Government Admits Brig Commander Improperly Put Bradley Manning on Suicide Watch

Quantico entrance. (photo: crowdive on Flickr)

The government has admitted to MSNBC that the Brig Commander at Quantico improperly put Bradley Manning on suicide watch last week.

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.

So Manning allegedly fails to follow an order and the Brig Commander decides he loses his glasses and is stripped of his clothing?

Remember, Manning has not been convicted of anything yet.

The rest of the article describes that the government has been unable to link Manning to Julian Assange. Maybe that’s why they took his glasses away.

Update: 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.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. MadDog says:

    I watched Jane on Dylan Ratigan’s show this afternoon. If you EW should have a chance to chat with her, I’d like to pass on a thought I had about framing Bradley Manning’s situation in the MSM:

    We all know that Bradley Manning is being subjected to “pre-trial detention”. This is legal.

    What has not been made clear in the MSM is that Bradley Manning is also being subjected to “pre-trial punishment”. This is not legal!

    • phred says:

      Excellent point MadDog, pre-trial punishment is not legal.

      Indeed, punishment is to be determined by a disinterested third party (i.e., the courts) for a reason. It keeps the accuser from punishing/torturing/murdering the accused and then pretending it was all reasonable and just.

      Our legal system has become a farce.

      • CTuttle says:

        It is a Military jurisdiction tho…! And, Military Justice is usually swift… Swifter than DoJ’s snail pace…! No excuse for Manning’s ‘Right to a Speedy Trail’ being denied one way or another…! 8-(

        • eCAHNomics says:

          Military justice is swift? What about Gitmo? What about the alleged terrorist, Padilla, who was moved all over the joint, including the brig in SC ?

            • eCAHNomics says:

              You did not explain my examples, which are anything but swift. Assertions are not explanations.

              And if you are going to distinguish between those wearing the U.S. uniform vs. those who are allegedly terrorists, then you still run into the slippery slope that the terrorist criteria now apply to someone wearing a U.S. uniform, i.e., Manning. After Padilla, how could you not recognize how far down the slippery slope the USG has already slid?

              Not to mention all those historic cases which are buried in classified docs that we know nothing about.

        • phred says:

          Military or civilian, it doesn’t much matter these days, if you’re politically well-connected the law does not apply to you. If you’re not, it no longer protects you.

  2. bell says:

    the usa lacks any shred of morality internationally.. it is a joke.. the guy is accused of a crime and he is being treated as guilty until proven innocent.. what a sorry state the usa is at to continue with its many facades to the contrary..

  3. MadDog says:

    EW, regarding your update, I agree!

    A coverup that got snafu’d and now the Marine Corps PR folks at Quantico are scrambling to whitewash away.

    Note to Marine Corps:

    “If you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, it doesn’t work to say — What cookies? I hate cookies!”

      • MadDog says:

        That comment provoked an image of Jane and the Marines courtesy of

        Truly a match made in…probably not heaven. *g*

    • MadDog says:

      And no one has yet answered why Army PFC Bradley Manning is being held at the Quantico Marine Brig. Since when do Army personnel fall under the jurisdiction of the Marines?

      One could quite naturally make a connection to the nearness of Quantico to various government headquarters who would like to pressure PFC Bradley Manning such as the DOJ, the CIA, etc. in their Wikileaks/Assange witchhunt.

      • Margaret says:

        And no one has yet answered why Army PFC Bradley Manning is being held at the Quantico Marine Brig

        That’s not unusual. Depends on the facility that’s nearby. Sailors have been put into Army stockades, Airmen in Navy Brigs, etc. Happens all the time. He’s charged with violating the UCMJ, not the rules of a specific branch.

        • MadDog says:

          …That’s not unusual. Depends on the facility that’s nearby. Sailors have been put into Army stockades, Airmen in Navy Brigs, etc. Happens all the time. He’s charged with violating the UCMJ, not the rules of a specific branch.

          As we’re both old Salts, I do agree that one’s service branch does not mean you can’t be stuck in another service branch’s jail, but…

          In most cases, that is for a relatively short period of time.

          In Army PFC Bradley Manning’s case, he’s been stuck in the Quantico Marine Corp Brig for over 6 months.

          The Army, as the far bigger service branch than the Marine Corps, has plenty of jails to hold folks.

