Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pentagon Source: No Link Found Between Wikileaks Suspect and Assange

Military officials tell Fox News they are unaware of any evidence that directly links Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged source of hundreds of thousands of leaked U.S. documents, to Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The revelation may weaken any case the U.S. could potentially build against Assange, but according to sources familiar with the case there is still plenty of evidence connection Manning to WikiLeaks.

"Julian Assange is the CEO of WikiLeaks," one military official told Fox News on the condition of anonymity. "So it's unlikely he's going to be the one getting the brown bag filled with secret documents." This official declined to provide any information on the actual conduit, but said the prosecution is confident it can make a link to WikiLeaks.

Assange has publicly denied he had any connection to Manning prior to making the documents public, even though his company provided $15,000 to Manning's legal defense. Many have speculated on a possible prior connection between Manning and Assange, but, as NBC News first reported, military investigators are not pursuing those leads.

Manning has been held in a maximum-security detention facility at Quantico Marine base in Virginia since July. Officials there admit Manning was incorrectly placed on suicide watch for a brief period this month. According to Army and Marine officials, Manning was put on suicide watch from Jan. 18-20 after refusing to follow orders from a Marine guard. As a result he was confined to his cell and stripped of any items with which he could harm himself, including his reading glasses.

He was taken off suicide watch after it was determined the Marine guard who made the call did not have the proper authority to do so, and that only a mental health professional can make that designation.

In December, a report published by accused the military of torturing Manning, saying it subjected him to "cruel and inhumane" conditions. Marine and Army officials strongly denied the accusation and have said Manning is being treated like any other maximum-security prisoner at Quantico. He is confined to his single-person cell 23-hours per day, given one hour to exercise, permitted reading material and given one hour per day to watch television. He can hear the other inmates around him but he can't see them.

Combined with time he spent detained in Iraq, Manning has spent seven months in military custody. So far,12 charges have been levied against him, all having to do with violations of the Army's information assurance policy -- federal statues related to the receipt of classified information -- and wrongful access of a government computer. For those charges he faces a maximum penalty of 54 years. More serious charges related to passing on the information to a third party are expected.

Manning is the alleged source of hundreds of thousands of secret military communications relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars, as well as nearly a quarter million classified diplomatic cables. It's also believed he provided WikiLeaks with a secret military video that shows the deaths of two Reuters journalists during a U.S. combat mission.


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