Manning then left a message on an answering machine for the ombudsman at the Times but never heard back, he testified. Spokespeople for The Post and the Times said Thursday that the newspapers had no knowledge about any attempts by Manning to offer information.
Undeterred, he decided to approach WikiLeaks, which he said he admired for its efforts to expose the inner workings of the U.S. military. When he submitted documents to the group’s Web site the following month, he said, he chose the material carefully.
In what came as a surprise, Army Private Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to ten criminal charges in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. History. Manning sent the files to the website WikiLeaks.
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“I felt a sense of relief,” he said, adding that it gave him a “clear conscience.”
Noting that WikiLeaks had an interest in secrets about Iceland, Manning searched classified computer systems for cables about the country. He found one showing that Iceland was being “diplomatically bullied” by Washington, the private said. He sent that cable to WikiLeaks, which posted it online.
Days later, he tracked down a military video of an attack by U.S. helicopters in Baghdad that killed 12 people, including children and two employees of Reuters news agency. He sent the clip to WikiLeaks, saying he thought the military was trying to play down a mistake. He later sent classified assessments of detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, intelligence memos and hundreds of thousands of State Department cables.
“The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this type of information should become public,” he said.
Manning said an online relationship he struck up with a person he assumed was Assange while he was feeding WikiLeaks information offered a reprieve from a hostile environment in the Army. Both men used pseudonyms during daily online chats, he said, that covered personal issues, including Manning’s feelings of alienation while he shared a small housing unit with a comrade who appeared to dislike gays. “I looked forward to conversations,” he said, because they “allowed me to be myself.”
Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 after he was identified as the leaker by a former hacker in whom the young soldier had confided over the Internet. He was later transferred to the military jail at Quantico, where his attorneys say his long solitary confinement was abusive.