          Again, I think one of the reasons for Manning’s detention in Quantico is its nearness to the headquarters of certain government agencies who wish to maintain pressure on Manning in hopes he will breakdown and flip on their main target Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

          • Margaret says:

            Again, I think one of the reasons for Manning’s detention in Quantico is its nearness to the headquarters of certain government agencies who wish to maintain pressure on Manning in hopes he will breakdown and flip on their main target Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

            Oh yeah, I agree with that. That’s what I meant by which facility is nearby.

          • JamesJoyce says:

            “What concerns me here, and I hasten to admit that I respect Manning’s motives, is the manner in which the legal action against him is being conducted. I wonder, in the first place, why an Army enlisted man is being held in a Marine Corps installation. Second, I question the length of confinement prior to conduct of court-martial. The sixth amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing to the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial, extends to those being prosecuted in the military justice system. Third, I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement—solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc.—are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, US or international.”

            Most Americans would agree. Thank you Captain!

      • Bobster33 says:

        As a civilian contractor working on the Miramar Brig expansion, I can tell you that the Miramar Base is an MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station). All of the guards are from the Navy. The reason for the expansion of the brig was to consolidate four other facilities (Marine, Air Force and Navy jails). Having an army soldier in a marine facility is probably due to convenience.

  4. MadDog says:

    Speaking of that MSNBC report, it sounds like those subpoenas to Twitter (and the others to Internet sites that haven’t yet been revealed) have come up empty.

    And/or the Internet stuff the government believes links Julian Assange/Wikileaks to Bradley Manning, the government dare not expose to the light of judicial and public scrutiny.

    • emptywheel says:

      They haven’t all been responded to yet. On the PDF forum I was tweeting earlier, Jonsdottir said they hadn’t responded yet. Deadline is in a few days.

  5. orionATL says:

    “gov’t lawyers recognized” ???

    does this mean doj legal vultures?


    does this mean jag legal vultures???

    much more importantly,

    when are we going to learn the precise, detailed, chain-of-command, officer-by-officer, then dod official-by-dod official up to the c-in-chief who are collectively responsible for manning’s “torture without marks”?

    naming tbe brig commander is a good first step, but it is about as useful as naming the reporter who wrote an inaccurate story without naming the editors who approved that story, all the way to the top.

    media criticism, and by extension, criticism of military officers’ decisions, which focus on the initial reporter/officer, but fail to publicly identify the media/military chain-of-command,

    though being the current acceptable standard of criticism,

    are next to worthless in terms of effecting change in either set of institutions.

  6. john in sacramento says:

    Don’t know if this has been linked to yet but …

    U.S. can’t link accused Army private to Assange

    U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

    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.


      • john in sacramento says:

        Something interesting I ran across today. The Library of Congress recently named 25 films to be preserved. One of which was Let There be Light by John Huston, here’s how it’s described

        Director John Huston directed three classic war documentaries for the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the period of 1943-46: “Report from the Aleutians,” “Battle of San Pietro” and “Let There Be Light.” “Let There Be Light” was blocked from public distribution by the War Department for 35 years because no effort was made during filming to disguise or mask the identities of combat veterans suffering from various forms of psychological trauma. The film provides important historical documentation of the efforts of psychiatric professionals during World War II to care for emotionally wounded veterans and prepare them to return to civilian life. “Let There Be Light” was filmed by cinematographer Stanley Cortez and its score was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin.

        And it’s actually on youtube

        • eCAHNomics says:

          Thanks for the links. I’ll look later.

          Despite how frustrating it is, it is really great to get confirmation of long hidden/suspected USG activity.

          • Larue says:

            Yes, yes it is.

            Thanks to you, and John for his Huston linky . . .

            Now if we can only help our warriors before they kill them selves more or us more when they come home.

            AW dot com had an article today that just shocked me senseless.

            We’ve lost more soldiers to suicide in Iraq/Af/Pak than we’ve lost in combat.

            Consider that . . . and the lack of humanity involved to create it.

            History is a bit weak on discussing this stuff I think, from Spartans forward . . . or before . . . i know NOTHING of historical thoughts regarding suicide rates of Mongols, Romans, Spartans or others . . .

            Any Pups?

            A lack of this info would mean the cover ups have been going on since the dawn of man/war kind waged upon others in group configurations (ie: cave dwelling tribal groups making war on each other).


