Military prosecutors are slowly working up the chain of command of a Marine Corps brig to show the government was justified in keeping an Army private tightly confined after he was arrested for allegedly sending classified information to the secret-busting website WikiLeaks.
Pfc. Bradley Manning claims his nine months in maximum custody in Quantico, Va., amounted to illegal pretrial punishment and that his case should be dismissed. A hearing on the dispute resumes Wednesday at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. The proceeding began Nov. 27 and is scheduled through Dec. 12.
Manning testified last week that he felt drained and frustrated spending 23 hours a day in an 8-by-6 foot cell, sometimes without clothing, under conditions aimed at preventing him from hurting or killing himself. The brig commander rejected psychiatrists' nearly weekly recommendations to ease Manning's restrictions, and the Pentagon concluded the treatment was proper.
Manning's lawyers must show that his treatment at Quantico from July 2010 to April 2011 was either intentional punishment or so egregious that it was tantamount to punishment. The government has the burden of proving by preponderance of the evidence that it had a legitimate purpose in imposing the restrictions.
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, could dismiss all charges if she finds for the defense but military legal experts say that's unlikely. A more common remedy is extra credit at sentencing for time served. Manning's lawyers have asked for 10-for-1 credit if the judge refuses to dismiss the case.
Manning's treatment drew international attention and was condemned by his supporters, who consider him a heroic whistleblower. United Nations torture investigator Juan E. Mendez called Manning's treatment "cruel, inhuman and degrading."
The 24-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., is charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He's accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He's also charged with leaking a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men later found to have included a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.