Witness | US v Pfc. Manning, Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek

UPDATE POST COURT-MARTIAL

United States v. Pfc.Manning was conducted in de facto secrecy. The public was not granted contemporaneous access to court filings or rulings during her trial. In addition to reporting on her trial, I transcribed the proceedings, reconstructed the censored appellate list, and un-redacted any publicly available documentation, in order to foster public comprehension of her unprecedented trial.

As a result of a lawsuit against the military judge and the Military District of Washington brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as my own FOIA requests and research, an official court record for US v. Pfc. Manning was released seven months after her trial. That record is not complete.

The official trial docket is published HERE and the entire collection of documents is text searchable at usvmanning.org.

*During the pretrial proceedings, court-martial and sentencing of Pfc. Manning, Chelsea requested to be identified as Bradley and addressed using the male pronoun. In a letter embargoed for August 22, 2013 Chelsea proclaimed that she is female and wished to be addressed from that moment forward as Chelsea E. Manning.

Article 31 "Compulsory Self-Incrimination Prohibited"

Warrant Officer Kyle Balonek

Warrant Officer Kyle Balonek from his Facebook Profile

On the advice of his counsel, Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek invoked Article 31 - or "Compulsory Self-Incrimination Prohibited" - at the Article 32 Pretrial Hearing on 18 December 2011.

David Coombs, lead defense counsel, argued that WO1 Balonek should not be excused from giving testimony, because he was not under criminal investigation as a result of an internal January 2011 Secretary of the Army's 15-6 investigation into Pfc. Manning and his chain of command. Government prosecutors, however, declined to grant Balonek immunity to testify, and the Investigating Officer, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, subsequently found Balonek "not available" as a witness.

Kyle Balonek joined the Army in 2002. After basic training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Gordon, Georgia, home of the United States Army Signal Corps and Signal Center, Balonek was assigned to the 440th Signal Battalion 22nd Signal Brigade in Darmstadt, Germany. Balonek was deployed to Iraq in 2003. In September 2004 ) he became eligible for promotion to Sergeant (SGT). He was deployed to Iraq again in 2005 and 2006. In April 2007, then Sergeant Balonek became eligible for promotion to Staff Sergeant (SSG). Balonek was a Staff Sergeant (SSG) in the T-SCIF at FOB Hammer, Iraq and directly supervised two 35F intelligence analysts, Pfc. Manning and Sergeant Chad Madaras at the time of the charged offenses. In January 2010 then Staff Sergeant (SSG) Balonek became a candidate for Warrant Officer. In April 2010, while still deployed in Iraq, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Balonek also became eligible promotion to Sergeant First Class (SFC).

After arriving home from his deployment in Iraq, Balonek graduated from Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Alabama in August 2010 with honors. He then attended a Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC) at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. In September 2010, Balonek was appointed by the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, to Warrant Officer, One (WO1). Balonek was reportedly expected to return to Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division in November 2010.

Other Witnesses' Testimony

Captain Casey Martin (married name Fulton), Platoon Leader and Brigade Assistant S2, testified that then Staff Sergeant (SSG) Kyle Balonek was the "real go-to analyst in terms of actual analysis" and that Balonek "had greatest ability to do analysis."

Sergeant Chad Madaras testified that both he and Pfc. Manning worked on opposite shifts on the 'Shi'a team' supporting then Staff Sergeant (SSG) Balonek "with anything in the target area." Madaras also testified to witnessing occasions when then Master Sergeant Paul David Adkins and Staff Sergeant (SSG) Kyle Balonek would call Pfc. Manning's name, trying to get Manning's attention, and Manning would allegedly "just stared at his screen."

Secretary of the Army 15-6 Investigation

In late December 2010, Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, directed Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, commander of the Army General Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to lead a "six-member task force" probe into "how Pfc. Bradley Manning was selected for his job and trained" and "whether his superiors missed warning signs that he was downloading documents he had no need to read," according to report by McClatchy. Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, told McClatchy the 15-6 probe had a "very broad investigative mandate" and was conducted with cooperation with both the Department of the Army and CENTCOM.

Sworn Statements

According to a McClatchy, between late December 2010 and 1 February 2011 - when the 15-6 probe findings were due to Secretary of the Army, John McHugh - investigators "made several trips to Fort Drum" and "conducted scores of interviews."

The sworn statements provided to investigators with the Secretary of the Army's 15-6 investigation eventually made there way into the 2 December 2011 Defense Request for Article 32 Witnesses. Lead civilian defense counsel, David Coombs, also used the sworn statements to impeach Government witnesses at the Article 32 Pretrial Hearing. Rainy Reitman's notes, for example, that Coombs asked Captain Thomas Cherepko, the Assistant S6 and Information Assurance Security Officer with 2nd Brigade Combat Team 10th Mountain Division if he remembered his sworn statement on January 6, 2011, where Cherepko stated "we were given just enough knowledge to screw things up." Reitman also notes, that "Cherepko balked slightly at confirming [his sworn statement]," to which "Coombs responded that 'If you were here in person I would show you your sworn statement.'" Cherepko took the stand telephonically.

