‘Stupid and criminal’: Lawyer for Bradley Manning speaks out
“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched in our nation’s history as a disgraceful moment in time,” Manning’s defense attorney David Combs said in his first-ever public appearance regarding US v. Manning.“Not only was it stupid and counterproductive – it was criminal,” he continued in his scathing condemnation of the “unlawful pretrial punishment” that PFC Manning was subjected to for nine months while held at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.Combs first public comments since becoming Manning’s lawyer two years ago were timed to correspond with the conclusion of the Article 13 hearing – a defense motion alleging Manning had endured unlawful pre-trial punishment.Manning spent the first nine months of his pretrial detention in a 6-by-8 foot cell in solitary confinement, conditions which Combs described as “draconian.”Under constant surveillance, Manning spent around 23 hours each day confined to his “cage-like” cell, and was denied basic items such as toilet paper and bedclothes.The strict conditions were a result of Manning’s designation as a “suicide risk,” though the 24-year-old said during a pre-trial hearing late last month that he "didn't want to die," he just wanted to "get out of the cage."He was later transferred to another detention center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in April 2011.“As far as his mental state or how he is …I can tell you that he is very excited about having his case go forward and it’s in the process now. It’s been a long time,” Combs explained. Speaking before a crowd of over 100 behind the pulpit of All Souls Church in Washington, DC, on Monday, Coombs described the case as a vast government machine “standing against me and Brad.”“I was intimidated, especially when the president of the United States says your client broke the law. Especially when Congress members say your client deserves the death penalty,” he said.However, Coombs said that he no longer felt daunted by the challenge, thanks to the outpouring of public support for his client, which had also given him “unlimited personnel and resources.”Coombs also pointed to the fact that Obama had recently signed into law the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, just as the unlawful pre-trial punishment motion began: “How can you reconcile the two? I don’t know the answer to that question.”The outcome in “the most important military case” in history would resonate at America’s very core, he added. “We live in a country that is built on freedom of speech. We live in a country that is built on government accountability and informed citizens.”Manning, an army private and intelligence analyst, was arrested in May 2010 and is being tried on 16 charges, including aiding the enemy by handing over hundreds of thousands of military reports, US diplomatic cables and videos to WikiLeaks. If convicted, he could face the death penalty or life in prison. Due to extensive witness testimony, the ongoing pre-trial motion phase at Fort Meade, Maryland, has been prolonged and will reconvene on Wednesday.Manning’s court martial is scheduled to commence on February 3, 2013.