US military's "gratuitously harsh treatment" of Manning condemned by NYT, WaPo, LAT, ACLU

A growing number of news organizations and civil liberties groups are condemning the Department of Defense's "gratuitously harsh treatment" of Bradley Manning, a young Army intelligence specialist charged with downloading thousands of US government documents and passing them on to Wikileaks.

For the past nine months, Manning has been imprisoned in a military detention facility at Quantico, Virginia. He has not yet had a trial, or been convicted of any crime. From the New York Times editorial:

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.

His conditions in solitary confinement include being forced to strip naked and appear before military officers, presumably of either gender.

Manning's supporters plan a series of demonstrations on March 19 and 20, to protest the government's treatment of the accused whistleblower.

ACLU: "Letter To Defense Secretary Robert Gates Says Pentagon Confinement Standards Must Comply With U.S. Constitution"

Los Angeles Times: "Punishing Pfc. Manning"

Washington Post: "Pfc. Bradley Manning doesn't deserve humiliating treatment"

New York Times: "The Abuse of Private Manning"


  1. How many more Bush administration policies must President Obama tacitly or explicitly endorse in order to achieve the designation of “war criminal”?

    1. The Nobel Peace Prize negates up to one War Criminal designation. It’s kind of like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

      1. Maybe he can be awarded the Nobel War Prize next year. They would look nice side by side in his presidential library, would they not??

        1. The Nobel War Prize is printed on the back of the Peace Prize. It was done in a cost-saving effort many years ago, when laureates developed a habit of being two-faced.

          So all he has to do is rotate his existing prize 180 degrees.

  2. Democrats (not just Obama) have been completely unable to rein in the US military, at least since Clinton times.

  3. Can you really blame the US Military? It’s not like the rendition program is up and running at the moment… Egypt’s been kind of busy.

  4. Maybe the complete inability to stop the torture of US citizens is why Hillary is retiring from elected and govt offices after 2012.

  5. Lets not blame the US govmnt and military… well atleast spread the blame some. My government (Sweden) sent two of our citizens with the CIA “torture plane” (as it was called) to Egypt to be worked over because they prefer to have clean hands.

  6. For the past nine months, Manning has been imprisoned in a military detention facility at Quantico, Virginia. He has not yet had a trial, or been convicted of any crime.

    I don’t think being detained before trial is all that unusual, even in the civilian justice system. That’s what happens when the judge denies bail. (Or if you can’t afford the bail.)

    In and of itself it’s not all that objectionable, so mixing it in with the other details of his treatment kinda dilutes the message.

    1. Uhh you don’t spend eight months in jail before even being charged unless you start envoking patriot act like provisions

  7. You tell me the difference between China’s treatment of Liu Xiaobo and American treatment of Manning. NO difference except that America is blind to their own hypocrisy and makes a big point of highlighting China’s human rights violations!

    1. One difference is that American media outlets are, at least for the moment, still allowed to express outrage about it. Americans can also replace the scumbags responsible, even if there’s no guarantee (and there isn’t) that the next ones will be any better.

      And while I agree that the US government is blind to its own hypocrisy, I’m not sure that the Chinese government is any better at acknowledging theirs: every time Beijing screams about “Western imperialism” whenever someone brings up China’s occupation of Tibet counts as hypocrisy to me.

    1. You got that right. How is this inexplicable? The idea that a politician will betray his own (professed) ideals is never inexplicable. These are journalists who can’t face up to the fact that they abandoned critical thinking and objectivity before the election, and so now salve their egos by pretending that this administration’s conduct somehow defies explanation.

  8. It’s hard to see it as anything but cruel. That in itself makes the DoD appear eerily human, in a way that a large institution shouldn’t.
    Either the entire department has such a skewed perspective as to unanimously condone this, or there are individuals with such power as to force it to continue under huge public scrutiny. Either one of them is a real cause for concern..

  9. ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.

    why is it counterproductive? because it’s unlikely that it will facilitate cooperation from pfc. manning that will be useful in something that can be labeled as a trial.

    why is it ridiculous? because it derides any due process of law enforcement.

    why is it stupid? because it widens the gap between the discontent and the dutiful. a military apparatus that is confident or competent with regards to enforcing its regulations looks different.

    btw, here’s the article 138 complaint filed by pfc. mannings counsel. it’s a painful read, possibly even for u.s. military personnel.


  10. Abuse? There is a real disconnect between this and real abuse. Break down the charges:

    23 hours a day in a cell.
    -Nothing any maximum security prison doesn’t already do.

    Forbidden to exercise in his cell.
    -Thats what the hour is for. He could slip and hurt himself in his cell… or something.

    Not able to sleep 5am-8pm.
    -9 hours to sleep.

    Stripped naked before bedtime.
    -Don’t see the issue here, now humiliation is abuse?

