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Originally published November 29, 2012 at 6:49 PM | Page modified November 30, 2012 at 6:12 AM

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Army GI in leaks case testifies he thought he'd die in custody

Pfc. Bradley Manning is trying to avoid trial in the WikiLeaks case, arguing that he was punished enough when he was locked up alone in the small cell for nearly nine months at Quantico, Va.

The Associated Press

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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, 24, 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."

The intelligence analyst 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, an Army post between Washington and Baltimore.

He 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 is trying to avoid trial in the WikiLeaks case. He argues he was punished enough when he was locked up alone in the small cell for nearly nine months at Quantico, where he also had to sleep naked for several nights.

The military contends the treatment was proper, given Manning's classification then as a maximum-security detainee who posed a risk of injury to himself or others.

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.

Col. Denise Lind's ruling doesn't mean the pleas have been formally accepted. That could happen in December.

But Lind approved the language of the offenses to which Manning would admit.

She 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 the other 14 counts he faces, including aiding the enemy. That offense carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Under the proposal, Manning would admit to willfully sending the following material: a battlefield video file, some classified memos, more than 20 Iraq war logs, more than 20 Afghanistan war logs and other classified materials. He also would plead guilty to wrongfully storing classified information.

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