Military struggles to support claim of Manning’s ‘disloyalty’; Govt tries to change charge sheet: trial report, day 20
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. July 19, 2013.
Bradley Manning’s former supervisor at Ft. Drum and then in Iraq, Specialist Jihrleah Showman, testified this morning that in a counseling session, Manning said that the American flag “meant nothing to him” and that he felt no “allegiance to this country or any people,” but that she never even wrote the statement down.
The government elicited that allegation in very brief rebuttal questioning, after which defense lawyer David Coombs spent nearly two hours drawing out her support for that statement, why she failed to document it at the time, and why she didn’t report it when first questioned for this investigation, implying throughout that Showman fabricated the allegation after Manning’s arrest. Coombs asked if Manning actually said that one shouldn’t have “blind allegiance” to a flag and shouldn’t be a blind “automaton,” which Showman denied.
Showman said that in an August 2009 counseling session in which Manning’s body language implied he was merely “putting up” with the conversation, she asked him why he joined the military. When he gave a boilerplate reason about wanting to broaden his knowledge and experience, she said she tapped the flag pin on her shoulder and asked what it meant to him, and that’s when she alleges Manning said he felt no allegiance to the U.S.
But she never wrote the statement down. Despite summarizing several other counseling sessions, in which she documented lesser details such as Manning’s “excessive caffeine consumption,” smoking habits, and tardiness to ‘formulation,’ she didn’t write down his statements of purported disloyalty. Showman said this was because she reported the incident to her direct supervisor, MSGT Paul David Adkins, and that he said he’d take care of it. She also said that he instructed her not to document the statement, because he was handling it from there.
Showman also said that in June 2009, she’d recommended Manning for ‘soldier of the month.’ This calls into question another claim she made, that before deploying to Iraq with him in October 2009, she had a “feeling in [her] gut” that Manning was a “spy.” That feeling apparently didn’t compel Showman to talk to anyone superior to Adkins, as he was directly above her in the chain of command, even though the unit commander had an “open-door policy.”
Showman was interviewed upon Manning’s arrest on May 27, 2010, by Army CID investigators, and she didn’t mention the ‘disloyalty’ statements then. However, in a sworn statement a month later, the comments were included.
Coombs elicited evidence that may suggest Showman had a bias against Manning, which would further undermine the reliability of her claims. She once referred to him as “faggotty,” but while she suspected he was gay, she says the comments were about his inability to do a lot of pushups. She testified that the two got along, despite an incident in which she told Manning to “fix your shit before you fix mine,” and then he punched her in the face. Showman held him in what she called a UFC move, a “guillotine” chokehold, and pinned him down.
Coombs played video from the documentary ‘We Steal Secrets,’ in which Showman said that she was the “last person he probably should’ve punched,” and an audio interview in which she said someone who gave classified information to a non-American source was “not a whistleblower,” despite having already testified in Manning’s pretrial hearing in December 2011 and suspecting she might testify again. Showman would not have been allowed to discuss the case, and in response to questioning about the audio interview she said she wasn’t referring to Manning specifically but about the issue generally.
Balonek and Adkins can’t confirm Showman’s story
In the afternoon testimony, Chief Warrant Officer 1 Kyle Balonek, who was in Ft. Drum with Manning and Showman’s unit, though not in August 2009, said he never heard about the statement, and if it were made, he’d have expected it to be written down. He also never recalled Manning making any anti-American statements.
In a bizarre and protracted afternoon session, MSGT Adkins was called to testify about whether he recalled such statements being reported up the chain. He first said he didn’t recall Manning ever making any disloyal comments or such comments ever being reported to him, and then said that he had been diagnosed with memory loss, something of which Coombs was not aware. His answers from then on were very slow, and he largely responded that he didn’t remember. He eventually confirmed in prosecution questioning that he did sign a statement in 2011, written by his lawyer, in which he said Showman had testified correctly (it didn’t say when) that Manning had made disloyal comments and that they were reported up the chain. The defense established, however, that that statement was to be sent to an appeal board in response to his reduction in rank.
Responding to defense questioning, Adkins reviewed his three sworn statements from June 10, July 3, and July 15, 2010, in response to the Army CID investigation into Manning’s disclosures, and confirmed that nowhere in any of them did he reference disloyal or otherwise anti-American comments. He also signed a sworn statement on April 29, 2011, just two months before the reduction appeal statement, which made no reference to any disloyal statements from Manning.
Government moves to change its charge sheet
The government responded to the defense’s argument that it mischarged Manning in saying he stole entire CIDNE-I and –A and USF-I databases instead of documents within them. Following some questioning, prosecutors said they wanted to amend the charge sheet to say Manning stole “portions” of those databases, to change three of the specifications (4, 6 and 16). A minor change is allowed, but a major charge is not – the defense argued this change is major because it misled Manning about what he was charged with and because the defense can’t now go back and requestion government witnesses about the value of that property.
Coombs said that if the judge doesn’t find the change to be major and doesn’t acquit Manning of the greater “stealing government property” charges, the defense would move for a mistrial on those charges.
Joshua Ehersman on Iraqi Federal Police incident
Chief Ehersman was recalled briefly to the stand to confirm that the IED incident the defense recounted in opening arguments happened in December, which he did, but he could not confirm that fellow soldiers were celebrating about it.
Recess until closing arguments on Thursday, July 25
The judge will rule on the theft charges on the morning of Thursday, July 25, and then the parties will make closing arguments. Then the judge will go into deliberations, which could take days. Sentencing is scheduled to begin July 31 but will be pushed back if Judge Lind needs more time to deliberate.