FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Pierce writes: "We do not have to be children here. Bradley Manning could have been confined in conventional imprisonment and brought to a simple trial."

Pierce: 'This case is a mess, legally, ethically, morally and every other way.' (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
Pierce: 'This case is a mess, legally, ethically, morally and every other way.' (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)


In the Matter of Bradley Manning

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

09 January 13

 

military judge named Colonel Denise Lind handed down a ruling yesterday in the case of Bradley Manning, the Army private who's facing life in prison this March for having delivered various secret documents to WikiLeaks. It was the opinion of Colonel Lind that the United States government had imposed upon the imprisoned soldier a regime of incarceration that was "more rigorous than necessary," and, further, that some of Manning's treatment while in the brig, "became excessive in relation to legitimate government interests." For example:

Manning was kept alone in a windowless 6-by-8-foot cell for 23 hours a day and forced while on suicide watch to sleep in only a "suicide smock," which military officials said was standard procedure when inmates are believed to pose a risk to their own safety. In March 2011, after eight months of confinement, Manning had quipped sarcastically that he could kill himself with the elastic of his underwear if he wanted to. Manning, 25, has acknowledged contemplating suicide shortly after his arrest but said that he tried to convince guards for month that he was not a threat to himself or anyone else. At Quantico, he was monitored 24 hours a day, at times growing so bored and starved for companionship that he danced in his cell and played peekaboo with guards and with his image in the mirror - activity his defense attorney attributed to "being treated as a zoo animal."

And then, alas, Colonel Lind took something of a dive. She ruled that, based on this treatment, Manning's eventual sentence would be reduced by 112 days - which would be cold comfort if Manning were to get socked for a couple of decades in the slam - and she also ruled, spectacularly, that:

Flynn had acted appropriately to ensure that the brig staff followed procedures correctly and that they took the "high ground". She found that there had been no intention to punish the inmate on the part of the brig staff or the chain of command, who were motivated purely by a desire to ensure that the soldier did not harm himself and that he would be available to stand trial.

This case is a mess, legally, ethically, morally and every other way. We are to believe through this ruling that Manning was treated more rigorously than was necessary and that his treatment was more excessive that legitimate government interests demanded, but that nobody in authority ordered it, nobody in authority countenanced it, and that nobody in authority will be called to account for it. It just happened, like a power outage, or a problem with the plumbing and, if there was somebody ordering it, or countenancing it, or in authority over it, it was all for Manning's good, anyway. Both things cannot be true. If Manning's treatment was more rigorous than was necessary and that it exceeded what was required to meet legitimate government interests, then it cannot have been done for Manning's benefit, and somebody ordered the excesses and somebody countenanced them and somebody carried them out.

We do not have to be children here. Bradley Manning could have been confined in conventional imprisonment and brought to a simple trial. The only reason to drag this case out, and to engage in the conduct that Colonel Lind described, was to coerce him into implicating other people. Nothing else makes any possible sense. We are not required to disengage our brains in cases like this. We are repeatedly encouraged to do so, however.

We have lost control of our criminal justice system in cases like this. Due process has become so malleable as to lose its internal logic. Between the seemingly endless echoes of the 9/11 attacks through the law, and the improvisational gymnastics the government has undertaken to do what it wants to do anyway, the country's most fundamental principles have become lost. And yet, we keep trying to gussy up our authoritarian impulses in the robes of the law, to make marble tributes to our undying virtues out of our spontaneous terror that the rule of law is the source of our most dangerous weakness. This is not sustainable. We must be one or the other.

Bradley Manning is only one person caught in this dim, twilight democracy. Entire legal institutions are beginning to fade into it as well. The invaluable Charlie Savage of The New York Times explored the darkening terrain whereon government lawyers are beginning to discover that the illegitimacy of the prison at Guantanamo Bay may have made it impossible to conduct legitimate trials of some of the last people still held there.

The two defendants were found guilty in 2008 by a tribunal on charges - including "material support for terrorism" - that the Justice Department concedes were not recognized international war crimes at the time of their actions. In October, an appeals court rejected the government's argument that such charges were valid in American law and vacated the "material support" verdict against one of the men, a former driver for Osama bin Laden. Administration officials are now wrestling with whether to abandon the guilty verdict against the other detainee, a Qaeda facilitator and maker of propaganda videos. He was convicted of both "material support" and "conspiracy," another charge the Justice Department has agreed is not part of the international laws of war, and his case is pending before a different panel of the same appeals court...Robert Chesney, a law professor at University of Texas at Austin who specializes in the law of war, said the most important part of the debate involved cases where the evidence shows a person joined or supported Al Qaeda but was not linked to a particular attack. The dispute brings to a head a long-building controversy over the ability of military commissions to match civilian courts on this issue, he said. "In the civilian court system we have powerful tools for charging people in preventative circumstances who are not directly linked to an attack, and they are the charges of conspiracy and material support," Professor Chesney said.

We can try people for terrorism in civilian courts. We have done that, and we have done it well. All of our clever improvisations have brought us face to face with legal and ethical failure, in the case of Bradley Manning and in the case of the Gitmo prosecutions, and generally everywhere else we have tried to get out from under the commitments we have made to each other by submitting ourselves to the Constitution. We stopped trusting it, and then we stopped trusting each other, and look where that's gotten us. We look like fools, and worse.


 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
+99 # moonrigger 2013-01-09 14:06
Our legislator's response to 9-11 was the death knell for the American system of Justice.
 
 
+6 # robcarter.vn 2013-01-10 00:03
So remember next time you think of electing a Republican you get what you pay for and anyhow modern Democrats are so close in policy and corporate bribes thgt they look after the right Corp interesta and at lease give some measure to the poor left worker etc, Republicans only 1 side. It's time USA dropped Republicans vcalled Dems rightand center, and stary a nwe left and worker Party. Slim chance now they have buggered Unions and ciollective bargaining a failure, for your own sake learn Australia's best things like Arbitration Commissions and Compulsory voting and preferential voting and keynesian Austerity in War and waste, but stimulus in employment subsidy buying labor intensive infrastructure, upgrade etc not big profit for 1%ers subcontract mechanical replacement of men.
 
 
+14 # RLF 2013-01-10 06:30
Arbitration commissions! What a joke...they are constantly appointed by the oppressor and screw the worker or who ever. There will become a point where some catalyst will jell the populous and, as far as the authoritarianis m has been pushed, the results are going to make Watts and the LA riots look tame. Every city will burn and and not just the gettos...the Cherry Creeks and Greenwichs and Hamptons are going down.
 
 
+140 # Phlippinout 2013-01-09 18:03
Who cares what they say Bradley, you are my hero. It took huge guts to show us how corrupt the military is. I will never forget your bravery and you will always be in the hearts of those who know how they treated you. The military is not our friend and it kills innocent people for oil and power. Thanks Bradley,
 
 
+46 # mdhome 2013-01-09 21:16
I feel history will or should put a different spin on this and we may have to say Bradley, we are sorry.
 
 
+17 # robcarter.vn 2013-01-10 00:08
yep hero was right military sins will come home to roost, they got USA kicked out of Vietnam (Melai masacre) Japan (baby rape) and Philippines (Ditto)

But not just Military exposure needs whistle blowers for transparency to governance it reaches the Presidency (Nixon) sadly missed GWB by hi9s tricking Gore, now CIA/Military General Petraus nonsense is still covering a worse sin I bet, probably GWB War crimes Koffee ANNAN CALLED FOR TRIAL. Oh yes the lot ain't done yet.
 
 
+115 # Lila 2013-01-09 20:39
What can we do for Bradley Manning, whistleblower par excellence, who has already suffered more than he should have? We've sent money and signed petitions--what else can we do? Appreciating what he did just isn't enough.
 
 
+54 # Lowflyin Lolana 2013-01-09 21:26
Hand everyone you know information cards on Manning. Everyone you meet. You can get them at CouragetoResist .org.

Until that helicopter video came out (it's at collateralmurde r.com) the world didn't really get a chance to hear for itself how sick and deranged an excursion our taxes funded in Iraq. On that website is a video of Ethan McCord, a US soldier who was on the ground at the time of that attack. Anyone who cares about our "country" should watch that 17 minute explanation by McCord of how that kind of senseless murder happened daily in Iraq, and worse.

There's an argument that says Manning put soldiers in danger. Nonsense. Cheney and Bush put soldiers in danger. They sent them into Iraq in numbers much smaller than what their generals recommended. They sent them without body armor or armored vehicles. They sent them even after psychiatrists told them not to send them---as in Manning's case.
 
 
+13 # robcarter.vn 2013-01-10 00:09
Likewise for Wikileaks Assange at least he Gitmoed yet Eqador shelter while my Australia kisses yanki arse.
 
 
+29 # fdawei 2013-01-10 04:05
Lila, please let me know if you can answer your own pertinent question. I have supported him as have you. I am completely demoralized by the utterances of this so-called judge with her decisions already formulated.
Has she been "influenced" by any outside "force?"
 
 
+21 # in deo veritas 2013-01-10 07:45
All it would take is a phone call from the WH. What a disgrace we have allowed this country to become. The people p[erpetrating the lies and distortions that were revealed should be the ones tried and imprisoned for crimes not only against the people of this country but against humanity. Anyone who still thinks that God will reward such corruption and evil is in for a very rude awakening.
 
 
+29 # newsmom 2013-01-09 21:19
we can turn up day after sickening day of his courts-martial monkey trial, carrying banners and signs that let military bullies know their neanderthal actions do not go unnoticed. to think a woman presiding over this procedure is no more in tune with her humanity that her testosterone-la den counterpart is feminism gone wrong: when we sought equality with men, i don't think this was what we had in mind...
 
 
+32 # Paul Scott 2013-01-09 21:58
Manning revealed the BS that the government does in our name and must be made an example of that others don’t get the same idea.
 
 
+31 # 6thextinction 2013-01-09 21:59
All the information relating to Bradley Manning's treatment reinforces Lily Tomlin's quotation "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up." Shame on this country. Shame on Obama, who has prosecuted six whistleblowers, a new presidential record x 3.

In answer to Lila, write him a handwritten letter expressing whatever you're feeling. Futile? Probably. But if enough of us did, it would exert pressure on him.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
 
 
+23 # RLF 2013-01-10 06:34
Did you forget Holder? He has prosecuted no one but American heroes and let the crimes against humanity and financial gangsters run wild.
 
 
+37 # Sunflower 2013-01-09 22:04
Either Obama is a scoundrel who is disgracing this country, or he has
no control over the military, another
disgrace. Why on earth is Guantanamo
still open? We voted to end that particular
disgrace, and yet it continues. Why are
there still `renditions' going on and
secret military prisons? What has this
country become??
 
 
-6 # RLF 2013-01-10 06:35
Guantanamo is still open and we are still in multiple wars because Obama is a scum bag, Republican, harvard lawyer piece of crap!
 
 
+20 # motamanx 2013-01-09 22:50
Higher ups dictated that Manning treated so shabbily, so illegally. They were concerned that their own sophomoric, idiotic, vicissitudes leaked by Manning to wikileaks, might gain notoriety that would be embarrassing to them. I am sorry to say I believe Hilary to be one of the culprits.
 
 
+22 # in deo veritas 2013-01-10 07:51
This is a repeat performance of the despicable way that My Lai was covered up. Calley was a scapegoat and none of his "superiors" got what was coming to them for their role in this and other events that never got reported. By turning a blind eye to the crimes perpetrated by a corrupt regime and its minions we the people have all become willing accomplices.
 
 
+1 # seeuingoa 2013-01-09 22:53
Lila: What else can we do?

We could have started by not voting
for the guy in the White House, on whose
watch all this happened.
 
 
+4 # in deo veritas 2013-01-10 07:56
Well then we get back to the "lesser of two evils" nonsense. The vermin running the show made sure that nobody really credible ran against Obama. McCain was forced to have nutbag Palin as a running mate to scare the hell out of us. Romney never really got backing despite Rove and the Koches spending gobs of money. The plan all along was to keep Obama in office to carry on the legacy of Bush & Cheney, which he has done admirably, in fact enhancing it. God help the USA? The response would be "Why should I?"
 
