Quantico witnesses can’t keep their story straight

By the Bradley Manning Support Network. December 19, 2012.

Courtroom sketch by Clark Stoeckley.

Courtroom sketch by Clark Stoeckley.

PFC Bradley Manning’s Article 13 hearing was full of surprises. For one, the hearing originally scheduled for just a few days was suddenly extended to last from November 27 through December 12. This presented a very real challenge to reporters and supporters traveling to attend the proceedings at Fort Meade, MD. Those of us who were able to stick it out ‘til the end, however, were privy to some other surprises, such as the vast differences in testimony from both defense and government witnesses. Even simple descriptions of ostensibly memorable events and assessments justifying the conditions of Bradley’s confinement varied depending on who was taking the stand. With that in mind, we thought we’d share some of the topics and incidents where witness testimony clashed most dramatically.

The witnesses

Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart: Brig commander, Quantico
Chief Warrant Officer Abel Galaviz: Head of Marine Corrections
Gunnery Sergeant Craig Blenis: Counselor to Bradley Manning at Quantico
GNYSGT Jordan: Mid-level brig staff, Quantico
Col. Daniel Choike: Base commander, Quantico
Master Sergeant Brian Papakie: Brig supervisor, Quantico
Cpt. William Hoctor: Psychiatrist for Bradley Manning, Quantico
Cpt. Ricky Malone: Psychiatrist for Manning, Quantico
Lance Corporal Joshua Tankersly: Brig guard and escort, Quantico
Lance Cpl. Cline: Brig guard and escort, Quantico
PFC Bradley Manning: The accused

Sunshine, Recreation Call and Restraints

For the first six months of Bradley’s confinement at Quantico, it is recorded that he was only allowed outside to exercise for 20 minutes per day. While walking outside, he had to maintain heavy hand and leg restraints. It wasn’t until December that he was allowed to exercise for one full hour per day (the minimum recommended by military regulations even for prisoners on disciplinary restrictions).

  • Tankersly: Manning’s reduced recreation call was 40 minutes short of the maximum-custody standard because of Special Handling Instructions made by “someone above” him. Apart from Manning, the only other detainees getting less than the full hour were being punished for serious disciplinary infractions, like fighting.
  • Papakie: While handcuffs alone were sufficient for indoor rec call, Manning only got 20 minutes outside, during which both hand and leg restraints remained in place.
  • Galaviz: According to Secretary of the Navy Instructions (SECNAV) governing detainee treatment at Quantico, Manning should’ve had an hour outside. “I don’t know what the Command Officer (CO) was thinking.”

Talking to other detainees

Bradley testified that he was technically allowed to speak to other inmates, but only in a low conversational tone. Practically speaking, this meant he was only allowed to talk to inmates in cells to his immediate left or right. Because he was never housed next to other inmates, he was not able to talk to others.

  • Cline: Inmates are only allowed to talk to those in cells to their immediate left or right; doesn’t recall if Manning spoke to other detainees.
  • Averhart: Recalls Bradley was housed for most of his time in a cell without adjacent inmates because Bradley’s things were stored on one side and the brig lockers were on the other. However, unlike the prison guards, he believed that Bradley could talk to people further than one cell away.
  • Webb: Says Manning sometimes spoke with the detainee in an adjacent cell during TV call.
  • Barnes: Says she heard Manning spoke with other detainees from time to time.
  • Tankersly: Says he doesn’t recall if Manning’s handling instructions permitted him to speak with other inmates or not, but notes that his ability to do so would’ve been contingent upon someone being housed in one of the adjacent cells.

18 January 2011, at recreation call

In mid-January, supporters and the media began questioning Bradley’s conditions at Quantico with increasingly critical articles and protests at the base gates. Some have suggested brig staff may have been tempted to transfer their frustrations into their dealings with the Manning. In this powder-keg climate, Manning suffered an anxiety attack while being escorted to his indoor rec time, claiming guards Tankersly and Cline were being uncharacteristically aggressive.

  • Papakie: Didn’t know about the protest on 17 Jan 2011 until a week before testifying. “I made sure the guard staff there was relieved and wrote reports.”
  • Webb: Can’t place dates of protests, but remembers an escalation of outside attention at this time involving protests, mail, phone calls and pizza delivery pranks.
  • Tankersly: Recalls a ‘CodePink’ protest around then, which the brig staff discussed. Says Fuller asked him and Cline to leave the room.
  • Cline: Remembers protest around that time, and that guards were annoyed about protests disrupting base traffic. Entering the incident in media res, Fuller asked him and Tankersly to leave the rec call in order to make Manning feel less threatened. Says that was the only time he’d ever been removed from escort duty.
  • Fuller: Says he didn’t order the guards to leave (because that wouldn’t be his job), but that Manning appeared scared.
  • Cline:  Says Webb told him and Tankersly they were asked to leave because they’d been intimidating Manning. Recalls protests that week as disruptive and irritating to guards.
  • Blenis: Staff discussed the 17 Jan 2011 protest. Says Bradley described feeling provoked by the guards.
  • Manning: Guards were anxious and irritable, arm and leg restraints put on more tightly than usual. Manning asked if he was doing something wrong and guards didn’t answer. When they got to the rec area, he was given contradictory orders (face left, face right in a “shark attack” style), causing him to panic. Asked them to stop when he became light-headed. When Manning began to fall down or pass out, he interpreted Webb’s sudden move towards him as an attack (rather than an attempt to keep him from falling). Back on his feet, Manning got away from Webb, and was told the guards were going to “get somebody here.” Manning then “got emotional.” Guards were relieved.

