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WikiLeaks suspect Manning to be moved to Fort Leavenworth

By the CNN Wire Staff
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WikiLeaks suspect moves to Army prison
  • NEW: The decision is not meant as a criticism of the Quantico facility, an official says
  • The conditions of Bradley Manning's detention have been controversial
  • He is being moved to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility
  • Officials say a mental-health evaluation has been completed

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, suspected of leaking classified information to the WikiLeaks website, is being moved to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, defense officials said Tuesday.

"At this juncture of the case, given the likely continued period of pre-trial confinement, we have determined that the new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth is the most appropriate one for Private Manning going forward," Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson told reporters.

A defense official initially told CNN Manning was moving to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, but later corrected that information.

Manning, 23, a military intelligence analyst from Oklahoma, was being held in the brig at Quantico Marine Base south of Washington. There had been a push by friends and supporters to have his confinement conditions eased. Supporters said he was confined in a one-man cell with only one hour a day outside of the cell for exercise.

Defense officials said at a briefing that an evaluation aimed at determining whether Manning is competent has been completed, and there was no need for him to remain in the Washington area.

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Among those arrested at a demonstration protesting Manning's conditions last month were Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to the New York Times and retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright who resigned to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Johnson told reporters that the decision to move Manning is not meant as a criticism of the Quantico facility and congratulated the military personnel there for the job they did "in difficult circumstances."

"We remain satisfied that Private Manning's pre-trial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects," he said.

Manning's case -- and the details of his detention -- drew attention last month in the aftermath of comments by former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley and Crowley's sudden resignation.

Amidst reports that Manning had been forced to sleep without clothing and was confined to his cell 23 hours a day, Crowley had criticized how Manning was held at Quantico, calling it "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid," according to news reports. He later stepped down from his post.

The Pentagon has maintained that Manning is held in accordance with rules governing all maximum-custody detainees at Quantico, for his protection and the safety of others, and that Manning is on "POI" status, for "prevention of injury."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, released a statement Tuesday after news of Manning's pending transfer broke, promising to demand written assurances from Defense Department officials that Manning's rights will be protected.

"Any move of Pfc. Manning does not change the underlying fact, which has not been disputed by the Department of Defense, that he has been held under conditions which may in fact constitute 'cruel and unusual punishment' in violation of the 8th amendment," he wrote.

U.S. military officials have told CNN that Manning is the prime suspect in the leak of hundreds of thousands of classified documents that ended up on the WikiLeaks website. He is awaiting a decision on whether he will face a court martial.

Last month, the Army notified Manning that he faces 22 more charges in connection with the alleged downloading of secret information from computers in Iraq, bringing to 34 the total charges in the case. The most serious new charge alleges he aided the enemy by making the information public; that charge is punishable by death.

A statement from the Army said the prosecution team "has notified the defense that the prosecution will not recommend the death penalty," but technically it is up to the commander overseeing the case to make the final decision.