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.”
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.
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…