FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army private charged with sending U.S secrets to the website WikiLeaks had a history of suicidal thoughts and aloof behavior that outweighed a psychiatrist's opinion that he posed no risk to himself, two former counselors testified Sunday.
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan and Marine Master Sgt. Craig Blenis testified on the sixth day of a pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, near Baltimore.
The hearing is to determine whether Manning's nine months in pretrial confinement at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., were so punishing that the judge should dismiss all charges. The 24-year-old intelligence analyst is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the secret-spilling website in 2009 and 2010.
Military judge Col. Denise Lind recessed the hearing until Wednesday. It's scheduled to run through Dec. 12.
The counselors, both of whom worked in the brig, sat on a board that recommended to the brig commander that Manning remain in maximum custody and on either injury-prevention or suicide-risk status – conditions that kept him confined to his cell 23 hours a day, sometimes with no clothing.
Jordan said under cross-examination by defense attorney David Coombs that besides the mental-health report, he considered evidence that Manning had contemplated suicide after his arrest in Iraq in May 2010. The evidence included a noose Manning had fashioned from a bedsheet while confined in Kuwait, and a written statement he made upon arrival at Quantico in July 2010 that he was "always planning and never acting" on suicidal impulses.
Jordan acknowledged Manning had been a polite, courteous and nearly trouble-free detainee at Quantico.
"Wouldn't his past six months of performance be an indicator of his potential for future behavior?" Coombs asked. But Jordan maintained that Manning's unwillingness to converse with him and other brig staff was a warning sign he was at risk of self-harm.
Jordan said he considered the opinion of the brig psychiatrist, Navy Capt. William Hocter, that Manning was no longer at risk of self-harm. But Jordan said the weight he gave to Hocter's views was tempered by the fact that another detainee had recently killed himself after his custody status was reduced on Hocter's advice.
"I would consider it, but I would always consider it with care, sir," he told Coombs.
Blenis, who spent more time with Manning, said Manning chose not to speak most of the time except for short, yes-or-no answers. He said Manning spurned his offers to play chess or work brain teasers by arrogantly responding, "They're a little below my level."
"I've got a person not communicating with me that's sitting in his cell, not doing anything," Blenis said.
He said he supported the brig commander's decision in March 2011 to strip Manning of all clothing at night and place him on suicide watch after Manning told another staffer that if he really wanted to kill himself, he could use the elastic waistband on his underwear.
"If someone tells me they're going to shoot themselves in the face, I'm not going to give them a gun," Blenis said.
Later Sunday, the defense showed an approximately 12-minute video clip of Blenis talking with Manning through the bars of his cell about the detainee's frustration with his situation in January 2011.
"Every day that passes by I'm getting increasingly frustrated," Manning told him.
Manning was moved in April 2011 to pretrial confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He's been held there in medium custody since then.
Earlier Sunday, the military judge said Manning's trial, previously set to begin Feb. 4, would be pushed back to sometime in March due to lengthy pretrial proceedings.
Manning is charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Interview A Member Of The Taliban
<strong>Scenario:</strong> As a foreign correspondent on assignment in Afghanistan, you successfully contact Taliban representatives who take you to meet a mullah. After you've completed your interview and fact-finding mission, U.S. officials arrest you under suspicion of terrorism. <strong>How:</strong> Section 1021 (2) of the National Defense Authorization Act <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr1540enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr1540enr.pdf" target="_hplink">grants power</a> to indefinitely detain "a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners." You're not sure if what you did was "substantial" or really "supported" anyone. It's quite possible that nobody does, as the text of the law doesn't define these words. This could take a while to sort out. In the recent hearing on a lawsuit challenging that section of the act, Judge Katherine Forrest asked an Obama lawyer if plaintiff Chris Hedges could be assured that he would not be subjected to detention under Section 1021, journalist Naomi Wolf <a href="http://naomiwolf.org/2012/03/ndaa-hearing-notes/" target="_hplink">noted</a>. Hedges is a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who has worked extensively in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The administration attorney suggested that the specifics of Hedge's situation would make his detention unlikely, but responded, "I cannot say that today." While the Obama administration has said you're entitled to a trial as a U.S. citizen, this won't preclude you from a protracted journey through an encumbered court system charged with figuring out -- based on secret evidence -- why you were picked up. And if it this happens during a future administration, officials might not agree with Obama on your right to a trial.
Attend A Fundraiser
<strong>Scenario:</strong> A local civil liberties group holds a swanky fundraising event and you, a wealthy philanthropist, write a sizable check. Sometime later, the group is placed on a watch list, which results in authorities arriving at your door, hauling you away. <strong>How:</strong> It's possible a portion of your money somehow got funneled to al-Qaeda or a pro-Taliban group or that somehow you became an indirect material supporter of what the National Defense Authorization Act calls an "associated force." But just what are "associated forces"? That question appeared to stump Obama administration lawyers when pressed by Judge Katherine Forrest during a recent hearing. "I don't have specifics," an attorney told her. Answering a later question about whether WikiLeaks could be construed as an "associated force," an administration lawyer suggested that it couldn't, unless there were a connection to the Taliban or al-Qaeda. If someone happens to be wrong about your case, you might sit in detention until the courts figure it out. Or, according to the act, you'll be released when officials determine it is "the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force."
