FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — An Army private charged with sending reams of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks could have gotten his tight pretrial confinement conditions reduced by clearly explaining why he wasn't a suicide risk, the former commander of a Marine Corps brig testified Friday.
When Pfc. Bradley Manning did speak up, his crack about hanging himself with his underwear only heightened the concern for his safety, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Denise Barnes said, so she ordered him to be stripped naked each night.
"There was never an intent to punish Pfc. Manning," she testified for the prosecution at a pretrial hearing.
Barnes said she didn't consider Manning's comment in early March 2011 serious enough to warrant placing him on suicide watch but "I felt that I needed not to take that comment lightly, and I didn't."
Barnes testified on the ninth day of a hearing to determine whether Manning's nine months in maximum custody at the base in Quantico, Va., amounted to illegal pretrial punishment. He was always on either suicide watch or injury-prevention status and Manning claims the conditions were so harsh that the charges, including aiding the enemy, should be dropped.
Barnes was the 11th government witness to testify at the hearing, which is scheduled to end Wednesday. She was the brig commander during the final three months of Manning's stay at Quantico, before he was moved to medium-security pretrial confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Manning was required to surrender his underwear each night from March 2 to April 20, 2011, when he was moved to Leavenworth. He had only two blankets to cover himself the first seven nights, until he was issued a suicide-prevention smock, Barnes testified.
On the day after losing his underwear, Manning stood at attention naked for morning count. He testified that a guard ordered or implied, that he should put down a blanket he was using for cover. News of the incident heightened worldwide interest in his case.
Barnes testified Friday that the brig staff told her nobody ordered Manning to stand naked.
"We don't encourage that," she said.
The Marine Corps' chief of corrections, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Abel Galaviz, testified Wednesday that Barnes' order to remove Manning's underwear was improper because she didn't also place him on suicide watch. Lt. Col. Troy Wright, a law enforcement policy administrator at Marine Corps headquarters, wrote in an email shortly after the incident that the order was "inconsistent with the way we're supposed to do business."