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More Brutality and 'Armchair-Diagnoses' Revealed in Manning Pretrial Hearing

Judge delays upcoming trial another month, due to length of pretrial

Common Dreams staff

As pretrial testimonies continue, Army judge postpones Manning trial another month. (Photo by hragv via Flickr)

The military judge overseeing the pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning announced Sunday that the trial will be delayed another month til mid-March, due to lengthy pretrial proceedings.

The pretrial hearings are meant 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. 

On Sunday, the sixth day of pretrial hearings, testimonies were given by two former Quantico counselors, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan and Marine Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, "who 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," AP said. Their report continues: 

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.

Afterwards, the defense showed a 12-minute video clip of Blenis talking with Manning through the bars of his cell, regarding why he was on a Prevention of Injury (POI) watch. Kevin Gosztola, reporting on the trial for Firedoglake, described as a scene "out of Robert Greenwald’s lesser-known film, 'In the Custody of Strangers,' starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, about a young man who winds up in solitary confinement after committing a minor crime."

In response to the day's testimony, Jesselyn Radack, National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, writes:

From testimony over the weekend, we learned that the military leadership and guards at Quantico – who had no medical training or degrees – substituted their judgment for that of multiple trained psychologists so that they could keep Manning on an unnecessary, punitive "suicide watch" or "prevention of injury" (POI) status. [Note how in Orwellian fashion, the names for this type of confinement suggest that it was being done for Manning's own good.]

Their amateur judgments were based on things like rumors about Manning's sexual orientation or "observations" that Manning was not talkative enough, despite a rule that Manning could only talk at a "conversation volume level" to other detainees, who were too far away to hear anything Manning said at a "conversational volume level." Yet the leadership at Quantico relied on the guards' and amateur "counselors" armchair-diagnoses rather than the well-informed opinions of multiple well-credentialed psychiatrists, all of whom agreed that Manning did not need to be on POI status.

Last week, Manning spoke publicly for the first time since his May 2010 arrest. His testimony focused on the extreme mental distress he endured, including occasional suicidal thoughts.

After concluding the day's hearings Sunday evening, military judge Col. Denise Lind recessed the hearing until Wednesday, December 5. It's scheduled to run through Dec. 12. 

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