U.S. officials have offered Bradley Manning a plea bargain if he will name Julian Assange as a fellow conspirator, the London Independent reported Friday.[1]  --  In a separate article on Saturday by the same reporter, Kim Sengupta, the Independent reported that Attorney-General Eric Holder has not yet decided what sort of plea bargain will be offered to Manning, however.[2]  --  Bradley Manning turned 23 on Friday.  --  The Daily Beast posted a piece on his conditions of detention, which his lawyer calls "unlawful pretrial punishment."[3] ...





By Kim Sengupta and David Usborne

** Accused soldier offered plea bargain if he names WikiLeaks founder **

Independent (London)
December 17, 2010


U.S. authorities have stepped up their efforts to prosecute Julian Assange by offering Bradley Manning, the American soldier allegedly responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of government documents, the possibility of a plea bargain if he names the WikiLeaks founder as a fellow conspirator.

The development follows claims by Mr Assange's supporters that a grand jury has been secretly empanelled in northern Virginia to consider indicting the WikiLeaks chief.  But the U.S. Justice Department has refused to comment on any grand jury activity.

As Mr. Assange arrived last night at the East Anglia mansion after his release from a London prison on bail, he said he considered the threat of U.S. legal action to be "extremely serious" even though "they have yet to be confirmed."  He told Sky News:  "We have heard today from one of my U.S. lawyers that there may be a U.S. indictment for espionage for me coming from a secret grand jury investigation. 

"There are obviously serious attempts to take down the content by taking us down as an organization and taking me down as an individual."

American officials view persuading Pte. Manning to give evidence that Mr. Assange encouraged him to disseminate classified Pentagon and State Department files as crucial to any prospect of extraditing him for a successful prosecution.  To facilitate that, Pte. Manning may be moved from military to civilian custody, they say.  Since being charged in July with disseminating a U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed 17 people in Iraq including two Reuters employees, the soldier has been held at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.  But members of his support network insist that he has not co-operated with the authorities since his arrest in May.

The Justice Department views the chances of a prosecution as far slimmer if Mr. Assange was merely the passive recipient of information.  But Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who had been in contact with Pte. Manning and eventually turned him in to the government, is said to have told the FBI that Mr. Assange had given the young soldier an encrypted internet conferencing service as he was downloading government files and a dedicated server for uploading them to WikiLeaks.  The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, said this week that he had "authorized significant steps" in the investigation into the leaks without going into details.  However, U.S. diplomats say that while the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 can be used against Pte. Manning, extending it to Mr. Assange would come up against the formidable defense of free speech and media freedom enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

If Mr. Assange is indicted under the Espionage or Computer Fraud acts when there is no evidence that he instigated Pte. Manning's activities, it could follow that the *New York Times*, which disseminated the information in the U.S., could also face prosecution -- something officials say the Justice Department simply would not countenance.

WikiLeaks appears to be aware of the danger if it is proved to be involved in a conspiracy to leak material.  It has deleted from its website the claim that "Submitting confidential material to Wiki-Leaks is safe, easy, and protected by law."  The site now says:  "Submitting documents to our journalists is protected by law in better democracies."  It also now says:  "WikiLeaks accepts a range of material, but we do not solicit it."  Furthermore, it no longer says it welcomes "classified" material.

At a first hearing on the WikiLeaks affair by the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, John Conyers, a leading Democrat, cautioned against a rush towards prosecuting Mr. Assange.  He said:  "Many feel that the WikiLeaks publication was offensive.  But being unpopular is not a crime and publishing offensive information is not, either.  And the repeated calls from politicians, journalists, and other so-called experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures make me very uncomfortable."

Others, notably Joe Lieberman in the Senate and Peter King in the House of Representatives have pushed for new legislation to facilitate the prosecution of Mr. Assange in the event that existing law proves insufficient.  "Assange and his associates . . . have not only damaged U.S. national security . . . but also placed at risk countless lives, including those of our intelligence sources," said Mr. King.




Home news


By Kim Sengupta

Independent (London)
December 18, 2010


Bradley Manning spent yesterday, his birthday, alone in a tiny, bare prison cell, without a pillow or sheets on his bed, in weak health,and wracked with anxiety at the prospect of a prison sentence of 52 years.

The young American soldier has faded into the background as international ructions continue over the hundreds of thousands of pieces of classified material from the U.S. government that he is supposed to have supplied to WikiLeaks.

Now the fate of the whistleblowing website’s founder, Julian Assange, who has very much held the center-stage, lies in the hands of the 23-year-old former army intelligence analyst.

Yesterday U.S. sources revealed that prosecutors are awaiting a decision from the American Attorney-General, Eric Holder, on what form of plea bargaining they should offer to Manning in return for him incriminating Mr. Assange as a fellow conspirator in disseminating the classified information.

