WikiLeaks suspect said to have suicidal thoughts

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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 was 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. The hearing is to determine whether Pvt. 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 Pvt. 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.

Sgt. Jordan said under cross-examination by defense attorney David Coombs that besides the mental-health report, he considered evidence that Pvt. Manning had contemplated suicide after his arrest in Iraq in May 2010. The evidence included a noose Pvt. 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.

Sgt. Jordan acknowledged Pvt. Manning had been a polite, courteous and nearly trouble-free detainee at Quantico.

Sgt. Jordan said he considered the opinion of the brig psychiatrist, Navy Capt. William Hocter, that Pvt. Manning was no longer at risk of self-harm. But Sgt. Jordan said the weight he gave to Capt. Hocter's views was tempered by the fact that another detainee had recently killed himself after his custody status was reduced on Capt. Hocter's advice.

Sgt. Blenis, who spent more time with Pvt. Manning, said Pvt. Manning chose not to speak most of the time except for short, yes-or-no answers. He said Pvt. Manning spurned his offers to play chess or work brain teasers by arrogantly responding, "They're a little below my level."

Pvt. 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 Pvt. Manning's trial, previously set to begin Feb. 4, would be pushed back to sometime in March due to lengthy pretrial proceedings.

nation


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