Lawyer: Leak suspect's mental health doubted

By Ellen Nakashima and Peter Finn
Washington Post staff writers
Thursday, September 2, 2010

The sergeant who supervised Bradley E. Manning, the Army private accused of leaking classified material to the online site WikiLeaks, was so concerned about the soldier's mental health that he disabled Manning's weapon late last year, the private's attorney said Wednesday.

Despite those concerns, the sergeant continued to let Manning work as an intelligence analyst, a position that afforded him access to classified databases at a forward operating base in Baghdad, said his attorney, David E. Coombs.

The sergeant removed the bolt from Manning's weapon in December but did not refer him for mental health services, Coombs said in an interview.

"They did send him to talk to a chaplain," he said. "But that was it."

Coombs said Manning's supervisor had noticed the private displaying "dissociative behavior." On at least three occasions, Coombs said, the sergeant documented that Manning "did not respond appropriately" to questions posed to him and exhibited mental problems.

Attempts to reach the sergeant for this article were unsuccessful, and the Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment.

Manning, who is being held at Quantico Marine Corps Base, is at the center of an investigation into perhaps the largest-ever leak of classified military documents.

Establishing whether he had mental health issues at the time of the alleged leak could be a line of defense if his case proceeds to trial.

Coombs said he had no knowledge of whether Manning leaked anything.

He was moved from detention in Kuwait to Quantico in late July because of concerns that he was suicidal and required greater attention, Coombs said. In Quantico, he was initially held in solitary confinement because of those concerns, Coombs said.

The private is receiving medical treatment for depression and insomnia, including a regimen of drugs, and is being evaluated by a forensic psychiatrist, Coombs said.

Manning, 23, who lived in Potomac before entering the Army in 2007, was charged in July with downloading a classified video and State Department cables onto his personal computer and transmitting them to an unauthorized person.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company