Greenwald: US's treatment of WikiLeaks' alleged source borders on torture

The Justice Department is looking at contact between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the alleged source of the leaked State Department cables, PFC Bradley Manning, in order to build a criminal conspiracy case against Assange, a news report says.

Prosecutors are reportedly sifting through Internet chats between Manning, an Army intel analyst who has been in US military custody since his arrest in May, and Adrian Lamo, the hacker who reported Manning to the authorities. They hope to find evidence that Assange encouraged or aided Manning while the Army private worked to obtain and deliver to WikiLeaks 250,000 State Department cables.

"If [Assange] did so, [prosecutors] believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them," the New York Times reports.

By bringing a case against Mr. Assange as a conspirator to Private Manning’s leak, the government would not have to confront awkward questions about why it is not also prosecuting traditional news organizations or investigative journalists who also disclose information the government says should be kept secret — including The New York Times, which also published some documents originally obtained by WikiLeaks.

"Private Manning is ... said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of [the cables] to WikiLeaks," the Times reports.

That assertion does not appear to be in the parts of the chats that have been previously published online.

Lamo told the Times that Manning went into greater detail about his relationship with Assange in other chats that have not been posted online. He said he can't provide those chats because they are now in the possession of the FBI.

Lamo issued a press release late last month calling for Assange to be prosecuted.

At one point, Manning reportedly said of his relationship with WikiLeaks: "I'm a source, not quite a volunteer."

"I'm a high profile source ... and I’ve developed a relationship with Assange ... But I don't know much more than what he tells me, which is very little," Manning continued.

Columbia law professor Daniel Richman told the Times that even if prosecutors manage to prove the authenticity of the chats, they may be thrown out of court as inadmissible hearsay.

The Times reports:

Prosecutors could overcome that hurdle if they obtain other evidence about any early contacts — especially if they could persuade Private Manning to testify against Mr. Assange. But two members of a support network set up to raise money for his legal defense, Jeff Paterson and David House, said Private Manning had declined to cooperate with investigators since his arrest in May.

Among other purported revelations in the chats is a claim by Manning that he had managed to confirm that the State Department was tailing Assange in Sweden after an early leak of a cable this spring.

"I questioned [Assange] whenever he was being tailed in Sweden by State Department officials. ... I was trying to figure out who was following him and why ... and he was telling me stories of other times he’s been followed, and they matched up with the ones he’s said publicly," Manning allegedly said. "Based on the description he gave me, I assessed it was the Northern Europe Diplomatic Security Team."


Private Manning, who has been in US custody since his arrest in May, is being subjected to cruel treatment that borders on torture, writes Glenn Greenwald at

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs....

In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.

Greenwald cites a study in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law asserting that "psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture."