Journalists following the Bradley Manning case since his arrest in May 2010 have been frustrated by his lawyer’s refusal to speak out. Now he has.
During a videotaped telecast, that was live streamed, and is available on YouTube, David Coombs called his client's harsh treatment in the Quantico Brig criminal.
“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched I believe in our nation’s history as a disgraceful moment in time. Not only was it stupid and counterproductive, it was criminal. An entire group of individuals who no doubt are honorable men and women chose to turn a blind eye to how Bradley was being treated,” Coombs told the audience gathered at a Washington church Tuesday evening.
Coombs, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, started by explaining that he thought it was in his client’s best interest to avoid public appearances or grant interviews.
What wasn’t said, but was clearly driving his first-ever presentation, was that angering military judges and generals unnecessarily would not help his client.
Yet Coombs conceded that Manning was moved to a much safer and comfortable environment in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., only because the media had complained. He told media present at his briefing that “with your actions, the draconian conditions that he lived under for nine months came to an end. The magical waters of Fort Leavenworth apparenty healed him.”
He meant Manning was no longer held in solitary and made to sleep in his underwear and appear naked at roll calls. Quantico commanders judged Manning a suicide risk, even though military psychiatrists and psychologists said he wasn’t.
“Those who could affect change (at Quantico) did not," Coombs said. "They were more concerned about how the attention might be put on them if something happened to Brad as opposed to what their conduct doing to Brad. But it turns out those same people cared about something more and what they turned out to care about more was the media impact.”
Coombs also may have felt he could speak out after Manning testified for the first time in court last week.
Manning was detained after being accused of using his position as a military intelligence analyst to leak videos and other data to Wikileaks. The most famous item was the so-called “Collateral Video” of 2007. It showed two U.S. helicopter gunships gunning down civilians in Baghdad. This and other information leaked was two or more years old.
Coombs’ other pointed reference was to President Obama, Manning’s commander-in-chief, saying he had committed a crime. Lesser military cases have been thrown out for such influence being exerted.
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, called Manning a hero.
Much of what Coombs said seemed intended to win favor for his client with the judge and the judge’s superiors.
He talked about how in his experience military courts were safer venues for defendants than civilian ones. But he made reference to being unhappy with the jurors.
He cited no examples of civilian trials being allowed to drag out this long. The latest word is that Manning’s court martial won’t start until March, nearly three years after he was detained. Defendants in both military and civilian courts are entitled to speedy trials.
Law experts have said military courts were fairer when lawyers and judges were draftees, not interested in how their performances could affect their promotions
Video of Coombs' briefing linked to in text.