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DOD News Briefing with General Counsel Johnson, Under Secretary Westphal and Lt. Col. Hilton from the Pentagon on the status of Army Pfc. Manning

Presenters: Jeh Johnson, General Counsel, Department of Defense; Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal; and Army Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, Commander of the Joint Regional Correctional Factiliy at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
April 19, 2011

           [Go to http://www.defense.gov/news/CorrectionalFacility.pdf to view the fact sheet associated with this transcript] 

          MR. JOHNSON:  My name is Jeh Johnson.  I am the general counsel of the Department of Defense.  We are here today to provide an update on the status of Army Private First Class Bradley Manning.  

          The Army is transferring Private Manning from the pre-trial confinement facility at Quantico to the new Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  With me to answer questions about this matter are the Under Secretary of the Army, Joe Westphal, and Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton, who is the commander of the Fort Leavenworth facility.  

          Before we take your questions, I want to spend a moment to explain the circumstances.  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.  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.  

          However, we are told that the medical opinion concerning Private Manning's competence to stand trial may take additional time.  At this juncture of the case, we have decided that the new joint-regional correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is the most appropriate facility for Private Manning for continued pre-trial detention.  

          Army Corrections Command has reviewed the new facility and determined that it has the expertise and capability to provide continued long-term pre-trial confinement for Private Manning.  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, to include resident medical and mental-health care staff.  

          This facility is appropriate to meet Private Manning's health and welfare needs, given the possibility that he will remain in pre-trial confinement for an additional time during the 706 board process and the likelihood that the pre-trial phase of the case may continue for months beyond that.  Colonel Hilton will be happy to answer questions about the facility.  And I believe you have a fact sheet that provides some additional detail.  

          Within appropriate limits that must be established by the command of the facility, the Army will make the pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth available to a tour by a limited number of the press.  It is also the case, like it was at Quantico, that Private Manning may receive a limited number of outside visitors, provided that Private Manning himself, as well as the command agrees that he can see them.  

          Private Manning will return to the Washington, D.C. area as needed for legal proceedings, as his case remains under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army's military district of Washington. 

          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.  Pre-trial confinement, however, is common to both systems and has been determined to be appropriate in this case.  

          One final note.  Many will be tempted to interpret today's action as a criticism of the pre-trial facility at Quantico.  That is not the case.  We remain satisfied that Private Manning's pre-trial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects, and we salute the military personnel there for the job they did in difficult circumstances.  

          At this juncture of the case, given the likely continued period of pre-trial confinement, we have determined that the new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth is the most appropriate one for Private Manning going forward.  

          We're now happy to answer your questions.  Yes, ma'am.  

          Q:  Sir, you said that there could be criticism or that there could be interpretations that this -- the pre-trial confinement was inappropriate, but that everything was followed by the letter of the law.  At any point, do you think -- in your judgment, do you think that Private Manning, there was bad judgment used in the way that he was treated at Quantico; despite the fact whether it was by the letter of the law, that people who were running the facility at Quantico used bad judgment in the way he was treated?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  No, I do not believe that. 

                I also know that I am the lawyer for the Department of Defense.  I am not a corrections expert, and so I hesitate to second guess any of the judgments made by the personnel there in dealing with this particular confinee.  

          Q:  Colonel Hilton, could I -- could I ask you if -- I mean, what is your assessment based on what you've --   

          LT. COL. HILTON:  I don't know the specific details of Pfc. Manning's confinement.  But what I do -- what I can tell you is that when he's transported to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility, he will receive -- will receive support from an experienced, trained professional staff that have been doing this for well over 20 years, and he'll receive the mental health, physical health and emotional health that he needs to go through this judicial process.  

          Q:  When will he be transferred? 

          MR. JOHNSON:  It's imminent.  We don't normally provide precise details of the timing of such things, but it's imminent in the short term.  

          Q:  This week?  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  As a matter of policy, we don't discuss escort details.  Though we don't discuss the details, we do this on a routine basis.  This is what we do on a daily basis.  When we perform these missions, they are very similar to the way the U.S. Marshals perform escorts, as well as other state and federal agencies.  So this is what we do on a daily basis, and it will be formed --   

          MR. JOHNSON:  I think you can assume that we would not be announcing this this far -- very far in advance.  

          Q:  Wait, since this is -- I mean, this is pretty unusual to have a press conference late in the day announcing that you're moving a prisoner.  Will you make an announcement when he's actually been checked in or whatever the term is that -- (inaudible)?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  We don't have a plan to do that at the moment.  I suspect that you all will become aware of that at the point at which he arrives at Leavenworth.  

