Defense begins sentencing case with Bradley Manning’s unit: trial report, day 32
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. August 12, 2013
The prosecution rested its sentencing case last week, so Pfc. Bradley Manning’s defense began calling its witnesses today, giving us a better picture of Manning’s unit and chain of command before and during his deployment to Iraq.
Before those witnesses, the parties argued over whether the defense should have to turn over long-form documents from Manning’s ‘sanity board,’ which confirmed that he was fit to stand trial, despite the fact that it contains personal mental health information. Court martial rules protect the defendant from having to turn over such records unless he or she is making a ‘mental health defense,’ with some exceptions. One such exception is if the defense intends to qualify a mental health specialist as an expert, which Manning’s defense plans to do. At the end of the day, Judge Denise Lind ruled in favor of the government, forcing the defense to turn over all of the documents at issue, except for Manning’s statements.
Defense lawyer David Coombs explained that he was not calling the witness to give a ‘mental health defense,’ or to “lessen” or take away from any of Manning’s decisions, or to avoid taking any responsibility. Instead, the defense will present evidence of Manning’s issues before disclosing documents, pre- and during deployment to Iraq, to give the judge context for the circumstances.
The defense is offering this testimony, Coombs explained, for extenuation and mitigation. In the merits portion of the trial, Manning was blocked from presenting a whistle-blower defense, with the government precluding discussion of motive. Manning was still able to present a stirring account of his reasoning with a providence inquiry statement in February. Now the defense is explaining his surroundings while in the Army. (As a reminder, here’s a timeline of Bradley’s major events, including when he joined the Army, deployed to Iraq, and was arrested.)
Today, we heard from Col. David Miller, Capt. Matthew Freeberg, Maj. Elijah Dreher, Lt. Col. Brian Kerns, Maj. Clifford Clausen, Capt. Michael Johnson, and Capt. Elizabeth Fields – all from Manning’s unit or from his chain of command at the battalion or division level. Their testimony revealed a unit, battalion, and division marred by accusations of weak leadership, confused responsibilities, muddled regulations, and an understaffed intelligence section.
Failures to lead the intelligence shop
One recurring theme was the inadequacy of then-MSG Paul David Adkins, the senior Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge (NCOIC) of Manning’s intelligence section, and Maj. Clausen, the Brigade S2, or intelligence unit leader. Executive Officer Lt. Col. Kerns testified that he’d felt Adkins was a “weak leader” and that Maj. Clausen wasn’t up to the task of providing the command with the valuable intelligence. He later learned that Adkins stripped supervisors of what they had understood as their responsibility to discipline and counsel soldiers. In a previous statement that Coombs had him read, Kerns had said he felt Adkins shouldn’t have deployed to Iraq, but didn’t want to say so today.
Maj. Clausen was similarly hesitant to confirm previous statements. He’s said that he felt Adkins was a below average leader, but on the stand he said that that was his personal opinion, and that professionally he had no problems with him.
Testifying telephonically, Capt. Michael Johnson was more forthcoming. He described Clausen as an “absentee leader” who stopped in to the S2 shop “maybe once a day” to smile, tell everyone they were doing a great job, and “punch out.” He said that the chain of command in the S2 section was clear but that responsibilities were not.
Capt. Fields’s 2011 sworn statement was perhaps most critical of Adkins, though she had apparently changed her mind by the time she testified today. In that statement, she averred that Adkins’s supervisory ability was “terrible,” and that he ignored problems. But asked to confirm that she believes that today, Capt. Fields – a lieutenant at the time – said thatdue to her “experience” since then, she now believes Adkins was performing to the “best of his ability.”
Recall that Adkins testified in the rebuttal portion of the end of the trial’s merits phase, claiming a memory problem that went back to 2006 prevented him from recalling important details. On the stand today, several witnesses who’d interacted with Adkins daily in 2009 and 2010 said they had no recollection of him having any such issue.
Manning’s behavioral issues largely ignored
Bradley Manning was involved in multiple incidents while in Iraq. A gay Army private under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and a compassionate thinker who wore a ‘Humanist’ dog tag living among soldiers who he felt disregarded non-American life, Manning didn’t exactly fit in with those he would later call “a bunch of hyper-masculine trigger happy ignorant rednecks.” Earlier in the trial, his supervisor Specialist Jihrleah Showman confirmed that she’d called Manning “faggotty” for failing to do enough pushups .
In May 2010, Manning punched Showman, and she tackled him in a headlock. In December 2009, he flipped over a table, allegedly reached for a weapon, and was restrained by a superior. Adkins found him one day curled up in a ball.
Several senior officers testified today that they only later learned about some of these incidents, and that they probably should have learned about them before.
Manning referred himself at one point to a psychiatrist, but the understaffed intelligence section likely didn’t want to read enough into the incidents to prevent Manning from remaining in theater with the rest of the unit.
Tomorrow’s witness list includes Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Kyle Balonek, CW2 Joshua Ehersman, Paul Adkins (now retired), and four others. Court will resume at 9:30am ET.
Video leaked, but no new press restrictions
Over the weekend, a leaked video of 16 edited seconds of Manning’s trial was published online. The judge announced this morning that the video was taken in the public spectators’ overflow trailer, so additional security measures will be applied there, but no where else.