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Quantico Brig Staff Mostly Ignored Recommendations Medical Staff Made on Bradley Manning

3:33 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A Freedom of Information Act request for documents on accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks Pfc. Bradley Manning’s treatment at Quantico Marine brig, filed by POLITICO, reveals on multiple occasions Manning was recommended for removal from “prevention of injury” (POI) status by psychiatrists and psychologists but was not removed.

Chief Warrant Officer-5 Abel Galaviz’s inquiry, launched as a result of Manning’s Article 138 complaint found “brig personnel ignored the Navy Corrections Manual when they kept Manning on suicide watch in August 2010 and January 2011 for several days after doctors said it was inappropriate. (Article 138 is a right soldiers have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that any soldier can use to request redress if a soldier believes his or herself has been wronged.)

Galaviz also found, in regards to suicide risk status that “on two occasions, 6 August 2010 and 18 January 2011, a medical officer determined that suicide risk status was no longer warranted and the brig staff did not immediately take PFC Manning off the suicide risk status.” He recommended, “Brig staff remove confinees from suicide risk immediately upon receiving a medical officer’s evaluation.”

The February inquiry conducted in February, however, found that “Chief Warrant Officer 4 Averhart did not abuse his discretion when he classified PFC Manning as a maximum custody detainee.”

Col. Daniel Choike issued a memo in March in response to the inquiry findings. As Josh Gerstein notes he “embraced” much of the inquiry findings but rejected the “only critique of Manning’s treatment.

“There is no requirement … that requires an immediate removal from suicide risk after the [brig’s] mental health care provider or medical officer recommends it,” Choike wrote to Manning. The delays in removing Manning from suicide watch were “reasonable in light of all the information available to the [brig] commander and applicable … procedures,” Choike concluded. “I do not concur with [Galaviz] that an ‘immediate move’ is required.”

“The memos revealed today by POLITICO confirm that military officials repeatedly violated their own standards of detainee treatment while PFC Manning was held in abusive pre-trial confinement conditions at the Quantico brig. Commander Averhart should never have been put in a position to reject the military’s investigation into his own unprofessional conduct,” said Kevin Zeese, an attorney with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Justice demands that the charges against PFC Manning be dropped, because the government has acknowledged that they have abused the rights of a soldier in their custody.”

Co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network said, “President Obama can no longer hide behind his subordinates in claiming that the treatment of PFC Manning has met ‘basic standards’ of conduct. Clearly, by the government’s own admission, the treatment of PFC Manning has fallen far short of the standards demanded by the Constitution.”

(photo: Jail cell depicted in Anonymous video message on Manning’s Quantico detention)

Choike’s memo shows an adept ability to play the game of semantics. Choike explains how Manning was not held in solitary confinement:

Maximum custody detainees are held in a specific area in the MCBQ PCF. Because the MCBQ PCF is a pretrial confinement-only facility with limited staff, all detainees are held in single cells within a 30-cell block known as “Special Quarters 1.” This cell block is further broken down into specific areas depending on custody classification or other reasons requiring segregation. Maximum custody detainees are held in cells nearest the guard post to facilitate observation. Additionally, prisoners not classified as maximum custody, but requiring additional supervision and attention may also be moved to cells near the guard post. PFC Manning is being held in Special Quarters 1 with all other detainees; he is not in solitary confinement (MCBQ PCF does not have solitary confinement and reference (b) does not recognize a solitary confinement category.) Consistent with his custody classification, PFC Manning is held in the area in Special Quarters 1 reserved for maximum custody detainees.

Manning may not have been held in what the military considers to be “solitary confinement,” but when he was at Quantico Marine Brig from July 2010 to April  of this year, he was, during his time given a POI status and suicide risk classification, which meant he was required to remain in his cell 24 hours of the day. It required his clothing to be removed except for his underwear and that his prescription eyeglasses be taken away from him. And, this is how his lawyer David Coombs described his detention in January of this year:

For 23 hours per day, he will sit in his cell. The guards will check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning will be required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay. He will receive each of his meals in his cell. He will not be allowed to have a pillow or sheets. He will not be allowed to have any personal items in his cell. He will only be allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read. The book or magazine will be taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep. He will be prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop. He will receive one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily. The guards will take him to an empty room and allow him to walk. He will usually just walk in figure eights around the room until his hour is complete. When he goes to sleep, he will be required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.

