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November 30, 2012

Army GI thought he’d die in custody

FORT MEADE, Md. — An Army private charged in the biggest security breach in U.S. history testified Thursday that he felt like a doomed, caged animal after he was arrested in Baghdad for allegedly sending classified information to the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his May 2010 arrest and subsequent confinement, Pfc. Bradley Manning testified about his time in a cell in a segregation tent at Camp Arifjan, an Army installation in Kuwait.

“I remember thinking I’m going to die. I’m stuck inside this cage,” Manning said in response to questions from defense attorney David Coombs. “I just thought I was going to die in that cage. And that’s how I saw it — an animal cage.”

Manning was later sent to a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., in July 2010. His lawyers are seeking dismissal of all charges, contending his pretrial confinement at Quantico was needlessly harsh.

Manning’s testimony came on the third day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, the sprawling Army post between Washington and Baltimore.

The compact, 24-year-old intelligence analyst looked youthful in his dark-blue dress uniform, close-cropped hair and rimless eyeglasses.

Speaking in emphatic bursts, sometimes stumbling over his words, Manning said that at Quantico, where he was held for nine months in highly restrictive maximum custody, “I started to feel like I was mentally going back to Kuwait mode, in that lonely, dark, black hole place, mentally.”

Manning said he never sank that low but grew frustrated after five months of spending up to 23 hours a day in a windowless, 6-by-8-foot cell.

Earlier Thursday, a military judge accepted the terms under which Manning was willing to plead guilty to eight charges for sending classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.

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