Officials at the U.S. Justice Department, who are under acute pressure to prosecute, privately acknowledge that a conviction against Mr. Assange would be extremely difficult if he was simply the passive recipient of the material disseminated by Private Manning.  Any evidence that he had actively facilitated the leak, however, would make extradition and a successful case much more feasible.

Friends of Private Manning stress that so far he has refused to co-operate with the prosecutors.  However, they also say that after seven months of solitary confinement in at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia he is in an increasingly fragile condition.  He is charged with leaking a U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed 17 people in Iraq including two Reuters employees.

Yesterday, speaking the morning after his release on bail of £240,000 as he fights the extradition request from Sweden for alleged sexual offences, Mr. Assange insisted:  “I had never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press.  WikiLeaks technology [was] designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material.  That is, in the end, the only way that sources can be guaranteed that they remain anonymous.”

But Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who had been in contact with Private Manning and eventually turned him in to the government, has told the FBI that Mr. Assange had given the young soldier an encrypted internet conferencing service as he was downloading government files and a dedicated server for uploading them to WikiLeaks.

Mr. Lamo claims that Private Manning had “bragged” about this to him.  In one email, now in the possession of the Justice Department, the soldier allegedly wrote:  “‘i cant believe what im confessing to you?im a source, not quite a volunteer, I mean, im a high profile source? and I’ve developed a relationship with assange.”

David House, a computer programmer who visits Private Manning in prison, said in an interview:  “Over the last few weeks I have noticed a steady decline in his mental and physical wellbeing.  His prolonged confinement in a solitary holding cell is unquestionably taking its toll on his intellect; his inability to exercise due to regulations has affected his physical appearance in a matter which suggests physical weakness.”

The authorities had initially stated that Manning was being kept in solitary confinement for his own safety.  Friends like Mr. House now believe it is being done for punitive purposes and to exert pressure on his vulnerablities.

Mr. House said:  "As time passed and his suicide watch was lifted, to no effect, it became clear that his time in solitary -- and his lack of a pillow, sheets, the freedom to exercise, or the ability to view televised current events -- were enacted as a means of punishment rather than a means of safety."

Private Manning had downloaded the files subsequently sent to WikiLeaks while serving with Operation Station Hammer in Iraq.  He put the classified material onto a Lady Gaga CD, with the music wiped out, while pretending to lip-sync to tracks.

Private Manning described described lax security where “everyone just sat at their workstations? watching music videos, car chases, buildings exploding, weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis?a perfect storm.”

His emails also reveal that he was emotionally fraught after breaking up from a gay relationship.  In one email to Mr. Lamo he wrote:  “i'm a wreck.i just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life...but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive. ive been so isolated so long...im self medicating like crazy when im not toiling in the supply office.’’

Robert Feldman, a U.S. lawyer specializing on security issues, said: “We kind of have a picture of a troubled young man with obvious problems.  Yet no one in the Army system picked this up and he was allowed access to secret information.  And we also see security around the place was pretty loose.

“So a trial would be embarrassing to the DoD [Department of Defense] whatever happens.  But, if they can prove complicity in the part of Assange in organising the leaks, then a picture can be drawn of an Assange, an older man, who manipulated an emotionally disturbed younger man.  But to do this they obviously need evidence of complicity.”

Mr. House claimed that friends of Private Manning have become apprehensive of speaking up for him because of systematic harassment by law enforcement agencies.  Mr. House, 23, said that he and his girlfriend were detained for questioning by Homeland Security officials on their return from a holiday in Mexico and all electronic items in their possession seized.

Mr. Assange said his American lawyers have told him that a grand jury has been secretly empannelled in Alexandria -- the U.S. Justice Department has refused to comment on the claim.  And, in what is seen as the determination of the authorities to pursue a prosecution, a number of hackers have claimed they have been offered financial inducements in return for associating with WikiLeaks and gathering evidence of wrongdoing.

One computer specialist told the *Washington Post* said the U.S. Army offered him money to “infiltrate” the website, but he turned it down because “I don’t’ want anything to do with cloak and dagger stuff.”  An Army criminal investigation division spokesman told the newspaper “We’ve got an ongoing investigation.  We don't discuss our techniques and tactics."

Opinions on whether Mr. Assange should be prosecuted differs among public figures in the U.S.  Former federal attorney general Kenneth Wainstein said that the Justice Department “should be able to make a clear distinction between WikiLeaks and traditional media outlets.  By clearly showing that WikiLeaks is fundamentally different the government can demonstrate that any prosecution here is not the sign of a more aggressive effort against the press.”

But House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. said:  “When everyone in this town is joined together calling for someone’s head, it is a pretty strong sign we need to slow down and take a closer look?  Many feel that the WikiLeaks publication was offensive.  But being unpopular is not a crime and publishing offensive information is not either.”



By Denver Nicks

The Daily Beast
December 17, 2010


Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked hundreds of thousands of secret government documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, turns 23 in jail Friday.  The Daily Beast’s Denver Nicks, in an exclusive interview with Manning’s attorney, reports on his solitary confinement, what he’s reading (from George W. Bush to Howard Zinn), and his legal strategy.

