Transcript | US v Pfc. Manning, Witness Lt. Col. Robert Russel, Quantico Forensic Psychiatrist

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.

See Transcript of US v Pfc. Manning, Article 39(a) Session, 11/30/12

Prosecution (Morrow)

The Government calls [telephonic] Lt. Col Robert Russel. Lt. Col. Russel?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Prosecution (Morrow)

This is Captain Morrow.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Prosecution (Morrow)

You are on speaker phone in the court-martial of United States versus Pfc. Manning.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Okay.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Are you alone?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Are you able to speak freely?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Prosecution (Morrow)

I'm going to swear you in, okay?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Okay.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Do you swear or affirm that the evidence you give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I do.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, you are Lt. Col. Robert Russel, staff psychiatrist Joint Task Force GTMO?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That's correct.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, how long have you been in the Army?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Fourteen and a half years.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, can you briefly describe for the Court, your various positions in the Army?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

[Missed two words] Joint Task Force Psychiatrist at Naval base Guantanamo Bay, then [missed word] psychiatrist-- staff psychiatrist at Walter Reed, Afghanistan regional command psychiatrist; Afghanistan Theater Mental Health Consultant-- [missed a few words] psychiatrist, and [missed word] training in child and adolescent psych, and I have some awards in public health.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, what about your educational background, sir?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I went to Des Moines University for Doctor of Osteopathy degree, and [missed word] Honor Society-- Sigma Sigma Phi and then did residency in preventive medicine and general psychiatry in a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Thank you, sir. I want to talk about your connection to this case. Are you familiar with Pfc. Manning?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Prosecution (Morrow)

How so, sir?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I was asked to see Pfc. Manning twice as a treating psychiatrist.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, who asked you?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

His regular treating psychiatrist, Col. Malone in his absence he requested my assistance when he wasn't available.

Prosecution (Morrow)

So, you were essentially just filling in for Col. Malone.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, do you have the-- well, let me back up. How many times did you meet with Pfc. Manning?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Twice.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, do you have the documents we sent you over email handy?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I do.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Can you grab those please?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I have them.

Judge Lind

And, explain for the record what those are?

Prosecution (Morrow)

Ma'am, I am referring to two documents in enclosure 21, and I have copies for the Court, and we have them marked as well.

Judge Lind

[Missed a few words] enclosure 21 to your?

Prosecution (Fein)

To the motion.

Judge Lind

To the motion.

Prosecution (Morrow)

But we can have these as an appellate exhibit. Sir, I want to talk about your 6 April [2011] visit with Pfc. Manning.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Okay.

Prosecution (Morrow)

What was your-- as you talked about with Pfc. Manning-- what was your general routine when you arrived at the Brig?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Prior to seeing Pfc. Manning-- I talked to Col. Malone about any treatment issues just to provide continuity of care. I talked to the Brig staff-- the Brig commander to see if there was any information that help me do my assessment.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, who was that, sir?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

You know, I can't remember the Brig commander's name.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Does Chief Warrant Officer Barnes sound familiar?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes. That is the correct name.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, so-- after you talked with Chief Warrant Officer Barnes, what did you do next?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

After I talked to Chief Barnes and then I would-- have an interview with Pfc. Manning-- and talked.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, how long did the 6 April 2011 interview last?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I recall it was it was probably under an hour-- maybe a little bit less or a little bit more. I can't specifically remember.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, after-- sorry excuse me.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That's all, sir.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And, after the meeting what would you do?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Spoke to the Brig commander to bring up any-- certain safety concerns. To clarify observations made by Pfc. Manning.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, I want to talk about your remarks on the 6 April 2011 form. You said that the 'service member's emotional and behavioral presentation significantly varies from that observed by myself and by the facility staff.' Can you explain that please?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

When I would interview Pfc. Manning he's, you know, very social and very intelligent-- you know, [missed a few works] an authority, but he didn't seem depressed or aloof-- or avoiding eye contact-- a very, very engaged person.

