David House, a computer expert and acquaintance of the U.S. Army private accused of leaking classified information to the website WikiLeaks, said he declined to answer most questions in front of a federal grand jury investigating a possible conspiracy in the case.
In comments today following his appearance before the panel in Alexandria, Virginia, House said he provided only his name and address, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
House, a Boston-area resident, said he was called because he is a supporter of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private charged with illegally passing it to WikiLeaks secret material he accessed from his position at an intelligence center in Iraq.
Asked by reporters if he aided Manning in passing the classified data, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology employee said “absolutely not.”
“I think the government is trying to find a way to rein in the media domestically and internationally,” House said. “Every citizen should be concerned.”
The probe involves the largest leak of classified material in U.S. history.
The grand jury is investigating possible violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, theft of government property and computer security laws, according to a letter accompanying the subpoena instructing House to appear.
A small number of people stood outside of the courthouse to protest the investigation. Protests are planned in Boston this evening as well, according to the Bradley Manning Support Network’s website, which House helped organize.
House said he met Manning in Boston before his arrest. House was also among a small number of people allowed to visit Manning while the soldier was detained in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia. Manning has since been moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
House said he wasn’t told whether he is a target of the investigation. He said he was questioned about Manning’s time in Boston in 2010 and about the activities of Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer in Seattle.
“I think the government is trying to go after Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and casting a wide net to do so,” House said.
Students and Activists
Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder, said in April that the grand jury is targeting a group of students and activists in Boston, as well as WikiLeaks and Assange himself, for assisting Manning in the leak.
Appearing via Skype at a journalism conference in Berkeley, California, in April, Assange said federal prosecutors are trying to prove WikiLeaks volunteers in the Boston area conspired with Manning to steal the material.
Assange said his organization received the material from an unknown source and is protected in the same way as other media organizations, including the New York Times, that also published it.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, said “this remains an ongoing investigation,” and declined further comment.