Military feared independent reviews of Bradley’s treatment
Quantico’s base commander testified about internal discussions about Bradley’s detention conditions, why Quantico wasn’t fit to detain him in the first place, and the response to Bradley’s complaints about abusive treatment. See day 2 notes, and day 3 notes.
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. November 27, 2012.
Quantico base commander Col. Daniel Choike revealed in testimony today that the military barred or delayed independent analyses of PFC Bradley Manning’s abusive confinement, claiming that Bradley’s defense could “exploit” such a review in the press, and instead sought reviews that would confirm and justify the military’s handling of the young private.
Col. Choike answered defense lawyer David Coombs’ questions for nearly eight hours today at Ft. Meade, Maryland, during the defense’s Article 13 motion to dismiss charges based on unlawful pretrial punishment that Bradley endured for more than nine months at Quantico.
When the former Security Battalion Commander in charge of Quantico, Col. Robert G. Oltman, and Col. Choike discussed an independent mental health professional’s impending visit to the Marine brig, the two expressed reservations about what the review would conclude. Col. Choike asked if the visit could be blocked or pushed back, and Col. Oltman assured him that this could be “easily done with an email.”
In emails, Col. Choike attempted to justify this position, saying, “armchair quarterbacks are not welcome,” and that whoever reviewed the confinement would need “expertise” to understand the command structure and why the military needed to keep Bradley on Prevention of Injury watch. When Bradley’s defense brought an Article 138 Complaint (a complaint any member of the Armed Forces can make against his or her commanding officer), the military assigned the Marines’ own Chief Warrant Officer 5 Abel Galaviz to investigate the conditions, despite the fact that Galaviz and his superior officers had already been involved with and approved of Bradley’s confinement status.
Col. Choike testified at length about his specific role in reviewing and maintaining Bradley’s maximum security, the collective refusal to listen to brig psychiatrists’ recommendations for medium security, and just how involved three-star General George Flynn was in directing Bradley’s confinement.
Earlier this fall we learned that Gen. Flynn oversaw Bradley’s confinement from the Pentagon. Today, Col. Choike revealed that Gen. Flynn primarily wanted to be notified of changes in Manning’s status or new elements regarding his conditions before the media got wind of them, so that he could control the narrative regarding Bradley’s conditions, or, as Col. Choike said today, be “ahead of the disinformation campaign.”
Later in the testimony, Col. Choike discussed how Gen. Flynn worked to make sure that if “something happened” to Bradley, meaning if he were to harm himself, “Quantico would not be left holding the bag.”
Col. Choike also revealed, near the day’s end, that he didn’t believe from the start that Bradley should have been kept at Quantico. The Marine brig, which had recently been in transition from a post-trial to a pre-trial confinement facility, was meant for short-term detention. Government lawyers told Col. Choike early on that they expected Bradley’s trial to last nearly two years, and Col. Choike told his superiors that he didn’t think Quantico was adequately resourced to hold Bradley for that long, and that Bradley shouldn’t be held there for more than 90 days at most. The military ignored Col. Choike’s qualms, clearly to Bradley’s detriment.
Another revealing bit: in reviewing the hundreds of emails among Quantico officials with Col. Choike, Coombs stopped upon one email from an unnamed brig official who, when Bradley was forced to remove his underwear and stand naked against his will, emailed a mocking Dr. Seuss version of the events:
“I can wear them in a box,
I can wear them with a fox,
I can wear them in the day,
I can wear them so I say,
But I can’t wear them at night,
My comments gave the staff a fright.”
“Col. Choike,” Coombs asked after reading the poem aloud. “Do you think the subject of the removal of his underwear was a joking matter?”