          Q:  When did it become apparent that Manning needed some special level of care that he wasn't getting at Quantico, and who made that recommendation or that decision?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Well, I wouldn't characterize it that way.    

          We've been thinking about this for a while.  We began to take a fairly comprehensive look at Quantico as well as other facilities that have pre-trial confinement capability, and we concluded, after spending a couple of weeks on this, that at this juncture of the case, now that the 706 inquiry process is over -- and the interview of him as part of that process took place Saturday before last -- and given the fact that he's been in pre-trial confinement for I think about 10 months now, and Quantico is a facility that normally does not have pre-trial confinees for that length of time, and then when you look forward at the likely time before this case goes to trial, if it goes to trial, the combination of those plus the facility at Leavenworth, a new facility which has a pre-trial confinee capability that opened in January, led us to the conclusion at this juncture of the case it was -- it was a good thing to transfer him even though the case is going to stay in Washington.  

          STAFF:  Secretary Westphal may have something to add to that.  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  Well, I would just say that, you know, our responsibility -- you know, Private Manning is a -- is a soldier, and our responsibility as an Army is not only to adjudicate his case, but also to take care of him while he is in pre-trial confinement. 

          As the counsel mentioned, this particular facility -- there are two Army facilities at Leavenworth.  One is the old barracks, which is for individuals after trial.  This is a new facility built where it is to take care of pre-trial as well as post-trial.  But it's medium security, and it's designed in a way to provide, I think, a reasonable ability for a prisoner who is in pre-trial confinement to -- and likely to be in pre-trial confinement for a while -- to be there.  

          This is the right decision at the right time.  This [facility] became available in January for pre-trial [confinees].  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.  

          Q:  May I follow? --  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  We needed to wait until the 706 and his participation in the 706 review process was over, and that just became over.  

          Q:  Why reduce him from a maximum-security detainee, which is what he was at Quantico, to medium-security, as you just described?  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  Well, at -- I don't know exactly all of the details of Quantico, but the -- that is -- in my view, that is the -- that is the facility that's there.  That's what they have available there.  As you will see from the description that Colonel Hilton will give you, the facility at Leavenworth has a -- an accommodation for greater opportunity for the individual to have a better welfare, where -- better well-being, a greater quality of --   

          LT. COL. HILTON:  And Mr. Secretary, if I can, I'll kind of clarify some of the finer points in the correctional facilities.  The Quantico brig is a level 1 facility.  That is not intended for long- term incarceration either pre- or post-trial.  Typically, a prisoner will not be at a level 1 facility for more than one month -- for more than one year.  And specifically pre-trial prisoners are not incarcerated at a level 1 facility for typically more than a couple months. 

          However, my facility at the Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Kansas is somewhat different.  It's a level 2 facility.  

          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.  I have a state-of-the-art facility, and 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. 

          So it's more than just the facility.  It's the staff that comes with the facility.  And my facility is different than the [Quantico] brig.  I am -- I am developed, designed and staffed with the experienced staff to provide those services for long-term incarceration.  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Yes, sir.  

          Q:  When was Bradley Manning's civilian attorney informed of this?  And did he make any objections to Bradley being moved?  Or did he support this move?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  He was informed today, recently.  I don't know -- I'm assuming he was informed.  We wanted to inform him today.  I'm assuming that connection was made.  I don't know what reaction his civilian attorney may have had to this.  

          Q:  Can I ask a question -- 

          MR. JOHNSON:  I would add that if it's not already evident to you, that a large part of the reasons for this are we have assessed that this is in Private Manning's own best interest, to move him at this juncture of the case.  

          Q:  Why is that?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  For all the reasons that I think the colonel has explained in terms of the capabilities at Leavenworth, the mental- health support infrastructure.  It is a new facility with a pre-trial confinement capability that opened in January.  I'll add to that that it's an Army facility and this is an Army case and an Army prosecution.  And given the length of time it appears he'll be in pre- trial confinement, we believe that at this point, this was an appropriate thing to do.  

          Q:  He could have been moved in January.  It opened in January --  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  Yeah, but he was going through the 706 process at that time. 

          Q:  This was a one-day thing?  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  No, that went on for several --  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Well, the --  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  Several weeks and months --    

          MR. JOHNSON:  -- the interview of him, so far as I'm aware, occurred on Saturday, April 9.  When you -- when you look at the combination of events and where we are in the case and where -- what the projected likely length of time of the pre-trial phase of this case, after conducting a fairly thorough assessment, we concluded that this was the point in time to do this, after the interview of him occurred.  

          Q:  While the 706 is actually in the -- I assume like the processing stage, do you -- do you have any better assessment for when there may actually be a hearing or when we actually see a trial for --  

          MR. JOHNSON:  I don't have a direct role in military justice, so I would hesitate to predict.  I think it's fair to say that this is a complex case.  It involves not only the current 706 process, but I expect that there will be some fairly complex issues concerning the classification of documents that will be used as evidence in the case. And my own experience as a lawyer and a litigator and a trial lawyer tells me that in cases of -- like this, things do take time in the pre-trial phase before the case goes to trial.  

          So from experience in federal criminal cases, a federal criminal case is very often a multi-month if not multi-year experience.  

          Q:  Bradley Manning has, in letters released by his lawyer, complained about certain ways that he was treated in Quantico; one, that he was in what they called solitary confinement, but he was living alone in his cell for 23 hours a day, that he was frequently sleeping in no clothes, and that he was sleeping without bedcovers and such.  

          Colonel, can you go into detail about how long he will be in his cell on a given day, a typical day; what kind of sleeping arrangements are there; how big is his cell?  Will he be allowed to do some personal exercises like sit-ups or pushups while he's in his cell?  Anything like that you can go into about what he will be allowed to do compared to what he was allowed to do in Quantico?  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  Absolutely.  I don't know what he was allowed to do at the -- at the Quantico brig.  But what I can tell you is when he first arrives into the facility, he'll receive an in-depth risk assessment, initial assessment.  And during this phase, anywhere from five to seven days, we try to make sure that he's assimilated into the population, and that we assess his internal and external risk.  After that, typically when he -- when we have finished assessing his risk, he will be housed with the other pre-trial inmates.  And a typical day is three square meals a day in a dining facility that the post-trials eat at.  He'll receive open recreational time for three hours during the day, both indoors and outdoors.  And he'll have the capability to interact with other pre-trial inmates on a routine basis.  

          Q:  So you're saying this is not about criticism about how he was treated, but potentially everything about how he's treated could change completely.  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  It's all based upon the initial assessment when he comes into the facility and environment and how he assimilates into the environment.  My facility is not the same as the brig, and so we need to make sure we understand, you know, how he's going to react to this new environment.  

          Q:  This risk assessment, will it be done by mental health professionals in --  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  Absolutely.  It's more than just mental health. It's physical health.  It's emotional.  It's spiritual.  We do a comprehensive picture of all prisoners.  

          Q:  And as they do that assessment, who makes the final decision about how many -- 

          LT. COL. HILTON:  I do.  But I don't do it independently. 

          What I do is, I take a panel of experts who have been doing this for well over 20 years, we look at him as a comprehensive prisoner, and we make the right decision.  I have -- I've been in corrections since 2003.  I have a master's degree in corrections.  I'm certified through the American Corrections Association, and I've been doing this business for well over eight years now in confinement facilities.  

          Q:  One of the complaints about Quantico -- you may or may not know about this -- was that the person making the decision had no mental health or emotional health training.    

          Do you have that, or do you have to rely on people with that training to help shape your judgment when you make the final decision?  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  I have the most highly trained and expert staff on my -- in my facility.  I have psychiatrists -- licensed psychiatrists, I have a licensed social worker, I have a licensed psychologist on staff 24/7 to help all of the prisoner population -- not just Pfc. Manning.  But they're in the facility, resident and available at all times.  

          Q:  What about the sleeping conditions?  Will he have a normal sheet, a normal pillow?  Sleep in --   

          LT. COL. HILTON:  Again, it's based upon his initial risk assessment. If he's not a harm to himself or others, yes.  And you'll see a lot of those facts in your facts sheet.  And I encourage you to go to the URL [www.army.mil/jrcf] that we have video of what the facility looks like, and we also have additional photos so you can see.  

          And like Mr. Johnson has said, we are going to open the facility for a media tour.  I encourage you to come out and see how wonderful our facility is and how expertly trained and professional our staff are. 

          Q:  Secretary Westphal, what's the regulation for his family visiting him?  I know he has one aunt who's nearby.  Will the military pay for her to go down and visit, or how does that work?  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  I'll let her talk about the regulation there.  But I -- as I understand it, there are -- there is no reimbursement or support for visitation.  But you can talk to --  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  Visitation is really for the well being of the prisoners.  So of course we want to encourage and foster those -- continuing those relationships, because it's very paramount in an incarcerated environment.    