Write A Book
This hypothetical situation comes straight from this spring's hearing on a lawsuit challenging parts of the National Defense Authorization Act, as captured by <a href="http://naomiwolf.org/2012/03/ndaa-hearing-notes/" target="_hplink">Naomi Wolf</a>: <blockquote>Bruce Afran, lawyer for the plaintiffs, presented the hypothetical of a book that did not say how to make a bomb but simply expressed support for the political goals of the Taliban, or that made the case that the Taliban's view that the US government overreaches in occupying other countries, has merit. He and Judge Forrest discussed the hypothetical that such a book could be a bestseller and be on a book tour, generating comment throughout the Middle East. Judge Forrest simplified the example to a hypothetical of a book with only one sentence, and whose only sentence read: "I support the political goals of the Taliban'. She asked the government lawyers if such a book could be read as providing 'material support' for 'associated forces" under the NDAA. They did not rule it out. Judge Forrest pushed: "You are unable to say that [such a book] consisting of political speech could not be captured under [NDAA's Section] 1021?" Obama lawyers: "We can't say that."</blockquote>
Organize A Demonstration
<strong>Scenario:</strong> Some societal injustice is prompting you to start a movement in protest. Hours after a particularly well-attended and rambunctious rally, you're approached by men in black suits who flash their badges and toss you in the back of their unmarked SUV. <strong>How:</strong> It's possible that you or one of your loosely connected crew of associates did something to make you a suspect linked to an "associated force." Or perhaps, according to another part of National Defense Authorization Act's Section 1021 (2), your actions constituted "substantial support" to a "person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of [al-Qaeda or the Taliban]." Journalist and "Day of Rage" organizer Alexa O'Brien joined a recent lawsuit challenging sections of the act out of concern that she was being targeted as a potential terrorist threat. But at a hearing on the suit this spring, Obama administration officials did not alleviate such concerns, as <a href="http://naomiwolf.org/2012/03/ndaa-hearing-notes/" target="_hplink">Naomi Wolf has documented</a>: <blockquote>O'Brien produced into evidence a [Department of Homeland Security] memo that sought to link US Day of Rage to their cyberterrorism initiative. The government lawyer was given a chance by Judge Forrest to dispute the memo as fraudulent and did not do so.</blockquote>
Help Out A Friend
<strong>Scenario:</strong> A good friend whom you've lost touch with contacts you, asking for help funding his around-the-world trip. You wire money and wait for him to return. Sometime later, there's a knock on your door. The people on the other side of it have questions about a sum of money you sent abroad to someone questionable. They ask you to come with them. <strong>How:</strong> You're finding it impossible to believe that your childhood friend became a terrorist or connected with al-Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces." But even if he did manage to get mixed up in some sketchy business, shouldn't there be an exception for you, his well-intentioned friend who was just helping someone in need? Not necessarily. At a recent hearing, Judge Katherine Forrest tried to get the Obama administration to <a href="http://naomiwolf.org/2012/03/ndaa-hearing-notes/" target="_hplink">give an assurance that "unwitting" support</a> could be protected, noting that there was no direct reference to such language in the law. Obama's attorney was unable to provide such a safeguard, instead arguing that the new law possessed the same exemptions contained within the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which was passed by Congress after 9/11. The brief and broadly interpreted <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ40/html/PLAW-107publ40.htm" target="_hplink">authorization</a> makes no mention of the word "unwitting," though.
Accidentally Provide Missiles To Insurgents
<strong>Scenario:</strong> You're a flippant, billionaire playboy or -girl with a cool haircut and two Ph.D.s., one in nuclear fusion and the other in kicking ass. You get bored, so you decide to fight crime in Afghanistan and make a quick jaunt to Kandahar. In the process of taking on an encampment of Taliban insurgents, the firing mechanism for one of your missiles malfunctions, launching it thousands of feet into the air. It returns to Earth undetonated, only to be picked up by an enemy who uses it as the centerpiece of an improvised explosive device. When a U.S. mine-sweeping crew deactivates the makeshift bomb and finds your name emblazoned on the device, you're picked up. <strong>How:</strong> This appears to be a clear-cut case of "substantial support" to the Taliban or at least "associated forces" who wanted to do harm to U.S. troops. So much for your intentions of wanting to help out with a little vigilante justice. Any resulting court case could take ages.
Plan A Terrorist Attack
<strong>Scenario:</strong> You're a total jerk and not a very big fan of America, so you decide that the best course of action is to take out your anger with an act of destruction on a densely populated city. You do some planning and set up your device, but when it comes time to use it, it malfunctions, leaving you injured and going to jail on a stretcher. <strong>How:</strong> You're an American citizen, you'll get your constitutional guarantee of a trial, right? If President Barack Obama's promises are followed, yes. But that doesn't mean you can't undergo some form of indefinite detention while you await trial. During a hearing on the lawsuit challenging parts of the new National Defense Authorization Act, Obama's lawyers were unable to say for sure if the trial promised in his signing statement would be a civilian or military one. This could have a heavy bearing on the nature of your detention. And if you were to commit such actions under the administration of another president, there's no telling how a new commander in chief would interpret the act, making your fate even less certain.