U.S. moves WikiLeaks soldier Bradley Manning to Kansas jail

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 19, 2011 6:56pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration, under criticism for its treatment of the U.S. soldier accused of leaking secret documents that appeared on the WikiLeaks website, is transferring the detainee to a Kansas jail.

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's general counsel, said on Tuesday that Bradley Manning was being moved from a Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, to a detention facility at the Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas military base.

"Given the length of time he's been in pretrial confinement at Quantico ... and given what the likely period of pretrial confinement in the future ... we reached the judgment this would be the right facility for him," Johnson told reporters in a hastily announced briefing at the Pentagon.

Officials declined to say when the transfer would take place but suggested it would be soon.

Manning is being held during the investigation of charges involving reams of sensitive diplomatic and military documents he is accused of leaking while posted as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

The documents' publication on the WikiLeaks website was a blow to U.S. diplomacy as allies and adversaries saw themselves mocked or second-guessed in secret diplomatic cables.

U.S. military officials did not say when Manning's trial might begin. "We are probably months off from a trial," Johnson said.

Manning's lawyers have complained that the 23-year-old soldier was mistreated at the Virginia Marine brig.

Kept alone in his cell 23 hours per day, the Pentagon said he had been forced to sleep naked and woken repeatedly during the night to ensure he is safe.

Last month, President Barack Obama said he had been assured by the Pentagon that Manning's treatment was appropriate.

Manning will be placed in a single cell in Ft. Leavenworth, officials said, but said he would not receive abusive treatment.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan; editing by Deborah Charles)

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