          The visitation process is really quite simple.  It's in accordance with the Department of Defense instruction and Army policy. Pfc. Manning requests that visit, and we evaluate the relationship prior to incarceration, and then, absolutely.  I see no reason at this point that his aunt wouldn't be able to visit him in Kansas.  

          Q:  How many inmates do you have in the facility right now?  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  Currently at the joint regional correctional facility we have about 150 inmates.  Of those 150 inmates, eight of them are pre-trial prisoners.  

          Q:  I just want to add as a follow-up, just before I'm asking my other question, is it possible that he could have a roommate in his cell at all?  

          LT. COL. HILTON:  No.  Currently all pre-trials are in one-man cells.  

          Q:  And then my other question that I wanted to ask was, all three of you have spoken about the presence of mental health professionals at this new facility.  Was that one of the driving reasons why you're transferring him to this facility?  Is there -- was there a concern about his mental stability or condition at that facility? 

          MR. JOHNSON:  Without commenting on Private Manning's particular situation, mental health support, mental health infrastructure was a consideration in looking at Leavenworth and other facilities.  

          Yes, sir. 

          Q:  Specifically because there are concerns?  Can you say that much?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  It was a factor that we took a careful look at in evaluating Leavenworth.  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  Yeah, I would say the Army as a whole, we just wanted to get him to a place -- now that this 706 is completed, to get him to a place where his well-being and his care and his pre-trial confinement could be the very best that we could provide.  He is a soldier, he is our soldier, and we felt we needed to take care of that.  

          And it is the only facility -- it's the closest facility to the East Coast, as, due to some BRAC decisions that were made earlier, facilities at Fort Knox and -- were closed.  

          And so this is -- this is the closest that we could have.  And it's also the best – (off mic). 

          MR. JOHNSON:  You have a question.  

          Q:  This -- the 706 -- when did that begin?  You said it was -- it just involved one -- 

          MR. JOHNSON:  Well, it's a -- it's a -- it's a fairly lengthy process that began at the request of the defense [counsel] that involves assessing a bunch of things that include an interview of the -- of the pre-trial confinee.  But it's an ongoing process, and the medical opinion of this board, it looks as if it won't be out for a little while.  I'm not exactly sure.  It could be a matter of weeks or so. And so -- but the -- the process, it involves his personal participation.  It was done -- it was done on April 9.  

          Q:  Given that that only involved one day, it doesn't seem like a very substantial reason to keep him here if there was compelling reason to move him to a better facility.  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Well, again, it was a combination of reasons.  We began to take a look at this a couple of weeks ago.  You know, is there an alternative facility that might be better for him given the length of time he's been in pre-trial confinement, given the length of time -- in the future it looks -- it looks as if he'll be in pre-trial confinement.  And we have this 706 interview of him coming up.  And we decided, well, why don't we let that happen first and then he should be transferred, so that -- so that the group that interviews him, who as I understand are in the Washington area, don't need to go out to Kansas.  So we'll do that, and then we'll move him after that.  

          Q:  You said -- I think you said that that -- I think a couple of weeks ago that  (inaudible) -- 

          MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.  

          Q:  -- what triggered that?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Well, you know, this issue has been obviously in the media.  

          Under normal circumstances, I'd like to believe that we -- if there were issues about whether another facility is more suitable for one of our pre-trial confinees, we would -- we would take a look at that in a comprehensive joint fashion.  Because this has been in the newspapers, people at our level have been involved in taking a look at that as well.  And so that's the process that began several weeks ago.  

          Q:  So it is fair to say that media criticism about his treatment did play some role in his transfer here. 

          MR. JOHNSON:  I wouldn't characterize it that way.  I think it is fair to say that because this case has been in the media, people at Dr. Westphal's level and my level have been involved in this process, and that's fair to say.  

          Yes, ma'am -- 

          Q:  Can I --   

          MR. WESTPHAL:  Well, could I just add to that?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  I'm sorry.  Go ahead.  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  Let me just add to that.    

          I think the issue there is, we began discussing the fact that Private Manning had been at this facility now at Quantico for -- at this time, over eight months, and that this is a facility really designed for -- and the average stay for pre-trial is maybe two months. I don't have all the details, but it's a short stay.  It's not designed for these long-term situations.    

          And so at that point we began to think about the fact that the 706 was going to be done.  We -- you know, we weren't involved in the details of that process -- that is, us as the Under Secretary of the Army -- but in concerns about his well-being and where is the best place for him to be.  And that's when we began discussing the possibilities of moving him to Leavenworth.  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Yes, ma'am.  

