8:36 PM EST Something that has come up consistently throughout proceedings is whether or not a detainee could be held at Quantico on POI and as a medium custody detainee or did all detainees on POI status have to be held in maximum custody. MSGT. Blenis said Quantico changed the policy after Manning left Marine Corps headquarters pushed down policy that detainees could be held in medium custody and be placed on POI or suicide risk.
He suggested it happened about a month and a half later. He said it was just for Quantico because he is now stationed at Camp Pendleton and that is not the policy. It was directed from the Marine Corps just to the Brig. Blenis said, “Once it came, like I said, it was really unorthodox…Took me a long time to wrap my head around.” And, “When I say to someone who’s never heard it before, they look at it like I am crazy.”
This is like the Marines trying to rebuild Quantico’s image after having held Manning at the facility.
8:35 PM EST Judge Denise Lind, who has asked some pretty solid questions throughout the hearing, asked MSGT. Craig Blenis about the impact of POI status on Manning. Blenis claimed he never noticed a huge weight gain or loss. His “mental state” was not “apparently eroding.” Coombs followed up after the judge. He would not go along with idea that being distant or withdrawn was result of POI status.
8:30 PM EST The scene in the video was like something out of Robert Greenwald’s lesser-known film, “In the Custody of Strangers,” starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, about a young man who winds up in solitary confinement after committing a minor crime.
8:25 PM EST The video exchange contained key discussion between MSGT. Blenis and Manning over why he was on POI. The conversation is transcribed in the defense motion and on page 33-34. Here’s an excerpt.
…PFC Manning: Yes, but I’m trying not, I’m trying, I’m trying to avoid the concern, and it’s actually causing the concern. I mean, cause, I’m getting … every day that passes by, I’m getting increasingly frustrated, I’m not going to lie. Because I’m trying to do everything that I can not to be a concern, therefore I appear as though I am causing more concern. Or I … Or it seems that I’m causing more concern or everybody’s looking for something to cause concern. So that’s what frustrates me. … Trying to work out the most politically correct way of …
8:20 PM EST Proceedings come to a conclusion for the evening. The hearing will resume on Wednesday, December 5.
6:50 PM EST We’re going to be watching a video of Manning in his cell. The government just spent 20 minutes verifying that a transcript of the video was accurate.
6:40 PM EST Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart (Brig OIC) ordered a log book solely for entries on Bradley Manning. MSGT. Craig Blenis says this was “rare.” One of the entries was Manning dancing in a rave-type style in his cell.
6:35 PM EST MSGT. Blenis sent an email when heat was out in Quantico Brig with line, “If you’re cold, the latest issue of Manning Times should keep you warm.” He was referring to weekly reports on Manning to the chain of command.
5:36 PM EST MSGT. Blenis was asked about questioning Manning on nooses he made while confined in Kuwait. Coombs said, “You actually asked him about nooses and said “he looked at you all retarded.” Blenis said yes, because he was “dumbfounded.” Manning didn’t know what he was talking about.
4:36 PM EST MSGT. Blenis was asked about questioning Manning on nooses he made while confined in Kuwait. Coombs said, “You actually asked him about nooses and said “he looked at you all retarded.” Blenis said yes, because he was “dumbfounded.” Manning didn’t know what he was talking about.
4:30 PM EST Defense cross-examination has been going for at least one hour. MSGT. Blenis sent an email to Navy Captain Dr. William Hocter indicating “media would be knocking” on the door “fairly often” once Manning arrived. He also told Hocter Pfc Manning had been deemed high risk to himself from as high as a major general in the Army. He knew people high in the chain of command would be watching.
2:45 PM EST MSGT. Blenis shared his thoughts on Manning being taken off medication. He suggested from a conversation on Manning being suicidal Manning admitted he had been suicidal in Kuwait. MSGT. Blenis asked what had changed. Manning said nothing. MSGT. Blenis figured something had to change. Manning suggested he was no longer suicidal cause he had been put on medication. The psychiatrist was taking him off the medication, reducing it gradually. MSGT. Blenis said he thought, “So if pre-meds, you’re suicidal post-meds you’re not, but now we’re going back to pre-meds, doesn’t this put us back at square one?”
That would not be a decision MSGT. Blenis could make. He did not have the professional skills or knowledge of psychiatry to make a decision about whether the doctor taking Manning off medicine was appropriate or not. However, it shows the kind of attitude toward mental health treatment in the Brig. He would not want Dr. Hocter telling him to setup a Standard Operating Procedure that kept Manning in strict confinement conditions for pure security purposes and how to do that. They would say he was out of his lane.
2:40 PM EST Master Sgt. Craig Blenis shared his take on counseling Manning. In November 2010, Manning started to talk to him more and actually started to engage in conversation. Week to week he stated to speak more. After 7 to 8 weeks, he “stopped talking again.” And, “Once he stopped speaking to me, that went on for three or four weeks. Then he started speaking to me again but that was also a brief two weeks.” After that, he pretty much stopped talking until transferred from Quantico to Leavenworth.
12:58 PM EST Returning from lunch recess very soon. Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, who was Programs Chief and counselor of Manning at Quantico during his confinement, will take the stand as a government witness. And he is the final witness of the day, which presumably means the proceedings will conclude for the day after his testimony completes.
12:45 PM EST Alexa O’Brien has a good series of tweets of articles addressing the suicide epidemic in the military and the stigma of mental health in the military. This is key because the suicide epidemic has come up when officers have discussed keeping Manning on maximum custody or prevention of injury (POI) status.
Here are the articles that O’Brien tweeted (from the media center here at Fort Meade): “In suicide epidemic, military wrestles with prosecuting troops who attempt it“; “Suicide epidemic in Army: July was worst month, Pentagon says“; “Stigma of Mental Health Treatment in the Military” (academic report); and “Army suicides for 2012 surpass last year’s numbers.”
So far, one can see the Brig officers did not take the mental health evaluations seriously. They also, instead of getting Manning more psychiatric help, were content to keep Manning on maximum custody or POI for safety or security purposes and that essentially meant he was being subjected to strict conditions.
12:35 PM EST Coombs questioned Jordan about whether the Quantico Brig officer-in-charge (OIC) had an order to approve Manning for “heightened security” and also POI until the Sanity Board completed its review. Staff Sgt. Jordan said he didn’t recall putting out an order.
The government objected to this line of questioning. The judge decided to allow the questions. Coombs asked if Staff Sgt. Jordan would be surprised if there was a “standing order of maintaining Pfc. Manning in POI until completion of Sanity Board was in weekly reports.” Staff Sgt. Jordan said no he wouldn’t “given the nature of the reports.”
Staff Sgt. Jordan was not aware of any order from CWO4 Averhart, who had been Brig OIC, to keep Manning on POI until completion of the Sanity Board. He also did not think if there was a standing order it would “negate the need” for a Classification & Assignment Board for Manning.
Coombs followed up asking if the Brig OIC was “ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in the Brig.” Staff Sgt. Jordan agreed. And Coombs had no further questions.
12:08 PM EST There hasn’t been much of an argument that the officers in Quantico Brig were homophobic or transphobic. We see some of that bubbling to the surface today in some testimony.
The defense filed a supplemental motion to the main “unlawful pretrial punishment” motion that is at the center of current proceedings.
Here’s a part worth noting: