Transcript: Press conference Q&A with defense counsel David Coombs on PFC Bradley Manning’s 35-year sentence – part I

Partial transcript of press conference Q&A with David Coombs, civilian defense counsel for PFC Bradley Manning, after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in confinement for leaking 700,000 classified U.S. records to WikiLeaks. The press conference was held on Aug. 21, 2013 at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve in Hanover, Maryland. 


Question: What do you see is at stake here?

David Coombs: I think what’s at stake here is how do we as a public want to be informed about what our government does. The national security apparatus in this country has exploded since 9/11, and we don’t even understand how much money gets put into national security defense because that itself is secret. So, I think what’s at stake here is how do we want to live as a country? And what do we want to say that we will do as a country in our self-defense and what we we want to not do?

And it’s important that last part – what do we not want to do – because that’s what makes us different from the enemy that we are facing. We don’t torture. We don’t hold people for years without due process. We don’t target for assassination innocent American people. We don’t do that as a country.

So I think what’s at stake is what history will say to us in how we acted, and we haven’t learned that. As Bradley pointed out, the Japanese-American internment camp, McCarthyism – just to name a few things in our past – not so distant past where we should be ashamed of how we treated a sector of our public for no other reason than they now were somehow targeted as potential enemy.

Question: What are your next steps? Your next actions as his legal representative?

David Coombs: Well, to get attention to what’s happened here, I will be submitting post-trial matters for him to the convening authority and that is a time which his sentence could be reduced. The convening authority has the power to do that. After that, then I will represent him for future parole and clemency issues. Hopefully, the President does the right thing and those are ruled out as options because he pardons him or he releases him with time served.

Question: In the statement that you just read out by Private Manning, he said that he did what he did out of concern for his country and out of patriotism but he also said he was sorry for hurting the United State…Does he stand by his actions or are there things now that he would have done differently? Does he have regrets?

David Coombs: Well, obviously, with everything you do in life, hindsight’s 20-20. What I can tell you about Bradley Manning is he’s a very moral person, and that morality has been with him from the beginning. I believe that when he went there – and you could see this from his conversations with Lauren McNamara – the chat conversations that were admitted into evidence – he went there with the goal of hopefully saving lives, he went there with the goal of helping his command ensure that every soldier, every contractor got home safely and even the local nationals got home safely. I think he would still be troubled – and was troubled – by what he saw. I certainly believe because of his strong sense of morality he would do the same thing.

Question: Does he believe that the information he released sparked a debate or reform? …I think a lot of reporters are confused about when exactly he will be eligible for parole under the specific standards – today’s – assuming there’s no difference in the appeal or whatnot. When he’s eligible for parole?

David Coombs: So, the Apache helicopter video sparked a debate. You didn’t have to be a person who was for or against the war to see that something was wrong with that video.

The SIGACTs – the significant activity reports – I think those are historically very significant because it shows the extent of innocent civilian deaths that were under-reported. It also shows what we ask our men and women – our very brave men and women in uniform – to do on a daily basis, everyday, in a combat environment.

The diplomatic cables certainly sparked a debate because in America we have the luxury of believing that we always do the right thing, we are the good guys, we’re the white hats, we do things because it’s the right thing to do not because it’s just in our interest. That’s what a lot of people believe. You can’t read the cables and come away with that belief. You see that we sometimes make bad decisions because it’s in our national interest and not necessarily in the interest of citizens as a whole. And we ought to expect more of our country than that. We should expect that sometimes we would make a deal or take a position that’s not to our advantage because it’s the right thing to do.

And with regards to the sentencing, nothing happens and he has a 35-year sentence, under military rules after 10 years he would be eligible for parole, and he would go before a parole and clemency board at the 10-year mark. If he’s denied parole that first time, he’s reviewed every year thereafter.

I personally have never done a parole and clemency board but I will be the smartest person seven years from now on everything involving parole and clemency.

Question: That 10 years includes the 1,294 days.

David Coombs: Right. So he gets credit for that so he’s got another seven years before his first look.


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3 Comments on “Transcript: Press conference Q&A with defense counsel David Coombs on PFC Bradley Manning’s 35-year sentence – part I

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