The military may not think they were subjecting Manning to solitary confinement or that other soldiers in the brig are subjected to solitary confinement because that is not what they call it or because they specifically have not built a solitary confinement section, but the reality is that Manning (and others) in the prison are held in single cells with little to no contact for 23 hours of the day.

David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network and one of the few people who visited Manning when he was at Quantico, spoke out multiple times, while Manning was held at Quantico. He recently said in an appearance on Democracy Now! this week:

…As time progressed, around December 2010, he had deteriorated to a state where it was very hard to have a conversation with him, where he seemed utterly exhausted, fatigued all the time. And then January 2011 was the point at which he was the worst. It was almost impossible to really talk to him at all, and he looked—he looked like someone who had been held in solitary confinement for some months, you can imagine. It was this odd emotional roller coaster for me, because not only is this my friend, right, who’s being held in confinement, but also you’re actually watching him undergo this deterioration over time, like watching your friend waste away. And I think that seeing him like that and seeing this being an ongoing process was my main motivation in continuing activism for him, going into early this year.

Additionally, this is Choike’s description of how prisoners are given custody statuses:

Custody classification is guided by reference (b) and requires an objective custody classification process. Classification criteria relevant to this case include the seriousness of the offense/potential length of confinement. [REDACTED] Reference (b) makes it clear that the listed factors are not all inclusive and the classification authority may consider other relevant factors in determining the proper custody classification. He was also on suicide risk. These other relevant factors included national security concerns and protection of classified material. [emphasis added]

The commander notes he was facing “serious charges alleging multiple compromises of classified information.” After a redacted portion of text, he says an evaluation of charges and other factors supported a maximum custody classification. It’s noted that serious charges were pending. Yet, Choike also claims that the maximum custody status or suicide risk classifications were not retribution or punishment for his alleged crimes.

This seems semantic too. How could someone alleged to have released classified information to an organization like WikiLeaks need such classification? That doesn’t appear to suggest danger. It seems entirely unnecessary for that to be material to his classification and, when one thinks about it, the classifications seem like a public relations decision. There are people in this country in positions of power that would not have liked it if in his first months in the brig he had not been given these designations.

How does one signal to members of the military not to release information to WikiLeaks or any organization like it? How does one ensure that soldiers do not talk to the press or release photos, videos or documents on their deployment in war zones? Give someone who is accused of releasing information a classification status that is questionable and subject him to a detention regime that could put the fear in soldiers and deter them from taking a similar action.

The released documents contain multiple redactions that are made under FOIA exemption (b)6, which means “Personal Information Affecting an Individual’s Privacy.” As the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer details, “This exemption permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in ‘personnel and medical files and similar files’ when the disclosure of such information ‘would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’ This exemption cannot be invoked to withhold from a requester information pertaining to the requester.”

Former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley is right. The Marine Corps should have never had custody of Manning. He should have always been in the hands of the Army. Perhaps, what Manning’s defense should work to obtain is a full inquiry on why he was transferred into Marine custody and not Army custody.

That Manning is now at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas is just another reason to be suspicious of how he was handled at Quantico. That he is now able to move among prisoners in Leavenworth, wear normal prison clothing and have access to a communal area means should lead one to continue doubt the Marine brig’s assertion that he was treated like all the other prisoners. The fact that he was such a high-profile prisoner makes it virtually impossible that the guards and staff treated him like all other prisoners.

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This week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has condemned the US for seeking to impose restrictions on a planned visit with Manning and even prevent him from meeting with Manning. Thus far, he has not met with Manning and now questions whether the US will allow him to visit any of the country’s detainees.

Wired magazine has also finally released what they claim to be the entire chat logs, which they sat on and concealed months after Manning was arrested even though the contents were extremely pertinent to understanding what Manning was thinking when he allegedly chose to release material to WikiLeaks.

