Quantico Closure Data Is Tight-Lipped on Manning

     (CN) – Although the Pentagon disavows any relationship between the closing of Quantico prison and international uproar over the brig’s treatment of WikiLeaks source, Pfc. Bradley Manning, internal Marine reports call those denials into question, Courthouse News has learned.
     Pfc. Manning, a 25-year-old soldier who recently admitted responsibility for the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history, spent nine months inside a maximum-security cell of Quantico brig, from July 2010 until April 2011, before being transferred to Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.
     Quantico placed Manning in a windowless, 8-by-6 cell for 23 hours a day or longer under prevention-of-injury watch and occasionally suicide-risk status where he faced intense monitoring and other conditions that a United Nations investigator called “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
     A military judge concluded earlier this year ruled Manning endured “unlawful pretrial punishment” at Quantico, but she mostly defended that treatment as an attempt to keep him safe to stand trial.
     Months after Manning’s transfer, the Pentagon announced it would be closing the brig, ostensibly for financial reasons.
     Documents that Courthouse News obtained under the Freedom of Information Act nevertheless complicate that rationale.
     The 144-page data dump consists of dozens of reports released in no discernable chronological or procedural order. The authors apparently consisted of members of a “zero-based review” board preparing the brig for closure, but the military redacted their names by claiming exemptions under the Privacy Act.
     In the fusillade of courses of action, panel recommendations, information papers and “wargames,” only two pages cite Pfc. Manning by name. Those pages each contain a list of five bullet points on the “background” of the brig’s closing.
     On the first list, one bullet states “Impact of Manning detention,” and a nearly identical page contains the point “Impact of PFC Manning detention.”
     A few other pages allude to him obliquely as “a high profile Army detainee at the MCBQ PCF [Marine Corp Base Quantico Pre-Trial Confinement Facility] from July 2010 to April 2011.” (Brackets added)
     Asked about this discrepancy, the Quantico official responsible for handling FOIA requests insisted that these mentions were “only in reference to justifying the amount of staffing and costs associated with detaining a high profile detainee, any high profile detainee.
     “The decision to close the brig was based on cost effectiveness and staffing,” Quantico’s FOIA officer Dolaras Johnson said in an email. “There were no other documents or decision papers that mentioned PFC Manning in the decision to close the brig.”
     The financial and logistical analyses that comprise the bulk of the reports concluded that the prison drained almost $4 million to run the facility and pay 44 Marines, one warrant officer and two civilians charged with guarding an average of nine members of the armed services a year.
     Even with those expenditures, the prison had inadequate security and medical resources, according to the reports.
     The timeline of the documents, however, suggests that Manning’s detention played more of a role in the decision to close the brig than publicly stated.
     Of the reports that discuss Quantico’s closure, the earliest is dated March 15, 2011, roughly two weeks before the soldier’s transfer to Ft. Leavenworth.
     The final document provided is dated Oct. 18, 2011, roughly two months before the brig’s New Year’s Eve closing.
     Government officials also provided an April 2009 report that does not appear to mention the closing of Quantico brig directly or indirectly.
     Officially, the Pentagon claims that it intended to close Quantico brig in 2005, based upon the findings of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, abbreviated as BRAC.
     Though Marine data generally repeat this claim, the BRAC did not recommend closing Quantico brig. It suggested relocating the Counterintelligence Field Activity and Defense Security Service to Quantico, and combining them into a hybrid intelligence agency there.
     Quantico fundamentally changed the nature of its brig to accommodate Manning’s confinement, the documents indicate.
     An “Information Paper” dated March 15, 2011, reveals that that the military designated Quantico brig as a PCF, or pre-trial confinement facility, on July 1, 2010, days before Manning’s arrival.
     “Previously it had been a Level-1 facility, which housed detainees until trial and prisoners with terms up to a year,” the paper states.
     In a hearing late last year, the prison’s former commanding officer, Col. Daniel Choike, testified that the brig’s loss of staff and resources and lack of in-house medical care made it inappropriate for long-term and high-profile prisoners like Manning.
     Manning, who already has admitted to charges that carry a potential 20-year sentence, will try to fend off a potential life in prison at his upcoming trial beginning June 3, more than three years after he was arrested.

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