GI’s mental health questioned in WikiLeaks case

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — An Army private’s sanity is under scrutiny in a case alleging he leaked classified material to WikiLeaks, his lawyer said today.

Pfc. Bradley Manning is undergoing a mental health examination to determine whether he understood his behavior from November through May, when he allegedly gave a classified video and diplomatic cables to an unauthorized person while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, attorney David E. Coombs said.

The exam by three Army mental health professionals could determine whether the 22-year-old soldier from Crescent, Okla., will stand trial for allegations that could send him to prison for 52 years, Coombs said in written comments e-mailed to The Associated Press.

Coombs said that Manning is under psychiatric care in the brig at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in northern Virginia, partly out of concern that he is suicidal.

His mental health problems predate his May 29 arrest, Coombs wrote. He said Manning’s unit documented a steady decline in his mental stability from December to May.

“Due to this behavior and a concern about his personal safety, the command made the decision to remove the bolt from Pfc. Manning’s weapon,” Coombs wrote. He said Manning apparently walked around his base in Iraq with a disabled weapon while still assigned to his analyst job.

Army officials didn’t immediately respond to AP queries about Coombs’ claims.

Manning told an online confidant May 21 that he was pending discharge for an “adjustment disorder,” according to their chat logs. But Army spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Bloom has said Manning wasn’t facing discharge when he was detained eight days later.

Manning was reduced in rank from specialist to private first class in early May for assaulting another soldier, the Army says.

Coombs said he hasn’t yet reviewed the classified evidence in the case but “I have not seen anything and my client has not said anything to me to make me believe that he is responsible for these leaks.”

The allegations include leaking video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. WikiLeaks, a self-proclaimed whistleblower group, posted the video on its website in April.

Military investigators say Manning is a person of interest in the leak of nearly 77,000 Afghan war records that WikiLeaks published online in July. U.S. officials say the disclosures endangered innocent people or confidential informants named in the documents.

Coombs said the information in such reports is typically outdated within hours or days, and that the names of any Afghan nationals named in the reports were spelled phonetically, rather than in Arabic or Farsi.

“Therefore, to suggest that they could be identified by these raw data reports stretches the imagination,” Coombs wrote.

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