Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some rally behind soldier accused in WikiLeaks case

By Scott Shane New York Times
Posted: 01/13/2011 06:10:43 PM PST
Updated: 01/13/2011 06:10:43 PM PST

WASHINGTON -- Julian Assange, the flamboyant founder of WikiLeaks, is living on a supporter's 600-acre estate outside London, where he has negotiated $1.7 million in book deals and regularly issues defiant statements about the anti-secrecy group's plans.

Meanwhile, the young soldier accused of leaking the secret documents that brought WikiLeaks and Assange to fame and notoriety is locked in a tiny cell at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. Pfc. Bradley Manning, who turned 23 last month in the military prison, is accused of the biggest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. He awaits trial on charges that could put him in prison for 52 years, according to the Army.

Even as members of Congress denounce both men's actions as criminal, the Justice Department still is looking for a charge it can press against Assange, demanding from Twitter the account records, credit card numbers and bank account information of several of his associates. Legal experts say there are many obstacles to a prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder, but one approach under consideration is to link the two men in a conspiracy to disclose classified material.

Accusations from supporters that Manning is being mistreated, perhaps to pressure him to testify against Assange, have rallied many on the political left to his defense. The assertions have even drawn the attention of the U.S. special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, who said he had submitted a formal inquiry about the soldier's treatment to the State Department.

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