The Abuse of Private Manning

[Trigger warning for detainee abuse.]

The New York Times editors address the ongoing abuse of Pfc. Bradley Manning, "who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of handing government files to WikiLeaks."
[Manning] has not even been tried let alone convicted. Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama's support to do so.

Private Manning is in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. For one hour a day, he is allowed to walk around a room in shackles. He is forced to remove all his clothes every night. And every morning he is required to stand outside his cell, naked, until he passes inspection and is given his clothes back.

Military officials say, without explanation, that these precautions are necessary to prevent Private Manning from injuring himself. They have put him on "prevention of injury" watch, yet his lawyers say there is no indication that he is suicidal and the military has not placed him on a suicide watch.

...Many military and government officials remain furious at the huge dump of classified materials to WikiLeaks. But if this treatment is someone's way of expressing that emotion, it would be useful to revisit the presumption of innocence and the Constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

...Far more troubling is why President Obama, who has forcefully denounced prisoner abuse, is condoning this treatment. Last week, at a news conference, he said the Pentagon had assured him that the terms of the private's confinement "are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards." He said he could not go into details, but details are precisely what is needed to explain and correct an abuse that should never have begun.
The editorial notes that State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley "resigned" last weekend after saying that the military's treatment of Manning is "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid." I have seen no comment from Secretary Clinton on Crowley's original statement nor his "resignation," and I am both curious and concerned about what her position is regarding Manning.

As for Obama, at whose desk this and all other bucks stop, this is yet another grave betrayal of the promises he made during his campaign to get elected, as Glenn Greenwald notes here.
It's long been obvious that the Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistleblowers "comes from the President himself," notwithstanding his campaign decree -- under the inspiring title "Protect Whistleblowers" -- that "such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled." The inhumane treatment of Manning plainly has two principal effects: it intimidates future would-be whistleblowers into knowing that they, too, will be abused without recourse, and it will break him psychologically (as prolonged solitary confinement and degrading treatment inevitably do) to render him incapable of a defense and to ensure he provides whatever statements they want about WikiLeaks. Other than Obama's tolerance for the same detainee abuse against which he campaigned and his ongoing subservience to the military that he supposedly "commands," it is the way in which this Manning/Crowley behavior bolsters the regime of secrecy and the President's obsessive attempts to destroy whistleblowing that makes this episode so important and so telling.

...When Obama was asked on Friday about Manning's treatment, he said in part: "I've actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures ... are appropriate. They assured me they are." When George W. Bush, in his book, attempted to justify his torture regime, he wrote, as summarized by Newsweek's Jacob Weisberg: "When [Bush] asked 'the most senior legal officers in the U.S. government' to review interrogation methods, 'they assured me they did not constitute torture.' Case closed. You can't argue with the choices Bush defends in this book, because he doesn't argue them himself. He describes, asserts, and cites any authority handy, usually the authority he hired to defend his decisions" (h/t WLLegal).
There are always people who get agitated when I use the "The Third Term of George Bush Is Going Splendidly" tag, and I'll be happy to stop using it as soon as Obama stops fucking acting like George Bush.

You can find out how to help/support Pfc. Bradley Manning here.

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