A Dec. 3 event in Washington, D.C., organized by the Bradley Manning Support Network, featured a talk by Pfc. Manning's attorney, David E. Coombs. It was Coombs' first presentation on the case.
Coombs was preceded by Emma Cape of the Support Network and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Ratner represents WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, who the government is trying to prove conspired with Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while Manning worked as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.
More than a hundred people and numerous members of the press attended the event, which took place at the All Souls Church Unitarian.
Coombs stated that Pfc. Manning has been in prison since June 2010 and is awaiting court martial. The basis of the initial defense for Manning is that under Article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice one cannot be punished prior to trial and that the conditions that Manning endured were cruel, unusual and undoubtedly a form of punishment.
Coombs described how Manning had been subjected to solitary confinement and continual abuse at the hands of the guards:
He was woken at 5:00 a.m and required to remain awake in his cell until 10:00 p.m. He was taken out for a brief 20 minutes and then fed in the cage. Once he was up, he was made to stand or sit on the bunk with his feet on the floor. He was not allowed to lean against the wall or lie in the bed.
Communication was also not allowed except with the guards and his attorney. He was denied visits by relatives and friends and kept segregated from other prisoners. A bright light was shone on him the entire 24 hours, and he was constantly monitored. He had to try and sleep facing the light. If he did not face the light, he would be abruptly woken up. His sleep was interrupted repeatedly. This went on for nine months.
Coombs stated: "It's fitting that we're today at the end of the motion phase that really brought the world's attention to this case and how Bradley Manning was being treated. Brad's treatment at Quantico will be etched 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. Those who could effect change did not. They were more concerned about how the attention might be put on them if something happened to Brad, as opposed to what their conduct was doing to Brad.
“But it turns out those same people cared about something more ... the media impact. And for that, I must thank each and everyone here today. I must thank each and everyone who is listening or watching because without you change would not have happened. Your actions resulted in Brad being moved from Quantico to Ft. Leavenworth. Make no mistake about that."
The government countered this evidence in the Article 13 preliminary hearing by providing witnesses, including the former commander of the brig where Manning was held, who claimed that Manning was stripped naked each night, placed on suicide watch, and subject to other degrading treatment “for his own good.”
In comparing Manning to the Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsburg, a prominent Manning supporter, Coombs said: "History has been the ultimate judge of his [Ellsburg's] courage and sacrifice. History has judged him well. I hope that history will judge Private First Class Bradley Manning in a similar light."