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Commander-in-Chief Influence on Bradley Manning’s Court-Martial?


Citizens’ and International Pressure on the Obama administration forces change in location and treatment of Bradley Manning
By Ann Wright

Commander-In-Chief Influence --Prior to his trial, President Obama Pronounces that Manning “Broke the Law”

The challenges to President and Commander-in-Chief Obama and his administration on the treatment of Bradley Manning continue, particularly on Obama’s pre-trial statement of guilt that Manning “broke the law.” Can a military court-martial consider the Commander-In-Chief’s comment on Manning’s guilt as government malfeasance similar to the conduct of President Nixon when he authorized the break-in of the psychiatrist office of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg? Nixon called Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America.”

On April 21, protesters interrupted President Obama’s San Francisco fundraiser speech demanding better treatment for Manning. As Obama spoke about the creative organizing that helped him win the 2008 election to 150 donors for his 2012 reelection campaign over breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, two dozen of attendees, 10% of the audience, held up “Free Bradley Manning” signs and erupted into a song called “Where’s our change?” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uhKYQo5AqQ) on the unjust confinement and tortuous treatment of Manning.

After the speech, Obama responded to one of the protesters, Logan Price, and said “We're a nation of laws. We don't let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.” (http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2011/04/22/obama-on-manning-he-broke-th...)

Citizen Pressure for Better Conditions for Manning

Although the Obama administration will not acknowledge that public pressure for better treatment of Wikileaks suspect PFC Bradley Manning had anything to do with his April 20 transfer from the US Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the timing of his move shows that citizen and international pressure was key.

Inter-Service Squabble?-Get Manning out of the Marine brig and into an Army Pre-Trial Facility

A revealing Department of Defense (DOD) press conference (http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4813) on April 19 announcing Manning’s “imminent transfer” showed some inter-service squabbling. With Army PFC Bradley Manning having been held in pre-trial confinement for over 10 months in a US Marine brig, Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal said, “Private Manning is a soldier, and our responsibility as an Army is not only to adjudicate his case, but also to take care of him while he is in pre-trial confinement.”

Later in the press conference, DOD General Counsel (chief civilian lawyer for DOD) Jeh Johnson said it was appropriate to move Manning to a different facility, “given the fact that he's been in pre-trial confinement for I think about 10 months now, and Quantico is a facility that normally does not have pre-trial confinees for that length of time.” Johnson also commented, “I'll add to that that it (Leavenworth) is an Army facility and this is an Army case and an Army prosecution. And given the length of time it appears he'll be in pre- trial confinement, we believe that at this point, this was an appropriate thing to do.”

In response to a question on Manning’s treatment at Quantico, Johnson added the DOD was satisfied that Manning’s 10 month incarceration at the Marine brig at Quantico was “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards.”

Leavenworth Commander painting a different outlook for Manning’s daily life

In an attempt to counter the extremely negative publicity of conditions at the Quantico brig, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton, Commander of the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, said in the press conference that Manning will receive “support from an experienced trained professional staff that have been doing this for well over 20 years, and he will receive the mental health, physical health and emotional health (support) that he needs to go through this judicial process.”

When asked about Manning’s treatment in Quantico- solitary confinement, forced to sleep without clothing or bedcovers, lack of exercise- LTC Hilton remarkably, but predictably, said she didn’t know much about his time at Quantico. She said when Manning arrives at the Leavenworth facility, he will receive an initial in-depth “internal and external” risk assessment to make sure he is assimilated into the population. Hilton said the risk assessment is more than just a mental health assessment and encompasses physical health, emotional and spiritual aspects to get a comprehensive picture of the prisoner.

After that assessment is finished he will be housed with the other pre-trial inmates. She said Manning’s typical day will be “three square meals a day in a dining facility where post-trials inmates eat, open recreational time for three hours during the day, both indoors and outdoors and the capability to interact with other pre-trial inmates on a routine basis.”

Hilton took pains to explain that the Quantico brig is a level 1 facility and is not intended for long-term incarceration, either pre- or post-trial. She said that “Typically, a prisoner will not be at a level 1 facility for more than one month.” Manning was imprisoned at the Quantico brig for over 10 months.

Hilton added that the Joint Regional Correctional Facility is a level 2 prison and is different from the level 1 facility because it has services for pre-trial prisoners and for post-trial prisoners with sentences up to five years. Hilton said, “And with that comes all the support staff that PFC Manning may need. I have a state-of-the-art facility, and I have the experienced staff who not only work at the Joint Regional Correctional Facility but also at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. So it's more than just the facility. It's the staff that comes with the facility. And my facility is different than the [Quantico] brig. I am -- I am developed, designed and staffed with the experienced staff to provide those services for long-term incarceration.”

Many observers of the treatment of Manning in the Quantico brig are concerned about the types and levels of medication he has been given.

Congressman Kucinich denied access to Manning

Congressman Dennis Kucinich was repeatedly denied access at Quantico to Manning for a private, unmonitored conversation.

On April 28, Kucinich challenged the “Media Day” at the Joint Regional Correctional Facility, Ft. Leavenworth, where Pfc. Manning is currently being held. Pfc. “Instead of answers and accountability for the potential mistreatment of Pfc. Manning, the Department of Defense only offers fake transparency in the form of a guided tour of his new prison. Instead of responding to criticism from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Army will offer the media a scripted fantasy of Manning’s brand new facility. With this stunt, it is clear that the Department of Defense and the Army are more concerned with public relations than the rights and security of Pfc. Manning.

“This fake transparency ignores the central question: How was Pfc. Manning treated during his long, solitary pretrial confinement at Quantico? What is his mental state after suffering the indignity of being left naked for an undetermined period of time, and after being continually disrupted in the manner of a continuous interrogation?

