Bradley Manning: Is the maltreatment over?

At least he’s out of Quantico, and out of solitary. Good news, though more than a little late.

Having complained bitterly about what appears to have been a flagrant attempt to break Pfc. Bradley Manning’s will – if not his mind – at Quantico, I have to regard it as good news that Manning is being moved to Leavenworth, and that his period in solitary confinement appears to be over.

From a distance, it’s hard to say what this means. Did the President, despite his rather callous dismissal of the problem in public, pass the word down the chain of command that torture was a no-no? Was the vicious handling at Quantico actually the decision of a sick-minded commandant, rather than a matter of high policy? (If so, that reflects very badly on Secretary Gates.) Or did the pressure on Manning work, with Manning agreeing to testify against the real target in the case, Julian Assange?

P.J. Crowley, who lost his job at the State Department for speaking out about Manning, thinks the move resulted from heavy pressure on the Pentagon: pressure from both inside and outside the government.

Update Manning’s lawyer reports that he was about to file for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the conditions of Manning’s confinement.

Footnote: The Guardian story refers to the group that protested about Manning’s treatment at an Obama fundraiser as “supporters of Manning.” That may be true of some of them, but it needn’t be.

It’s possible to disapprove of torture even when applied to people whose conduct you disapprove of. I surely wouldn’t call myself a “supporter” of Manning; modulo the presumption of innocence, the President’s comment that he “broke the law” is almost certainly factually true, and it’s not a law I disapprove of generally. Secrecy is often overdone, and whistleblowing can be an honorable and even heroic action, but just doing a core-dump of classified cables wasn’t really a good idea.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

12 thoughts on “Bradley Manning: Is the maltreatment over?”

  1. but just doing a core-dump of classified cables wasn’t really a good idea.

    I’m sympathetic to this in principle, but examples of actual harm seem to be close to nonexistent. The value of the information to a democratic society seems pretty high.

  2. “From a distance, it’s hard to say what this means.”

    Apparently, it means inflexible committment to being a loyal, partisan supporter of Obama is a mug’s game, and requires an active imagination, to synthesize facts not in evidence, to overweigh those in plain sight. On the other hand, truth-telling protests and expressions of righteous disapproval to create embarassment and scandal out of injustice can be effective in modifying policy.

    Glenn Greenwald had a good summary of his view of what this means:

    Manning’s lawyer also made a statement, and offered a theory:

  3. It was not a “core-dump” of classified data into the public domain: a very successful distorsion spread assiduously by the administration. The cables were leaked en bloc to Wikileaks, allegedly – and plausibly so – by Manning. But of the 251,287 cables (of which 130,000 are unclassified), to date just 2,017 have been published after vetting by an international group of broadsheet newspapers. You can argue that it’s still irresponsible, but that’s what has happened.

  4. [H]e “broke the law” is almost certainly factually true seems to me an overstatement. I think it is more likely than not that Manning was the person who passed the cables to Wikileaks, but “almost certain” I’m not. It’s clear that DoD is having a hard time coming up with sufficient evidence, else they’d have tried and convicted him already. What’s available to the rest of us is a set of what are claimed to be chat logs in which Manning implicates himself. I have no sense of how reliable that claim is.

  5. Manning doesn’t seem to be a person of much consequence, and were I on the court-martial board I’d vote for no more than a dishonorable dischage & maybe a year breaking rocks at Leavenworth. The fact that he didn’t do it for money strikes me as relevant — differentiating him from the Walkers, Ames, Hanssen, & Pollard. & it’s also relevant that one of his disclosures (I _assume_ it was his) actually had some public value: the “Collateral Murder” video, which should call into question the Army’s rules of engagement in these 4GW conflicts in which we are embroiled.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly- it is always a good thing to be against torture and abuse, and this should never be confused with support of bad acts. Let this young man have his day in court.

  7. It’s clear that DoD is having a hard time coming up with sufficient evidence, else they’d have tried and convicted him already.

    Unless they’re prolonging his pretrial detention in hopes of “persuading” him to implicate Assange, as Mark suggests.

  8. It was not a “core-dump” of classified data into the public domain

    Yes, James, it was. Wikileaks *is* the public domain, for the purposes of classified information. They have the power to release anything they want.

    It’s clear that DoD is having a hard time coming up with sufficient evidence, else they’d have tried and convicted him already.

    Well, Manning’s lawyer filing a whole lot of motions, some of which require lengthy adjudication, might have something to do with that.

  9. J Michael Neal: “..Wikileaks *is* the public domain, for the purposes of classified information.”

    News to me that secrecy laws use the notion of public domain. You violate an obligation of secrecy by telling one unauthorised individual, such as a reporter or the agent of a a foreign government.

    The rest of us are not bound by legalism. Whether the leak to Wikileaks was a “good idea” is not a legal but a moral question. It’s a material point in this that Wikileaks exercises its judgement in releasing the cables; it’s acting as an (eccentric) muckraking newspaper or press agency. As the cables show, the leaker did have reason to think that much of the material was classified to save face rather than national security.

  10. The architects of a communications systems, which gave Manning (and 600,000+ other people), an Army private, sitting in Baghdad, access, say, to a trove of diplomatic cables concerning Iceland, are not. This is a clear indication that “classification” in the original sense of restricting access to information on a need-to-know basis has broken down completely. The authoritarian response to this evidence of elite incompetence and irresponsible carelessness is predictable, and appears, just as predictably in the Wall Street Journal:

    The Obama Administration, dedicated as it is, to preventing elite accountability as Job #1, will do the wrong thing.

  11. Ralph Hitchens: “…differentiating him from the Walkers, Ames, Hanssen, & Pollard. …”

    And Scooter Libby.

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