WikiLeaks suspect was on suicide watch in jail
The US army private accused of orchestrating a massive leak of classified documents to the WikiLeaks website said yesterday he might have been sarcastic in indicating he had suicidal thoughts when he first arrived at a US detention centre.
Bradley Manning is in his second day of testimony in a pre-trial hearing to determine whether he should face a court-martial on suspicion of leaking thousands of classified military reports, diplomatic cables and other documents.
A prosecutor asked why he had stated on arrival at Quantico, Virginia, in July 2010 that he was “always planning, never acting” about being suicidal.
“I did say it might have been sort of a sarcastic answer, given just on a whim,” Mr Manning said. “I knew I was going to be placed on a suicide risk status. It didn’t really make a difference what answer I gave.”
Mr Manning, who testified on Thursday that his early days in detention in May 2010 in Kuwait were spent in a cramped “cage” where he thought he would die, was placed on suicide watch on arrival at Quantico. He lived in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day .
Mr Manning faces up to life in prison if convicted of charges he played a role in the 2010 WikiLeaks intelligence leak, which stunned governments around the world.
Mr Manning’s lawyers were working with the court on a proposed plea involving less serious charges. At present, a prison term of at least 16 years is under discussion, one of his attorneys said, but until a plea is formally accepted, the length of any term is uncertain.
Mr Manning’s testimony on Thursday marked his first public comments since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010. His cross-examination yesterday came on the fourth day of a hearing at Fort Meade to determine whether his case should proceed to a full court-martial.
Charges include stealing records belonging to the United States and wrongfully causing them to be published on the internet and aiding enemies of the United States, identified by prosecutors as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate of the militant network founded by the late Osama bin Laden.
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr Manning disclosed hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables, military reports and video of a military helicopter attack in Iraq in which two Reuters journalists were killed.
WikiLeaks has never confirmed he was the source of any documents it released.
In pre-trial litigation, prosecutors have presented testimony legal experts say could be used to build a case that Manning had been in email contact with Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ Australian-born founder.
Mr Assange has spent nearly six months in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual molestation case.
Mr Assange said the Swedish case might be part of a plot to have him sent to the US for trial and executed or imprisoned at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. US officials have denied these assertions.