Pfc. Manning: 'I Thought I'd Die'

ASSOCIATED PRESS Bradley Manning, arriving for his military-trial hearing Thursday.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Bradley Manning, arriving for his military-trial hearing Thursday.
Posted: November 30, 2012

FORT MEADE, MD. - Pfc. Bradley Manning swiveled in the witness chair, smiling and occasionally talking over his lawyer. In his Army dress-blue uniform, he appeared even younger than his 24 years.

It was difficult to reconcile the bespectacled Manning's relaxed, almost chatty demeanor with the vast charges against him - perpetrating one of the biggest leaks of classified material in U.S. history.

Manning is accused of providing the anti-secrecy Internet group WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables and classified war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq while based in Baghdad as a military intelligence analyst in 2009 and 2010. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, on Thursday accepted terms under which Manning could plead guilty to a series of lesser counts of providing WikiLeaks classified information, including a battlefield video file and dozens of war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manning could enter the plea - which includes a maximum of 16 years in prison - as early as next month. It wasn't immediately clear if prosecutors would continue to pursue the more serious charges, which experts have said will be harder to prove.

His appearance Thursday at pretrial proceedings at Fort Meade, outside Washington, marked the first time that he had testified in his defense in more than 900 days in military custody.

"I remember thinking, 'I'm going to die,' " Manning said of his first days in a tiny cell at a U.S. military base in Kuwait in the summer of 2010, before his transfer to the United States. " 'I'm stuck here in this cage, and I don't know what's going to happen.' I thought I was going to die in that cage. And that's how I saw it, as an animal cage."

Defense attorneys are hoping to persuade the judge to dismiss most or all of the charges, arguing that the conditions that Manning endured when he was in solitary confinement for nine months in the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va., constituted illegal punishment.

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