Bradley Manning exhausted all legal avenues to end harsh treatment
Taking the stand again at Ft. Meade, PFC Bradley Manning explained today the various ways in which he attempted to remove himself from restrictive Prevention of Injury watch, a day after brig psychiatrists testified that they recommended his conditions be relaxed as he posed no risk to himself. See notes from day 1, day 2, and day 3 from the courtroom. This week’s hearing has been given an extension: it’ll continue December 5-7 and the previously scheduled December 10-14 hearing has been canceled.
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. November 30, 2012.
In his second day of testimony at Ft. Meade, MD, PFC Bradley Manning testified that he “exhausted administrative avenues” in a comprehensive effort to remove himself from isolating and stressful Prevention of Injury (POI) watch. Answering cross-examination questions from the prosecution, and then follow-up questions from defense lawyer David Coombs and military judge Col. Denise Lind, Bradley explained the various channels through which he expressed his persistent desire to leave POI for normal treatment, as POI was about the same as the higher Suicide Risk status, and both effectively amounted to solitary confinement.
Prosecutor Ashden Fein reviewed much of Bradley’s paperwork seeking administrative recourse at the Quantico Marine brig, where the defense argues Bradley suffered unlawful pretrial punishment.
As early as August 2010, Bradley told his psychiatrist Cpt. William Hoctor that he wanted to end POI watch, and Cpt. Hoctor soon after recommended relaxing Bradley’s treatment. As early as September 2010, Bradley asked his brig counselor, Gunnery Sergeant Blenis, how his incarceration status could be improved. Blenis told him that Cpt. Hoctor had recommended POI, so Bradley assumed he needed to demonstrate improved mental health. Around this time, Coombs also emailed the prosecution to announce Bradley’s desire to be removed from POI, and ask if there was anything the government could do. Bradley Manning made it very clear that he sought to be removed from segregation.
On December 10, Bradley asked Cpt. Hoctor why he had recommended POI status, and Cpt. Hoctor clarified that he had long been advising Quantico officials that there was no mental health reason to keep Bradley in isolation. The discrepancy confused Bradley, and he didn’t know whom to trust.
Since his stay at Quantico, Bradley had been answering semi-weekly questionnaires given by Army command, and before this time he said that he understood why he was on POI, even though he wanted to be off it. Thanks to GYSGT Blenis’ deception, Bradley still thought POI was Cpt. Hoctor’s doing. When he learned otherwise, Bradley documented in 22 questionnaires that he didn’t understand his custody status.
Bradley’s attorney David Coombs then asked brig commander CWO Averhart to re-evaluate Bradley’s status. Bradley testified that “obviously nothing happened.”
Bradley then filed a formal complaint (a MRE 305G) with the Convening Authority in his case, Col. Carl Coffman. Less than a week later, he filed an Article 138 complaint with Col. Dan Choike – which was also to no avail.
Just two days later, Bradley attended a Classification and Assignment (C&A) board meeting, which was a possible avenue for upgrading his detainment status. These C&A boards met frequently, but this time Bradley himself attended to argue for removing himself from POI status. The board asked why he had written months earlier, when he first arrived at Quantico, that he was “always planning, never acting” regarding suicide, Bradley responded that the comment was slightly sarcastic, because the guards ordered him to write something down, and he knew he was going to be placed on Suicide Risk regardless of what he wrote. The C&A board members didn’t believe him and rejected his request outright.
Bradley testified that under brig commander CWO Averhart, he felt he’d never be removed from POI, no matter what he said or did, and no matter how many times brig psychiatrists recommended he be given better treatment. He waited until after January 27, when CWO Averhart was replaced by CWO Barnes, to try the C&A board or similar methods again.
Under CWO Barnes, Bradley tried once more to make a complaint to the brig commander in late March – he said he’d thought the change in command would change his status. However, Bradley quickly came into conflict with the new Chief Warrant Officer, Barnes, who didn’t listen to his arguments for ending the POI status and instead called his comments ‘disrespectful,’ causing Bradley to lose hope as he felt his ongoing attempts to improve his status were futile.
Fortunately, Bradley was transferred to Ft. Leavenworth on April 20, 2011, where he was re-assessed and doctors and correctional officers placed him into more relaxed medium security, where he was able to interact with other detainees, and where medical staff agreed there was no need for any special precautions.