18 January 2011, later in Manning’s cell, whether Bradley hit his head

Although Manning then calmed down and completed his full rec call, a visit from brig officials soon after escalated into another charged exchange. Both the rec call incident and what followed in Manning’s cell have been repeatedly cited by brig staff and officials as justification for keeping Manning on restrictive Prevention of Injury status.

  • Averhart: Bradley hit himself with fists, very violently in the head.
  • Papakie: After talking with Averhart, Manning “hit his forehead with his fist, hard as he could.” Upon looking at his own incident report on the witness stand, Papakie changed this to Manning slapping the sides of his head with his palms (think Home Alone style). Also describes an intense headbutt to the wall, prior to being handed the incident report he himself wrote. Then retracts it, just as he’d had to modify his “fist” comment.
  • Manning: Says “I lost my demeanor,” almost punched a wall and “grabbed at my head.”

Morning of 3 March 2011, when Bradley Manning stood naked for morning count

A second hotly contested incident occurred on the morning of March 3, 2011. While Manning’s uncommon protective status already called for him to surrender the majority of his clothing before light’s out, the night before, brig officials escalated this to include Manning’s underwear, citing concern that the elastic waist-band could be used as a crude noose. His clothing was not delivered back to him at reveille as usual. Without direct documentation, accounts of what transpired vary.

  • Manning: Stood ready for morning count with blankets wrapped around body, and a guard from observation booth said, “Detainee Manning, is that how you stand at parade rest?” Bradley (who didn’t have glasses and couldn’t see who asked the question) asked for clarification. When the guard simply repeated his question, Bradley made the only adjustment he was afforded, removing the blanket and placing it back on his bed. In absence of further instruction (or clothes), he stood naked as a guard or unidentified Duty Brig Supervisor performed the morning count, stopping briefly at Manning’s cell before continuing.
  • Barnes: Staff Sergeant Terry told her that when he went around for count it caught him off guard, “but you have to remember he was doing count so he said something like ‘put your clothes on’” and moved on. Didn’t warrant a disciplinary report or an adverse spot evaluation, but it was mentioned on Manning’s hard card. She finds it unlikely that morning count would be held immediately after reveille, and suggests it must have been 10 minutes after.
  • Papakie: Helped prepare a squad to forcibly remove Manning from his cell for not surrendering his underwear quickly enough the night before, however, neither he nor Terry find his standing without it now worthy of any formal documentation. Was told that Manning’s clothes weren’t delivered in time for count but was also told they were left for him on his feed tray. He’s certain SSgT Terry told Manning to cover up. Why? Because Terry told him so. It’s possible the guards forgot to deliver Manning his clothes, but as they were kept in the adjacent cell, it would’ve been “not a secret” where to find them.
  • Oltman: Not aware anyone instructed Manning to put down his blanket. Says nudity was Manning’s choice (“he had two blankets”).
  • Choike (briefed on the issue): Says Oltman told him that Manning chose to stand naked for morning count. Asked why the brig would allow that, says the ‘DBS has other duties.’

Bradley’s behavior as a detainee — ‘erratic’ behavior and ‘poor communication’

Despite wide discrepancies in the testimony of various brig officials and staff, you’d expect that the people interacting on a near daily basis with Manning would at least be able to agree on what kind of person he was. However, at Quantico, that was again not the case. Although no written documentation appears prior to March 2 indicating that Manning was uncommunicative with staff, this has been a consistent rationalization for his continuously restrictive custody status. One psychiatrist’s forthcoming patient is a guard’s withdrawn mute, apparently.

  • Jordan: Didn’t think his roughly 6’9” frame intimidated the 5’2 Manning “as he got to know the kind of person I am.” Their conversations covered—among other things—books, college basketball, and March Madness brackets, which Manning had filled out. Puzzlingly, he simultaneously expresses concern that Manning didn’t talk enough to him, giving short, hurried answers to questions.
  • Fuller: Manning’s depth of conversation with guards varied but was always courteous and polite.
  • Cline: Says guards’ interaction with detainees was limited to a professional, functional level, without small talk.
  • Russell: Describes Manning as “very social, intelligent, understandably guarded” but not withdrawn.
  • Papakie: The staff mostly observed Bradley acting erratically, making faces, playing peekaboo in the mirror, trying to pick his unibrow with his glasses, lifting imaginary weights and feigning exertion or (wait for it…) sitting in a relaxed yoga position on his bed.
  • Tankersly: He rarely talked unnecessarily with inmates because it was not part of his job (“We have counselors for that”). Found Manning’s “odd behavior” pretty common for bored inmates on restrictive custody.
  • Blenis: Heard second hand that Manning danced in his cell and flexed muscles or pulled faces in his mirror, but didn’t bother discussing this with Manning as his counselor. Describes these as strange behaviors, regardless of explanations from mental health providers. Testified that Bradley gave short answers, but also admits they once talked at length about evolution and that generally the two shared few or no mutual interests.
  • Manning: I was just bored and would’ve stopped if I’d been asked. With limited stimulation, the mirror in your room becomes a lot more entertaining.

2 thoughts on “Quantico witnesses can’t keep their story straight

  1. Whistle blowers are the real heroes who can help change the way people are treated by those in power. Western world governments treat well the whistle blowers or those who give information about war crimes committed by other countries but scream when their
    Actions are found wanting. I fully support the actions of Brad Manning along with Wikileaks.

  2. growing up in the 60′s & 70′s, I remember hearing the horrors of Vietnam. The torturing of Americans who were POW’s. Holding soldiers for years, put into 4×4 pits in the ground. Then there were the stories about the Russians, our biggest enemies. They would spy on their own people, force them to wait in lines for a loaf of bread. The people were poor, they had no government help. Does any of this sound familiar? We have met the enemy and he is us.

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