[Ppnews] Breaking Private Manning
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 27 12:10:28 EST 2012
November 27, 2012
Bradley Manning is being punished -- and tortured -- for a crime that
amounts to believing one's highest duty is to the American people and
not the American government
Breaking Private Manning
by MICHAEL RATNER
By the time the 23-year-old soldier's court martial starts on February
4, 2013, Bradley Manning will have spent 983 days in prison, including
nine months in solitary confinement, without having been convicted of a
single crime. This week, in pre-trail hearings, a military court is
reviewing evidence that the conditions under which he has been held
constitute torture. These conditions include the nine-month period spent
23 hours a day in a six-by-eight-foot cell where he was forbidden to lie
down or even lean against a wall when he was not sleeping -- and when he
was allowed to sleep at night, officers woke him every five minutes --
and where he was subjected to daily strip searches and forced nudity.
The UN Special Rapporteur for Torture has already found this amounted to
cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and possibly torture.
For almost three years Manning has endured intense physical and mental
pressure, all designed to force him to implicate WikiLeaks and its
publisher Julian Assange in an alleged conspiracy to commit espionage.
It is also a message to would-be whistleblowers: the U.S. government
will not be gentle.
"[If] you saw incredible things, awful things... things that
belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a
dark room in Washington, D.C.... what would you do? ... It's
important that it gets out...it might actually change something...
hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms..."
These are purportedly Manning's words*, and that is change many of us
would like to believe in: that if you give people the truth about their
government's unlawful activities, and the freedom to discuss it, they
will hold their elected officials accountable.
But it is one thing to talk about transparency, the lifeblood of
democracy, and even to campaign on it -- in 2008, candidate Obama said,
"Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be
protected from reprisal" -- and another thing to act on it. On a
fundamental level, Manning is being punished, without being convicted,
for a crime that amounts to having the courage to act on the belief that
without an informed public our republic is seriously compromised. Or, as
he is quoted saying, for wanting "people to see the truth... regardless
of who they are... because without information, you cannot make informed
decisions as a public."
The U.S. government is intent on creating a portrait of Manning as a
traitor who aided and abetted Al Qaeda by releasing classified
information into the public domain. But what actually occurred was that
documents were sent anonymously to WikiLeaks, which published them in
collaboration with /The New York Times/, /The Guardian/ and other news
media for the benefit of the general public, much like the Pentagon
Papers were published a generation ago.
The emails the prosecution is using to try to prove Manning was the
source of the leaks also depict the side of the story they want to hide,
that of a young soldier grappling with the dilemma of a would-be
whistleblower who knows he is taking great risks by exposing the
state-sponsored crimes and abuses he witnessed, the "almost criminal
political back-dealings... the non-PR-versions of world events and
crises," as he is quoted describing them to the confidant who ultimately
"I will officially give up on the society we have if nothing
happens." One can't help wondering what Manning must think now, after
so long under such brutal conditions of confinement. Did he expect the
government to punish him in such a disproportionate and unlawful manner?
Manning's abusive pre-trial treatment
a clear violation of the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution, the United Nations Convention Against Torture
and even U.S. military law
In fact, Manning's defense attorney David Coombs is arguing in the
pre-trail hearings this week that in view of this blatant disregard for
his client's most fundamental rights, all charges should be dismissed.
The government claims this was all done to prevent Manning from
committing suicide, though any rational observer might point out that
these conditions are more likely to drive someone to suicide than keep
him from it. The more likely explanation is the obvious one: the
government wants to break Manning enough to force him to implicate
WikiLeaks and Assange, and make enough of a show of it to deter other
whistleblowers. At stake is the foundation of our democracy, a robust
free press, and the fate of a true American hero.
/*Disclaimer: Bradley Manning has not been convicted of any charges, nor
has he admitted to any of the allegations against him. Likewise, he has
not acknowledged the chat logs that purport to be his words./
/*Michael Ratner* is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional
Rights, which represents WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as well as other
journalists and major news organizations seeking to make the documents
from the Manning trial public./
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