Investigations | US v Pfc. Manning, Secretary of the Army 15-6
- posted October 16, 2012
Secretary of the Army 15-6 Investigation
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” investigation into “how Pfc. 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 a 23 December 2010 McClatchy report. Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, told McClatchy the 15-6 probe had a “very broad investigative mandate” and conducted with cooperation with both the Department of the Army and CENTCOM.
According to a 27 January 2011 McClatchy report, between late December 2010 and 1 February 2011, when findings were due to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, investigators “made several trips to Fort Drum,” home of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team 10th Mountain Division, conducting “scores of interviews.” Sworn statements provided to the Secretary of the Army’s 15-6 investigators eventually found there way into the 2 December 2011 Defense Request for Article 32 Witnesses.
Lead civilian defense counsel, David Coombs, also used sworn statements provided to Secretary of the Army’s 15-6 investigation 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 6 January 2011, where Cherepko said “we were given just enough knowledge to screw things up.”
Reitman also notes, “Cherepko balked slightly at confirming it,” and “Coombs responded that ‘If you were here in person I would show you your sworn statement.'”
The Washington Post reported that Lt. Gen. Caslen was expected to present his findings to the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, the week of 1 February 2011, and to then Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates by mid-February 2011.
On 27 January 2011, McClatchy reported that 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, NY, and advised that Manning shouldn’t be sent to Iraq.” An anonymous military official also told the Washington Post in a 1 February 2011 report that Pfc. Manning had “balled up fists and screamed at higher-ranking soldiers.”
Two anonymous military officials “familiar with the investigation” told McClatchy that superior officers ignored the advice from Pfc. Mannings’ direct supervisor “because the unit was short of intelligence analysts and needed Manning’s skills” and “commanders hoped they could address Manning’s discipline problems in Iraq.” The anonymous military officials also told McClatchy that what followed was a “comedy of errors” with Pfc. Manning’s commanders assuming “someone else was addressing Manning’s problems.”
Although defense filings are redacted and legal proceedings for United States v. Pfc. Manning are being conducted in de facto secrecy, hand written transcripts, research, and news reports reveal that Pfc. Manning’s direct supervisor was then then Staff Sergeant, Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek, and most likely Witness No. 28 on the redacted 2 December 2011, Defense Request for Article 32 Witnesses. Balonek invoked Article 31, or “Compulsory Self-Incrimination Prohibited”, at the 18 December 2011 Article 32 Hearing.
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.
A second anonymous military official “familiar with the Army probe” told the Washington Post, “There were serious leadership failures within the unit chain of command and gross negligence in the supervision of Pfc. Manning in Iraq.”
Pre-Deployment Mental Health Specialist
An anonymous military official “familiar with the investigation” told the Washington Post in 1 February 2011 report that a mental health specialist also recommended that Pfc. Manning not be deployed to Iraq.
A second anonymous military official told The Washington Post that investigators did not fault the Army’s recruitment of Manning or their grant of a security clearance to him. Instead, they found that “[s]omething happened in his personal life after he joined the Army,” placing their focus on Manning personally.
Lack of Security in the T-SCIF
The first anonymous military official, however, reportedly told the Washington Post that the investigation found that Pfc. Manning’s immediate supervisors did not follow procedures for securing the T-SCIF at FOB Hammer.
Captain Thomas Cherepko, Assistant S6, Information Assurance Security Officer, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division testified that he received a letter from Lt. Gen. Caslen in March 2011 for failure to ensure the Brigade T-SCIF was properly certified.
Administrative actions and criminal charges
According to the 27 January 2011 McClatchy report, investigators were considering “disciplinary action against at least three officers in Manning’s chain of command,” and Army spokesman, George Wright told Politico’s Charles Hoskinson on 7 December 2011, “Appropriate action has been taken against 15 individuals identified in Lt. Gen. Caslen’s report. In accordance with the Army’s long-standing policy to protect the privacy of individuals below the general officer level, specific information concerning their misconduct is not releasable.”
When WO1 Kyle Balonek invoked Article 31, David Coombs, lead defense counsel, argued that WO1 Balonek should not be excused from giving testimony, because he was not under criminal investigation. 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.
Pfc. Manning’s commanding officers included then Staff Sergeant, now Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek; then Master Sergeant Paul David Adkins, now Sergeant First Class due to an administrative action; Major Cliff Clausen and Captain Steven Lim, Brigade S2’s – Lim officially replaced Clausen during deployment in February 2010; Lt. Col. Brian Kerns, the Brigade Executive Officer; and Col. David Miller, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
As Politico has reported previously, the 2 December 2011 Defense Request for Article 32 Witnesses revealed that the the Non-commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the FOB Hammer, Iraq T-SCIF for the S2 Section of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team 10th Mountain Division “was administratively reduced by a board due to being derelict in his duties” for failing “to take proper steps in addressing PFC Manning’s issues.” That Non-commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) was Master Sergeant Paul David Adkins, now Sergeant First Class (SFC), who invoked Article 31 – or “Compulsory Self-Incrimination Prohibited” – at the Pretrial Hearing on 18 December 2011, and retired from the Army in October 2012.
The spokesperson for the Military District of Washington, Captain John Haberland told the press pool on 18 December 2011 that though he could not confirm, criminal charges were probably being considered for administratively reduced Sergeant First Class, formerly Master Sergeant Adkins. Captain Haberland said that any charges would be reviewed by the Convening Authority and the Judge during the court martial. However, Haberland did not clarify if he was referring specifically to Judge Lind and the court-martial of Pfc. Manning.
Question: If someone is reduced in rank, are there appellate procedures?
Answer: Depends on how they were reduced. There’s always a board that makes a decision and appeals to a higher authority. Sounds like it was an administrative director board – usually a General Officer – that reduced his rank. Rank can be reduced, pending that appeal. The basis for [former Master Sergeant, now Sergeant 1st Class Adkins] invoking Article 31 right was that appeal of the reduction of rank.
Captain Steven Lim, the Brigade S2, who replaced Major Cliff Clausen as the Officer in Charge of the S2 Section, testified that he received a “letter of admonishment from General Caslen on 2 March 2011”. Caslen wrote: “You should have been aware of Master Sergeant Paul Adkins from case and the discipline of enlisted soldiers.” Captain Steven Lim testified that he replied to Caslen’s letter in April 2011, explaining that then Master Sergeant Adkins had not made him aware of an April 2010 email that Pfc. Manning allegedly sent to Adkins concerning his struggles with gender, including a picture of himself dressed as a woman.
- McClatchy, WikiLeaks probe: Army commanders were told not to send Manning to Iraq, 27 January 2011
- McClatchy, Army opens probe of its role in WikiLeaks security breach, 23 December 2010
- Politico, Army disciplined 15 over Manning and Wikileaks
- Washington Post Mental health specialist recommended WikiLeaks suspect not be deployed to Iraq, 1 February 2011
- Defense Request for Article 32 Witnesses, 2 December 2011
- Defense Request to Compel the Production of Article 32 Witnesses
- Transcript | US v PFC Manning, Article 32 Pretrial, 12/18/11 by Alexa O’Brien
- Transcript | US v PFC Manning, Article 32 Pretrial, 12/18/11 (by an anonymous journalist, ed. by Alexa O’Brien)
- Witness | US v PFC Manning, Warrant Officer, One (WO1) Kyle Balonek