US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning was arrested in May 2010 for allegedly leaking classified information to Wikileaks. In July, Manning was transfered to US Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, where he was placed in solitary confinement under “maximum custody” and a restrictive “Prevention of Injury” order while he awaits trial. In April, the AP reported that he would be transferred to a new facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Despite the US exulting an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ basis for its justice system, it has been quite aggressive in either assassinating criminal suspects or detaining them in solitary confinement. The former would, of course, be Osama bin Laden, whom Robert Mueller (FBI chief) dubbed as a “suspect” in an interview with Washington Post in 2002. In order to kill the mass murderer, the US only needed to commit multiple violations of international law, shoot his wife who “lunged” at the 79 commandos, and virtually destroy its relations with Pakistan.
The latter, however, is the troublesome case of Private Manning, who is perhaps undergoing a more severe punishment than Osama bin Laden received. Besides being confined to his solitary cell for 23 hours a day, he’s not allowed any exercise, or even a pillow. He’s not allowed to sleep between 5am and 8pm, and guards check on him every 5 minutes, to which he must reply. Manning is also forbidden to watch any national news, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
What does one need to do to receive this kind of appalling state punishment? For one, you’ll need to be a suspect of a crime in the United States.
NBC News has reported that federal investigators and Pentagon officials have been unable to find any evidence connecting Manning to WikiLeaks, let alone prove the material was a security threat to the country. The most Pentagon sources can say is that they have marginal proof that Manning download files from his government laptop and gave them to an unauthorized third party. There is clearly more ambiguity in this case than evidence for what hundreds of U.S attorneys are calling ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’
President Obama has vigorously defended the treatment, repeatedly replying to reporters that “he broke the law.” The “liberal Democrats’, like Senator John Kerry, have also hawkishly defended Manning’s detainment. The business press has likewise played its role.
However, one thing is certain: only one organization published the material that’s been linked, perhaps illegitimately, to Bradley Manning, and that’s WikiLeaks. Its founder happens to be a man in love with his title, Julian Assange, who has bitterly condemned the detainment and prosecution of Manning.
Such a prosecution, Assange argues, would create a situation where the relationship “between a source and journalist is interpreted as a conspiracy to commit crimes.” He’s spearheaded an alternative media campaign, sympathetically empowering activists by saying that Manning has “spent the last year without conviction in a military prison” and calling the mainstream media’s coverage of Manning “appalling”.
Assange said in July that his organization has “committed funds” to legally defend Manning, though he could not say (because he didn’t know, given the WikiLeaks source-protection system) whether Manning indeed processed documents through WikiLeaks. He has also said that WikiLeaks would offer his military-appointed legal team money if it wanted to go for civilian counsel.
He’s taken to the WikiLeaks’ Twitter account to publicize the media coverage that calls for justice for Bradley Manning.
But will it ever be enough?
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