With those two news items in mind, along with revelations from this psych evaluation, I give Lt. Dan Choi the last word:

…The chat logs of his conversations are reminiscent of some of the same feelings that go unvoiced by the vast majority of soldiers: questioning the purpose of our mission when politics has mired us in prisons of moral turpitude. That Bradley voiced his concerns proves he was the least unstable and most moral of all the members of his team. That he happens to be gay or transgender gives our community a new hero who brings great credit to the moral force of our people in this world….

…Bradley Manning is a soldier of great honor and we must stand with him in his journey to bring an abiding justice for our world. Those who fear the controversy of truth do not know the responsibility of moral living. Their moral silence is a moral disorder…

 

We Have the Rest of This Year to Save Bradley Manning

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A little more than a year ago, Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested for allegedly leaking classified information, specifically the “Collateral Murder” video that showed the slaying of two Reuters journalists by the US military forces. He was held in Baghdad, shipped to Kuwait, held in isolation away from any sort of media attention and then transferred to Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, where he suffered inhumane treatment as the military subjected him to harsh conditions hoping he would crack and comply with interrogation.

Ann Clwyd in the UK House of Commons, former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley, David House, Amnesty International, the Bradley Manning Support Network and numerous other supporters from around the world including over 500,000 individuals who signed a virtual Avaaz petition to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates all contributed to the attention that eventually led to Manning being transferred to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where he now is given much better treatment.

To discuss Manning and the one year anniversary of his arrest, I had Kevin Zeese, a Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee member, come on the weekly podcast I independently produce called “This Week in WikiLeaks.” The show looks at stories related to WikiLeaks from the past week and offers people a way to stay informed on the latest news related to all things WikiLeaks especially news that involves Cablegate, Bradley Manning, the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks, transparency, secrecy, whistleblowing, etc.

[*To listen to the show, go here and click play on the embedded player. Or, go to CMN News and click "download" or "listen." It will appear at the top of the page or in the list.]

In the past week, there were two documentaries (or films) that went public, which portrayed Bradley Manning. One was the PBS FRONTLINE documentary (which I had much to say about and even went on RT’s “The Alyona Show” to discuss). Another was an investigative short film put together by The Guardian.
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Standing Up for Bradley Manning, Opposing FBI Witch-Hunts of Activists

11:21 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Coleen Rowley being interviewed at an action at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. by Bill Hughes

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, nearly one week ago, a few hundred activists participated in two protest actions, one at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the other at Quantico Brig, where Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower who leaked the “Collateral Murder” video and possibly other information like the U.S. Embassy Cables to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement. The two actions had a profound connection: Martin Luther King. Jr, who if alive today would be standing up for Bradley Manning and against the FBI witch-hunt being carried out on activists in Chicago and the Twin Cities area.

Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent and whistleblower, who was awarded TIME’s “Person of the Year” Award in 2002 (along with two other whistleblowers who received the award as well), explains in an interview, “To the extent that Manning seems to be a victim of this much greater official repression, it does hearken back to the days when a civil rights leader could be targeted by the FBI.”

An organizer with the Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF), Sue Udry, reported on the two actions explaining that more than one hundred gathered at the FBI headquarters at noon. About thirty people with Witness Against Torture, who were Washington, D.C., for their twelve days of fasting action to call attention to the Obama Administration’s failure to close Guantanamo, were there in orange jumpsuits. CODEPINK, people with DDF, and others from a local civil liberties organization showed up to call attention to the injustice going on in the Midwest.

On January 25th, twelve anti-war and international solidarity activists will be expected to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. They and eleven others from Chicago and the Twin Cities area in Minnesota in the past months were subpoenaed. Several of the activists had their homes raided. Documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers, and children’s artwork were seized from their home. The subpoenas indicated the FBI was looking for evidence that the activists had provided “material support for terrorism.” And, recently, it was discovered that the FBI had an informant, who went by the name of “Karen Sullivan,” infiltrate an anti-war group in the Twin Cities.