When I would see the Brig staff they would describe for me a completely different person-- flat affect, very withdrawal, poor eye contact, who declined visitation-- rec, other opportunities like that.

I got the impression that his presentation varied-- and could be dependent upon the person with whom he was conversing. So, the person I interviewed did not seem depressed-- but, the person that the Brig commander described would-- I would say-- seem pretty depressed. So, the presentation could be varied.

Prosecution (Morrow)

And so, difference in presentation to different individuals-- is that concerning from a psychiatric perspective?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

It is. I mean it's, you know, [missed word] or not consistent. I don't know what the motivation was behind that.

I only met him twice. But, it seemed clear that the presentation was varied from one person to the next. [Missed a few words], I would interview him, I wouldn't be so concerned. But, understandably, I could understand how the Brig commander would be, if her observations on a day to day basis-- not just one hour weekly visit.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, you also stated that 'due diligence for self-harm behavior is not unreasonable given his change in behavior. Necessary reassurance of safety is difficult to achieve if service member choses not to communicate with facility staff.'

Can you describe that please or just what you meant?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes. [Missed.] I mean, he normally-- his baseline behavior was very withdrawn-- [missed a few words] did participate, you know, in [missed word] activities or opportunities to-- but that week the Brig commander expressed more concern above that.

I can't remember specifically what [missed word]-- he might have even received some negative news and she was concern that-- even-- even compared to his baseline-- he was even more withdrawn-- less talkative-- almost no eye contact.

Given his history of attempting suicide at a time of significant stress-- at that time, I wasn't sure if-- if this current stressor was also going to, you know, cause him stress or difficulty and lead to suicidal thoughts.

So, it seemed to be an acute situation-- just for that week. So, that is what I put that comment in there. So, that is what his changes in behavior were to [missed a few words].

Prosecution (Morrow)

At that time sir, did you recommend he remain on prevention of injury status?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I did at that time, because of the factors-- acute change in behavior, which was preceded by -- I believe he was by negative [missed a few words] or something like that-- I can't remember--

But given-- given that change that I guess-- I concluded-- it's difficult to assess cases when the individual isn't engaging with-- with the Brig staff, and there is no way they can ascertain his safety, if he is not communicating [missed a few words], you know-- applying some reassurance either vocally-- verbally or just, you know, in behavior-- you know, taking advantage of recreation activities or whatnot, so.

So, I can see understandably the Brig [missed word] would have some-- I say reasonable concern given that, and not being able to get any reassurance from Pfc. Manning that he was safe-- that, you know-- I talked in the language of the Brig commander-- she [missed word] genuine concern for him and, you know-- I indicated that it was probably be best to put him on POI and then reassess him the next time.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Okay, sir. I want to move to the 15 April 2011 meeting.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Okay.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, is it fair to say that Pfc. Manning-- well, I will just let you describe-- what was the difference between Pfc. Manning during this visit from your perspective?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

From my perspective, none.

I mean, I thought he was again very-- very sociable-- very intelligent-- very engaging-- very bright individual.

I saw , from my perspective, no difference from one interview to the next. What was discussed mostly in that interview was follow up from the previous interview-- and during that, you know, of course, [missed word] for Pfc. Manning and, you know, are these too restrictive-- if he had the opportunity for rec-- I think I can't remember specifically, there is something about writing and Pfc. Manning's perspective on that there were many obstacles or a lot of paperwork that had to be done in order to enjoy those opportunities afforded-- like recreation and it just wasn't worth the effort.

So, following the first visit I talked to the Brig commander and just asked-- you, know, is it true if it is difficult-- are we adding unreasonable things that aren't expected from [missed two words] of the detainee to do anything-- and it was explained to me, and this is just recall-- that I believe to ensure his rec activity he just had to fill out like a one page paper that wasn't very arduous and very simply done -- and their perspective, that he was just not choosing to do that.

So, the second visit I gave him that feedback-- if I wanted use recreational activities I remember saying 'April in northern Virginia, it's a wonderful time of year. I don't know why he doesn't want to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and just relax,' and you know, I reassured him that I talked to the commander and that it is very simple for him to do that.

