Questions, answers about Manning's WikiLeaks case

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 21:45 hrs

For the past two weeks, a military hearing has focused on Pfc. Bradley Manning's treatment in a Marine Corps brig after he was arrested and accused of leaking a massive amount of classified information to the website WikiLeaks. Here are some questions and answers about Manning's case, and this hearing in particular.

Q: What is Pfc. Bradley Manning accused of doing?

A: The 24-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He's also charged with leaking a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men later found to have included a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.

Q: What is the pretrial hearing about?

A: Manning is trying to get the charges dismissed because he believes the military made him suffer through unduly harsh conditions for nine months at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. He was confined to his cell 23 hours a day and sometimes stripped of his clothes, eyeglasses and reading material. He was also been made to wear a suicide-prevention smock made of stiff, thick fabric. Manning said he stood naked at attention one morning for a prisoner count after a guard ordered, or implied, that he should drop the blanket he was using for cover.

"I had no socks, no underwear, I had no articles of clothing, I had no glasses," he testified.

Q: Why did the military think Manning was a suicide risk?

A: Manning had fashioned a noose from a bedsheet while confined in Kuwait shortly after his 2010 arrest. While in Kuwait, he also wrote that he was considering suicide. In a written statement he made upon arrival at Quantico in July 2010, Manning said he was "always planning and never acting" on suicidal impulses. Six months later, he remarked that if he really wanted to hurt himself, he could have done so.

"I was venting a little bit," Manning testified Nov. 29. He said he told the guard, "If I really wanted to hurt myself, wouldn't I just use the things that are here now — the underwear, the flip-flops? They could potentially be used as something to harm oneself or others. Where does it stop? Does it stop with removing walls? Does it stop with padding? Does it stop with a straitjacket?"

Q: Where is Manning now? Have his conditions changed?

A: After nine months in maximum security at Quantico brig, Manning was transferred to medium-security confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in April 2011.

Q: What happens next? Will Manning go to trial?

A: Legal experts say Manning has a very slim chance of getting the charges dismissed based on the allegations of mistreatment, but he may get extra credit for the time he has already served. The judge hasn't said when she will rule. Manning's trial has been scheduled for March.

Q: What is this overall significance of Manning's case?

A: Outside experts say President Barack Obama's administration has aggressively prosecuted leaks of classified information, sending a strong message they will not be tolerated. Manning's is the most notable case. He faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum of life behind bars.

Manning supporters consider him a whistleblowing hero whose actions exposed war crimes and helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring in late 2010. In an online chat with a confidant-turned-government informant, Manning allegedly said he leaked the material because "I want people to see the truth."

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