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Quantico Abuse Nets Slim Credit for Manning

FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - Unlawful pretrial punishment of Pfc. Bradley Manning earned the soldier 112 days of sentencing credit, a military judge presiding over the court-martial ruled Tuesday.

The credit award barely nicks the surface of the sentence Manning faces if convicted of causing the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history. Manning, who recently spent his 25th birthday in custody, is still awaiting trial.

He faces life in prison if convicted of the top charge - aiding the enemy. Other charges, including violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and failure to obey an order, could add up to decades in prison.

For nine months, Manning spent 23 hours a day or more in an 8-by-6-foot cell watched by two guards.

Col. Denise Lind, the military judge, spent nearly two hours Tuesday reading into the record. The ruling strikes a defiant tone at the international and media outrage against Manning's treatment in the now-shuttered Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.

In her lengthy factual findings, Lind exonerated the three-star general accused of inappropriately influencing his staff, and she deferred almost entirely to the government's interpretation of the disputed events.

She found that Manning never endured solitary confinement, that he was never forced to stand naked at morning call, and that guards never harassed him in response to public protest.

During Manning's nine-month detention, such issues have sparked rallies and protests by prominent national and international figures.

A month after Manning's lawyer spoke to the press about his client's treatment, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a roomful of reporters that the treatment of Manning was "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid." He was subsequently forced to resign.

Likewise, in a report for the United Nations, special rappoteur on torture Juan Mendez slammed Manning's "cruel, degrading and inhuman" treatment.

Mendez said he might have used stronger words if Quantico had not denied him access for an unmonitored visit.

Then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich complained that he was kept out of the prison, too.

But Lind said Tuesday that "this was appropriate."

"Neither Mr. Mendez nor Congressman Kucinich were on the accused's visitation list," she said.

Quantico staff acted with Manning's safety in mind to prevent him from committing suicide, the colonel ruled, conceding that they occasionally broke regulations out of "overcaution."

In each of these instances, she granted 1-to-1 sentencing credit or a fraction of that amount.

Seven of those days stem from the time Manning spent on suicide risk, after his psychologist determined that it was unnecessary.

Though Lind found that these decisions violated the secretary of the Navy's rules, she appeared to shift some blame to Capt. William Hocter, the brig psychologist who treated Manning.

Brig staff mistrusted Hocter and blamed him for the suicide of another detainee, Lind noted.

Quantico subsequently cleared Hocter - and the rest of the brig staff - of wrongdoing after an investigation of the suicide, but this is not mentioned in Lind's ruling.

Lind also granted credit for 75 days that Manning spent on prevention of injury watch, also against psychologist recommendations.

Another 20 days credit stemmed from the brig's ordered removal of Manning's underwear after he made a sarcastic remark about being able to kill himself with the elastic.

"This decision is a very close call," she said.

A final 10 days will credit the time that Manning had 20 minutes of recreation time, rather than the standard hour.

Manning has one more chance to chip away at his sentence in a hearing investigating speedy trial issues next week.

The alleged WikiLeaks source has spent more than 900 days behind bars before defending the charges against him, far longer than the traditional 120-day speedy trial clock.

His trial is currently set for March 6.

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