National security • Judge shaves potential sentence by a token.
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Fort Meade, Md. • A military judge Tuesday declined to dismiss charges against Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst accused of providing archives of military and diplomatic documents to the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks, despite complaints by his defense team that he had been mistreated while being held at the Marines' brig at Quantico, Va.
But the judge, Col. Denise Lind, ruled that brig officials had improperly kept Manning on stricter conditions, including procedures designed to prevent potentially suicidal detainees from injuring themselves, for excessive periods. As a remedy, she granted Manning 112 days of credit against any eventual prison sentence.
That amounted to little more than a symbolic victory for Manning, whose supporters had rallied around claims that he had been tortured at Quantico. Prosecutors are pursuing charges, including aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act, that could result in a life sentence if he is convicted. His court-martial is scheduled to begin March 6.
The ruling by Lind came after a long pretrial hearing last month that amounted to a miniature trial over whether military officials had subjected Manning to unlawfully harsh conditions over the roughly eight months he spent at Quantico in 2010 and 2011. Lind, who spent nearly two hours reading her opinion in a small courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, found for the government on most of the disputed facts. She recounted in great detail Manning's sometimes erratic behavior and mental problems both before and after his arrest in Iraq in 2010, including suicidal gestures.
"There was no intent to punish the accused by anyone in the Marine Corps brig staff or chain of command," she said. "The intent was to make sure the accused was safe, did not hurt himself and was available for the trial."
Still, Lind found that some steps brig officials had taken were excessive. The government had already conceded that Manning should not have been kept on the strictest status, "suicide risk," on two occasions totaling seven days, after a brig medical official said that status was no longer necessary. She agreed, awarding one day of credit for each of those days.
She also said that it eventually became excessive and effectively punitive for brig officials to keep him on "prevention of injury" status a category that did not require a doctor's assent for a 75-day period starting in November 2010.