Bradley Manning testifies

The solider recounts harsh detainment; prosecution plans to use declassified material from bin Laden's computer

Topics: Bradley Manning, Fort Meade, WikiLeaks, Court Martial, Solitary Confinement, Osama Bin Laden, U.S. Military, Quantico, Whistleblowing,

Pfc. Bradley Manning testified Thursday on the third say of his pretrial hearing at Fort Meade. In his first public speaking appearance in two years, the soldier appeared in his dress uniform and “appeared nervous,” according to an AP report. Meanwhile Kevin Gosztola, who has followed Bradley Manning’s case more closely than perhaps any other reporter, tweeted that Manning was “smiling,” “energetic” and “intelligent” while testifying about his detainment conditions.

Manning answered questions from his defense attorney as part of a pretrial motion arguing that the detained soldier suffered “unlawful pretrial punishment” and should thus have his charges dismissed for his time spent in what amounted to solitary confinement. According to reports, Manning described in detail his conditions while detained in Kuwait and then at Quantico when he returned to the U.S.

Reporting via Twitter, the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington noted that Manning’s lawyer drew a life-size Quantico cell on the floor and had the soldier stand in it to convey his cramped conditions. For nine months, the 24-year-old was confined to a 6-by-8-foot cell with no window for more than 23 hours each day. “If you put your head on cell door [and] looked through crack you could see reflection of t[he] window,” Manning told the hearing Thursday, according to Pilkington’s reports.

Manning also told the court that he was pleased when returned to American soil in 2010, having felt like he was in an “animal cage” while detained by the U.S. military in Kuwait.

One of the psychiatrists who treated Manning at the Quantico brig testified Wednesday that staff continually ignored his recommendations that the soldier was not a threat to himself and should not have been kept on prevention-of-injury status — under which he was not allowed a regular blanket or pillow, and was forced to undergo regular guard checks. “I’ve just never experienced anything like this … It was clear to me that they had made up their mind on a certain course of actions and my recommendations didn’t really matter,” said behavioral health specialist Navy Capt. William Hocter.

Meanwhile, Thursday saw two other significant developments relating to Manning’s court-martial. First, the military judge Col. Denise Lind approved Manning’s plea notice, under which the soldier would plead guilty to eight charges for sending classified documents to WikiLeaks but, crucially, would not plead guilty to the prosecution’s charge of “aiding the enemy.” Lind’s approval is not, however, a formal approval of the pleas, which the AP reported could happen in December. “But Lind approved the language of the offenses to which Manning would admit. She said those offenses carry a total maximum prison term of 16 years,” noted the AP.

In other major news, according to Washington Post researcher Julie Tate, Manning’s prosecutors plan to use material found on Osama bin Laden’s computer, which has recently been declassified. What this material might be is, as of yet, unknown. However, there is some speculation that if the prosecution is seeking evidence from bin Laden’s computer, then it may still be pushing for “aiding the enemy” charges. New York magazine’s Joe Coscarelli guessed that the content might relate to the man who led the U.S. to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound:

After the raid on bin Laden’s compound, there was some speculation that the U.S. was forced to move up its timeframe because the man who led them to Abbottabad — courier Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan — was mentioned in the Wikileaks’ release of notes from the Guantanamo interrogation of a Libyan, Abu al-Libi, who had apparently been with Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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