WASHINGTON – The lawyer for Pfc. Bradley Manning,the alleged WikiLeaks tipster,said he is optimistic about the outcome of an investigation into Manning’s prison treatment.
David Coombs,Manning’s attorney,is heading Manning’s defense team. He spoke Monday at an event held by the Bradley Manning Support Network at the All Souls Church Unitarian. A military court in Fort Meade,Md.,is investigating Manning’s treatment from July 2010 through April 2011,while he was held in solitary confinement at a Marine Corps base in Virginia.
“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched,I believe,in our nation’s history,as a disgraceful moment in time,” Coombs said. “Not only was it stupid and counterproductive,it was criminal.”
Coombs,who has never publicly discussed the case before Monday,described Manning’s cell as an 8-by-6 foot room where he was kept 23 hours a day. Coombs said Manning was forced to sleep naked at irregular hours and was placed on suicide watch conditions longer than psychiatrists recommended.
“An entire group of individuals,who I have no doubt are honorable men and women,chose to turn a blind eye to how Bradley was being treated,” Coombs said. “Those who could affect change did not. They were more concerned about how the attention might be put on them if something happened to Brad,as opposed to what was their conduct was doing to Brad.”
Manning was later transferred to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
Coombs said the court has treated Manning professionally.
“Military court-martial is,in my opinion,the best courtroom you can go into,” Coombs said.
Coombs,a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve,has represented clients under the military justice system. He said the court-martial would handle U.S. v. Bradley Manning fairly.
“I know anyone who doesn’t have experience with the military justice system may view it with a suspicious eye,” Coombs said. “You have a military judge that is in the military,and there’s some suspicion that that person might be subject to some influence. And so,when you look at it from the outside,you can see – and perhaps think – that the system is built to obtain a certain outcome.”
Military judges are usually lieutenant colonels or colonels,Coombs said,unlikely to seek higher rank in their military careers. This leaves them free to make rulings without worrying about promotions.
Coombs thanked activists and media for bringing attention to Manning’s imprisonment.
“Your actions resulted in Brad being moved from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth,” Coombs said. “Make no mistake about that.”
Coombs said Manning’s cell conditions at Fort Leavenworth are an improvement.
“With your actions,the draconian conditions that he lived under for nine months came to an end,” Coombs said.
Manning has received 72,000 pieces of mail since his imprisonment,Coombs said.
Activists after the event spoke in support of Manning.
“I believe it’s important for the public to show support for Bradley Manning,” Steven Fake,a political author,said. “His actions – his alleged actions – have been a great boon for freedom throughout the world and transparency in government.”
Bob Meola,a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network,said Manning’s alleged document leak has helped expose important information to the public.
“It’s like Prometheus bringing fire to the earth,and then getting pinned to the rock and tortured,” Meola said. “Bradley Manning is an American hero and a world hero.”
The hearings into Manning’s prison treatment are scheduled through Dec. 12. Manning’s trial is expected to begin in February 2013.
Reach reporter Jory Heckman at email@example.com or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.