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Ear to the Ground

Rule of Law Trampled for Bradley Manning

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Posted on Sep 15, 2012
savebradley (CC BY 2.0)

A veteran demands the release of Bradley Manning outside Barack Obama’s campaign office in Oakland in mid-August.

In declaring that Pfc. Bradley Manning “broke the law” in allegedly handing classified military records to the international whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks, President Obama and Manning’s critics have unlawfully told the courts to find Manning guilty, a writer on the accused’s support team says.

Prosecutors and the military have joined Manning’s critics in mishandling the case, Nathan Fuller says, by holding Manning in pretrial detention conditions that the U.N. said border on torture. Newly surfaced emails show that Lt. Gen. George Flynn ordered solitary confinement for Manning against psychiatrists’ recommendations and other abusive treatment at the Quantico Marine brig in Virginia.

Manning’s premature punishment and the determination of his guilt by the highest office of the U.S. government before a trial has begun break laws prescribing due process, Fuller says.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Nathan Fuller at

But how can Lind fairly adjudicate a trial that has already been ruled on by her superior officers? In April 2011, President Obama, commander in chief of the Armed Forces, whom all inferior officers answer to, decreed that Bradley Manning “broke the law.” Echoing his commanding officer in March 2012, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Manning “did violate the law.”

Dempsey and the president should take note: it is unlawful command influence and a direct violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for either of them to have declared Bradley Manning guilty before trial. Both officials may say their comments were offhand, but the message has been clearly sent to the judge, Col. Denise Lind — to rule in favor of Bradley Manning is to contradict your commanding officers.

So throughout these lengthy pretrial proceedings, Pfc. Manning’s due process rights have been denied or infringed upon in many ways. But even before the process began, we knew that the rule of law was not being applied evenly. Instead, it’s aggressive prosecution for the conscientious soldier and leniency or full immunity for officials in power.

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