Bradley Manning's Account of Being Stripped in the Brig

A run-in with guards and a sarcastic remark, he says, led to be placed on suicide watch

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Bradley Manning has released an 11-page document giving his side of what happened to him in the Navy brig in Quantico, where he's being held on charges of downloading hundreds of thousands of classified documents that eventually ended up in the hands of WikiLeaks.

Posted by his lawyer David Coombs, Manning's statement says he was placed under "Suicide Risk" on January 18, meaning he had to stay in his cell 24 hours a day and was stripped of his clothes and glasses, which he says left him "in essential blindness." Why? It all started the day before with a pro-Manning protest outside Quantico, which Manning says he didn't know about. The next morning, more guards than usual came to escort him to his daily hour of exercise alone in an empty room, and they seemed unusually agitated. What he describes is an episode of the pettiness of power in a massive bureaucracy.

Almost immediately, the guards started harassing me. The first guard told me to 'turn left.' When I complied, the second guard yelled 'don‟t turn left.' When I attempted to comply with the demands of the second guard, I was told by the first, 'I said turn left.' I responded 'yes, Corporal' to the first guard. At this point, the third guard chimed in by telling me that 'in the Marines we reply with "aye" and not "yes."' He then asked me if I understood. I made the mistake of replying 'yes, Sergeant.' At this point the forth guard yelled, 'you mean "aye," Sergeant.' ... The harassment by the guards continued as I was escorted to my one hour of recreation.

When I arrived at the recreation room, I was told to stand still so they could remove my leg restraints. As I stood still, one of the guards yelled 'I told you to stand still.' I replied 'yes Corporal, I am standing still.' Another guard then said, 'you mean "aye" Corporal.' Next, the same guard said 'I thought we covered this, you say "aye" and not "yes," do you understand?' I responded "aye Sergeant." Right after I replied, I was once again yelled at to 'stand still.' Due to being yelled at and the intensity of the guards, I mistakenly replied, 'yes Corporal, I am standing still.' As soon as I said this, I attempted to correct myself by saying 'aye' instead of 'yes,' but it was too late. One of the guards starting yelling at me again, 'what don't you understand' and 'are we going to have a problem?'

His recreational hour went as usual, and he was led back to his cell. Half an hour later, Brig Commander James Averhart came by and asked what happened.

As I tried to explain to him what had occurred, CWO4 Averhart stopped me and said 'I am the commander' and that 'no one could tell him what to do.' He also said that he was, for all practical purposes, 'God.' I responded by saying 'you still have to follow Brig procedures.' I also said 'everyone has a boss that they have to answer to.' As soon as I said this, CWO4 Averhart ordered that I be placed in Suicide Risk Status. ...

Admittedly, once I heard that I would be placed under Suicide Risk, I became upset. Out of frustration, I placed my hands to my head and clenched my hair with my fingers. I did yell 'why are you doing this to me?' I also yelled 'why am I being punished?' and 'I have done nothing wrong.' I then asked CWO4 Averhart 'what have I done to deserve this type of treatment?' ...

Averhart didn't answer and told guards into the cell.

I gave up trying to reason with him once the guards entered my cell and ordered me to strip. Instead, I lowered my head and starting taking off my clothes.

Manning says he must sleep nude, and in the morning, he has to stand at parade rest--legs shoulder-width apart, hands behind his back--while detainees are being counted. "Sixteen separate entries made from 27 August until the records stop on 28 January show that Manning was evaluated by prison psychiatrists who found he was not a danger to himself," The Guardian's Ed Pilkington reports.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.