked to communicate more, the government says Bradley had ample opportunity to speak up.
The government conceded that Quantico was “cautious,” but that considering Cpt. Webb’s suicide at the brig earlier and Bradley’s behavior, they were properly concerned for his health. The government also believes that the judge should give Manning seven days credit for those he was improperly held on Suicide Watch, from August 7-11 and January 19-20.
The defense replied, quickly reviewing each of the brig’s stated reasons for keeping Manning on POI. He conceded that Bradley viewed the staff as very professional, but said, ” you can be very professional and still violate Article 13,” and that there was ” substantial evidence to show their response was exaggerated” — whether due to higher officials’ influence, concern for media interest, or to protect themselves in the event of something happening to Manning.
We return to court at 9:30 AM ET on January 8, for a hearing through January 11, 2013. Judge Lind will take the arguments under advisement, and she didn’t announce when she’d rule.
1:43 PM– Quick recess. Government arguing that the brig did what it had to to protect Bradley Manning. They argued that having checks every five minutes instead of every second afforded him at least five minutes of “potential privacy.”
They cited Manning’s poor communication and the incidents in Kuwait to explain the extensive POI. The judge asked if there was ever a time if, after months of no additional factors, those events would no longer reasonably warrant POI. The government said yes, but that this was not the case here — prosecutor Ashden Fein said Bradley Manning was “not like others” and had a pattern of behaviors that the brig tried to figure out how to handle on a daily basis. Recess ending — Fein will resume in a minute.
12:43 PM — About to end lunch recess. Told by those in the courtroom that Coombs’ powerpoint, show in to the audience there, was even more detailed than his oral argument. The courtroom looked much more full than it has in several days. Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistleblower, is here again, as she has for nearly all of this hearing. Government will make its closing argument now. That should conclude this Article 13 hearing.
12:08 PM — Breaking for lunch, 45 minutes. Defense concluded arguments. Coombs stressed that the most amazing thing about this is that given his conditions, Bradley Manning didn’t totally break down. He laid out the case that Gen. Flynn told his inferior officers that he though Manning was a suicide risk from the start, and no one wanted to act differently. They chose the easy option, the status quo, and they silenced the only critic of this treatment, Cpt. Hocter.
Coombs said that the government relied on events months prior in Kuwait to justify nine months of POI, along with reasons that Bradley could never change. When he finally did talk to someone he thought he was getting through to, they removed his underwear.
The judge asked him what the substantive difference would be if he were put on medium security protective custody, and Coombs rattled off a bunch of small reasons that added up to a big difference. He said essentially Manning wouldn’t have been treated like a “zoo animal” — he wouldn’t have been in shackles, would’ve got an hour outside, he wouldn’t have had to ask for toilet paper, he wouldn’t have been observed by the booth every second of every day.
He compared Bradley’s treatment in Quantico with that in Ft. Leavenworth, where Bradley’s been on medium custody and hasn’t once tried to harm himself. Coombs asked, if Bradley was still at Quantico, “What status would he be in today?”
9:54 AM – Court is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM ET today. About a dozen of us in the media room today, including Associated Press, Washington Post, FireDogLake, Huffington Post, Courthouse News, Agence French-Press, and more. Military legal consultant Lt. Hughes tells us that the defense will make its closing argument first, and the government will follow. He doesn’t expect military judge Col. Denise Lind to rule this week, so we may not hear the result until the next hearing. We usually get a recess after every hour or every hour and a half — if arguments are brief, we may wrap up this Article 13 hearing within a few hours. Stay here for updates.