Obama on Thursday was recorded stating Bradley Manning’s guilt. “Innocent until proven guilty,” a phrase scarcely used by government officials in connection with Manning’s case, does not seem to apply here. Though there is extremely damning evidence against Manning, there has not yet been a trial.
Obama has continuously failed to properly address the Manning dilemma. While state secrets must be taken very seriously by the president and the government as a whole, so must the judicial process. So far, Manning seems to have been both punished and pronounced guilty with no trial whatsoever.
Obviously Obama didn’t make this statement in a written speech, but this is a point of even further concern because it seems that he was speaking from personal belief. If the president of the United States has pronounced Manning guilty, what hope does he have in court?
There is a very good chance that, given a fair trial, Manning would be pronounced guilty. But in that case, his rights as an American citizen would have been respected. As it currently stands, Barack Obama himself is participating in an already vicious attack on the premise of a fair trial and on Manning’s chance of receiving one.
While the information allegedly released by WikiLeaks via Manning has not dealt a very severe blow to Obama’s presidency, Obama’s handling of Manning is of increasing concern, especially for a president who stood on a platform against torture and for transparency.
In an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a group of MIT professors and other academics expressed their concern over what is implied by the resignation of State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley. Crowley resigned after a visit to MIT in which he made very frank comments about Bradley Manning’s treatment, calling it “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
The academics voiced their concern that an official seems to have been forced to resign for speaking his mind, especially in an academic setting such as MIT.
In the context of an open and honest discussion in an academic institution, we were eager to hear Mr. Crowley’s views and willing to give him our opinions and advice. It is this type of openness to dissenting opinions, frankness of assessments, and honesty of discourse that leads to both the advancement of human knowledge and the healthy function of an open, democratic society.
Ultimately, the academics state the possible repercussions of Crowley’s seemingly forced resignation.
If public officials are made to fear expressing their truthful opinions, we have laid the groundwork for ineffective, dishonest, and unresponsive governance.
The tie-in to WikiLeaks itself is hard to ignore; one of the main supporting arguments of the recent release of diplomatic cables was that instead of hindering international conversation, it actually helped improve discourse. The academics’ theory, though they don’t approach their point this way, is that the same is true on a smaller scale. If officials speak their minds, it can create a conversation that enhances discussion and moves policy forward.
With the increasing focus on the conditions of Bradley Manning’s confinement, it’s important to remember why he is imprisoned in the first place. A german site, daserste.de has posted a video (in english) about the leaking of “Collateral Murder,” which was a video release by WikiLeaks about a year ago. The video, “Shooters walk free, whistleblower jailed” discusses the morality of the actions that were exposed and the act of exposing those actions. Manning is the alleged leaker of this video, and there are a wide range of opinions about Manning’s personal character.
Al Jazeera’s Monica Villamizar got an interview with Adrian Lamo, who reported Bradley Manning to the U.S. government, handing over online chat logs in which Manning allegedly confessed to leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.
Lamo claims he has received threats since he has become “one of the most hated figures in cyberspace.”
Lamo shed some light on the complexity of his position, too. Clearly, Manning trusted Lamo a great deal, sharing such damning details with him. So why did Lamo turn him in?
“I took no joy in it, it was not the right choice, it wasn’t the wrong choice, there was no right or wrong choice,” he says, adding, “I wish I could have been a friend to Bradley.”
Lamo says he did it because he “felt a responsibility as a witness to a crime, essentially,” and that his primary concern was “the well-being of the individuals who could have been harmed by the information released by private Manning.”
The Q&A also touches on the controversy surrounding the chat logs (in which Glenn Greenwald called for Wired – the sole possessor of the complete logs – to publish them, and Wired refused). Lamo says he no longer has the complete logs, and that only Wired has them. Wired has published excerpts from the logs, but they are not available in their entirety.
Lamo says that such a release would “be, essentially, on the same level as Mr. Manning in revealing information that not only am I not entitled to have, but that no one in this room is.” An odd comment, considering Lamo was a participant in these conversations.
With the sudden retirement of State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley over his remarks criticizing treatment of Bradley Manning (presumably due to pressure within the Obama administration, as well as Obama’s public statement that the treatment was “meeting our basic standards.”), it seems that the Obama administration is in full support of Manning’s conditions.
Beyond that, Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been unable to see Manning. From Raw Story:
“I put in a request to the secretary of defense, who referred me to the secretary of the army, who referred me to the secretary of the navy, who referred me to the secretary of defense, and still not an answer on whether or not I can visit Private Manning,” Rep. Kucinich explained to Scott Horton of KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles on Friday.
On a systematic level, the United States government is making great effort to prevent criticism of Manning’s treatment from coming from within itself. Besides being a member of the House of Representatives, Kucinich is part of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Oversight, though, is impossible if Kucinich is not granted access to the processes he is responsible for overseeing.
As Andrew Sullivan put it,
By firing PJ Crowley for the offense of protesting against the sadistic military treatment of Bradley Manning, the president has now put his personal weight behind prisoner abuse. The man who once said that forced nudity was a form of torture, now takes the word of those enforcing it over a distinguished public servant.
The commander of the pretrial confinement facility where Bradley Manning is being held in Quantico, Virginia ignored at least 18 recommendations from the brig psychiatrist to remove Manning from prevention of injury (POI) status.
Prisoners on POI status are required to be asked by guards every 5 minutes if they are okay. Prisoners must always answer affirmatively. At night, if guards are unable to see the prisoner clearly because her or she is facing away from them or the view is obstructed by a blanket, guards are required to wake the prisoner and make sure he or she is okay.
In an 11-page letter (Rebuttal Article 138 Complaint – Quantico [PDF]) from Bradley Manning, he cites a number of reports filed between the beginning of his confinement on July 29th, 2010 and January 28, 2010, quoting at least 18 recommendations that he be removed from POI.
The first and only time it was recommended that Manning remain on POI status was December 10, 2010, when he “was not doing well.”
Despite these recommendations, Manning has been on POI for the vast majority of his confinement.
Touching more on recent developments, Manning also goes into detail about why he has been forced to give up his clothing at night, leaving him “no choice but to lay in [his] cold jail cell until the following morning. He has also been forced – as part of being a “suicide risk,” despite contrary input from the brig psychiatrist – to give up his eyeglasses day and night, leaving him “in essential blindness.”
While there has been a lot of speculation about mistreatment, but this letter offers insight into whether or not this treatment was justifiable because of Manning’s psychological state. Clearly, the commander of the brig is acting contrary to the advice of qualified mental health professionals in keeping Manning under POI.
Posted in Bradley Manning
Tagged 11-page, Article 138, Bradley Manning, brig, document, letter, pdf, POI, prevention of injury, prison, quantico, WikiLeaks
Brian Manning, father of accused WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, has ended the family’s silence to speak out against the conditions in which his son is being imprisoned, speaking on Frontline today.
After condemning these conditions, Brian Manning goes on to say that his son’s life was “aimless,” prompting him to “twist [Bradley’s] arm” to join the military.
Very interesting, and I look forward to seeing Frontline’s coverage of WikiLeaks and Manning later in the spring.