Report: Questions raised about all reasons behind Quantico closing

May 29, 2013 at 11:45 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 29 (UPI) -- Reports question the Pentagon's denying a U.S. Marine prison closed due to its treatment of Bradley Manning, who leaked WikiLeaks material, Courthouse News said.

Army Pfc. Manning, a 25-year-old soldier who admitted being responsible for the intelligence leak to the whistle-blowing website, spent nine months in a maximum-security cell at the Marine Corps Base Quantico brig before he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He was in a windowless cell for at least 23 hours a day under a suicide watch under conditions a U.N. investigator called "cruel, inhuman and degrading."

A military judge concluded earlier this year ruled Manning endured "unlawful pretrial punishment" at Quantico, but said it was an effort to keep him safe for trial.

Months after Manning's transfer, the Pentagon announced it would be closing the brig for financial reasons. However, documents Courthouse News obtained under the Freedom of Information Act cast some doubt on the reasons given.

Among the documents outlining courses of action, panel recommendations, information papers and "wargames," two pages specifically cited Manning by name as part of lists of bullet points as part of the "background" for Quantico's closing, Courthouse News said.

The two bullet points were listed as "Impact of Manning detention" and "Impact of PFC Manning detention."

Other pages referred to Manning as "a high profile Army detainee at the MCBQ PCF [Marine Corp Base Quantico Pre-Trial Confinement Facility] from July 2010 to April 2011," Courthouse News said.

The Quantico official tasked with handling FOIA requests said the mentions were "only in reference to justifying the amount of staffing and costs associated with detaining a high profile detainee, any high profile detainee.

"The decision to close the brig was based on cost effectiveness and staffing," Quantico's FOIA officer Dolaras Johnson said in an email to Courthouse News. "There were no other documents or decision papers that mentioned PFC Manning in the decision to close the brig."

Courthouse News said the documents' timeline intimate Manning's detention had a greater role in the decision to close the brig than publicly stated. Of the reports in which Quantico's closure was discussed, the earliest is dated March 15, 2011, about two weeks before he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth.

The final document provided is dated Oct. 18, 2011, roughly two months before the brig's closing, Courthouse News said.

The financial and logistical analyses concluded it cost nearly $4 million to run the prison and pay 44 Marines, a warrant officer and two civilians to guard an average of nine prisoners a year.

Officially, the Pentagon said it intended to close Quantico brig in 2005, based upon the findings of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC. However, BRAC did not recommend closing Quantico brig but suggested relocating the Counterintelligence Field Activity and Defense Security Service to Quantico to create a hybrid intelligence agency.

Manning, who admitted to charges that carry a possible 20-year sentence, will fight a potential life in prison term at his trial, scheduled to begin June 3, more than three years after he was arrested.

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