            • marymccurnin says:

              I heard/read fifteen years ago that the same number of soldiers that died in combat in Vietnam had also killed themselves. 56,000 times 2 in 1992. Wonder what the stats are now.

            • poosh says:

              Not direct facts and figures, of course, but Jonathon Shay wrote a wonderful book based on the Iliad, “Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character”. He followed it up with “Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming” which I’ve not read but is supposed to be excellent also.

  7. cbl says:

    One of the many MPs around the car says his orders to stop us come from on high.
    January 23, 2011 at 13:44

    roger that

    • Larue says:

      Until that phrase is further factually defined it is meaningless . . .

      Other than the guy told Mr. House someone other ordered the detention.


      We wait for THAT answer . . . I sure do.

      But so far, the phrase itself?

      Meh. Coulda been a phrase FORCED on the kid who uttered it, by his next up Chain Of Command.

      We wait, we don’t speculate on matters of this sort . . . way too much other shit to speculate about, that’t NOT minutia . . . that’s MY opinion anyhoots.

      • Nell says:

        No, he cannot receive most mail. Here is the most accurate summary of Manning’s conditions in detention, from his lawyer in December. In updates, Coombs has noted the fruitlessness of all efforts to get the Prevention of Injury order lifted or get Manning’s detention status changed, as well as the recent punitive intensifications of abuse after a demonstration in support of Manning/protesting his treatment.

        • MadDog says:

          No problemo!

          But the real point is of course that he’s not been tried, much less convicted of anything, and yet he is subjected to months and months of pre-trial punishment with an apparent total lack of interest on the part of the White House. From today’s White House press conference:

          …Q A quick question about Bradley Manning, suspected of leaking information. Is the administration satisfied that he’s being kept in conditions that are appropriate for his accused crime, and that visitors to Bradley Manning are treated as any visitors to any prisoner would be treated?

          MR. GIBBS: I truthfully, Jake, have not heard a lot of discussion on that inside of here. I’m happy to take a look at something in terms of a specific question about that. I think that I would direct you to the authorities that are holding him…

          (My Bold)

          They apparently have more important stuff on their minds:

          …Q A new poll, CNN poll pointing that the President’s approval rating continuing to rise. You tend not to like those polls whenever we ask — when the numbers are going down.

          MR. GIBBS: You haven’t tended to ask me about one that’s gone up. (Laughter.)

          • Margaret says:

            But the real point is of course that he’s not been tried, much less convicted of anything, and yet he is subjected to months and months of pre-trial punishment with an apparent total lack of interest on the part of the White House.

            Absolutely agreed.

          • bmaz says:

            Well, you know Scalia does not necessarily agree with you; he is fine with very bad things being done to detainees pre-trial so long as they are not “called” punishment.

            • eCAHNomics says:

              I thought Scalia’s version was that anything done preconviction did not count as punishment by definition, because there had been no conviction, and without conviction, it can’t be defined as punishment.

            • MadDog says:

              Yeah, good ol’ Antonin and his quaint understanding of the 8th Amendment barring Cruel and Unusual Punishment:

              …Courts that evaluate a claim under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, Scalia argues, must determine whether a particular punishment was allowed in 1791 when the Eighth Amendment was framed and ratified…

              Shorter Scalia: “Arrrgh, matey’s, time to walk the plank.”

            • MadDog says:

              And that’s why I think it is important for us to frame this with the MSM as pre-trial punishment.

              After all, how many divisions does the pope Scalia have?

              Onward FDL soldiers!

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, he has been charged, there are I believe there are two counts and 12 formal specifications – charges under the UCMJ – against Manning.

      • OldFatGuy says:

        All of those charges are related to the release of the murder video, aren’t they?

        Is it true that he still hasn’t been charged with anything re Wikileaks?

    • Humanist says:

      The Charge Sheet for Army PFC Bradley E. Manning has been public knowledge for many months. It is available at many sites online, including FireDogLake.

      Charge 1 has 4 Specifications.

      Charge 2 has 8 Specisications.

  8. phred says:

    So, we were off-line this weekend and the first tidbit of news the Mr. told me over coffee this morning was that “David House and the woman he was with were detained when they went to visit Manning”. I replied, “They detained Jane??? Oh are they going to regret that”.

    That didn’t take long.

  9. Larue says:

    Geebuz, incredibld Mz. Wheeler . . .

