Updated Friday, November 30, 2012 at 11:16 PM
FORT MEADE, Md. — As a military prosecutor held up a knotted bedsheet in court, Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged Friday that he fashioned a noose and contemplated suicide shortly after his arrest on charges of engineering the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history.
The pretrial testimony appeared to support the military's argument that it was trying to protect Manning from harming himself by taking away all his clothes, keeping him in strict isolation and shackling him when he was outside his cell.
Manning's lawyers argue that the conditions he experienced for nine months at the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., amounted to illegal punishment, lasting well past the time he was having suicidal thoughts, and that the charges against him should be dropped as a result.
Prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein produced a knotted sheet from an evidence box Friday and held it up, displaying a loop in the fabric.
"You made a noose out of this?" he asked Manning.
"Yes," the soldier replied.
Manning, 24, said he fashioned the noose while being held in Kuwait soon after he was accused in May 2010 of leaking reams of military and diplomatic documents to the website WikiLeaks. He said his time in Kuwait was the lowest he felt during his entire confinement.
When he was transferred to the brig at Quantico in July 2010, he said, he wrote on his intake form that he was "always planning and never acting" on suicidal thoughts. He was classified a suicide risk for eight days and then upgraded to the less-restrictive "prevention of injury" status.
Manning maintains that neither designation was appropriate.
The testimony came on the fourth day of the hearing and marked the first time Manning came face-to-face with prosecutors in court.
Manning, who was an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010, is charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy and violating espionage and computer security laws. He could get life in prison.
He is accused of sending WikiLeaks more than 250,000 diplomatic cables, classified memos, Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men who were later found to have included a news photographer.
Manning has offered to plead guilty to eight of the charges, but the military judge presiding over the case has yet to decide whether to accept the plea.