    Yeah it sucks and they need to put him on trial, but abuse? He’s read the UCMJ, it’s required reading.. he knew what he was looking at when he did what he did. Real hero’s deal with the consequences, and by all accounts he is doing so. The lawyer is just doing his job and making Manning out to be mamby pamby, which presumably he is not.

    1. Consequences are for those found guilty, not those presumed innocent.

      Innocent until proven guilty is the basis of a legal system, or it is not.

      Where do you want to live?

    2. Nothing any maximum security prison doesn’t already do.

      If we’re putting someone in a maximum security prison for transferring some computer files, what do we do with violent criminals while they’re awaiting trial? Shoot them into the sun?

    3. Mamby pamby? Do you even understand what solitary does?

      The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law says, “psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”

      And sure, many prisoners in this country are subjected to torture. I think that speaks terribly of all of us. But I think it’s far, far worse when we torture someone who hadn’t even been charged with a crime, and who still hasn’t been convicted.

      I don’t see how any American who claims to care about the ideals of our nation can support this.

    4. “now humiliation is abuse?”
      yes. always has been too.

      humiliation = “embarrassment, mortification, shame, indignity, ignominy, disgrace, discomfiture, dishonor, degradation, discredit, belittlement, opprobrium; loss of face; informal blow to one’s pride/ego, slap in the face, kick in the teeth, comedown.”

      humiliation is defined as
      “Feeling disrespected.
      A loss of stature or image.
      An image change reflecting a decrease in what others believe about your stature.
      Induced shame
      To reduce the pride or fail to recognize the dignity of another
      An event perceived to cause loss of honor and induce shame.
      Feeling powerless.
      Being unjustly forced into a degrading position.
      Ridicule, scorn, contempt or other treatment at the hands of others.”

      Root: from Latin humilis, low, lowly, from humus, ground. Literally, “reducing to dirt”.

      “Humiliation of one person by another (the humiliator) is often used as a way of asserting power over them, and is a common form of oppression, bullying or abuse used in a police, military, or prison context during legal interrogations or illegal torture sessions… Humiliation activities such as stripping a prisoner naked or having them simulate sex acts are often contrary to policies in police or prison settings. Nevertheless, these humiliation tactics have been used by secret police and military interrogators as a way of eliciting cooperation or breaking down the resistance of a prisoner.”

  11. Detention pending trial or remand custody (the term used in most civilian systems) is usually based on an assessment of risks. Will the individual harm anyone if he or she is released into the community? Is he or she likely to fail to appear as ordered for court hearings or otherwise disappear? Would releasing the individual somehow bring the administration of justice into disrepute?

    Remand custody – at least in nations that actually respect the presumption of innocence – should be the exception, and not the rule.

    In Manning’s case, of course, the presumption of innocence really isn’t a factor. Detention pending trial was a given. Harsh conditions – amounting to torture – were also a given. Complete abandonment by the Washington elite was a given. The target of this treatment is not Bradley Manning the individual; rather, it is The Leaker as a category. The brutality, isolation, and deprivation of liberty inflicted upon Manning is intended to be a warning to those who would be so bold as to think that the public has a right to know information that discredits the establishment.

    1. This makes the sense. They think instilling terror is the way to achieve their goals, so they torture an American soldier.

  12. Let’s get Manning a Nobel Peace Prize this year. Then put Manning and Obama in a cigar box, shake it, and see who comes out alive.

  13. This shit is fucking crazy. If an American soldier were being treated this way by another nation everyone would agree it was not “appropriate”. No one would dispute it was torture. Obama and every other American politician would condemn it. The US military would be drawing up plans to blow shit up in retribution. It’s happening here and “we” are doing it, so now it’s “appropriate”. WTF?!?

  14. I’d like to know why you’re giving Obama a free pass. He could order the military to end this situation. The buck stops with him. So this is all the DoD’s fault, and not Obama? If this happened under Bush, you’d be crucifying the man.

    1. Obama *is* being crucified in the press for this. Unfortunately, the opposition is not joining in, which is what would have happened under Bush and what would keep the flame burning under his feet.

      Not surprising, considering the current opposition is the party of torture — sorry, I meant “extraordinary rendition”.

      1. Grain of truth, mountain of error.

        Yes, the R’s aren’t joining in opposition to Obama and his admin on this issue. Yes, that’s ‘unfortunate’ (but also entirely predictable).

        Where you’re very wrong is saying D’s would have opposed this under Bush. The Democrats mounted no real opposition to Bush’s policies of torture or indefinite detention.

        It’s also been clearly demonstrated that a majority of the public can pretty easily be brought to the same position through careful poll wording.

        This is an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: the executive branch (and the military which it commands) needs to be unchecked in virtually any power claimed for national security.

        Finally, some of these ‘condemnations’ from the press, if you go read them, are distinctly weaksauce. Same reason, I suspect.

        1. I wasn’t talking about party leaders; it’s undeniable that Democratic grassroots were “on fire” under Bush on these topics. Republican grassroots oppose Obama on very different grounds.