    They WERE hiding shit from Mr. House and Mz. Hamsher (who herself never sees much but McDonalds).


    I hope this blows up huge for individual rights, be they under the constitution or the UCMJ.

    Cuz it’s all just fucking morally corrupt. N worng.

    Way to sty with this one, Mz. Wheeler/Hamsher!

  10. lsls says:

    Hey President Audacity…we aren’t gonna vote for a POTUS who doesn’t respect the citizens and the rule of law….oh but you do? Of course you do…the citizen/corporations that is…

  11. mattcarmody says:

    I could be wrong but I believe that when someone is charged under UCMJ a clock starts ticking for when the court-martial has to convene and begin hearing evidence, like 180.80 day in NY after a subject has been charged with a felony, arraignment on the charges has to be completed by a certain time.

    • MadDog says:

      Here’s the latest “Speedy Trial” status from Bradley Manning’s Army attorney David Coombs:

      Speedy Trial Update

      On 9 January 2011, the defense filed a demand for speedy trial with the Government. PFC Manning has been in pretrial confinement since 29 May 2010. Since 12 July 2010, the case has been on Government requested excludable delay under R.C.M. 707(c). This delay request by the Government was approved by the court-martial convening authority.

      The case is currently awaiting the start of a Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M) 706 Board. This board will likely begin its work in February.

      • MadDog says:

        …Since 12 July 2010, the case has been on Government requested excludable delay under R.C.M. 707(c). This delay request by the Government was approved by the court-martial convening authority…

        When I posted the comment above from Manning’s lawyer, I ignorantly assumed that the delay in Manning’s Speedy Trial right was just the normal legal stuff.

        But in looking up just what Rule for Courts-Martial 707(c) actually means, I found that this military “rule” had been changed back in the Bush/Cheney regime’s heyday by Bush himself in 2004 with his now ubiquitous “the rules don’t apply because I say so” mendacity:

        …EO 13365 Title 3—The President

        Executive Order 13365 of December 3, 2004

        2004 Amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial, United States

        By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including chapter 47 of title 10, United States Code (Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 801–946), and in order to prescribe amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial, United States, prescribed by Executive Order 12473, as amended, it is hereby ordered as follows:…

        …(c) R.C.M. 707(c) is amended to read as follows:

        ‘‘(c) Excludable delay. All periods of time during which appellate courts have issued stays in the proceedings, or the accused is absent without authority, or the accused is hospitalized due to incompetence, or is otherwise in the custody of the Attorney General, shall be excluded when determining whether the period in subsection (a) of this rule has run. All other pretrial delays approved by a military judge or the convening authority shall be similarly excluded…’’

        (My Bold)

        So it seems that over 6 months in pre-trial solitary confinement (and with the same amount of pre-trial punishment) without a trial is completely up to the convening authority.

        Or put another way, according to the convening authority, all delay in a military prisoner’s right to a speedy trial is just in the imagination of the military prisoner. Let us get back to you in a few years after the pre-trial solitary confinement and the pre-trial punishment has you barking at the moon.

  12. dakoda says:

    It sure does look like they have No evidence to go to trial, therefore they are going for a confession by any means, even mental torture.

    Just think, Manning just might be really innocent. Some military we have, since 2001 they sure seem to have gone to the Dark Side, sadly. I guess we can thank Bush, and Obama has done nothing to change things.

  13. marymccurnin says:

    scalia says that punishment cannot occur before someone is convicted. So wtf is happening to the folks who are enduring pain and suffering? Wouldn’t that be illegal treatment?

      • marymccurnin says:

        I understand. Am saying that anything done to a prisoner before conviction would be a crime. Rather, this used to be true before it was fine and dandy to torture people.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          Fair enough.

          My new Q is whether there is anything new here, or whether it is just more obvious than it used to be. Or just whether I am less naive, as hard as I tried not to be.

  14. JohnJ says:

    Seem to me there is A LOT more at Quantico than just a marine base. I know there used to be an FBI training academy there, and didn’t someone name that as one of the sites for all that communications hoovering was being stored and analyzed as well? There was also a weapons testing and development site there if I remember correctly.

    I know I did a little work (very little) on a the ARPANET node there while working for an NSA contractor.

    Since torture is the latest craze in US ‘protection’ tools(publicly at least), it make sense that they are developing that there as well.