          Q:  You keep talking about your concerns for his well-being, whether his pre-trial confinement at Quantico was the right place, putting him in the best place possible.  

          So having said that, I'm puzzled how you can say his conditions at Quantico had nothing to do with this, number one, because I don't understand how you can say that if you're by definition looking for a better place for him to be.  And number two, what does it say about the U.S. military making sure that everyone who is accused -- before they're convicted, they're assumed to be innocent -- is actually in the best, most suitable place they can and should be?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Well, I -- first of all, I won't say that his conditions at Quantico had nothing to do with this.  What we are saying is that, given the length of time he's been in pre-trial confinement at Quantico, given the point at which we are with the 706 process, and given what the likely period of pre-trial confinement in the future will be, we decided to take a look at whether there is another facility suitable for him at this juncture of the case.  And there is a new facility, opened in January in terms of its pre-trial confinement capacity, that happens to be an Army facility and it's got a lot of mental health support, so we reached the judgment that this is the right facility for him going forward. 

          Q:  But let's go back a minute, then.  The conditions in which he was held at Quantico did play a role in your decision, if I -- you said, I won't say that conditions had nothing to do with it.  Flat out, what -- both of you -- Colonel, I assume you weren't involved in Quantico, so for both you gentlemen, what concerned you the most about what you saw in terms of his conditions at Quantico?  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  I would not characterize it as conditions. I would characterize it as the facility itself and what it's designed to do.  

          Q:  I just wanted to see about what you saw there. 

          MR. WESTPHAL:  It's designed to hold someone for pre-trial for a very short period of time.  And so if you're in a place for what we expect will be a longer period of pre-trial confinement, just because of the complexity -- these are serious charges, very complex process that's going to take place -- that facility is not designed for that. And --   

          Q:  (Off mic) -- circumstances there, for both of you gentlemen, concerned you the most that led you to believe this would be a better decision for him?  

          MR. WESTPHAL:  I would say -- I would say -- and I'll shift it back to Colonel Hilton, but I would say the openness in the facility. If you -- when you look at the URL [www.army.mil/jrcf] and you look at the differences in the place where he will reside, it's more open.  He's got more space, more ability to interact with other prisoners.  He will eat with them. It will depend a lot on the evaluation that they will do at the very beginning.  But it is a place where if you're going to be confined for a longer period of time, you have the ability to interact.  You have the ability to exercise, to move around.  And that is just a -- the nature of the facility itself.  

          Q:  Mr. Johnson, whether you have anything to add on that I'm not sure, but what does it say about the U.S. military, whether it is truly holding everyone in the most appropriate place?  Is -- was his lawyer right, that this was not the place for him? 

          MR. JOHNSON:  Well, the fact that -- the fact that we have made a decision to transfer this particular pre-trial confinee, as I said at the outset, should not be interpreted as a criticism of the place he was before.  And I don't think that there's a simple answer like the one I think you're searching for.    

          This was a combination of events, and I think that you reach a point in the life of a case when you say, well, something may have been most suitable six months ago; should we continue to go down that road; should we stick to that; or should we reassess, given what is likely to happen in the future, to see whether there is some other more suitable facility?  

          Q:  What was no longer suitable at Quantico?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  As Dr. Westphal said, Quantico is a place where pre-trial confinees reside for one month, two months, three months.  It is rare if not unprecedented that somebody is there for as long as nine or 10 months.  

          And then you look, in addition, at the fact that the 706 process is still not complete, that this is a complex case, and we are probably months off from the trial of this case.  We ask ourselves, is this, going forward, the most suitable facility for Private Manning?  And we reached a conclusion that we've got this new facility, it's an Army facility, it's not in the -- it's not in the district of Washington, it's not in the Washington area, so it has that downside, but all things considered, we concluded that going forward, this was the best facility for him.  

          STAFF:  I think CNN's had more than enough questions.  One more?  Anything -- anybody else?  Okay, you. 

          Q:  Do you have a thought on the location, ultimate location of the trial?  Has that been determined?  Is there an --  

          MR. JOHNSON:  That is up to the judge advocate general of the Army, the military justice system.  We consulted the judge advocate general about this move.  As I mentioned at the outset, the case will reside here.  There's no legal reason why it couldn't be transferred, but the case will reside here, and I believe that's the plan.  

          Q:  It would be in D.C., right, the trial?  

          MR. JOHNSON:  Yes.  Yes. 

          STAFF:  Thank you all.  Appreciate it.