Bradley Manning testifies at a motions hearing in Quantico

Courtroom scene when David Coombs played a Quantico video. Sketch by Clark Stoeckley.

Accused Army whistleblower Bradley Manning testified on November 29 and 30 at a motions hearing for court martial proceedings in Quantico, Virginia. It was the first time he spoke in public since his arrest and imprisonment 917 days ago in May 2010.

Manning testified about the abusive treatment he was subjected to in captivity, in support of a motion to dismiss the charges against him or at least mitigate any punishment should he be convicted.

Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights said about Manning’s first day of testimony, “Bradley was dignified, articulate, smart and self-aware. After two and a half years it was miraculous to finally hear him describe the horrible cages he was in and the egregious conduct of his jailers. What was done to Bradley was inexcusable. I was deeply moved by his words in a day of testimony that was like an emotional roller coaster. I cannot imagine what he must be feeling, but his incredible sincerity and strength was visible to all. We are lucky to have people with the courage of Bradley Manning.”

A more significant development occurred shortly before Manning took the stand. Col. Denise Lind, the military judge, approved the language of an unusual plea offer made by the defense earlier in November. Formal acceptance of the offer could come in December.

David Coombs, Manning’s attorney, explained the filing on his blog: “PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as ‘pleading by exceptions and substitutions.’ To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government. Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses.”

If the plea offer is formally accepted, Coombs noted, “…the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses. Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial.”

Specifically, Manning offered to accept responsibility for wrongfully storing classified information, and releasing the “Collateral Murder” video, more than 20 Afghan war logs and more than 20 Iraq war logs, plus specific other classified memos and documents. Should the government continue to prosecute Manning, the defense strategy would be to contest the other charges, including aiding the enemy, as too extreme for the circumstances.

In earlier developments, the defense motion to dismiss for failure to provide Manning a speedy trial was denied, and Manning has opted for a bench trial before Col. Lind, rather than a military jury.  The court martial of Bradley Manning is still scheduled to begin at the Quantico Marine Base on February 4, 2013.

None of the eleven supporters of Bradley Manning who were arrested sitting-in at Obama campaign offices in Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California on August 16 have been charged in court, but prosecutors in both states told those arrested that they have a year to decide whether to file charges or not.

For complete courtroom reports, news and more Free Bradley Manning campaign updates, visit

Support action:

Letters of support  to Bradley Manning should be sent to Commander, HHC USAG; Attn: PFC Manning; 239 Sheridan Ave. Bldg. 417; JBM-HH VA 22211.