And, you know, I also recall that the Brig commander stated to me that she was actually affording him, I believe more rec than she normally would for detainees-- which I think, you know, she expressed a lot of frustration, because she was I believe trying to provide [missed a few words] Pfc. Manning.

So, we kind of talked about these obstacles as just a new thing. He didn't have to just stay in his cell, because there are other opportunities afforded by the-- We never got past that barrier-- I'm not quite sure what his motivation was.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Well, what did-- did Pfc. Manning say anything-- what did he say, when you presented the--

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

It wasn't really a response back. It was more, just 'Well we can't do this, 'but then it really wasn't talk about as much in a typical discussion or you know anything positive or that-- that's good news or I'll take advantage of that. It was-- the discussion didn't continue.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Did he provide an explanation of why he felt the forms were too onerous?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

No, I didn't go into it any more than that. I just-- I just wanted him to know that-- you know, I checked on it.

I wanted to make sure that, you know, things weren't unreasonable-- and that meant reasonable would be relative to a typical detainee-- and make sure that I didn't find that, you know.

And in fact the contrary, I found the Brig commander actually very concerned-- you know, regarding [missed a few words] and take advantage of rec call opportunities and I am pretty sure-- you know, she said she would afford him more than the typical detainee.

But, you know, he declined. So, I took that as more-- at that point, I realized though, that this is more than an active choice for whatever reason-- you know, motivation he had.

To me at that point it seemed like well, he knows he can do that if he wants to, but he choses not to so, I'm not going to push him or badger him to do that. But, I do remember several times try to tell him how nice it was outside and you know, it only lasts a month or two and then it starts getting humid-- and, just try to convince him to get some fresh air. And, I really don't remember much more from that interview the last time.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Sir, do you-- did you recommend prevention of injury again?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

You know--

Prosecution (Morrow)

--or did you say that it wasn't-- well, let me-- let me ask you this: You said that-- excuse me one second, sir.

You said, 'Brig providing reasonable restrictions which do not cause any mental anguish. Discussed plan with staff.' What did you mean by that?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well that-- that kind of speaks to what I just previously commented to-- that, you know, I felt that there are varying perspectives of-- Pfc. Manning had a perception that-- that there were these extra demands placed upon him so he couldn't do these things.

And then, I found that actually these demands were not [missed word] unreasonable and seemed to be consistent-- so that was a reference for that.

Prosecution (Morrow)

Okay, sir. Thank you very much. I believe defense counsel will have some questions for you as well as the military Judge.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Alright.

Defense (Coombs)

Lt. Col. Russel, this is David Coombs. I just have a few questions for you. Okay?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Okay.

Defense (Coombs)

Now, as you said the first time you saw Pfc. Manning was on 6 April 2011? Correct?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, you did not evaluate him before that day?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

You know, I actually went there-- you know, I forgot about his. I actually went there one previous time with Col. Malone, because he wanted to show me where he would go, and paperwork, and things like that. But I didn't know-- let me just backtrack. I actually saw him three times. I saw him once with Col. Malone-- but I don't remember when that was. Col. Malone wrote that note that day.

Defense (Coombs)

Right. But, you did not evaluate him on that day, correct?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

No, correct.

Defense (Coombs)

Alright, so 6 April 2011 was the first time that you had in fact evaluated Pfc. Manning?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, prior to the evaluation you spoke with Col. Malone in order for continuity of care?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And Col. Malone was obviously telling you that he was obviously recommending that Pfc. Manning-- well actually what he was saying was that there was no clinical need for Pfc. Manning to be on POI?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

So, prior to your evaluation-- you show up, you speak to the Brig commander?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And, the representations made by the Brig commander varied significantly from the observations that you were making talking to Pfc. Manning?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

The staff told you that they noted and increase in social isolation-- paucity of words during verbal interaction or eye contact, is that correct?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, you were looking at Pfc. Manning seeing an entirely different picture?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

What documentation did Chief Barnes give you in order to show you that they were making these observations?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I don't remember. You know, I know verbal.

