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Change We Can Believe In, XII

Change We Can Believe In: Torturing US Citizens Awaiting Trial

Didn’t President Obama announce the end of torture shortly after taking office? Let’s see. Here’s an article by Charlie Savage In the NYT of January 23 in which we find:

Mr. Obama sought otherwise to send a signal to the world that he was breaking with Bush administration policies, which he often called wrong and counterproductive during his presidential campaign. In one move, he ordered his government not to rely on any legal opinions concerning interrogation produced by the Justice Department or other agencies between Sept. 11, 2001, and Tuesday, when he assumed the presidency.

“We believe we can abide by a rule that says, We don’t torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need,” Mr. Obama said in his televised statement.

Okay. Then how do we describe what is being done to PFC Bradley Manning of WikiLeaks fame? As Glenn Greenwald first reported, in December, Manning

has never been convicted of [leaking classified documents], nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.

That was then. Now we learn that the conditions under which Manning is being held are worsening. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, writes today (see also Charlie Savage’s coverage in tomorrow’s NYT) that

Last night, PFC Manning was inexplicably stripped of all clothing by the Quantico Brig. He remained in his cell, naked, for the next seven hours. At 5:00 a.m., the Brig sounded the wake-up call for the detainees. At this point, PFC Manning was forced to stand naked at the front of his cell.

The Duty Brig Supervisor (DBS) arrived shortly after 5:00 a.m. When he arrived, PFC Manning was called to attention. The DBS walked through the facility to conduct his detainee count. Afterwards, PFC Manning was told to sit on his bed. About ten minutes later, a guard came to his cell to return his clothing.

This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification. 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. No other detainee at the Brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.

This is in the wake of yesterday’s news (see Savage in the NYT again) that “The Army announced 22 additional charges . . . against Pfc. Bradley Manning, the military intelligence analyst who is accused of leaking a trove of government files to WikiLeaks a year ago. The new charges included ‘aiding the enemy’ … .”

The charge of aiding the enemy is a stunner. As Greenwald suggested earlier today, “whatever Manning’s behavior was in terms of ‘aiding the enemy,’ that exact same behavior was engaged in by The New York Times, The Guardian, and numerous other newspapers that published these classified documents and thus enabled the Taliban, Al Qaeda and all the other Enemies Du Jour to access them.” Yet I don’t see (NYT executive editor) Bill Keller in solitary confinement and forced to spend the night naked. Indeed, the NYT is not being charged with anything.

But let me not stray. The point is, Manning is being subject to conditions that constitute torture. And he isn’t even convicted of any crimes yet. Not that conviction would justify any of this.

Change we can believe in indeed.

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Categories: Law, Torture
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