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WikiLeaks suspect Manning 'not suicide risk'

Psychiatrists treating US army private suspected of leaking classified documents say he should not be on suicide watch.
Last modified: 29 Nov 2012 19:55

Psychiatrists treating US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, the alleged source of classified information leaked to WikiLeaks in 2010, say that long-term suicide watch or prevention-of-injury status is unnecessary.

Manning's defence lawyer is trying to prove he was mistreated while in pre-trial confinement in the military brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia to get the case against him dismissed. Manning was held at Quantico from July 2010 until April 2011.

Captain William Hocter, the main psychiatrist who treated Manning at Quantico, said he was a moderate to low danger to himself or others. And he repeatedly requested Manning be taken off prevention-of-injury status, which included checks every five minutes around the clock, long periods of isolation, and removing his clothing to prevent him from harming himself.

Hocter said it was extraordinary that his medical opinion was ignored by brig commanders. "It was clear to me they'd made up their mind on a course of action and my recommendations had no impact," he said.

However, Colonel Robert Oltman, the security battalion commander at Quantico, said that he did not have confidence in Hocter's abilities because of a suicide earlier in 2010 of a detainee under his care. "He didn’t have the strongest credibility with me," Oltman said.

Testifying on Thursday, another psychiatrist who treated Manning at Quantico acknowledged how concerned commanders were that there would be another incident.

Colonel Ricky Malone said they "were determined to not have that happen again under any circumstances".

Oltman also said many factors went into deciding to keep Manning on restricted status, including that he had been a suicide risk, and the seriousness of the charges against him.

"If someone required that level of oversight you'd want them in a psychiatric hospital," said Hocter.

Quantico guards catalogued unusual behaviour from Manning which caused commanders concern, including playing peekaboo with himself in the mirror and dancing in his cell.

Captain Kevin Moore, a psychiatrist who had observed Manning at Quantico, said none of those were cause for alarm, adding "he can be a bit odd".

Former commanders at Quantico said earlier in the week that the facility wasn't adequate to handle a long-term detainee. The facility was old, being downsized, and typically only housed a handful of Marine Corps deserters who were being discharged. Most would only stay for around 30 days.

Quantico commanders were given 48 hours notice that they would be housing the suspect in the most high-profile leak case in US history. They were not told how long he would be there, though they knew it would be long term.

Before the hearing began, Manning's chief defence lawyer had indicated he would testify about what happened to him at Quantico. While Manning remains on the witness list, it's unclear when, or if, he will take the stand.

His trial is set to begin in February.