 
0 # noitall 2013-01-10 11:47
You seem to imply that someone "really credible" to run (moving us from a selection of the "lesser of two evils" was McCain or Romney but we didn't get them for the reasons you cited. They would have been "dumb and dumber" or evil and more evil or self-serving and more self-serving. But you're right, the game plan (written by Anon.) is being played to the letter (regardless of his "political capital") by Barry. I guess the majority in America is just considered to be out of touch with the new reality that came with the "New World Order" and not worthy. If "They" were to remove the shroud of secrecy and let us ALL know the devine plan, knowing Americans, half of them would dawn their brown shirts and walk in lock step with the new "proclaimed majority". What's your bet? I guess that would leave us TRUE AMERICANS to be tagged whatever the derogatory and criminal monicle du jour.
 
 
0 # brotherdb 2013-01-13 00:29
As bad as Obama is Romney would have been twice as bad We would be preparing to Invade Iran now if Mit was Pres.
 
 
+30 # tpmco 2013-01-10 02:08
This is totally a civilian case. Bradley Manning deserves to be granted bail. A prisoner like him cannot defend himself under the conditions of detention he has been subjected to. I don't think Manning is going to run away from this case--as if he had a place to run to. There's way too much at stake here, and I believe the man realizes it.

The only military consideration in this case should be towards his upper chain of command for their incompetence in handling information. Why is a Private, in Iraq, in possession of such "devastating" information? You tell me.
 
 
+12 # in deo veritas 2013-01-10 07:59
The degenerates committing mass murders are getting better treatment and counsel than this victim of a corrupt government and its military. We have become a rogue regime that the civilized world will not tolerate indefinitely.
 
 
+18 # Peace Anonymous 2013-01-10 03:08
And the truth shall set you free???? Every single soldier should have every detail of their experience published and perhaps the public would finally realize that the military works for a board of directors, not the people.
 
 
+38 # RMDC 2013-01-10 03:52
Yes, Manning is a hero. That's why his trial is a classic "show trial." He must be made into a scapegoat who will teach all americans that you don't blow the whistle on crimes committed by the US military.

This could have been a simple trial over in a week. But it has dragged on for nearly three years and the prosecution is roping everything into the trial. Of course, one real goal is to implicate Julian Assange. That's a large part of the foundation that is being built -- a way to take down wikileaks.

Show Trials are a hallmark of fascist governments. They make bad examples of their enemies. They use the courts for spectacles, not for justice. That's the case with Manning.

Too bad this trial is not in a civilian court. IT would be a perfect case for jury nullification. Military courts are by definition kangaroo courts. /They are always only for show.
 
 
+14 # RLF 2013-01-10 06:37
Wasn't there another leader who used show trials?...Maybe Stalin?
 
 
+7 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-01-10 08:38
Definitely Stalin, in the 1930's.
 
 
+11 # in deo veritas 2013-01-10 08:02
Our concept of "justice" has descended to the level of show trials conducted by the Nazis and the Soviets. The failure of the "media" to attack this in the same manner that they went after Nixon is evidence that they are partners in crime and a mere appendage of the politicians in office. Damn them all!
 
 
+18 # tedrey 2013-01-10 11:01
Every one in the military, including the judge, is obliged to follow the orders of the miitary hierarchy, or face penalties like Bradley Manning. And the hierarchy are the same people whose incompetence and war crimes Manning tried to uncover.

If we were still a consitutional state,
Manning would either have been tried long ago in a civilian court, or released for the lack of a constitutionall y necessary speedy trial.
 
 
+8 # Archie1954 2013-01-10 17:58
It's a show trial all right but the party on show is the US military's judicial system and so far the absolute corruption is beyond belief.
 
 
+13 # kalpal 2013-01-10 03:52
Male officers are almost never punished for outrageous acts. The same can't be said for female officers.

NCOs are punished and that is as high as it goes in the USA. Even then, anyone with a grade higher than a E-6 is unlikely to face justice for misbehavior of felonious activity unless caught on video.
 
 
+24 # A Different Drummer 2013-01-10 09:16
Bradley's case shows how far into the realm of the police state that we've been dragged into. Every citizen in this country should be frightened that they too could be disappeared into the american gulag.

Bradley is being punished for embarrassing the United States government and exposing some of the war crimes committed in our names. Not for any crime he may or may not have committed.

I'm one of the thousands that have signed petitions, contacted my congressional representatives and been extremely vocal in explaining my views of this travesty to my friends and colleagues. ALL IN VAIN. I also wasted much time, talent and effort protesting the invasion of Iraq and the continued occupation of Afghanistan. Again ALL IN VAIN.