I can't remember if she-- if she show me charts and forms-- or she [missed a few words] because I do remember this [missed word].

Defense (Coombs)

And, you said that there were some recreational activities that Pfc. Manning was not availing himself of-- did you know that he was receiving one hour of rec call everyday?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I can't remember the specifics.

Defense (Coombs)

And, did you know that if he refused the rec call for some reason they would document that?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I-- I assume that, but I did not know that.

Defense (Coombs)

Would it surprise you that he was only authorized one hour of rec each day?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well, again I can't have know the specifics of the SOP for the Brig and Quantico.

Defense (Coombs)

What additional recreational activities did Chief Barnes tell you that Pfc. Manning was not availing himself of?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

This a recall-- but I remember writing, paper and pencil or taking-- if he wished to write-- to do that-- it's was very, it's been a while, I can't remember -- but I remember asking him the writing-- he could do it with certain restrictions-- -- if there's-- if they were affording him to read books, but if I recall-- he wanted to make notations in the books in order for him to be able to-- he would like somehow keep track-- a way of making notes or something and somehow that was a conflict with the Brig's SOPs, and [missed a few words] and didn't have [missed a few words] -- again, I don't remember detail-- but I remember there were certain things they were reporting Pfc. Manning wished to do it a certain way-- and the Brig didn't agree.

So instead of just complying and doing it how the Brig wished, he chose just not to do it at all.

Defense (Coombs)

Alright.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

It was something-- reading and writing and paper-- and things like that.

Defense (Coombs)

So, not necessarily something involving going outside and getting sunshine.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well, that is one of rec activities. Yes, going outside and getting sunshine.

Defense (Coombs)

No, I understand that was a rec activity, but that was not an issue where Pfc. Manning where Pfc. Manning was saying, 'I'm not going to avail myself of the opportunity to get some sunshine.'

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well-- I mean, it was specifically the first time that he [missed words] they made it too difficult-- the Brig made it too difficult to do that before-- and then what I clarified them-- the Brig commander followed up the subsequent week.

I didn't see any-- he didn't [missed a few words] or any regulation that had anything to do with that. It was just-- it was normal-- it seems more a conscious choice, not to do that in the conversation.

Defense (Coombs)

Dr. Russel is it possible that you are memory of that isn't quite accurate if he was permitted one hour of recreation call each day, and availed himself of that opportunity?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well, I mean-- again, I can't specifically remember the amount of hours that he would be allowed on rec.

Defense (Coombs)

Okay. Well, let's just go to some of the stuff that you've got documentation of. You-- you basically evaluated Pfc. Manning, you noted that he did appear to be of normal behavior?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

He was fully alert?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Fully oriented?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

Normal mood and affect?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

Clear thinking process?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Normal thought content?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

[Makes affirmative sound, 'mm-hmm']

Defense (Coombs)

And, you opined that Pfc. Manning's mental disorder was stable?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

You indicated he was a low risk for suicide and self-harm?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, 'low' on this form, is the lowest thing that you can circle, right?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, low in this regard means, like, you know, like a person in the general population-- he is no worse, or no better of a risk of committing suicide or self-harm, correct?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

Now, you also indicated that you believed he only needed routine examination?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Which was weekly.

Defense (Coombs)

Okay. And, you indicated in this form, that he needed to be segregated from the general population? See that?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, why did you fill that out at that way?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Under the Brig commander was very concerned for his safety fro other detainees.

Defense (Coombs)

So, that was based upon what the Brig commander was telling you?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

Now you state that you could not recommend changing his POI status given his behavioral change, and you were basing his behavioral change on what the Brig commander was telling you?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

That is correct.

