MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of passing secret government files to WikiLeaks, has now spent six months in the brig. He's being held at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.
To some, Manning is a traitor. To others, he's a hero, along with WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange. But both face possible criminal prosecution.
NPR's Tom Gjelten has the latest.
TOM GJELTEN: Private First Class Manning is held in what the military calls Prevention of Injury status, supposedly because he's a threat to himself. According to some reports, Manning has been depressed. He's held alone in his cell for 23 hours a day under constant surveillance. His lawyer last weekend filed a complaint objecting to Manning's treatment.
That prompted this reaction yesterday from Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
GEOFF MORRELL: He's being provided well-balanced, nutritious meals three times a day. He receives visitors and mail, and can write letters. He routinely meets with doctors, as well as his attorney. He's allowed to make telephone calls. And he is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig.
GJELTEN: Manning's lawyer immediately pointed out no other prisoner at Quantico is being held in a prevention-of-injury status.
POST: Assange has not been formally charged. Swedish authorities have sought his extradition for questioning in relation to an alleged sexual assault.]
Assange has his own theory for why Bradley Manning may be getting harsh treatment. He thinks Manning is being pressured to say Assange encouraged him to steal secret government files. Here's Assange on MSNBC last month.
JULIAN ASSANGE: We've recently heard calls to try and set up a plea deal with Bradley Manning to testify against me, personally, to say that we engaged in some kind of conspiracy to commit espionage. Absolute nonsense.
GJELTEN: In fact, the U.S. government is right now looking to see whether Assange might be prosecuted in this country for his release of classified files. If it could be shown that Assange communicated with Manning about the theft of secret documents, that might be one basis for prosecution.
NBC News this week reported that investigators have been looking for evidence of a connection between Manning and Assange and have not yet found it.
In his MSNBC interview, Assange said that people who leak secrets to his WikiLeaks group do so anonymously and that he had no conversations with Bradley Manning about leaking documents.
ASSANGE: That's not how our technology works, not how our organization works. I'd never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media.
GJELTEN: At the Pentagon, yesterday, spokesman Geoff Morrell bristled when asked about the report of investigators finding no connection between Manning and Assange.
MORRELL: Any pronouncements about a connection or lack of a connection, those that have been found or yet to be found, are just premature at this point.
GJELTEN: If Assange were himself not a party to the theft of the classified U.S. files, he'd presumably have to be charged simply for publishing them. Difficult but not impossible, says Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel.
JEFFREY SMITH: It would arguably be made easier if they could establish a link between the removal of the documents by Manning and the transmission of those documents to Assange, but I don't think the absence of that link is fatal to the prosecution of Assange.
GJELTEN: So far, there's no indication the U.S. government is thinking of charging the New York Times with espionage, though the newspaper, like WikiLeaks, did publish the stolen classified files. Prosecuting a news organization like that would be virtually without precedent.
If government lawyers go after WikiLeaks, they'll probably say it's not a news organization. And they'll have the New York Times to back them up. In an article released on its website, Times editor Bill Keller writes that the newspaper has regarded Assange, quote, as a source, not as a partner or collaborator.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.