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Accused WikiLeaker suffering from inhumane treatment in brig, friend says

/ Source: NBC News and news services

A U.S. soldier accused of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks is suffering psychologically and physically due to inhumane treatment at a Marine Corps brig, one of the few people who visits him regularly charged Thursday.

David House, an MIT software researcher, told "The Dylan Ratigan Show" guest host Jonathan Capehart on msnbc cable television that Pfc. Bradley Manning has big bags under his eyes, is weak from lack of exercise and has difficulty keeping up with some conversational topics.

House rebutted claims by the Pentagon that Manning under "maximum custody" is in a standard single-person cell and gets exercise, recreation, and access to newspapers and visitors. The Pentagon issued the statement Dec. 17 in response to reports by salon.com's Glenn Greenwood and others that Manning is virtually in solitary confinement while awaiting possible court martial.

House, 23, appeared on the cable TV show Thursday after posting a lengthy blog on firedoglake.com calling the Pentagon's "public spin from last week sharply contradicts the reality" of Manning's confinement.

House said Manning told him during his Dec. 18 visit that he has never been allowed newspapers during his five months at Quantico.

Manning, 23, is kept in his 64-square-foot cell 23 hours a day, gets a wakeup call daily at 5 a.m., is barred from exercising in his cell, gets to walk in chains an hour a day in and indoor room and is not allowed to sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.

"I've been traveling to see Bradley in the brig since last September, and over the several months I've been visiting him I've noticed a remarkable decline in his psychological state and his physical well-being," House said. "I definitely think the conditions he's being kept in are inhumane and they're starting to weigh on his personality and physical appearance to a great degree."

epa02410685 best quality available Undated photo obtained 24 October 2010 from bradleymanning.org of Army Specialist Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking thousands of Iraq War documents to Wikileaks. Daniel Ellsberg, who 40 years ago leaked the Pentagon Papers, accused President Barack Obama on 23 October 2010 of playing a legal 'experiment' with the arrest of Manning. Ellsberg said Manning was a 'hero' in his opinion. EPA/BRADLEYMANNING.ORG/HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALESBRADLEYMANNING.ORG/HANDOUT / BRADLEYMANNING.ORG

Manning was charged in July with leaking classified material, including video posted by WikiLeaks of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver.

Manning bragged about his exploits with former hacker Adrian Lamo, who then turned him in, according to Lamo. The Army detained Manning in Kuwait for two months before transferring back to the United States.

So far WikiLeaks has released about 1,900 of the more than 250,000 State Department documents it claims to possess, many of them containing critical or embarrassing U.S. assessments of foreign nations and their leaders. The documents are also being published by The New York Times, France's Le Monde, Britain's Guardian newspaper and the German magazine Der Spiegel.

House said he knows of no ties between Manning and WikiLeaks or its leader, Julian Assange, who has called Manning a "political prisoner."

Manning has not commented publicly on whether he is the source of the leaks. Assange said the organization's "technology is set up so we don't know" the sources of the material it gets.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Manfred Nowak, the U.N.'s top anti-torture envoy, said Nowak was looking into a complaint that Manning has been mistreated in custody and that his conditions amount to torture.

The U.N. could ask the United States to stop any violations it finds.

Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan has told reporters that claims of mistreatment are "blatantly false."

Manning turned 23 in prison on Friday, Dec. 17, and his lawyer, David Coombs, said he had to spend it alone as visitation is allowed only on weekends.

In other WikiLeaks developments Thursday:

  • Assange said Thursday that his fate will lie in the hands of British Prime Minister David Cameron if the U.S. seeks his extradition. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, the WikiLeaks founder also said he knows he can survive solitary confinement mentally but believes there is a "high chance" he would be killed "Jack Ruby-style" — a reference to the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald — if placed in a U.S. jail. Assange reiterated claims that the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wants to indict him, saying statutes on computer hacking and support for terrorism are being reviewed. Assange said the Obama administration is trying to strike a plea deal with Manning to name Assange as a co-conspirator. WikiLeaks lacks the funds to pay for Assange's mounting legal bills — which are approaching 500,000 pounds ($771,350). Assange has not been charged in connection with leaked documents but was jailed in England this month after two women in Sweden accused him of sex crimes, including rape. He was freed on bail last week and is confined to a supporter's country estate in Britain while he fights extradition to Sweden.
  • The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten said it has obtained the entire trove of 250,000 uncensored U.S. diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks has been distributing. The announcement Thursday appears to make Aftenposten the first media organization outside WikiLeaks' five partners to obtain the material — a development sure to heighten U.S. government fears that the public release of some uncensored diplomatic cables could endanger informants' lives. Managing editor Ole Erik Almlid said Aftenposten has no restrictions on how to use the material and will be publishing articles about the U.S. documents that it finds relevant in its online and paper editions. Aftenposten will also post parts of some of the original documents on its website, redacting sensitive information such as names if needed, Almlid told The Associated Press.
  • The Paraguayan government worked closely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration earlier this year to expand its capacity to spy on cell phone calls to confront the threat posed by a band of leftist rebels, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. The cable, dated Feb. 18, 2010, and published Wednesday night on the Internet site, said the DEA had been intercepting the phone calls of suspected traffickers since September 2009 but was leery of helping Paraguay's interior ministry use the technology to go after the so-called Paraguayan People's Army.