Defense (Coombs)

So, you were trusting what she was relaying to you was accurate and truthful?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Now, as part of your evaluations, did you review the prior evaluations of Col. Malone and his predecessor, Captain Hocter?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And, were you seeing anything in there that indicated that Pfc. Manning was withdrawing from people or beginning to no longer converse with the staff?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

No. I mean-- I remember notes of those type of-- actually I think I had a conversation-- but in notes, no. I have never seen that.

Defense (Coombs)

Now, were you aware that Col. Malone saw Pfc. Manning two days after you did the first time-- you saw him on 6 April and Col. Malone saw him on 8 April?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And, you are aware that Col. Malone opined at that point the mental disorder was resolved?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, you were aware then, I guess, at that point that Col. Malone also opined that Pfc. Manning did not need to be segregated from the general population?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I don't recall that.

Defense (Coombs)

Would you agree that Col. Malone has a longer treatment history with Pfc. Manning than you did?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And, obviously he also had a longer history of dealing with the Quantico staff and the personalities there, then you?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Now, you saw Pfc. Manning again as you say on 15 April 2011?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And, on that date, he appeared to be normal to you again?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Fully alert?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Fully oriented?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Normal mood and affect?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Clear thinking process?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

Normal thought content?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And, you opined that Pfc. Manning's mental disorder was stable?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

You indicated that he was a low risk again for suicide or self-harm?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And, you indicated that he was a low risk for violence?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

Again, you only believed that he needed routine examination?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

And you stated that Pfc. Manning was, quote 'not a danger to self or others' unquote?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Correct.

Defense (Coombs)

In this evaluation you entered 'NA defers to the command on segregation'? Why?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well, it had to do with a detainee. They were concerned with his safety-- I guess, so, [missed a few words]-- I would defer to them for that decision.

Defense (Coombs)

Alright, so clinically you weren't seeing anything that would require Pfc. Manning to be segregated?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

No.

Defense (Coombs)

Did you ask Pfc. Manning about limiting his interaction with the staff?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I know we had several conversations-- but, I can't recall what.

Defense (Coombs)

Were you aware that Pfc. Manning was being stripped of his underwear at night at the time you were evaluating him?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And, did you know that, that was due to him having a conversation with the member of the staff where they believed that one of his statements he indicated an intent to self-harm?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I recall that, yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And would you agree with me that it is normal behavior to stop talking with people if you think they are looking for reasons to keep you on a particular custody status?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

No, I wouldn't necessarily agree.

Defense (Coombs)

You wouldn't agree that if you thought that your words were being used against you-- and anything you said would be held against you-- that it wouldn't be normal for a person to say, 'Maybe, I'm going to limit my interaction'?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Relative to other detainees-- I would say no.

Defense (Coombs)

Have you ever heard of learned helplessness?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes.

Defense (Coombs)

And what do you know about that, doctor?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well, it's a [missed word] conditioning where a person has difficulty self-advocating. There certain [missed word] that surrender.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Thank you, doctor.

Judge Lind

Redirect?

Prosecution (Morrow)

Nothing, your Honor.

Judge Lind

Alright, Dr. Russel this is Col. Lind. I am the military judge. I have a few questions for you. Can you hear me?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes, Ma'am.

Judge Lind

What is your understanding of POI status?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Well-- I can't recall the specifics at this point-- the actual or the Brig policy for what was-- took place. I can't recall-- I can remember the exact details.

Judge Lind

I guess-- I am a little confused on the recommendation on the 15th of continuing-- on the 6th and the 15th-- you recommend continuing with POI status.

At that point, I believe you testified that you were aware that Pfc. Manning underwear was being taken away from him at night? If he is a low risk of self-harm or violence, why would you recommend that continue?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

For that week the behavior changed-- so, when you looked at the difficult behavior that the Brig was observing or, you know, was noted-- the Brig commander said that she had, you know, special concerns that-- for that week-- because his behavior just seemed extreme from what she had observed in the past. So, I think that what [missed a few words] Pfc. Manning. It was just that week.

Judge Lind

So, when the Brig-- when CW2 Barnes-- the Brig commander was talking about behavior changes-- how did she describe his behavior before this change?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Not talkative. Very little interaction with the Brig staff. Not doing outdoor rec-- things that were afforded.

