FORT MEADE, Md. -- Pfc. Bradley Manning, charged in the biggest security breach in U.S. history, testified yesterday 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, 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.
Later, Manning, 24, was 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. The intelligence analyst looked youthful in his dark-blue dress uniform, close-cropped hair and rimless eyeglasses. He was animated, often swiveling in the witness chair and gesturing with his hands.
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.
Manning, trying to avoid trial in the WikiLeaks case, argues he was punished enough when he was locked up alone in a small cell for nearly nine months at Quantico.
The military contends the treatment was proper, given his classification then as a maximum-security detainee who posed a risk of injury to himself or others.
Earlier in the day, 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. Col. Denise Lind's ruling doesn't mean the pleas have been formally accepted. That could happen in December. Lind said those offenses carry a total maximum prison term of 16 years.
Manning made the offer as a way of accepting responsibility for the leak. Government officials have not said whether they would continue prosecuting him for 14 other counts, including aiding the enemy.