The last time Bradley Manning saw the world outside of a jail, most Americans had never heard of WikiLeaks.  On Friday, Manning, the man whose alleged unauthorized release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents put the website and its controversial leader, Julian Assange, on the map, turns 23 behind bars.  Since his arrest in May, Manning has spent most of his 200-plus days in solitary confinement.  Other than receiving a card and some books from his family, his birthday will be no different.  In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, his attorney, David Coombs, revealed key details about Manning’s imprisonment and kind gestures from his family that provided a bit of comfort in the inmate's otherwise extremely harsh incarceration.

“They’re thinking about him on his birthday, that they love and support him,” Coombs said of Manning's family and the card his mother, father, sister, and aunt passed along via the lawyer on Wednesday.  “They wish they could be with him on his day, but they are not allowed because visitation is only on Saturday and Sunday, and a family member would be going down to see him on Saturday.”  Coombs passed a message to Manning from his aunt on behalf of the family; Manning, the lawyer says, asked Coombs to tell his aunt he loved her and wishes he could be with her as well.

Manning asked for a list of books, which his family bought for him and will be delivered over the next few weeks to coincide with his birthday and Christmas.  On the list?

Decision Points, by George W. Bush
Critique of Practical Reason, by Immanuel Kant
Critique of Pure Reason, by Immanuel Kant
Propaganda, by Edward Bernays
The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel
On War by Gen. Carl von Clausewitz

Manning is being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia.  He spends 23 hours a day alone in a standard-sized cell, with a sink, a toilet, and a bed.  He isn’t allowed sheets or a pillow, though First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, an officer at Quantico, said he is allowed bedding of “non-shreddable” material.  “I’ve held it, I’ve felt it, it’s soft, I’d sleep under it,” he told The Daily Beast.

He isn’t allowed to exercise (Quantico officials dispute this), but he has started stretching and practicing yoga.

For an hour every day, a television is wheeled in front of his cell and he’s allowed to watch TV, including news, though usually local news, Coombs told The Daily Beast.  He is allowed to read the news as well.  Courtesy of Coombs, Manning now has a subscription to his favorite magazine, Scientific American.  The November “Hidden Worlds of Dark Matter” issue was his first.

The conditions under which Bradley Manning is being held would traumatize anyone (see Salon’s Glenn Greenwald for a rundown of the legal and psychological issues associated with extended solitary confinement).  He lives alone in a small cell, denied human contact.  He is forced to wear shackles when outside of his cell, and when he meets with the few people allowed to visit him, they sit with a glass partition between them.  The only person other than prison officials and a psychologist who has spoken to Manning face to face is his attorney, who says the extended isolation -- now more than seven months of solitary confinement -- is weighing on his client’s psyche.

When he was first arrested, Manning was put on suicide watch, but his status was quickly changed to “Prevention of Injury” watch (POI), and under this lesser pretense he has been forced into his life of mind-numbing tedium.  His treatment is harsh, punitive, and taking its toll, says Coombs.

“The command is basing this treatment of him solely on the nature of the pending charges, and on an unrelated incident where a service member in the facility took his own life,” Coombs said, referencing the February suicide of a marine captain in the Quantico brig.  Coombs says he believes Quantico officials are keeping Manning under close watch with strict limitations on his activity out of an overabundance of caution.  Both Coombs and Manning’s psychologist, Coombs says, are sure Manning is mentally healthy, that there is no evidence he’s a threat to himself, and shouldn’t be held in such severe conditions under the artifice of his own protection.

Manning faces a military court-martial on charges of providing WikiLeaks with classified information in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

His future remains uncertain.  Rep John Conyers (D-MI), in Thursday's congressional hearing on WikiLeaks, called for calm and a measured response to the new challenges the whistleblower's site presents to the future of governance.  "When everyone in this town is joined together calling for someone's head, it's a pretty sure sign that we need to slow down and take a look."

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) followed with a call for punishment.  “I have no sympathy for the alleged thief in this situation,” Poe said, insisting the source of the leak, whoever it is, be held responsible.  “He’s no better than a Texas pawn shop dealer that deals in stolen merchandise and sells it to the highest bidder.”

Manning’s fate will be determined over the following months.  What is clear today is that he’s being held in extraordinarily harsh conditions -- notably harsher than Bryan Minkyu Martin, the naval intelligence specialist who allegedly tried to sell military secrets to an undercover FBI agent, and is currently being held awaiting trial, though not in solitary confinement.  Manning, who has been convicted of nothing, has spent the better part of a year incommunicado, living the life of a man convicted of a heinous crime.  Coombs challenges the legality of what he says is “unlawful pretrial punishment.”  He is working to lift the POI restrictions placed on his client.

--Denver Nicks is an editorial assistant at The Daily Beast.