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Posted by on Mar 4, 2011 in Breaking News, International, Law, Politics, Society, War | 0 comments

Abusive Treatment of Manning Continues; New Charges Filed

On Wednesday evening, Pfc. Bradley Manning was forced to take off all his clothes and spend the entire night naked in his cell:

The soldier’s clothing was returned to him Thursday morning, after he was required to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection, Mr. Coombs said in a posting on his Web site.

“This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification,” Mr. Coombs wrote. “It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated. Pfc. Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight. …”

And indeed, it did (emphasis is mine):

PFC Manning was forced to strip naked in his cell again last night. As with the previous evening, Quantico Brig guards required him to surrender all of his clothing. PFC Manning then walked back to his bed, and spent the next seven hours in humiliation.

The decision to require him to be stripped of all clothing was made by the Brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Denise Barnes.  According to First Lieutenant Brian Villard, a Marine spokesman, the decision was “not punitive” and done in accordance with Brig rules.  There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning.  This treatment is even more degrading considering that PFC Manning is being monitored — both by direct observation and by video — at all times. The defense was informed by Brig officials that the decision to strip PFC Manning of all his clothing was made without consulting any of the Brig’s mental health providers.

David House, a friend of Manning’s who is allowed to visit him at Quantico, “said in a conference call with reporters that he had visited the soldier the previous weekend and that his mental condition was severely deteriorating as a result of being confined to his cell 23 hours a day, with one hour to exercise in an empty room, and largely isolated from human contact.”

A couple of days ago, BBC News reported that federal prosecutors have tacked on 22 additional counts to the 12 Pfc. Manning was charged with last May:

The new charges against Private First Class Bradley Manning include aiding the enemy, a capital offence, but prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty.
Pte Manning, who joined the US military in 2007, was initially charged in May with 12 counts of illegally downloading and sharing a secret video of a US military operation and secret military and diplomatic documents and cables.The new charges accuse the soldier of using unauthorised software on government computers to download classified information and to make intelligence available to “the enemy”.

Charlie Savage’s New York Times article about these additional charges is here.

Glenn Greenwald points out that, even though military prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty for the Article 104 charge of “aiding the enemy,” they do not have ultimate authority in that matter: “the military tribunal is still empowered to sentence Manning to death if convicted.” And for what? Glenn asks:

Article 104 — which, like all provisions of the UCMJ, applies only to members of the military — is incredibly broad. Under 104(b) — almost certainly the provision to be applied — a person is guilty if he “gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly” (emphasis added), and, if convicted, “shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.” The charge sheet filed by the Army is quite vague and neither indicates what specifically Manning did to violate this provision nor the identity of the “enemy” to whom he is alleged to have given intelligence. There are, as international law professor Kevin Jon Heller notes, only two possibilities, and both are disturbing in their own way.

In light of the implicit allegation that Manning transmitted this material to WikiLeaks, it is quite possible that WikiLeaks is the “enemy” referenced by Article 104, i.e., that the U.S. military now openly decrees (as opposed to secretly declaring) that the whistle-blowing group is an “enemy” of the U.S. More likely, the Army will contend that by transmitting classified documents to WikiLeaks for intended publication, Manning “indirectly” furnished those documents to Al Qaeda and the Taliban by enabling those groups to learn their contents. That would mean that it is a capital offense not only to furnish intelligence specifically and intentionally to actual enemies — the way that, say, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen were convicted of passing intelligence to the Soviet Union — but also to act as a whistle-blower by leaking classified information to a newspaper with the intent that it be published to the world. Logically, if one can “aid the enemy” even by leaking to WikiLeaks, then one can also be guilty of this crime by leaking to The New York Times.

Wired’s Threat Level blog has the complete set of specifications and charges, from the charge sheet (.pdf link included).

The Article 32 Investigating Officer makes the final decision about which of these additional charges, if any, will be “referred to court-martial.”