Transcript: Remarks by Defense Attorney David Coombs on Bradley Manning’s pre-trial treatment in Quantico

Transcribed & edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by David Coombs, Defense Attorney for Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, at the Bradley Manning Support Network event in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 3, 2012:

As many of you know, I have not been participating in any public events before today. I also avoid any interviews with the media.

And it was and still in my belief that Bradley Manning deserves an attorney that is focused on what is happening in the court room and only what is happening in the court room. And that is why I’ve chosen not to do media interviews at this point.

But today, however, marks a milestone. And it was actually supposed to be an ending point really to the motions hearing that we were going through. And it would mark the end of the motions phase, working our way into the trial phase.

And the motion that we were doing – and unfortunately still are – is the unlawful pre-trial punishment motion. And it’s taken longer than expected but I must tell you I’m not that disappointed by that. I’m enjoying my opportunity to cross-examine those who have Bradley Manning in those conditions for 9 months.

As I take an opportunity, though, to reflect on the last 2 years, I think it’s fitting that we’re here today at the end of the motions phase with a motion that really brought the world’s attention to this case, and that was how Bradley Manning was being treated.

Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched, I believe, in our nation’s history as a disgraceful moment in time. Not only was it stupid and counter-productive, it was criminal.

An entire group of individuals who I, 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 was their conduct doing to Brad.

But it turns out those same people cared about something more and what they turn out to care about more was the media impact. And for that, I must thank each and every one of you today. I must thank each and every one who is listening or watching. Because without you, change would not have happened.

Your actions resulted in Brad being moved from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth. Make no mistake about that.

And with your actions, the draconian conditions that he lived under for 9 months came to an end.

The magical waters of Fort Leavenworth have currently healed him and he was no longer required to live in the conditions that he was in.

Now we all know that Brad cannot be here tonight, but he knows tonight is happening. And he wanted me to personally thank each and every one of you.

Thank you for taking the time to write to him, for signing petitions, for attending marches, rallies, and other public events. Thank you for writing to the military and to our government complaining about his conditions. Thank you for donating to his legal defense, for volunteering at Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network.

But most of all, he wanted me to thank you for caring – caring about him. The battle that we have waged for the last 2 years could not have been fought without your help. And it has been a hard fight so far.

We are currently at over 450 appellate exhibits in this case, and that amounts to just over 20,000 pages of written motions and attachments.

I am confident by the time this case comes to a conclusion, the record of trial will be the longest record of trial in our military’s history.

And that record will reflect one thing: That we fought at every turn, at every opportunity, and we fought to ensure that Brad received a fair trial.

Now, my office website can keep track of a few things and I want to share some numbers with you that I am personally, I guess, happy to see. And that is over 764,000 people to date have gone and read at least something about Brad on my webpage. We’ve received over 72,000 pieces of mail for Brad since his beginning in confinement. Over 14,000 individuals have donated to either Courage to Resist or the Bradley Manning Defense Fund. And 754 supporters have donated directly to his legal defense fund managed by my office.

And today, I want to take the opportunity to thank you. Thank you for getting involved. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy life not only to be here today and to listen to what I’m saying but thank you for caring about Brad. Thank you.

When I’m in the court room, I stand up and I look to my right and I see the United States government – the United States government with all of its resources, all of its personnel – I see them standing against me and Brad. And I have to admit to you that can be rather intimidating. And I was intimidated, especially when the President of the United States says your client broke the law; especially when Congress members say your client deserves the death penalty.

I want to tell you, though, today as I stand here I’m no longer intimidated. I am not intimidated because when I stand up I know I’m not standing alone.

I know I’m not alone because I turn around and I see the support behind me. I see members here today in the audience that are there every time we have a court hearing. I see now what I’m going to affectionately call the truth battalion. Those who wear nothing but – well, they wear other things – but they wear black shirt and it has the word ‘truth’ on it and they’re behind me. And when I look there, I know that I also have unlimited personnel and unlimited resources.

But perhaps the best evidence for me that I am not standing alone when I stand for Brad is a website called IAmBradleyManning.org. I personally have to tell you I go to this website at least once a day. I go to this site when I need to re-charge my batteries after working a long day on the case. And I just peruse the photographs – people with a simple statement in front of their face: ‘I am Bradley Manning.’

It’s amazing the power of those simple words. What those words mean to each individual, I do not know. But I want to take a moment to share with you what that may mean to Brad.

During our countless conversations, I had an opportunity to talk to him about his future. And I said, ‘Brad, what do you want to do when this eventually comes to an end?’ And he told me that his dream would be to go to college, to get a degree.

And as a young man – at that time he was 23 – that makes sense. We all know that college degrees are pretty much the ticket to a productive future. So I ask Brad, ‘Well, with that degree what do you plan on doing?’ And he said, ‘I want to go into public service.’

I asked him what he meant by that. He said, ‘I want to join some sort of campaign group, go into public service, and perhaps one day run for public office.’

And I asked Brad why would he want to do that, and he said, ‘I want to make a difference. I want to make a difference in this world.’

I can tell you that standing here today, I hope that someday soon Brad can go to college. I hope someday soon he can, in fact, go into public service. But I am confident, as I stand here today, that Brad doesn’t have to worry about making a difference in this world – he has made a difference.

Last Tuesday, the President of the United States signed into law the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. As President Obama was signing this bill into law, Brad and I were in a courtroom for the start of his unlawful pre-trial punishment motion. How can you reconcile the two? I don’t know the answer to that question.

One of our nation’s most famous whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg, has on multiple occasions spoken out for Brad. History has been the ultimate judge of his courage and sacrifice. History has judged him well.

I hope that history will judge Private First Class Bradley Manning in a similar light.

I thank you for coming here today, and I thank you for listening to me.

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