Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pentagon to Transfer WikiLeaks Suspect to Another Prison

Pentagon to Transfer WikiLeaks Suspect to New Prison

Wall Street Journal

The Defense Department said Tuesday it would transfer the Army private accused of providing classified documents to WikiLeaks to a new detention facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas from the brig at Quantico, Va.

Defense Department officials said the move wasn't a response to international criticism of the treatment Pfc. Bradley Manning received at Quantico.

The 23-year-old accused leaker likely will be held under less-strict rules in Leavenworth than at Quantico. Army Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton said Pfc. Manning could be given up to three hours of recreation time and allowed to interact with Leavenworth's eight other pre-trial detainees.

Pfc. Manning will be moved to Leavenworth on Wednesday, an official said.

At Quantico, Pfc. Manning was kept in virtual solitary confinement, his defense counsel has said, and was prohibited from exercising regularly and stripped of his clothes and underwear.

Pentagon officials said Pfc. Manning's garments were temporarily removed to prevent him from harming himself.

"We don't think [the transfer] will really impact the conditions of his confinement, which is illegal and extreme," said Jeff Paterson, spokesman for the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Pfc. Manning, who was born in Crescent, Okla., was an intelligence analyst stationed in Baghdad when, defense officials say, he downloaded hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents, including diplomatic cables and secret reports about the Afghan and Iraq wars. The military says he provided those documents to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy Web site.

Pfc. Manning faces various charges, the most serious of which is "aiding the enemy," a capital offense, although the military said they don't intend to seek the death penalty.

His defense counsel hasn't responded publicly to the charges.

Fort Leavenworth is home to the military's only maximum-security prison, which opened in 1874. Pfc. Manning will be held in a new medium-security facility that received its first prisoners in October and began accepting pre-trial detainees in January.

Once Pfc. Manning arrives at Leavenworth, he will be given an assessment to determine if he should be held under medium or maximum security.

Defense Department officials said the Quantico brig was designed for short pre-trial stays. Pfc. Manning has been detained for 10 months, and a trial is likely months away, Pentagon officials said.

Officials said Pfc. Manning would have better access to mental health care at Leavenworth. "Mental-health support, mental-health infrastructure was a consideration in looking at Leavenworth," said Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's general counsel.

Pfc. Manning was placed on a prevention-of-injury watch at Quantico. His defense team said that was in reaction to a sarcastic remark Pfc. Manning made while complaining about his confinement that he could use the elastic band of his underwear to kill himself.

In a news conference last month, President Barack Obama defended Pfc. Manning's treatment at Quantico. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was forced to resign his post after criticizing Pfc. Manning's treatment at the brig.

Pfc. Manning's supporters say the Pentagon's move is in reaction to a public campaign they have mounted in recent weeks to protest his detention conditions. The drive included a protest on March 20 outside Quantico, where 1971 Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg and more than two dozen others were arrested. But the Manning supporters say that transferring the defendant doesn't satisfy their demand that the military treat Pfc. Manning as they would any other prisoner.

—Evan Perez contributed to this article.

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