2011-01-25 Bradley Manning placed on suicide watch

In a development which may cast new light on yesterday's incidents at Quantico military prison, NBC reports that "U.S. military officials" indicated that Bradley Manning was placed on suicide watch last week by Brig Commander James Averhart, in a violation of procedure.


The officials told NBC News, however, that a U.S. Marine commander did violate procedure when he placed Manning on "suicide watch" last week.

Military officials said Brig Commander James Averhart did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call.

The official said that after Manning had allegedly failed to follow orders from his Marine guards. Averhart declared Manning a "suicide risk." Manning was then placed on suicide watch, which meant he was confined to his cell, stripped of most of his clothing and deprived of his reading glasses — anything that Manning could use to harm himself. At the urging of U.S. Army lawyers, Averhart lifted the suicide watch.

As WL Central related last night, Jane Hamsher and David House were prevented from delivering to the Quantico facility a petition with 42,000 signatures in support of Bradley Manning. Hamsher and House related the incident live via Twitter. Military police detained both at the main entrance to the Quantico facility on the pretext of dealing with formalities arising from an out-of-date auto insurance card. They were not allowed to leave the base until after visiting hours had expired, preventing David House from resuming his customary visits to Bradley Manning in the brig. FireDogLake related the incident in detail here.

As FDL describes, the incident is highly irregular for the Quantico facility, which House has been visiting since September 2010. House's last tweet about the incident last night expressed a question that was being asked across the web: "What's going on in the brig?" The news that Manning had been placed on suicide watch provides possible context for the irregular behaviour at Quantico yesterday. Marcy Wheeler notes on her blog that last night's incident might be explained with reference to the information that Manning had been unjustly treated.


This certainly puts the events from Quantico yesterday in a different light. According to MSNBC, government lawyers realized last week Manning had been improperly treated. By preventing David House from visiting Manning yesterday, they made sure that he wouldn’t have confirmation of that from Manning directly. But since Jane and David’s comments said they’d be back next week, DOD realized they’d need to ‘fess up themselves.

We are told that the anonymous "military officials" quoted as a source on the article also informed NBC that the U.S. attempt to substantiate a connection between Bradley Manning and Julian Assange has not thus far been fruitful.


The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

No indication is given in the article that the untoward treatment of Manning is connected to the reported failure of the U.S. investigation against Julian Assange. Human rights advocates and supporters of Manning will be particularly attentive to the possibility of the coercion of evidence from detainees, given the recent history of judicial decisions to throw out prosecution evidence in cases against Guantanamo detainees, on the basis that it had been obtained through the use of cruel and inhumane treatment, or of torture.

The identities of the "U.S. Marine and Army officials" responsible for the information are not disclosed by NBC.

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