By Donna Miles, American Forces Press ServiceApril 19, 2011
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 -- The Army plans to transfer Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, charged with leaking classified military information in the WikiLeaks incident, to a new Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, announced today.
Johnson explained the rationale noting that it is the right time to transfer Manning to a more appropriate facility for long-term pre-trial confinement.
"At the request of Private Manning's defense counsel, an assessment is under way to determine whether Private Manning is mentally competent in this case in the event it goes to trial," he said. "On Saturday, April 9, the inquiry phase of that process, known in military justice terms as a 706 board, was completed, and Private Manning's presence in the Washington, D.C., area is no longer necessary for that purpose."
"At this juncture of the case, we have decided that the new joint regional correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is the most appropriate facility for Private Manning for continued pre-trial detention," he said.
Manning's transfer from the pre-trial confinement facility at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia, is "imminent," Johnson said, but according to standard policy he declined to provide precise details.
"This is the right decision at the right time," Army Undersecretary Joseph W. Westphal said, reinforcing Johnson's explanation.
"This [facility] became available in January for pre-trial [confinees]," Westphal said. "We were looking at the situation where he would need an environment that was more conducive to a longer-term period, and this is why we made the decision to move him at this time. We needed to wait until the 706, and his participation in the 706 review process, was over, and that just became over."
With the medical review of Manning's competence to stand trial expected to take additional time, and a pre-trial phase that "may continue for months beyond that," Johnson said the decision was made to transfer him to Fort Leavenworth.
Army Corrections Command reviewed the new facility and determined it has the expertise and capability to provide continued, long-term pre-trial confinement for Manning, Johnson said.
"The facility, which opened in October and opened a pre-trial confinement capability in January, is a state-of-the-art complex with the best and widest range of support services available to pre-trial prisoners within the Department of Defense corrections system," he said.
The facility has resident medical and mental-health care staff "appropriate to meet Private Manning's health and welfare needs for the remainder of the 706 Board process into the pretrial phase, Johnson said.
"When he is transferred to the Joint Regional Correction Facility, he will receive support from experienced, trained professional staff that has been doing this for well over 20 years," said Army Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, the facility commander. "And he will receive the mental health, physical health and emotional health [support] that he needs to go through this judicial process."
"The Quantico brig is a level 1 facility that is not intended for long- term incarceration either pre- or post-trial," she said. Typically, pre-trial prisoners are not incarcerated at a level 1 facility for more than a couple months."
The Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Kansas is a state-of-the-art, level 2 facility, Hilton said. "So what that means is that I have the capacity to hold not only the pre-trial prisoners but post-trial prisoners with sentences up to five years. And with that comes all the support staff that Pfc. Manning may need," she said.
"I have the experienced staff who not only work at the Joint Regional Correctional Facility but also at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth," she continued. "So it's more than just the facility. It's the staff that comes with the facility. My facility is different than the [Quantico] brig. I am developed, designed and staffed with the experienced staff to provide those services for long-term incarceration."
Johnson emphasized that the decision to transfer Manning should not be interpreted as any criticism of the pretrial facility at Quantico.
"We remain satisfied that Private Manning's pretrial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects," he said. "And we salute the military personnel there for the job they did in difficult circumstances."
As at Quantico, Manning will be allowed to receive a limited number of outside visitors at Fort Leavenworth, subject to his and the command's agreement, Johnson said. In addition, he said the Army will allow a limited number of media to tour the Leavenworth pre-trial facility.
Manning will return to Washington, D.C., as necessary, for legal proceedings, with his case remaining under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
Johnson emphasized that as the case progresses, Manning will be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
"It is important to remember that while Private Manning is charged with very serious offenses involving classified information and national security, in our system of military justice, as in our system of civilian justice in this country, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
Pre-trial confinement, common to both systems, "has been determined to be appropriate in this case," he said.
Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, is suspected of being involved in one of the largest leaks of classified material in U.S. history, Johnson said. The leak involved hundreds of thousands of diplomatic and military documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The WikiLeaks organization published many of these documents online, drawing criticism of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other defense officials who charge they put deployed U.S. servicemembers at increased risk.
Following a seven-month investigation, the Army added 22 charges against Manning in March, charging him with putting unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloading it, improperly storing it, and transmitting the classified data for public release and for use by the enemy.