Gender identity struggle figured in Manning’s detention

December 3, 2012 6:43 am


Private Bradley Manning is escorted from a hearing, on November 27, in Fort Meade, Maryland/AFP
FORT MEADE, Maryland, Dec 3 – The US military held WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning under strict “suicide watch” partly because his gender identity struggle showed he was mentally “not stable,” a witness said on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Manning, a former army intelligence analyst in Iraq, is accused of the biggest intelligence leak in American history for allegedly passing a massive trove of classified documents to Julian Assange’s anti-secrecy website.

Manning’s purported gender struggle came up at a pre-trial hearing as his defence urged a military judge to dismiss the case, citing alleged “unlawful punishment” endured by the soldier during nine months of solitary confinement.

Master Sergeant Craig Blenis, who served as a counsellor at the Quantico military base where the WikiLeaks suspect was detained, said the gender issue “on top of other things” was a factor that determined his detention status.

It “shows he’s not stable,” Blenis told the court, explaining why Manning was put under stringent “prevention of injury” status at the Virginia base.

The subject of Manning’s alter ego, Breanna, first arose in hearings last year. In court documents, the defence argues that prison authorities displayed “intolerance and homophobia” in their treatment of Manning, now aged 24.

The defence has sought to portray brig commanders as running roughshod over psychiatrist’s advice and bowing to pressure from top brass to keep Manning in solitary confinement.

Blenis was pressed on why he recommended that the army private remain under harsh, maximum custody despite filing reports that described him as a model detainee.

In a video presented to the court, Blenis was seen speaking to Manning through prison bars, telling him that he is a trouble-free inmate: “I wish I had a 100 Mannings.”

In the video, Manning can be seen standing naked from the waist up, with his arms behind him — prison authorities forced him to strip at night as part of the prevention of injury (POI) regime.

The defence also confronted Blenis with an email that shows him joking with his commanding officer about a possible birthday package addressed to Manning that the Quantico jail rejected because it had not been cleared in advance.

In the email, Blenis lists the official reasons why the package was refused but added that the decision was taken because they “felt like being dicks.”

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