Day Two at the Bradley Manning Pre-Trial

by JoHarrington

One military psychiatrist judged Bradley Manning's treatment to be worse than at Guantanamo Bay. Another thought it worse than Death Row. They were both ignored.

On day one, the courtroom at Fort Meade had heard from Colonel Daniel Choike. As Brig Commander of Quantico Marine Corps Base, in Virginia, USA, he had ultimate control over his prisoner.

The conditions in which Bradley Manning had been held - which had brought a charge of torture from the United Nations - were confirmed. It was noted that the Pentagon was kept up to date; guards had enforced Manning's nakedness, then laughed at it; and a dentist had acted as his mental health assessor.

November 28th 2012 was day two in the pre-trial hearing.

Day Two: The Testimony of Colonel Robert Oltman

The Security Battalion Commander was in charge of Quantico Marine Base during the period of Bradley Manning's incarceration there.

Colonel Robert Oltman said that he didn't make the decisions, but he passed all information up the line of command.

He testified at the pre-trial that superior officers seemed pre-occupied with how the treatment of Bradley Manning would play out in the press.  But they never recommended that his restrictions be lessened.

Col. Oltman did have the authority to alter Manning's status though. The private had been placed on suicide watch, within the remit of Prevention of Injury (POL) status. 

It was this which allowed him to be kept in solitary confinement without his possessions.

Oltman had been advised, by psychiatrists, that Bradley Manning was not at risk of suicide. But he chose to dismiss the recommendation to take him off POL status.  His rationale was that a prisoner named Captain Webb had committed suicide in Quantico earlier in the year. That individual had also been deemed unlikely to do so by the base's forensic psychiatrist Captain William Hoctor.

"I did not have the utmost confidence in Captain Hoctor," Oltman told the court.

But Hoctor wasn't the only person saying this. A second mental health professional, Captain Kevin Moore supported his colleague, but was ignored. 

Furthermore, Corrections official Colonel Wright had sent word that it was inappropriate to remove the clothes of any detainee at risk of suicide. “This is not the way we do business," Wright had warned.

Oltman felt that even this directive could be dismissed, as it came from '30,000ft'.  In short, as Wright wasn't there, with information from the ground, his views should not be considered.

However, he had taken the highlighted regulations seriously enough to hunt for a loophole. A series of emails passed back and forth between himself and Officer in Charge Barnes to secure a legal justification.

They found it.  The rules of POL status allowed for detainees to be stripped, as long as it wasn't in response to fear of suicide.  They just didn't use that reason when justifying the action in official reports. 

Colonel Oltman Laughed as Guards Mocked Manning

When asked why Bradley was subject to POL status, Colonel Oltman stated that it was because he had talked about committing suicide with his underwear elastic.

Brig Officer in Command Denise Barnes, who had heard the remark, immediately ordered Bradley Manning to strip.  Her actions were not countermanded by Oltman.  He told the courtroom now that he endorsed his officer's decision.

Manning's lawyer David Coombs asked whether Oltman didn't consider that the comment might have been a sarcastic joke.  The private was simply 'intellectualizing the absurdity of his conditions'.

Oltman didn't share that view.  "You don’t joke about suicide," he commented. Which was a shame for him really, as Coombs had perfectly set him up for the next point. 

During the day one hearing, it had emerged that Lieutenant Colonel Greer had parodied Manning's suicide quip with a Dr Seuss poem.  Now the courtroom heard how Colonel Oltman had laughed upon hearing it.

Day Two: The Testimony of Captain William Hoctor

The forensic psychiatrist found that his recommendations for Manning were frequently ignored. He'd dealt with more receptive guards at Guantanamo.

It was a source of anger and frustration for Captain William Hoctor, that his advice about Manning's mental health was simply dismissed.

As a forensic psychiatrist for the US military, Captain Hoctor had examined Bradley Manning and proclaimed him sane. He also judged that the prisoner was not suicidal.

This was not a view which anyone wanted to hear.

"I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had never experienced anything like this." Hoctor told the pre-trial court. "It was clear to me they had made up their mind on a certain course of action, and my recommendations had no impact."

Captain Hoctor had made his report to Colonel Robert Oltman, the Security Battalion Commander at Quantico. Manning need not be under suicide watch nor stuck in POL status. Col. Oltman had replied, "We’ll do what we want to do."

In Hoctor's professional opinion, the treatment of Bradley Manning would undoubtedly result in 'harm', as 'everyone has their limits'.

When confronted with the fact, gleaned from the earlier witness testimony, that Col. Oltman had no confidence in Hoctor's assessments, the captain was scathing. He pointed out that, if that was the case, then he should have been replaced with another psychiatrist. The military's faith in him was implicit in the fact that he retained the position throughout this period.

Hoctor continued his weekly recommendations that Manning should be taken off POL status. His overall assessment was summarized for the court as, "(Manning) was not reporting suicidal thoughts, in general he was well behaved."

Moreover, he was impressed by the young private's determination. "Most people would have found it very difficult, being watched every five minutes, but he did better than expected – I think he decided he was going to be strong."

Day Two: The Testimony of Captain Kevin Moore

A second mental health professional also examined Bradley Manning. He reached the same conclusions as Captain Hoctor.

Captain Kevin Moore found intransigence when he recommended that Bradley Manning be taken off POL status.

Another military health professional, Moore has headed medical divisions for the United States Navy in Japan. But he was asked to stop by Quantico to assess Bradley Manning too.

Captain Moore was appalled by what he discovered. He told the court that the prisoner was held in worse conditions than civilians on Death Row. Moore had started his career caring for them.

He feared that Manning's isolation and other factors would wear down his mental health.

Moore told the pre-trial court that his recommendations were ignored by Quantico's commanders. He was surprised by this, as his advice is usually enacted within days in all other circumstances.

With the United Nations condemning the USA for torturing one of its own citizens, something had to be done. In November 2012, an American courtroom heard the charges.
A dentist provided the psychiatric report. Guards paraded to gawp at their naked detainee. A commander made up mocking Dr Seuss poetry. Just some of the pre-trial revelations.
Trapped in stifling conditions; denied information, even when moved in shackles on airplanes; kept blind and sleep deprived. Bradley Manning finally gives his testimony.
Updated: 12/14/2012, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 12/07/2012


HollieT on 12/07/2012

Indeed. :)

JoHarrington on 12/07/2012

It certainly looks like there was an agenda dictating things. But yes, we're all there now.

There's a Celtic battle call which goes, 'Y gwir yn erbyn y byd'. It means 'the truth against the world'. That's the very essence of what Bradley did; and now the truth is out.

HollieT on 12/07/2012

Interesting. It doesn't matter whether you're employed by the US state or the UK state, you're asked to assess and evaluate a case, for want of a better word; a human being. You're protestations do not matter because just like your case, you are silenced; bound by confidentiality, your training counts for naught.

But as you say, we are all there and all listening to the trial of Bradley Manning. And people are speaking out. About time!

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