    Not just the run of the mill Marine base.

    I should admit this was all 25 years ago.

  15. Morocco Bama says:

    There is no balance here in reporting this issue. There is a great deal of stretching the truth and outright lies, and careless, if not disingenuous conflation, going on.

    1.) It has been reported here that David House is Manning’s friend. Has that been verified? If not, you can’t call someone a friend if they really weren’t their friend. It gives the wrong impression.

    2.) Jane worked you all up into a lather that she and House were detained over the weekend. All of you were running around like chickens with your heads chopped off screaming and hollering that the sky is falling and they were going to torture Jane, and that we have surely lost all of our rights because of this one event. Complete reactionary sensationalism. What wasn’t reported in the midst of the brouhaha was that Jane’s tags were expired and her insurance wasn’t up to date, or she couldn’t show proof of insurance. That’s a critical piece of information to leave out.

    3.) It now turns out that Manning WAS charged per information deposited above. I was led to believe by this site that he wasn’t charged. It’s important to get all the facts straight, and report them, before jumping up and down like a bunch of mental patients on a field trip to the zoo.

    4.) You do a disservice to all those who are being tortured by the U.S. Government when you conflate Manning’s detainment, aside from the (il)legality of it, with the torture we saw visited upon the people of Abu Ghraib. They are not one and the same, and by conflating the two, you render the accusation of a serious charge like torture that much more ineffective. It’s irresponsible and insulting to all those who have been tortured.

    If you want the barely sentient public at large to understand this case and sympathize with Manning’s plight, and the implications of what it means for them, then you better be honest with yourselves, and others, about what really is going on here. Otherwise, you’re nothing more than a reactionary echo chamber.

    • Frank33 says:

      What’s next, child molesters. How about sending a child molester to see Manning, and then I can listen to all of you tell me how child molesters aren’t necessarily criminals and I’m an old codger for thinking so.

      Yesterday you accused some of the folks here of being sympathetic to “child molesters”. I asked you to comment on Wikileaks exposing DYNCORP child molestation.

      After accusing others, you have no comment on actual child molestation. Mbama, you appear to support DYNCORP and US Government support of child molesters. That would make you a…hypocrite.

      • Morocco Bama says:

        Yesterday you accused some of the folks here of being sympathetic to “child molesters”.

        I did no such thing. I was using the logic of their approach with me to make a point. I wasn’t accusing them of being “child molesters” or supporting “child molesters.” I was accusing them of false reasoning.

        Dyncorp is a disgusting organization replete with “goons,” as you say. No, I don’t support what they stand for and do, in every way, not just the nefarious acts.

    • Nell says:

      This tiresome line, that to name Bradley Manning’s treatment as torture is to trivialize other U.S. torture, is uninformed and unhelpful. Solitary confinement is torture; sleep disruption is torture. Manning has been subjected to both for at least six months (we know less about the conditions of his two months’ detention in Kuwait). Medical writer Atawul Gawande wrote an article in the New Yorker that makes clear why no one should be subjected to solitary for longer than 90 days, ever. I spent time and effort responding to a similar line of concern trolling here (Gawande article cited in main post).

      Manning has been charged but the charges have not been formally referred to a court martial, and his lawyer cannot make an Article 13 appeal to protest his pretrial conditions until then. It looks very much as if the abusive treatment will continue for at least another month.

  16. stan.willis says:

    I find it interesting that this is the first story where there is no attribution to a military official. Every other story has had comment from a named spokesman. This stinks of misinformation.

    I’ve been following this subject of mistreatment since early this month, and while I agree Bradley has been sitting in a cell too long, I don’t think he’s being singled out. I have a nephew in the Marines, and he says any commander can assign a Marine to suicide watch. He said he once had to spend a couple of nights sitting next to a guy’s bed because he made a suicidal ideation, and that was ordered by his battalion commander. This was in the barracks, not the brig.

    With military suicides running rampant, I don’t find it suprising at all that commanders are being cautious. My nephew is sure the brig commander is well within his authority to assign suicide watch.

  17. superskepticalman says:

    What is happening to Bradley Manning is an intelligence collection operation; it’s not primarily a pre-trial softening up. The government is purposefully subjecting Manning to what they subjected detainees at GTMO to for information purposes only. Afterwards will be the kangaroo court martial.