Home > Law, Politics > Change We Can Believe In, XVIII

Change We Can Believe In, XVIII

Change We Can Believe In: We’re A Nation of Laws He’s Guilty If I Say So

It was good to learn last Tuesday that “Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified government documents to the Web site WikiLeaks, will be moved from near-solitary confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Va., to another prison [Fort Leavenworth] under conditions that may be less restrictive.

What a puzzle, then, that on Friday, President Obama told Manning supporter Logan Price that

if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

He broke the law? No need for a trial, then? Last I knew, he was merely being detained while awaiting trial. Now I’m really puzzled.

What makes Obama’s comments especialluy unfortunate is that if Manning ever is tried, it will be in a military court with judges who are under Obama’s command. As Greenwald observed two days ago,

It may be that Obama spoke extemporaneously and without sufficient forethought, but it is — at best — reckless in the extreme for him to go around decreeing people guilty who have not been tried: especially members of the military who are under his command and who will be adjudged by other members of the military under his command. Moreover, as a self-proclaimed Constitutional Law professor, he ought to have an instinctive aversion when speaking as a public official to assuming someone’s guilt who has been convicted of nothing. It’s little wonder that he’s so comfortable with Manning’s punitive detention since he already perceives Manning as a convicted criminal. “Sentence first – verdict afterward,” said the Queen of Hearts to Alice in Wonderland.

Meanwhile, we can thank WikiLeaks (whatever role Manning played in providing documents) for our best look yet into the travesty of justice that was, and continues to be, Guantánamo. Instead of going after whistleblowers, Obama might better spend his time cleaning up the mess, as he once promised.

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Categories: Law, Politics
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