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General News    H3'ed 4/28/11

Will Obama's Statement That Manning "Broke the Law" Make a Fair Trial or Court Martial Impossible?

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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?" 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."

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 on April 19 announcing Manning's "imminent transfer" showed some inter-service squabbling. With 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, 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."

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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