Bradley Manning has been in custody since May 2010. The first ten of those months in solitary confinement, often naked. Most people, having watched only Hollywood’s depiction of torture might not realize the significance of this treatment. The reality is that lack of human interaction, combined with harsh surroundings, uncertainty of how long it could last, and humiliating conditions even for a period of a few weeks can begin the process of
deconstructing the psyche. People can regress to a helpless and fetal state and often don’t recover emotionally. If not for the worldwide outrage, petitions, phone calls, emails and many demonstrations, he likely would still be in solitary.
Even if you’re convinced that the leaking of the classified files was a criminal act and not the moral imperative of a courageous whistleblower, it can’t possibly justify punishing someone prior to being convicted. It hasn’t even been determined that Bradley was responsible. The cruelty of the conditions were not only immoral but in violation of International law and several guaranteed rights afforded us by the U.S. Constitution. Shockingly, PFC Manning’s first court appearance is scheduled for December 16, 2011, 17 months after he was detained. So much for the presumption of innocence and his right to a speedy trial. These are the foundations of our justice system or maybe I should say, were the foundations.
According to the Guardian, Harvard professor and former legal advisor to President Obama, Laurence Tribe, is in agreement with former U.S. State spokesperson PJ Crowley. Crowley said of Bradley’s treatment, that it is “counterproductive and stupid”, Tribe said that it is “not only shameful but unconstitutional”. The European Union members of parliament wrote a letter recently expressing serious and strongly worded concerns about his treatment and about the U.S. denial of a UN official representative to have an unmonitored visit with Manning. Hundreds of legal scholars have also written letters to President Obama decrying the unconstitutional circumstances of Bradley’s imprisonment.
There have been numerous government assessments of the damage to our national security done by the leaked information. Most reports indicated that the information was old, low-level classification and of low impact suggesting that the national security risk was negligible. Some of the State Department cables had revelations of corruption of Arab dictators and are credited in part with sparking the Arab Spring uprisings. Wikileaks vetted the documents and redacted anything that could compromise national security. Was the information embarrassing? Of course. Was it valuable for us to know what our government is doing in our name? Of course. Did it make us all uncomfortable to watch the video of the attack helicopter murdering innocent Iraqi civilians, including journalists? I certainly hope so.
Bradley’s civilian defense has repeatedly asked for the government to provide documents according to the standard rules of discovery to represent him adequately. How else can the court arrive at a just determination? The government has denied requests including for the official assessment reports. Here is a pdf file of their most recent letter.
The possible penalties Bradley faces includes the death penalty (the prosecution says it won’t seek his execution) and life in prison. Under the circumstances, to deny the defense team any documents that could impact on the outcome is unconscionable. The government plans to make an example of this case to discourage any would be whistleblower from coming forward. No doubt it has already had this effect, much to our detriment. One has to believe that any damning information would gladly be made available. Anything other than a determination of guilt would further call into question the deplorable and unconstitutional treatment that PFC Manning has endured. Another embarrassment, and we now know how much our government detests being embarrassed.
To contribute to Bradley’s defense fund go to the payment page at BradleyManning.org