I most certainly don't have answers, but I think it's time for all of us to break out of our comfort zones, shut off the television and stop shopping, then get out in the streets and PEACEFULLY petition the government to redress this abomination and usurpation of the rule of law.

Bradley is the canary in the coal mine. We are next.
 
 
+15 # reiverpacific 2013-01-10 09:20
Yet another double standard and example of vengeful scapegoating inasmuch as most of the real criminals who have used dirty tricks and the bloated military and corrections complex to uphold the staus-quo, invade other countries and their own native peoples illegally* and enrich themselves in the process, which pretty much sums up what the status-quo is.
"Use every man after his desert and who shall 'scape whipping?"
Shakepeare's Hamlet.
"You condemn on hearsay evidence alone, your sins increase".
African proverb.
"Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe". Edmund Burke
"Justice remains the tool of a few powerful interests; legal interpretations will continue to be made to suit the convenience of the oppressor powers." Che Guevara.
"The legal system doesn't work. Or more accurately, it doesn't work for anyone except those with the most resources, the costs of our legal system are so astonishingly high that justice can practically never be done." Lawrence Lessig.
There's much more but the point is obvious -and still being ignored.
 
 
+18 # DurangoKid 2013-01-10 10:22
An institution exists to bend the individual to the agenda of the elites that govern that institution. One enters an institution to be changed by it and not to change the institution. In the case of the military, the soldier offers himself to be slain to gain entry. Your life is forfeit when you join the army. If you emerge whole from your enlistment, that's just a happy accident. One might join with the expectation to survive, but that has no bearing on the terms of your enlistment or the agenda of the institution itself. Truth, justice, morality are just propaganda devices. They are used to entice recruits and justify the mission. They are quickly dispensed with when they conflict with the agenda. The same goes for soldiers who do not embrace the agenda. Institutions teach be example. The example of Manning will serve to show others who still cling to their civilian values exactly what will happen to you if you resist. The military will go as far as it dares in their prosecution of Manning. It's the nature of the beast.
 
 
+5 # Doubter 2013-01-10 13:26
Thanks for explaining my extreme "anti-instituti onalism" so well!
 
 
+4 # noitall 2013-01-10 11:54
Remember the good old days when we were encouraged, as good Americans, to squeal on the lawless when we saw it? I guess we didn't read the small print that said "unless.... or except....) and those in that catagory were the criminals and issues that REALLY posed danger to our Republic. Judging by the number of so-called whistle blowers that Barack has incarcerated or otherwise punished since we voted to believe, we're back in grade school where its uncool to be a tattle tale. Add another chimp that isn't blowing a whistle to the hear no, see no, speak no lineup.
 
 
+9 # treadlightly 2013-01-10 12:24
The Vietnam war was the background for we baby boomers. I was born in 1956 so my entire childhood and adolescence was spent being exposed to the daily propaganda that ruled the news at that time. They tried so hard to convince us that we were part of a heroic effort to protect the people of Vietnam from the evil communist threat.
What are the parameters for a "necessary war"? Does such a thing exist? This is where I have to start when deciding how to judge the actions of Bradley Manning.
Personally I do not believe there has ever been a "necessary war". I also believe that any action that can prevent or put an end to these conflicts is entirely justified.
I am currently more concerned with the war that our elected officials are waging against their own country.
We deserve to know "the truth". We demand it.
 
 
+6 # Vern Radul 2013-01-11 06:53
"The only reason to drag this case out, and to engage in the conduct that Colonel Lind described, was to coerce him into implicating other people."?

Not quite the "only" reason. The real reason to drag this case out, and to engage in the conduct that Colonel Lind described, was to scare the crap out of any other people who might have access to information about the crimes of the terrorist regime in Washington and be thinking about doing the right thing with it.
 
 
+2 # jayjay 2013-01-13 14:16
So who's responsible for this mess we're in? I blame our fearless leader, the commander in thief. First he comes into office stating there will be no investigations into war crimes committed by the crew he replaced. Then he commits his own war crimes on the people of Iraqistan, including the jailing of some men in a tropical hellhole for more than six or seven years without any charges. Then he pronounces as guilty a whistle blower who he has jailed in conditions that are abhorrent for almost three years. With such "leadership," what's left to contemplate?
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN