NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bradley Manning, the soldier convicted in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history, faces the prospect of years of monotony with no Internet access in a small military prison cell but he would likely be allowed to mix with other inmates and exercise outdoors.
The 25-year-old Manning, who has yet to be sentenced, would be able to nominate friends and relatives for visits pending official approval. A handshake, a brief kiss or a hug that does not involve touching below the waist are allowed during visits, and visitors and inmates may hold hands, according to regulations. Prisoners are allowed to telephone friends and family through payphones that may only be used at set times, but they are not permitted to send email or browse the Internet.
A military judge on Tuesday found the former low-level intelligence analyst guilty of 19 criminal charges, including espionage and theft, for giving about 700,000 classified diplomatic cables and war logs to the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website in 2010 while he was serving in Iraq.
The U.S. Army Private First Class was acquitted at his two-month-long court-martial on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, sparing him a life sentence without parole. But his convictions could draw a maximum term of 136 years.
Legal experts said the case was highly unusual and they were reluctant to predict the sentence. The judge has already ruled that 112 days will be deducted because Manning was mistreated in the months after his arrest in Baghdad in May 2010.
The sentencing phase of the court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, began on Wednesday and was expected to last at least until August 9, military officials said.
Any sentence longer than 10 years must be served at the United States Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S. Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel S. Justin Platt said. Manning could also serve time at a Fort Leavenworth military correctional facility, where the spokesman said he had been held pre-trial since April 2011.
Cells, which have walls rather than bars, contain a bed, a toilet and a sink, a desk and a locker, according to unclassified army regulations. The regulations say cells for one person must have 35 square feet (3.25 square meters) of unencumbered space. When confinement exceeds 10 hours per day, there must be at least 80 square feet (7.4 square meters) of total floor space.
Several people familiar with the prisons described them as clean and relatively safe compared to civilian prisons but said the daily routine was monotonous and tightly structured.
“Most of those guys there have inculcated the hierarchy, the structure, the discipline the respect for authority,” said Raelean Finch, a former army intelligence officer who co-writes a blog called “Captain Incarcerated” with a friend and former army colleague serving six years at the Barracks in Fort Leavenworth. (She asked that her friend not be identified further in order to preserve his pseudonym on the blog.)
Finch said that although “it’s a tinderbox for sure, tempers flare and whatnot, everyone recognizes they’re in a pretty safe situation.”
She said many fear being “Fed-Exed” - the term used for being transferred to a civilian federal prison because prisons are perceived as being less disciplined and more violent.
Another blog, “Prison Pie,” by a woman who posts her inmate brother’s letters, details the routine: Breakfast starts at 5.30 a.m., work hours are between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., then lunch at noon and back to work at 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., followed by dinner between 4.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. Work includes jobs such as catering, laundry, cleaning and yard maintenance.
There is a lockdown for head count twice a day and 3-1/2 hours of time is allotted for activities such as games and movies in the evening until 9.30 p.m.
Philip Cave, a lawyer who represents soldiers and visits military prisons, said Manning would be able to borrow from a limited list of books, particularly those with legal information that can help an inmate better understand their case, although there were a few more general-interest titles.
“Mostly pap,” said Cave. He said military prisons were more restrictive than civilian prisons about books and magazines, although inmates are allowed to receive titles from friends and relatives that meet official approval.
The former officer Finch said her inmate friend uses a 1990s-vintage refurbished electronic word processor that meets prison guidelines to write his posts, which he prints and sends to her by regular mail since he can’t use the Internet.
There is nothing to prevent an inmate writing for publication, the U.S. Army spokesman Platt said, although they may be prevented from receiving compensation for doing so. All correspondence, except between a client and a lawyer, is screened by prison officials.
Cave said that Manning, a slight man who looks younger than his 25 years and is gay, may encounter homophobia, and some inmates may view him as a traitor, although others convicted of espionage are serving time in Fort Leavenworth.
“They may take some extra precautions in the beginning to make sure of his safety,” Cave said.
Finch said her inmate friend knew of a number of openly gay inmates. According to him, they do not generally encounter prejudice, tend to socialize among themselves, and sometimes dated within the strictures of a prison environment.
MANNING IN “CAGE” AFTER ARREST
Manning’s lawyers and civil rights groups complained that he was mistreated during initial detention in Kuwait and nine months he spent in solitary confinement at a U.S. Marine Corps jail in Quantico, Virginia.
A United Nations special rapporteur on torture formally accused the U.S. government of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of Manning. A government lawyer responded that the United States was satisfied Manning had been placed in the same type of cell as other pre-trial detainees.
At Quantico, Manning was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, required to sleep naked and was woken often during the night, military officials said. They said those measures were necessary because of concern that Manning was suicidal.
To compensate for that treatment, the court-martial judge, Colonel Denise Lind, ruled that 112 days should be deducted from any sentence she imposes.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Claudia Parsons