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Bradley Manning's psychiatrist says his recommendations ignored by Quantico staff

By John Bailey, NBC News

FORT MEADE, Md. – One of the psychiatrists who treated Army Private First Class Bradley Manning at the Quantico brig said staff continually ignored his recommendations that Manning was not a threat to himself.

The Army private is accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks but there are hearings this week to consider a motion by the defense that argues Manning's harsh confinement at the Quantico brig is grounds to dismiss the charges against him.

Testifying Wednesday afternoon, Navy Captain William Hocter, the behavioral health specialist who treated Manning at the Quantico brig, said it seemed the base's command made up its mind to keep Manning under strict observation and that clinical recommendations to take the detainee off of restrictive watch were ignored.

While at Quantico, Manning was classified as a maximum-security prisoner, usually reserved for violent offenders and escape risks, and as a risk to himself. Manning's defense team argues that those classifications were unwarranted and that they gave the brig staff reason to treat Manning harshly, including keeping him on 23-hour lockdown in a small cell and, for a period of several days, denying him clothing at night.

Manning's psychiatrist, Cap. Hocter, testified that he repeatedly recommended the classification that Manning was a risk to himself be dropped, but that the brig's staff ignored his recommendations.

"I've just never experienced anything like this," said Hocter. "It was clear to me that they had made up their mind on a certain course of actions and my recommendations didn't really matter."

Hocter also said that it is common for patients to be taken off suicide watch after it is determined they are no longer at risk.

Earlier in the day, the commander in charge of the base's security at the time, Marine Colonel Robert Oltman, testified that doctors' recommendations are only one element in a larger decision on how to classify detainees and that other factors led to Manning remaining classified as a risk to himself.

The detention center at Quantico had another detainee commit suicide just months before Manning arrived.

Col. Oltman explained that Pfc. Manning was classified a suicide risk even before he arrived at Quantico because Manning had mentioned suicide while detained in Kuwait and had even fashioned a makeshift noose.  Oltman went on to say that he remained classified as a risk to himself because the staff observed no change in Manning's behavior and even witnessed him do strange things like lick the bars of his cell, play peek-a-boo with guards, and withdraw from any interaction with the staff.

The psychiatrist, Cap. Hocter, testified that it was reported Manning licked his cell bars while sleepwalking, an explainable side effect of drugs he was taking. Hocter also testified that the other behavior was not outside the norm for a detainee who could simply be bored from being kept in isolation.

After nine months at Quantico, Manning was transferred to the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, KS, where he was placed in a medium security facility with less harsh conditions.

Cap. Hocter was one of two psychiatrists to treat Manning while he was detained at Quantico. The other, Army Col. Rick Malone, is expected to testify Friday.

Manning himself has not yet testified in this series of hearings or in any part of the case thus far. He is listed on the defense's list of witnesses for this hearing, but that does not necessarily mean he will testify.

The hearings are scheduled to resume Thursday morning and continue through the weekend.


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