“If it is determined that there has been a deliberate effort to break Pfc. Manning physically and/or mentally prior to his trial or subvert his rights in any way, then the news media, which is participating in the public relations exercise today at Ft Leavenworth could become complicit in a cover up.

“The Department of Defense must grant my legitimate request to meet with Pfc. Bradley Manning and fully answer serious questions about his treatment.

“I urge the news media not to be taken in by this contrived pretention of transparency. The American people rely on the news media to investigate the cover up of abuses, not tell us about the nice new prison the Army has built,” said Kucinich. (http://warisacrime.org/content/kucinich-challenges-pr-stunt-manning-pent...)

After the DOD announcement on April 19, that Manning was being moved to Fort Leavenworth, Congressperson Kucinich issued a press release about his continued concern for the treatment of Manning, “Absolutely nothing the Department of Defense has done so far with respect to Pfc. Manning provides any assurance that his basic human and constitutional rights are being protected. The Department of Defense has refused to provide timely answers to even the most basic questions and have thus far refused to allow me to meet with him.

“Any move of Pfc. Manning does not change the underlying fact, which has not been disputed by the Department of Defense, that he has been held under conditions which may in fact constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in violation of the 8th amendment.

“I will demand assurances in writing from the highest levels of the Department of Defense that moving Pfc. Manning will ensure his rights are better protected than they were when he was at Marine Corp Base Quantico and he will be kept safe under all circumstances.

“I will continue my demands that the Department of Defense grant my legitimate request to meet with Pfc. Bradley Manning to fulfill my oversight responsibilities as a member of Congress and a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The American people demand accountability,” said Kucinich.

Citizen activists bring national attention to Quantico

In the past ten months, citizen activists have brought national attention to the conditions of Bradley’s confinement. Over 400 persons held a rally for Manning outside the front gate of Quantico on May 20, 2011 and 34 were arrested. Another rally was held at the gates of Quantico in January, 2011.

Hundreds of fundraisers for Manning’s support fund have been held by activists across the world and placards reminding the public of Manning’s plight have been in rallies and marches.

UN Special Rapporteur denied access to Manning

Besides citizen activism, human rights organizations have questioned the conditions of Manning’s detention, usually eliciting terse responses from the Obama administration. Remarkably, the Obama administration blocked international inquiries into Manning’s condition including those made by the UN Special Rapporteur and Amnesty International.

UN Special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez reprimanded the US government on April 11, 2011, for refusing to allow him to meet in private with Manning. The UK Guardian commented “It is the kind of censure the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world.”

Mendez said: "I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr. Manning…I am acting on a complaint that the regimen of this detainee amounts to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or torture … until I have all the evidence in front of me, I cannot say whether he has been treated inhumanely." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/11/bradley-manning-juan-mendez-...)

German Parliamentary committee said the conditions of Manning’s imprisonment violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The German Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid wrote (http://www.bundestag.de/bundestag/ausschuesse17/a17/brief_obama.pdf ) the Obama administration on April 12 stating, “The conditions of his (Manning’s) detention therefore violate Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has been ratified by the United States. Under Article 10 of the ICCPR, “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” Against this background I would like, on behalf of my colleagues, to ask you to review the conditions of Mr. Manning’s detention and ensure that he is treated humanely.”

State Department Executive Forced to Resign Over his Remarks on Manning’s Detention

The public uproar about the conditions of Manning’s imprisonment included the US State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, PJ Crowley being forced to resign his position after he called Manning’s treatment in the Quantico brig “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.” In his resignation letter, the retired Air Force Colonel and senior director of public affairs for the National Security Council and Special Assistant to the President for national security affairs during the Clinton administration, wrote to his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that while the “unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law, the exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.” (http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/13/2113335/clinton-spokesman-resigns-...)

State Department Spokesperson Given a Grilling on Bradley Manning’s conditions during Human Rights Report Press Conference

Journalists, during an April 14 press conference on the State Department’s Report on Human Rights in other countries, repeatedly questioned the State Department’s Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner on why the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture was not allowed access to Bradley Manning to determine the conditions under which he is being kept. (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article27900.htm )

Legal Scholars Challenge Manning’s Treatment

In a letter published in April, 2001 (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/apr/28/private-mannings-hu... ) in the New York Review of Books, renown Harvard legal scholar, Laurence Tribe, one of President Obama’s law school professors and until recently an advisor to the Obama administration, and over 300 other legal scholars warned that Manning’s treatment at Quantico could be seen as “a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial.”

The conditions under which Manning had been held, “may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture.” “If Manning is guilty of a crime, let him be tried, convicted, and punished according to law,” they wrote. “But his treatment must be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There is no excuse for his degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment.” The signers of the letter in a forceful comment about President Obama, wrote "he was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency.”

Citizen Activism begins at Leavenworth

Immediately after the public learned that Manning was to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth, a citizens' action group from Kansas and Missouri. The new group MO-KAN Bradley Manning Support Group (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_204011756297337&id=20604927276...) is sponsoring a rally Manning on June 4, 2011 in Leavenworth, Kansas.

About the Author: Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. As a U.S. diplomat, she served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia, serving a Deputy Ambassador in the last four Embassies. She travelled to Gaza three times in 2009 after the Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1440 Palestinians and wounded over 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. She was a passenger on the May, 2010 Gaza flotilla and is an organizer for the U.S. Boat to Gaza, “The Audacity of Hope,” that will sail in the second flotilla. She was arrested in March, 2010 protesting the conditions for Bradley Manning at the Quantico brig.

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