Punishment Before Trial: More Than 1,000 Days and Counting for Bradley Manning

I read the news about Colonel Denise Lind's ruling in the case against Bradley Manning with great interest. She ruled that Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of releasing thousands of military and diplomatic emails and cables to Wikileaks was indeed subjected to excessively harsh treatment whilst in military detention and this must surely be seen as a small victory for the Manning defense team.

The punishment of Bradley Manning goes directly against the Uniform Code of Military Justice's own laws, namely Section 813 article 13, which basically states, "No punishment before trial." This law was obviously broken. People in this country are entitled to a "speedy trial," which is normally between 100 and 120 days from the date of the crime. Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for more than 1,000 days before his trial has begun and even a United Nations investigation confirmed that Manning was being held in inhumane conditions that was tantamount to torture.

In my humble opinion, the judges' ruling, granting Manning a 112-day reduction in any sentence he might receive, is welcome but far short of true justice. If the military broke its own laws and President Obama even declared publicly that Manning had broken the law, then how can anyone say that this could be a "fair" trial? Which military judge is going to go against the statements of his or her commander in chief?

An internal investigation by the Marine Corps, which operates the prison in which Manning was being held, stated that Manning's jailers violated their own policies in imposing oppressive conditions. The Obama administration's own State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, denounced the detention conditions as "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid" and was fired for his outspokenness.

President Obama, a constitutional lawyer, pays great lip service to "whistle blowers," maintaining that the U.S. needs people who will attempt to tell the truth, that the country needs people of courage to step forward when they witness wrongdoing of any kind, but cannot see the need to protect Bradley Manning. Perhaps the greatest crime that Manning committed was one of embarrassing the military and disturbing the status quo and one also has to wonder why the newspapers that profited from the publication of the events are not being brought to task. Manning is accused of aiding the enemy but surely the members of Al-Qaeda can read the newspaper.

When Bradley Manning saw and was asked to take part in things that troubled his heart and soul he went through the normal channels, bringing his concerns to his superiors only to be disregarded. As a U.S. soldier Manning swore an oath to protect the constitution of the United States and when he witnessed murder and mayhem being carried out in the name of the American people he felt it necessary to reveal what he knew. I truly believe that he wanted, above all, to start a serious dialogue about what was really being done in our name.

When Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers to the American public in 1971, the case against him was thrown out when it was discovered that the Nixon administration had illegally broken into his offices. If, as the judge in Manning's case declared, he was subjected to excessively harsh treatment in military detention then surely he case against Bradley Manning should be held to the same standards.

I became a citizen of this country more than 30 years ago and it is an honor and a privilege to be a small part of the USA. I came here to "the land of the free" because of the wonderful people I met and the beauty of the country I saw. The fact is that we are supposed to be a nation of laws, but when we break our laws and very little is done about it then I begin to question one of the primary reasons I came here in the first place.

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