As we await what’s sure to be the coming hysterics from supporters of Army Pfc Bradley Manning over his “torture” at the hands of guards at Ft. Leavenworth, we’re learning a few things that really, weren’t all that hidden regarding his case.
The Army Times is among those reporting about the pending move of the Army private from the Marine brig at Quantico, Virginia to the Army detention facility at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Among the things we’re learning:
1. Manning’s long stay at Quantico was not standard procedure, only because Quantico is not built for long-term pretrial confinement:
Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, said the move does not suggest that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s treatment in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., was inappropriate.
The transfer, which Johnson described as “imminent,” comes in the wake of international criticism about Manning’s treatment at Quantico. The conditions of Manning’s detention have been the focus of repeated protests from human rights groups and lawmakers.
Johnson, however, said that “the fact that we have made a decision to transfer this particular pretrial confine … should not be interpreted as a criticism of the place he was before.”
Speaking to reporters Tuesday during a hastily arranged briefing, Johnson and Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal acknowledged that Quantico was not designed to hold pretrial detainees for more than a few months.
“This is the right decision, at the right time,” Westphal said. “We were looking at a situation where he would need an environment more conducive for a longer detention.”
2. Manning will still be in a solo cell at Ft. Leavenworth (though he will have more exercise time and more contact with other prisoners)… because that’s the standard way prisoners are held, apparently, at military facilities:
The Leavenworth facility, they said, will be more open, have more space, and Manning will have a greater opportunity to eat and interact with other prisoners there. They added that the move was in Manning’s best interest because Leavenworth’s Joint Regional Correctional Facility has a broader array of facilities, including trained mental, emotional and physical health staff.
Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, who is in charge of the medium-security detention facility at Leavenworth, said Manning will undergo a comprehensive evaluation upon his arrival to assess whether he is a risk to his own or others’ safety. The 150 inmates there — including eight who are awaiting trial — are allowed three hours of recreation per day, she said, and three meals a day in a dining area.
She said the facility, which opened in January, is designed for long-term detention of pretrial inmates. Officials agreed that Manning’s case, which involves hundreds of thousands of highly sensitive and classified documents, is very complex and could drag on for months, if not years.
Johnson said that Manning, who has been at Quantico for more than eight months, can be moved now because his interview in the Washington region to determine his competency to stand trial has been completed. That interview lasted one day and was done April 9.
3. The length and location of Manning’s pretrial confinement is partly the fault of his own lawyer, who after all, is the one who requested a competency hearing, also known as a “706 board” — ironically, simultaneously seeking to have him potentially declared mentally unfit to stand trial, and screaming via blogs, Glenn Greenwald and Twitter (but not by giving actual interviews…) that the Marines had no basis to conclude that Manning might be troubled enough to potentially attempt suicide:
Per the Armed Forces News Service:
Johnson explained the rationale noting that it is the right time to transfer Manning to a more appropriate facility for long-term pre-trial confinement.
“At the request of Private Manning’s defense counsel, an assessment is under way to determine whether Private Manning is mentally competent in this case in the event it goes to trial,” he said. “On Saturday, April 9, the inquiry phase of that process, known in military justice terms as a 706 board, was completed, and Private Manning’s presence in the Washington, D.C., area is no longer necessary for that purpose.”
“At this juncture of the case, we have decided that the new joint regional correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is the most appropriate facility for Private Manning for continued pre-trial detention,” he said.
“This is the right decision at the right time,” Army Undersecretary Joseph W. Westphal said, reinforcing Johnson’s explanation.
“This [facility] became available in January for pre-trial [confinees],” Westphal said. “We were looking at the situation where he would need an environment that was more conducive to a longer-term period, and this is why we made the decision to move him at this time. We needed to wait until the 706, and his participation in the 706 review process, was over, and that just became over.”
With the medical review of Manning’s competence to stand trial expected to take additional time, and a pre-trial phase that “may continue for months beyond that,” Johnson said the decision was made to transfer him to Fort Leavenworth.
The facility Manning is headed to appears to be particularly well designed to deal with people who might have mental competency issues:
“The facility, which opened in October and opened a pre-trial confinement capability in January, is a state-of-the-art complex with the best and widest range of support services available to pre-trial prisoners within the Department of Defense corrections system,” he said.
The facility has resident medical and mental-health care staff “appropriate to meet Private Manning’s health and welfare needs for the remainder of the 706 Board process into the pretrial phase, Johnson said.
“When he is transferred to the Joint Regional Correction Facility, he will receive support from experienced, trained professional staff that has been doing this for well over 20 years,” said Army Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, the facility commander. “And he will receive the mental health, physical health and emotional health [support] that he needs to go through this judicial process.”
“The Quantico brig is a level 1 facility that is not intended for long- term incarceration either pre- or post-trial,” she said. Typically, pre-trial prisoners are not incarcerated at a level 1 facility for more than a couple months.”
The Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Kansas is a state-of-the-art, level 2 facility, Hilton said. “So what that means is that I have the capacity to hold not only the pre-trial prisoners but post-trial prisoners with sentences up to five years. And with that comes all the support staff that Pfc. Manning may need,” she said.
“I have the experienced staff who not only work at the Joint Regional Correctional Facility but also at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth,” she continued. “So it’s more than just the facility. It’s the staff that comes with the facility. My facility is different than the [Quantico] brig. I am developed, designed and staffed with the experienced staff to provide those services for long-term incarceration.”
David Coombs, as per his standard procedure, did not give any interviews regarding Manning’s pending move. But he did post yet another blog entry, purporting to give Manning devotees the real reason Manning is being moved:
Like many others, the defense first learned of PFC Manning’s move to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas by reading that a government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, leaked the information to the Associated Press. The defense was not officially notified of PFC Manning’s pending move until twenty minutes before the Pentagon’s press briefing. This is despite the fact that the Pentagon has “been thinking about this for a while.” Although the news of the move came as a surprise to the defense, the timing did not.
The defense recently received reliable reports of a private meeting held on 13 January 2011, involving high-level Quantico officials where it was ordered that PFC Manning would remain in maximum custody and under prevention of injury watch indefinitely. The order to keep PFC Manning under these unduly harsh conditions was issued by a senior Quantico official who stated he would not risk anything happening “on his watch.” When challenged by a Brig psychiatrist present at the meeting that there was no mental health justification for the decision, the senior Quantico official issuing the order responded, “We will do whatever we want to do.” Based upon these statements and others, the defense was in the process of filing a writ of habeas corpus seeking a court ruling that the Quantico Brig violated PFC Manning’s constitutional right to due process. See United States ex. rel. Accardi v. Shaughnessy, 74 S.Ct. 499 (1954) (violation of due process where result of board proceeding was predetermined); United States v. Anderson, 49 M.J. 575 (N.M. Ct. Crim. App. 1998) (illegal punishment where Marine Corps had an unwritten policy automatically placing certain detainees in MAX custody). The facts surrounding PFC Manning’s pretrial confinement at Quantico make it clear that his detention was not “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects” as maintained at the Pentagon press briefing.
So … why hadn’t Coombs filed a habeas writ before? According to a very knowledgeable lawyer who has represented military detainees, and who unlike Mr. Coombs, agreed to talk to TRR, Coombs could have made such a filing at any time in the last eight months.
And the “nothing would happen on his watch” comment could refer to a suicide last February at Quantico, which it seems fairly reasonable to assume, the brig commander there wanted to avoid happening again, especially with such a sensational case as Manning’s.
As with everything in this case, the new info leads to more questions.
How can David Coombs seek to possibly declare his client mentally unfit to stand trial, while simultaneously arguing that there is no basis for deeming him to be a possible suicide risk?
Given Manning’s history of violent, erratic behavior, the prior suicide at their facility, plus Manning’s flip comments about strangling himself with his underwear, was it not reasonable for the Quantico brig commander to take every precaution to ensure that Manning lived to go to trial?
And why, if indeed that’s what he’s implying, has David Coombs not filed for a writ of habeas corpus before now?
A cynical person might wonder if all the over-the-top “torture” allegations might be designed to bolster an incompetency defense, by making Manning’s alleged mental deterioriation the “fault” of the Marines at Quantico.
UPDATE: let the Greenwaldian carping … begin! And cue the overblown analysis filled with speculation and activist enthusiasm, too.