Fort Meade, Md. • Some workers at a Marine Corps brig housing a soldier charged with sending U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks became annoyed at a demonstration on his behalf the day before a confrontation that led to tighter restrictions on him, a former guard testified Saturday.
The testimony by former Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jonathan Cline undercut government efforts to show that Pfc. Bradley Manning’s tight confinement conditions were justified to prevent him from killing or hurting himself. The defense claims the nine months Manning spent in virtual isolation, sometimes without clothing, amounted to illegal pretrial punishment. Manning and his attorneys want all the charges dismissed.
Cline testified on the fifth day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore.
He was called as a prosecution witness to talk about a Jan. 18, 2011, incident in which Manning hid behind an exercise machine and wept after he was scolded by another guard for failing to respond properly to a command. Later that day, the brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Averhart, added “suicide risk” to Manning’s maximum-custody conditions. That was after they had what Manning described as a heated argument about the incident.
Manning testified Thursday that the guards seemed angry that morning as they escorted him in leg irons and handcuffs to an exercise room. He said their attitude made him nervous, culminating in his odd behavior.
“I thought I was going to be attacked or assaulted or something like that,” Manning said.
Cline testified that some brig workers were annoyed that a pro-Manning protest a day earlier had closed Quantico’s main gate, forcing them to take alternate routes home. Cline said he wasn’t personally affected by it. Defense attorney David Coombs has implied the guards took out their irritation on Manning by bullying him.
Cline and another former guard, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Tankersly, both testified that except for the Jan. 18 incident, Manning was always compliant and respectful.
Another former brig worker, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William Fuller, testified that Manning was often uncommunicative and withdrawn, possibly signaling a suicide risk.
Fuller testified that before Jan. 18, he had considered recommending to Averhart that Manning be removed from “prevention-of-injury,” or POI, status because of his improved behavior. Manning was on either POI or even more restrictive “suicide risk” status during his entire stay at Quantico in maximum custody.
His behavior Jan. 18 “gave us cause for concern,” Fuller said. “That kind of reset things, unfortunately.”
Manning was at Quantico from July 2010 to April 2011. Then he was moved to pretrial confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He has been held in medium custody since arriving there.
The 24-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., worked as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He is charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy and violating federal espionage and computer security laws. He could get life in prison.
He is accused of sending to the website WikiLeaks more than 250,000 diplomatic cables, classified memos, Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Guantanamo Bay prison records and a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men. It was later determined that one of those men was a news photographer. The Pentagon said its troops mistook camera equipment for weapons.