  15. When you’re in the military you have completely different standards that you have to live up to, and if you break those laws there are completely different consequences.

    For instance, if I’m a corporate lawyer sucking on the teat of bailout money, I’m pulling in 300k a year and doing mountains of coke off the backsides of upscale prostitutes. Let’s say someone finds out – oh man, they tell my wife and she kicks me out. I just end up doing more coke and might even get a raise.

    In the military say you are just like some sort of regular dude, you fix broken jets or whatever. Let’s say you end up sleeping with one of your coworkers and word gets around to other people you work with. You’re married to someone else, so you go to jail.

    Now I’m not saying that the way the government is treating this stupid, stupid kid is “fair” or “humane”, but that’s what happens when you spy on your own country.

    1. “….that’s what happens when you spy on your own country.”

      Apparently, it is also what happens when you are alleged to have spied for your country, if we may judge from Pvt.
      Manning’s example.

    2. He didn’t “spy on his own country” as you so ignorantly put it, that’s what government does, spy on it’s own citizens under the pretext of ‘national security’. What manning is ALLEGED to have done is to RELEASE TRUTH to the global PUBLIC, and if they had any real EVIDENCE he’d be charged by now. The truth is the ‘informant’ who fingered him is mentally unstable, but now he is a scapegoat the military will use him to make an EXAMPLE. It’s a fucking fact that the U.S. military doesn’t prosecute war crimes and misconduct by it’s own soldiers UNLESS a video or some other damning evidence gets out, mainly because these problems are SYSTEMIC and not ‘isolated incidents’. It’s not about holding yourself to a ‘higher standard’ you idiot, it’s just that if soldiers were to start THINKING instead of blindly OBEYING the military couldn’t function.

  16. You guys think this is bad, read From Nuthouse to Castle. It’s an autobiography by Eddy Haymour, the Lebanese-Canadian who stormed the Canadian Embassy in Lebanon and took people hostage in order to get the Federal Government to notice that the BC provincial government stopped him from developing a middle eastern themed amusement park on the WASPish Lake Okanagan by sticking him in a mental hospital. Long sentence for ‘crazy stuff’. I can’t believe he doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry. You can get the book on Amazon, or maybe at very good used book stores…. whew, rant all done.

    1. No, UC. You got it right first time. What he did was *for* his country. You know, that one that supposedly believes in freedom of speech and so on.

  17. His treatment is inhumane.

    It may be contrary to the UCMJ.

    When individuals join the US Military, they suspend exercising certain of their rights. They take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

    The reason he is being kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day without clothing, items, or furniture is not for his detriment. In the view of the current Executive administration, Bradley Manning must stand trial, period, no excuses. There’s more to his confinement than the circumstances he is experiencing. There are close controls on who can see him, when, what they can have when they do so, no physical contact can be made, thorough searches, clothing swaps for visitors, etcetera. The administration wants no chance of there being any credible way to claim that he died to protect a national secret or some corrupt politician or officer. The security hole is in the sun, and he’s going to remain in the sun so there’s no “what happened in the dark?” questions.

      1. I believe that, if you read my comment more carefully, you will see that it’s not for his benefit but rather for the benefit of the Administration/executive in the manner of not having to deal with inquiries (such as those made possible by FOIA requests).

        I said “…inhumane…” in order that it would be apparent that it’s /not/ for /his/ benefit.


    1. How exactly does one suspend “inalienable” rights through an employment contract? I really don’t get that whole argument that you give up rights by joining the military.

  18. #18, I assume that the people running the Brig have read the UCMJ also, specifically,


    No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline.


    Note the part about arrest and confinement not being more rigorous than required to insure his presence. Nothing more than required to ensure that he shows up at court martial should be happening in the brig, and it sure appears to be.

    Also note

    Any person subject to this chapter charged with an offense under this chapter shall be ordered into arrest or confinement, as circumstances may require; but when charged only with an offense normally tried by a summary court-martial, he shall not ordinarily be placed in confinement. When any person subject to this chapter is placed in arrest or confinement prior to trial, immediate steps shall be taken to inform him of the specific wrong of which he is accused and to try him or to dismiss the charges and release him.

    This is really about a speedy court martial.

    Now, I think that a court martial is probably warranted, I was in the Marine Corps, and think that he should be brought up on charges, but the military should do this correctly, 100% by the UCMJ, which it appears they are not, and that makes me mad. What is worse, in my opinion, is it is Marines doing this. They should have more pride and honor than to stoop to these violations of the UCMJ, which may make a court martial not be effective.

  19. The UCMJ is being violated,so now what are the Marines that are following the orders of the acts of “gratuitously harsh treatment” of Bradley Manning. The MP’S are they going to be the next ones to be thrown in the brig? They are not above the law they are in violation. There has been cases were this has happened.

Comments are closed.