There is a little part of the military code for courts martial about the charges being dismissed if it is determined that the person being charged was treated badly during his/her pretrial incarceration. For the past two weeks, there has been a pre-trial hearing going on at Fort Meade, Maryland, to determine if Pfc. Bradley Manning was mistreated while being held at Quantico, Virginia, in the Marine Corps brig, and if that mistreatment justifies dismissing all 22 charges filed against Manning for his “leaking” of documents to WikiLeaks.
You may remember that the terms of Manning’s incarceration at Quantico from July 29, 2010, to April 20, 2011, became an international scandal. The United States was accused of torturing Manning. The United Nations was called in to investigate the charges of torture. Everyone from Michael Moore to Dan Choi rallied for Manning, beat the bushes raising defense funds for Manning, took up hours of television air time making the case for Manning. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com took up Manning’s treatment as a crusade.
The Marine Corps responded to all the bad press by granting a tour of Quantico’s brig, which proved that there are no shared cells in Quantico, but little else. That addressed Manning’s claim of being held in solitary. Solitary is the only way to be held at Quantico.
The court has heard seven days of testimony concerning Manning’s time in Quantico, and on Wednesday, heard from Chief Warrant Officer 5 Abel Galaviz, the Marines’ head of corrections.
The brig officers have claimed that the conditions under which Manning were held were needed because he was a threat to himself. Suicide watch protocol includes stripping prisoners of their clothing and removing anything from their cells that they could use to hurt themselves, including eyeglasses. Sounds absurd? Take a closer look at your glasses. Could you use a part of them to pierce or slice an artery? The answer is yes. He was allowed out of his twelve foot by six foot cell for only one hour a day. He had to sleep in the nude and had sheets and blankets removed so he could not hang himself with them. These are standard procedures for suicide watch.
Galaviz testified that he was sent to Quantico to investigate the conditions in February of 2011. He found that the brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart had failed to remove Manning from suicide watch for five days after a mental health evaluation had found Manning was not suicidal. Manning was put on suicide watch when he arrived on July 29, 2010, was evaluated and cleared on August 6, and not removed from the watch until August 11. This was a violation of military corrections policy.
Manning was put back on suicide watch protocols on January 18, 2011, after suffering an anxiety attack in which he hit himself in the head. A psychiatrist on that day found that Manning was not suicidal, but Averhart kept him on the protocols until January 20 or 21. Galaviz said that “it could have been done in a more timely manner than it was.” On March 2, 2011, Manning quipped to his jailers that if he wanted to kill himself, he could do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear. He was forced to surrender his underwear and sleep in the nude again until issued a “suicide” smock which he wore to bed until being transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on April 20.
Galaviz explained that when the new commander of the brig, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Denise Barnes order Manning to surrender his underwear, she should have put him on full suicide watch and notify the proper authorities for a new mental health evaluation.
Galaviz also raised some issues concerning forms that were used during Manning’s time at Quantico and the rank of the officer who filled them out before the forms went to the Classification and Assignment Board.
Manning himself has testified that he was subjected to verbal abuse by the guards and taunted about his homosexuality.
Through his attorney, David E. Coombs, Manning has offered to plead guilty to some of the lesser charges if the government would drop the greater charges that could carry a life sentence. This hearing is separate from any negotiations concerning a plea bargain. There are multiple outcomes possible from these hearings. The court could find that Manning’s incarceration violated military standards and dismiss all charges against him. They could find the incarceration was in violation, but not dismiss any charges, or dismiss some of the charges. They could find that no violation occurred.
Manning was arraigned on 22 counts in February of this year. The court martial is expected to be convened in February of next year. If no plea bargain is reached and this goes to trial, we can probably expect Manning’s defense team to put the Army on trial for not having discharged Manning before he was sent overseas and stole almost a half million military and State Department documents. Ever heard of Catch-22? Aside from the title of a movie, it is a philosophy in the military that if you file for discharge as being too crazy to serve, you are too sane to be discharged. Manning was found to be a danger to his unit. The firing mechanisms of his weapons were removed for the protection of his fellow soldiers. He had assaulted a female soldier. He had a record of irrational and erratic behavior. Manning should have been discharged. Instead he was sent overseas and attached to an Army intelligence unit where he had access to the stolen documents. Of course, telling a military court that the crimes were caused by the bad judgement of the Army itself is probably not going to go over well.