Rowley says of the FBI investigation, “History is repeating itself.” War has produced pressure to find terrorists at home. She said the war that we were told was going to be fought over there so we wouldn’t have to fight it here has now turned inward. She cites as evidence not only the infiltration of antiwar groups by informants but also the Office of Management and Guidance’s plans to looks for “unhappy employees in the government” who might be “disloyal.” Also, she believes the GOP has plans for “McCarthy-like” hearings in the House (perhaps, to be lead by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

The whistleblower, who spent twenty four years in the FBI before unveiling how the FBI had failed to take action on information provided by the Minneapolis, Minnesota Field Office on suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, recounts how the FBI informant “Karen Sullivan” became such a part of the Anti-War Committee:

If you go back to 2008 when this undercover actually came into Minnesota–and I was actually in two groups that she was first spotted at, not the Antiwar Committee, she was first spotted at a CODEPINK meeting where they were discussing that in the march on the [Republican National Convention] they were going to make big pink puppets. I mean, if you think about why would government even be spending its time sitting in a meeting talking about making puppets. That’s how unbelievable this is and I was actually sitting next to her. This was probably late spring of 2008.

Then she came to our banner peace vigils that my group–We had about twenty people and we held a red banner that said “Support the Troops, End the War” over a highway. Totally legal in Minnesota law. When I was sitting next to her, I said come to ours and hold this banner. She came four or five times to our vigil.”

At the US Social Forum in Detroit in June of 2010, she represented the Anti-War Committee. At the School of Americas Watch protest action, she helped lead the protest. At local meetings, she was taking leadership roles. This went on for two and a half years.

Rowley discusses how this happened during Vietnam. Martin Luther King Jr. was a victim of McCarthyism in the late “50s and early “60s. That later turned into COINTELPRO. She recounted how “the COINTELPRO group actually wrote an anonymous letter to MLK”that basically blackmailed him on the eve of his acceptance of his Nobel Peace Prize and suggested that he might want to commit suicide otherwise the FBI might release all this derogatory information they had.” Then the FBI went after feminists, antiwar activists, and advocacy groups like the National Lawyers Guild.

While the Church Committee did work to put strict restrictions on government agencies that would protect civil liberties in the late “70s, 9/11 provided the moment for government agencies to return to the days of COINTELPRO.

According to Rowley, in April of 2008, Attorney General guidelines were “eradicated” reversing the “presumption that you need level of factual justification” or something to show to support infiltrating or closely monitoring an activist group. This to her is largely symptomatic of the world created in the aftermath of 9/11, “Top Secret America,” which William M. Arkin and Dana Priest investigated for the Washington Post.

Part of it is, with 854,000 analysts, agents, consultants, operatives and contractors, 854,000 — Between you and I, the average salary has got to be close to $100,000 for each of these. They have to prove that they’re working. I can talk about the FBI that there are things called “work performance evaluations. And every so often there’s a periodic evaluation where you actually have to show your statistics and these are things like subpoenas served and arrests and convictions. And the emphasis is on “terrorism” because that’s the priority right now. So there’s a strong pressure to categorize many, many things as “terrorism.” And you’ve got to show that you’re doing something. In fact, some of those abuses that the IG were basically a slow work day. So they have to actually keep busy and they have to do things. So you’re going to this create systemic pressure toward opportunistic opening of cases, infiltrating, and even prosecuting.

It’s also quantity of massive data collection over quality, which actually is counterproductive. From the standpoint of law enforcement, what good does it do to collect all of this irrelevant data? All it’s doing is making it hard to focus in on any true terrorist threats.

She highlights how FBI wasting resources on infiltrating antiwar groups just might be why terrorists like Abdulmutallab, Shahzad and Hasan slipped past the FBI. If the FBI wasn’t sending people to infiltrate organizations like the Thomas Merton Center or protecting corporate profits by infiltrating and working to disrupt or stall environmental groups, they would have more of an ability to actually prevent terror attacks.

