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

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. 

PART V:

Question: Presumably he’s going back to Leavenworth…Did he express any concerns about moving into a more general population?

David Coombs: Yeah, he’ll go back to Fort Leavenworth but instead of being at the Joint Regional Confinement Facility that’s for pre-trial confinement, he’ll go to the USDB, which is for post-trial confinement.

When you get there, you’ll have a month-long indoctrination period where you learn about the facility’s rules. They assess you. They ensure that everything’s fine, you have no issues that would require you to be held in solitary confinement.

Once he gets through that month-long period, then he’ll be released to general population, assuming there are no issues, which I wouldn’t envision there would be. Then that’s – he’ll have a kind of typical day that he had previously in the Joint Regional Confinement Facility.

…In my experience they send them to confinement facility within the day or the following day.

Question: We hear reports sometimes about defense lawyers at Guantanamo who are concerned that their phones are being monitored or their messages are being looked at. Has anything in your experience since you took on Bradley Manning as a client made you worry about something similar?

David Coombs: Well, not until I saw what the NSA is capable of doing. [Laughs] Then I’m just hopeful that I didn’t anything too bad…I never really seriously considered whether or not my phone or my emails were being intercepted but if they did, I wouldn’t be too concerned for anything that’s in there, actually, but obviously I wouldn’t want that to happen.

Question: Could you talk about how your client has changed since you first started representing him and especially during the course of the trial itself?

David Coombs: Yeah. Brad as a 22-year-old when I met him and in Quantico was a person that was really frayed. He was at his rope’s end. Our relationship was built over many meetings, many sessions. When we got him out of the conditions that he was in, that’s when I truly saw his personality come out, that’s when I saw the true client that I had.

And in the three years that I’ve been representing him, he’s really matured a lot. We’ve talked about that at the trial and it’s true. He’s a different person, as you would expect anyone to be when they go from 22 to 25. But the thing that’s refreshing about him is that he is very consistent in his view of morality, in his view of what’s right and wrong, and for that, you know, he hasn’t changed. And that’s what makes it a pleasure to represent him as a client.

Question: In three months of trial, we haven’t heard anything in open court about President Woodrow Wilson’s vision of open diplomacy and every mention of the diplomatic cables in particular has been conducted in classified session. What has this trial shown about the practice of a more open diplomacy?

David Coombs: Well, I think it would make the world a much better place is we had open diplomacy.

I’ll tell you from my perspective of being in closed sessions. Everyday, I left thinking, “I don’t know why we were in a closed session.” There was nothing that was said that in my mind warranted closing the session.

And you know, you have access to see the information that was released, ask yourself, “Does this stuff need to be classified?” And that goes back to what I said in my earlier remarks of we have a serious problem in this country and that’s over-classification.

At least in 2011, apparently 92 million documents were classified. I don’t believe we need to classify 92 million documents.

Question: [Inaudible]

David Coombs: Well, when you get the closed session and you get the unclassified transcripts from both sessions, you’ll see how very little might be redacted. But that which is redacted, if you could get with a FOIA request, you would be underwhelmed. [Laughs]

Question: Will there be any opportunities for PFC Manning to further his education while he’s in confinement?

David Coombs: Yes, and we’re going to explore doing that. Hopefully, we can actually – we’ll create those opportunities with the cooperation of some higher educational institutions that might be willing to do that.

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