PFC Bradley Manning choked back tears during a second day of testimony at a hearing before his military trial as he claimed he didn’t tell his family about the conditions of his confinement at the Marine brig at Quantico, Va., because he did not want them to worry.
He also expressed concern that doing so could lead to an end to visiting privileges for his family.
This week’s pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Md., outside of Washington, D.C., was focused only on Manning’s nine-month confinement at the Marine brig at Quantico. Details about the hundreds of thousands of classified documents Manning is alleged to have leaked to Wikileaks will not be discussed until his trial, which is scheduled to get underway on February 4.
On Friday, Army prosecutors asked Manning why he had not availed himself of multiple opportunities to complain about the Maximum Custody and Prevention of Injury status he experienced during his nine-month stay at Quantico in 2010-2011.
Army prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein pointed to weekly detailed forms with his Army supervisors, where Manning routinely categorized the guards and facilities at the brig as “very professional.” The forms did not detail any of the maximum security conditions Manning talked about on Thursday, the first time he has spoken publicly during his almost two-and-a-half years in pre-trial detention.
Fein also read through transcripts of audio recordings made during the visits to the brig by Manning’s family and friends, when he did not complain about the circumstances of his detention to those closest to him.
In one exchange six weeks after his arrival at Quantico, Manning said of his treatment at the brig, ”it’s pretty good, it’s not bad, it’s not Oz” – a reference to the TV show centered around a maximum security prison.
Manning did not challenge any of Fein’s quotes and concurred with his assessment that he “kept reassuring others you were OK.”
Manning told Fein that he knew that his conversations were being recorded and, “I wasn’t going to talk to anyone in recording circumstances.”
Later, Manning choked back tears and his face grew red when he explained further to his attorney, David Coombs, that, “I didn’t want my family to be worried about my conditions.”
He added, “I didn’t want to bring it up. I didn’t want them to have to experience much more of that.”
Manning’s brief show of emotion was in contrast to the upbeat, self-assured composure he maintained through two days of testimony.
The former Army intelligence analyst explained that he was concerned brig officials might end his family’s visits if he said something wrong.
“It was understood we weren’t supposed to talk about what was going inside the facility… to visitors for both security … and transport issues,” he said. ” I didn’t want to get into the details because I figured that would be a good reason to end those for security reasons.”
In testimony on Thursday, Manning admitted to suicidal thoughts when he was detained in Kuwait and acknowledged having fashioned a noose from a bed sheet. On Friday, prosecutors produced the peach-colored noose and Manning confirmed it was the one he had made.
Manning’s state of mind when he was transferred from Kuwait to Quantico in July, 2010 had a major impact on the rest of his detention there. Required to fill out a questionnaire when he arrived at Quantico, Manning said he sarcastically wrote, “always planning, never acting,” when asked if he ever had suicidal thoughts.
He said he’d forgotten about the entry when brig staff raised it with him at a meeting on Jan. 21, 2011, when he was seeking a downgrade from the Prevention of Injury status he had been in since arriving from Kuwait.
But Fein asked how that could be possible given that three days before he had openly spoken about the written comments with brig officials during an incident that led to his being placed on suicide risk watch.
Fein then described how Manning’s awareness of the comments had been seen in videos played Thursday by Manning’s attorney.
A sheepish Manning told Fein, “I’d forgotten about that.”
“In that three-day period you’d forgotten about it?” asked Fein.
“Yes,” said Manning.