Yesterday at the Bradley Manning hearing, which the New York Times is still not covering despite the mea culpa from the public editor, it emerged that four different generals (Casey, Amos, Flynn and Ari (phonetic)) and the top leadership at the Quantico brig (Commander Averhart, Col. Altman, and Choike) where Manning was being tortured were all scheming to fix the investigative report on whether Manning's confinement conditions were proper.
Once the Marine Corps Inspector General and Quantico Inspector General decided an investigation was warranted, Chief Warrant Officer-5 Abel Galaviz was assigned to investigate. All four generals and the leadership at Quantico commented favorably on Manning's treatment in a group e-mail lovefest that Galaviz received. This occurred before Galaviz's evaluation. One e-mail said:
Need to stress the importance of concurrence.
Galaviz testified he wasn't influenced by these e-mails, but it's hard to reconcile the report's kid gloves (two minor violations were found) with the brutal treatment I've been listening to at Ft. Meade over the past seven days, including prolonged solitary confinement/isolation; humiliation/forced nudity; sleep deprivation; sensory deprivation; and stress positions.
Yesterday, we (me and the six spectators who made it Ft. Meade) saw another gut-wrenching video of master surgeon "Panties" Papakie arguing with a naked Bradley Manning about why Manning had to stay in solitary confinement. (If anyone questions the psychological damage of solitary confinement, read this month's Rolling Stone article by Jeff Tietz). "Panties" Papakie wrote a sarcastic e-mail about giving Manning back his "panties," and identified yet another "factor" evidencing Manning's supposed mental instability: plucking his eyebrows. Metro-sexuals everywhere, beware. Papakie denied being a homophobe, but draw your own conclusion from his "panties" and eyebrow plucking references.
Other officials claimed Manning was mentally unstable because he made faces in the mirror, talked to himself (as opposed to sitting silently for 23 hours a day) and danced in his cell (because he was prohibited from exercising).
Unlike their CIA counterparts, the military did not destroy the videotape of Manning's horrific treatment. Watching it was awful and brought tears to my eyes, but because the spectators are under constant icy stare coupled with the not infrequent stink eye of plain clothes courtroom guards, I held myself together. Yesterday, one woman cleared her throat behind me and the guards asked if she needed a cough drop.
Spectators are not allowed to shift too much in their seats, unwrap anything in plastic, or turn the pages of their notebooks too loudly. The bailiff reads a statement before each proceeding that "the public is encouraged to attend" the Court Martial proceedings, but the conditions are hardly welcoming. (The only bathroom is a glorified porta potty.) The security rules change daily - sometimes you are wanded before entering, sometimes not; sometimes you are allowed to wait outside the courtroom, sometimes you are forced to line up; sometimes they dig through your purse with the gusto of my kids looking for an extra $10, sometimes they take a quick glance. My personal favorite is when they counted the pills in every single prescription bottle I had. My feminine products stopped the detailed mole hunt pretty quickly though.
Back to the whitewashed report on Manning's treatment. In Manning's case, Galaviz's report was done not because DoD was worried about Manning's treatment, but because it was worried about the optics of Manning's treatment at Quantico due to increased public and media scrutiny.
Investigations are not supposed to be dictated by the subjects of the investigation or whether a practice makes an agency look bad. The DoD Inspector General for instance is supposed to an office:
independent, relevant, and timely oversight of the Department of Defense that:
• Supports the warfighter.
• Promotes accountability, integrity and efficiency.
• Advises the secretary of defense and Congress.
• Informs the public.
While Congress established these investigative offices to be independent, they often are not. In my own personal whistleblowing experience, I had a quixotic view of the Justice Department IG as a kind of knight in shining armor - an outside objective force riding over the hill to save me from the wrath of the Justice Department. My trust in the IG was misplaced. Without even bothering to interview me (the complainant), the Justice Department IG referred me for criminal investigation. After they referred me for criminal investigation, as if that wasn't enough, when the criminal investigation closed, they referred me to the bar for disciplinary action, a referral that is still pending today, ten years later.
In my professional experience the Defense Department IG has been a mixed bag. For three clients, including in the case of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake, they issued a favorable report. Some of the DoD IG's sections have functioned as intended and provide aggressive and much-needed oversight, while others have been completely compromised. "Comprised" is an understatement for the four DOD IG complainants (NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis and congressional whistleblower Roark) and witness Drake, who were half of the people raided by the FBI in connection with investigation into the sources for the 2005 New York Times warrantless wiretapping story. None of the five whistleblowers raided were Times sources.
Internal government investigations are often the only remedy available to a whistleblower, especially a national security whistleblower. It does a disservice to the government organization and the whistleblower to "fix" investigation such that the "need for concurrence" becomes more important that the facts.
This post originally appeared on Radack's Daily Kos blog.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.