Following the action, activists traveled thirty miles south to Quantico Brig to support Manning. Udry reported activists were not allowed to hold protest on base property and were asked to hold the protest in a commuter parking lot across a street that led to the gate of the base. About seventy or more began the protest there, but, ultimately, those in this lot decided they had come all this way to deliver a box of humanitarian aid containing blankets, books, candy, etc to Manning and were going to deliver the aid.

Activists marched with banners and signs saying, “Free Bradley Manning,” to the gate of the base and were able to hold the rally there. Udry explained that marine personnel were very respectful and easy to work with. The activists had been told to not protest in this area, but, except for some marines going in and out, who were yelling nasty remarks, the marines operating the gate were “pretty cool about it for marines.”

The marines at the base would not accept the humanitarian aid.


From the action at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on MLK Day. by Bill Hughes

Member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, Kevin Zeese, was one of the leaders of the march to gate of the base. He wrote in an article published on OpEdNews, “On Martin Luther King Day I joined 200 people at the Quantico Marine Base where Bradley Manning, an American citizen not convicted of anything, is being held in solitary confinement, not allowed to exercise in his 6 by 12 foot cell, not given a real pillow or blanket, with no contact with others except guards who make sure he does not sleep during the day after they wake him up at 5 in the morning.”

His treatment is what led Manning’s lawyer, David E. Coombs, to file a formal complaint alleging “the action of holding PFC Manning in Maximum (MAX) custody, under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch for over five months and recently placing him under suicide risk was an abuse of CWO4 James Averhart’s discretion, and a wrong within the meaning of Article 138, UCMJ.” It’s what led former commander of Headquarters Company at Quantico, David C. MacMichael, to object to the treatment of Bradley Manning.

In the letter, MacMichael wrote, “I wonder, in the first place, why an Army enlisted man is being held in a Marine Corps installation. Second, I question the length of confinement prior to conduct of court-martial. The sixth amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing to the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial, extends to those being prosecuted in the military justice system. Third, I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement–solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc.–are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, US or international.”

On Manning and WikiLeaks, Rowley says, being a whistleblower herself, she is sympathetic to the need for releasing information when there is a case of illegal action on the part of the government. If, in fact, Manning leaked materials to WikiLeaks, she believes he did disclose evidence of war crimes so his action would be justified.

Rowley agrees the U.S. military code might provide cover for what Manning did. In the federal government, the government ethics code urges employees to disclose evidence of misconduct or wrongdoing.

Manning was caught “in a rock and a hard place.” The My Lai massacre was very similar. People know they are not supposed to be complicit with a crime but, on the other hand, if crimes are reported, those reporting the crimes will be held responsible. Rowley contends that if photos from Abu Ghraib had not gotten out and members of the military there had just complained to superiors of torture procedures would not have changed. Public disclosure forced the military to refine its operations.

As with FBI activists who are being forced to go before a grand jury in Chicago, a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, has been considering how to pursue criminal charges in the WikiLeaks case. Julian Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, told Al-Jazeera’s David Frost in December of 2010 that they had heard from Swedish authorities that a “secret empaneled grand jury” is investigating how to move forward. Attorneys and lawyers have been developing scenarios for justifying the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S. from Sweden if Sweden successfully forces Britain to turn him over to Swedish authorities.

The top-down repression of people taking individual action against what they perceive as crimes–the activists being subjected to a witch-hunt by the FBI for mobilizing against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for sending individuals to form relationships with people in Palestine and Colombia, and the detention of Bradley Manning and the entrapment of Julian Assange in a seemingly endless cobweb of legal proceedings–can have the broad-based effect of discouraging independent action. But, people need not be discouraged from marching in the streets. They need not be discouraged from organizing lawful antiwar rallies or marches or trips to other countries or afraid of following their conscience when they witness criminal misconduct.

Activists who are exercising their rights are being subjected to a post-9/11 form of McCarthyism. Bradley Manning is being held as a “maximum security detainee.” The government is abusing its power and the only check on this power, especially when political leaders in democracy fail to object, are we the people, standing up to support the right for truth to win out and the rights of all people to be upheld no matter what people think about government and society.