According to McClatchy, in the course of Caslen's probe, Army investigators found that Pfc. Manning's "direct supervisor" had "warned that Manning had thrown chairs at colleagues and shouted at higher ranking soldiers in the year he was stationed at Fort Drum." Manning's direct supervisor had also advised that Manning not be deployed to Iraq.

Two anonymous military officials "familiar with the investigation" told McClatchy that superior officers, however, ignored the advice of Manning's direct supervisor "because the unit was short of intelligence analysts and needed Manning's skills." McClatchy reports that commanders had "hoped they could address Manning's discipline problems in Iraq." Anonymous military officials also told McClatchy that what followed was a "comedy of errors" with each of Pfc. Manning's commanding officers assuming "someone else was addressing Manning's problems."

Defense filings are redacted and legal proceedings for US v. Pfc. Manning are being conducted in de facto secrecy, however this writer's hand written transcripts of the trial, knowledge of the case, and other news reports reveal that that Pfc. Manning's direct supervisor was then Staff Sergeant, Kyle Balonek. The author, believes, therefore, that WO1 Kyle Balonek is witness No. 28 on the 2 December 2011, Defense Request for Article 32 Witnesses.

No. 28 on the December 2, 2011 Defense Request for Article 32 Witnesses

XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] will testify that he originally did not have supervisory responsibilities at the unit. After approximately 60 days, he was given responsibility for supervising two subordinate 35F Soldiers; one of these soldiers was PFC Manning. When XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] got to the unit in May of 2009, he observed operations for approximately 90 days and then approached SFC XXXXXXXXXX [ Master Sergeant Adkins (now Sergeant First Class due to an administrative action) ] to let him know his input about operations. XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] will testify that he specifically told XXXXXXXXXX [ Master Sergeant Adkins (now Sergeant First Class due to an administrative action) ] that PFC Manning clearly was struggling with emotional issues that made him ill-suited for military service. This conversation occurred in June or July of 2009. XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] will testify that he approached XXXXXXXXXX [ WHO IS THIS? ] monthly thereafter about separating PFC Manning from the Army but was aware that he could only take the issue to his supervisor so many times before it fell on deaf ears. XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] will testify that he found an iPod on a bunk and looked though it to determine the owner. When XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] viewed photos on the iPod, he noted that PFC Manning was attending what looked like a gay pride parade. He will also testify that he knew PFC Manning was suffering from extreme emotional issues. During deployment, he found PFC Manning curled in the fetal position in the Brigade conference room, rocking himself back and forth. XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] will testify that he was appointed as a Special Security Representative (SSR) on orders for the T-SCIF. The responsibilities for the SSR included reviewing security clearance requests, initiating DEROGs recommending security clearances for personnel in the S2 shop, producing an SOP and SCIF security. While he was appointed as a SSR, he will testify that he did not conduct those duties. XXXXXXXXXX [ Staff Sergeant now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek ] will testify that he believes the reason PFC Manning was allowed to remain in the military and did not receive the help he needed to deal with his issues was because XXXXXXXXXX [ Master Sergeant Adkins (now Sergeant First Class due to an administrative action) ] had influence over every action taken on personnel in the S2 section and it was his decision not to do anything.

Article 32 Pretrial Transcript, December 18, 2011

See Transcript of US v Pfc. Bradley Manning, Article 32 Pretrial Hearing, 12/18/11

[Next witness. Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek. Via telephone.]

Balonek: On my behalf of my attorneys advice, I invoke my right to remain silent.

I.O.: Are there any questions we could ask you that you would not invoke Article 31 rights?

Balonek: No.

[Defense OBJECTION Refers to previous reason.]

I.O.: Thank you Mr. Balonek. I find that this witness is not available.

Additional Article 32 Pretrial, 12/18/11 (by an anonymous journalist, ed. by Alexa O'Brien)

See Transcript of US v Pfc. Bradley Manning, Article 32 Pretrial Hearing, 12/18/11 (Additional)

U.S. CALLS KYLE BALONEK via TELEPHONE

[Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek invokes Article 31]

Balonek: On behalf of my attorney's advice, I'm invoking my right to remain silent.

Investigating Officer: Are there any questions we could ask you that would not cause you to invoke your 31 rights?

Balonek: No.

Investigating Officer: Defense...?

DEFENSE HAS SAME OBJECTION.

OBJECTION DENIED.

Investigating Officer: Thank you Mr. Balonek. I find that this witness is not available.

Other Resources:

UPDATE: (October 14, 2012) This page previously reported that Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek was retired from the US Army, but the author cannot now locate the source for that earlier qualification. The qualifier, therefore, "now retired", has been removed from this profile and Web site.

Alexa O'Brien Alexa O'Brien researches and writes about national security and law enforcement. Her work has been published in The New York Times, VICE News, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Guardian (UK), The Daily Beast, NY Daily News, and featured on the BBC, PBS, NPR, Democracy Now!, and Public Radio International. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in the United Kingdom and listed in The Verge 50. In 2016, she worked at The Constitution Project in Washington, D.C. as a staff researcher and writer on an independent commission studying Oklahoma's death penalty. She also provided research support to scholars of the first cost study conducted on that state's capital punishment system.