Quantico psychiatrist says Bradley treated worse than death row
Notes from the courtroom in today’s hearing for PFC Bradley Manning. Two mental health professionals testified to the fact that Quantico was the first brig to blithely ignore their recommendations to remove a detainee from restrictive conditions. See day 1 notes, and day 3 notes.
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. November 28, 2012.
Mental health professional Captain Kevin Moore took the stand in the second day of this week’s pretrial hearing for PFC Bradley Manning, explaining that Bradley’s isolated conditions that wore on his mental health were even worse than death row treatment he observed earlier in his career.
Cpt. Moore and another psychiatrist, Captain William Hoctor, testified that Quantico Brig officials ignored their recommendations to remove Bradley from Suicide Risk watch and then from Prevention of Injury (POI) watch for several months. They both said that this was completely different than previous brig officials they’ve worked for, who usually complied with their recommendations within days.
The military didn’t listen to Cpt. Hoctor’s concerns that holding Bradley on Suicide Risk watch when he was in no danger of harming himself was detrimental to Bradley’s mental health. A detainee earlier that year had killed himself at Quantico, and Cpt. Hoctor explained that officials were keenly aware of the high-level of media scrutiny in Bradley’s case and was exerting extreme caution. However, they had no psychiatric reason, he said, to keep him on POI watch or to remove his clothes, and that the restrictive treatment left Bradley isolated, stressed, and depressed.
Cpt. Hoctor recommended within one week of meeting with Bradley at Quantico that he be removed from Suicide Risk watch, saying that Bradley was not a danger to himself, didn’t appear depressed, and needed to socialize with other detainees. The brig ignored that recommendation, without explaining why.
Later, while Bradley was still on Suicide Risk, Cpt. Hoctor asked if Bradley could get more time to exercise, as his already-slim frame was dropping weight quickly. He recommended that Bradley be integrated into the prison population, as he was becoming withdrawn and hadn’t had contact with his peers in months. He also told officials that Bradley needed more time outside, since he was only getting 20 minutes each day. In addition to these specific requests, in his weekly reports on Bradley’s mental health, Cpt. Hoctor continually recommended that Bradley be removed from POI watch.
Unfortunately, “They had made up their mind” to keep Bradley on POI watch, Cpt. Hoctor said. Quantico officials refused each specific offer and continued to ignore his weekly calls for reduced confinement treatment, again giving no explanation.
Defense lawyer David Coombs asked Col. Hoctor if he thought Quantico was running the risk of of endangering Bradley Manning, and Col. Hoctor said yes, it was, as these conditions might have “unintended consequences.” Coombs asked how Col. Hoctor would describe officials who didn’t consider these effects, and he said, “callous.”
Bradley’s treatment would continue indefinitely
When Cpt. Hoctor expressed his concerns, and the fact that Bradley’s restrictive conditions should not be justified with mental health language, to Col. Robert Oltman, Security Battalion Commander in charge of Quantico, Col. Oltman told him that Cpt. Hoctor should continue to report weekly but that “we’ll do what we want to do,” and that Bradley would be on POI watch for the foreseeable future.
This made Cpt. Hoctor the “angriest [he’d] been in a long time,” as the treatment was “senseless,” had no psychiatric justification, and a Battalion Commander had never before said outright that such a confinement statues would continue indefinitely regardless of his recommendations. He also said that this treatment could harm Bradley, as “everyone has limits,” though “he’d been strong.”
Col. Oltman’s testimony
Col. Oltman himself testified for most of this morning, explaining why Bradley remained on POI watch and why he didn’t fully trust Cpt. Hoctor’s opinion. Col. Oltman didn’t make the decision to put Bradley on POI watch, but decisions in Bradley’s confinement were passed along to Col. Oltman who then passed them up the command chain. He had the authority to change Bradley’s status, but never reduced his status. He said that because a soldier, Captain Webb, had killed himself at Quantico earlier that year, and since Cpt. Hoctor hadn’t recommended Cpt. Webb be put on Suicide Risk, Col. Oltman didn’t weigh his advice for other detainees as heavily.
But in most of his testimony, Col. Oltman emphasized that Quantico officials were interested in Bradley’s safety and media coverage. At one point, after Coombs asked him whether he ever disagreed with the decision to keep Bradley on POI watch, Col. Oltman said that he was never 100% certain that Bradley could be taken off of POI watch at all.
Removing Bradley’s underwear
Coombs asked Col. Oltman about the incident in which Brig Officer in Command Denise Barnes decided to remove even Bradley’s underwear after he quipped that he could hang himself with his elastic waistband. Cpt. Hoctor had said that Bradley was merely making a sarcastic comment “intellectualizing the absurdity of his conditions,” but Col. Oltman said, “You don’t joke about suicide.”
Coombs shot back reminding Col. Oltman that he’d laughed at Lt. Col. Greer’s Dr. Seuss parody that mocked Bradley’s nudity.
Corrections official Col. Wright didn’t find Quantico’s response very funny either, as he informed Col. Oltman that removing a detainee’s clothes for suicidal reasons was inappropriate for a prisoner on POI watch and not on Suicide Risk.
“This is not the way we do business,” Col. Wright said.
But Col. Oltman didn’t change the status, nor did those below him. Instead Col. Oltman characterized Col. Wright’s as the view from “30,000 feet,” meaning it wasn’t informed by on-the-ground information, similar to Col. Choike’s “armchair quarterback” comment yesterday.
OIC Barnes and Col. Oltman emailed back and forth about the incident, and OIC Barnes found a loophole of sorts in brig regulations: one of the instructions of POI watch says that OIC can remove clothing (the loophole element being that OIC Barnes just had to refrain from justifying it with the potential suicide element).
Col. Oltman didn’t bother to reconcile Col. Wright and OIC Barnes’s opinions, satisfied with OIC Barnes’s reasoning, while Bradley remained humiliated and naked each night.