She also-- I remember her comparing it relative to what she normally sees in the typical Brig detainee. And, how she felt that this was a little more extreme then she had experienced in the past. The impression--

Judge Lind

Keep-- No, Go ahead. Finish answering and then I will ask my next question.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

The impression I got was what we saw was-- first of all, what I saw in interviewed Pfc. Manning was someone who did not seem maladjusted.

He seemed to-- His mood seemed fine. It really struck me-- how his mood-- and I understand this is just according to the Brig commander-- was such a stark difference between the two.

It was difficult to figure out his motivation. It was clear-- It was clear when-- I would speak with him first and he did not seem depressed.

I would not be worried about him, but people often can act differently in different situations and while he was with me, he seemed to be a very low risk. But I wasn't witness to-- which I couldn't witnesses-- was how did interact when he wasn't being interviewed-- so, because of the stark difference in the description that the Brig staff would convey to me.

So, I remember I-- I kind of understood why the Brig commander would have some concerns-- if-- for during the week she would see a very solemn withdrawn person-- I can understand her concern if when we would interview a the person-- or, I'm sorry, 'the person'-- when we interviewed Pfc. Manning he wouldn't seem depressed.

And, I didn't want to go into his motivation- you know, whether it was just with him or whatnot-- only because I only did see him once per week.

But all of those consideration, you know, to that be the reason behind it-- but, given that I only saw him twice, I didn't feel comfortable [stating?] that.

Judge Lind

In your-- have you worked in correction facilities other than this experience?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes, Ma'am. At Guantanamo Bay currently.

Judge Lind

Oh, okay. I asked you earlier if you were familiar with prevention of injury status as a status-- or suicide risk for that matter? Know-- I guess-- if you worked in those kinds of setting have you seen this before?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Prevention of injury, Ma'am?

Judge Lind

Yes.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Yes, Ma'am.

Judge Lind

Is that-- in your experience is that like a status that one would go-- would be on for a long time? A short time? Does it vary person by person?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

A person could be on that for a while--depending on, you know, what time of reassurance the detention facility or Brig will-- again whether it's verbal or behavior or some indication that-- that this person is safe. It's usually-- a lot of it has to do with his sociability to the person engaging and just simple conversations.

And, as I remember the concern with Pfc. Manning wasn't conversing in a most simple conversation that would in no way would be part of this case-- just simple daily courtesy-- that they felt that he just-- he wouldn't engage that way.

Judge Lind

When you are describing the fact that Pfc. Manning wouldn't engage-- and, I guess this is where my confusion is lying a bit-- you testified earlier that you were recommending-- notwithstanding your own interviews-- continued POI, because of a sudden change in behavior-- and, I guess I am going back to my original question-- did the Brig commander describe what Pfc. Manning was like before his behavior was changed?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

[Missed a few words.] So, his typical behavior was not conversing, and not doing [missed words]-- but that week, I remember, specifically she said that his eye contact was very poor. It-- he would stare at the ground if someone was speaking to him-- he would use very few words in reply. She also reported-- she said that it was just more-- more obsessive than what she experienced with him.

Judge Lind

Why did she believe-- did she tell you why she believed that Pfc. Manning would be in danger from the other inmates?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

You know, it's-- it's-- I remember she specifically [missed word] concerned a conversations of whether it would be safe with other-- other inmates [missed a few words] with intent to harm him.

I don't think there is ever a conversation when he would ever be any threat to another inmate. That he himself would harm another person.

Judge Lind

Did she say why she thought other inmates would harm him?

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

I can't remember specifically, Ma'am.

Judge Lind

Any follow up based on that?

Defense (Coombs)

No, your Honor.

Prosecution (Morrow)

No, your Honor.

Judge Lind

Alright, Dr. Russel you are excused. Thank you for your testimony.

Lt. Col. Robert Russel

Thank you, Ma'am.

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.