Bradley Manning, meet George Orwell

We can’t tell you why we stripped this man naked in public; doing so would violate his right to privacy.

The United States Army is so concerned about Bradley Manning’s health that it is subjecting him to a regime designed to drive him insane. That’s old news. Now we learn that the Army is so concerned about his right to privacy it refused to explain why he is being stripped naked and forced to stand outside his cell.

Yes, yes, PFCs don’t get to decide to release a bunch of classified material. Manning has probably earned himself a prison cell. And I can understand the desire to pressure him into implicating Julian Assange.

All of that said: This is a total disgrace. It shouldn’t be happening in this country. You can’t be unaware of this, Mr. President. Silence gives consent.

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:

54 thoughts on “Bradley Manning, meet George Orwell”

  1. You spoke earlier of the Repub’s “structural problem.” Seems that this situation demonstrates a structural problem for the Dem’s. There is a greater problem than Obama’s silence, he has set a pattern of disregard for the protection of civil liberties and a complete disregard for the rule of law. I will not vote for the evil that Obama has come to represent, an extension of Bush 43. Manning demonstrates a structural problem indeed. What is happening to him is just one of dozens of examples of this “structural problem” which permeates this administration every bit as much as it did the previous administration.

  2. “Silence gives consent.” Oh, that is so right! Mr. Obama needs to know that his silence is consent, and that he needs to take a position on this. If you are as outraged and heartbroken by what is happening to Bradley Manning as I am, please sign this petition that sends a tweet directly to Barack Obama’s Twitter account:

  3. What has happened to this country? A couple of decades ago, what Bush did to Jose Padilla and what Obama is doing to Bradley Manning would have been shocking. (I mention them merely because they’re both U.S. citizens, and not because the American torture of foreigners should be any less shocking.) The mainstream press would have investigated these crimes and confronted the President about them. Where are our Woodward and Bernstein? These are far more serious crimes than Watergate, which did not involve torture. The difference is that Congress’s failure to respond to Bush’s or Obama’s crimes, and Obama’s failure to respond to Bush’s, have established the President as above the law. That represents a fundamental change in the nature of this nation. We are no longer a republic, but a dictatorship, even if we’re still allowed to change dictators every four years.

  4. And how are we treating Scooter Libby who was actually found guilty of a crime?

  5. He thinks Mubarak didn’t kill and jail protesters. I am not kidding. The President is living in a complete bubble, and he probably doesn’t know.

    “We are clear now that what has been true in Egypt should be true in Iran, which is that people should be able to express their opinions and their grievances and seek a more responsive government. What’s been different is the Iranian government’s response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people.” President Obama, Feb 15, 2011

    Over 5,000 were in jail and 360+ had been killed according to the Egyptian Ministry of Health (part of the regime, with no incentive to inflate). We all saw footage of hundreds of injured people on Al Jazeera.

    Don’t get me wrong. He’s the one deciding to hide in a bubble. That’s his responsibility. But he is detached from reality.

  6. Let’s face it, when it comes to foreign policy, human rights, and warmaking, George W. never left office.

  7. Marc, do you mean to imply that, apart from his statement about Egypt, Obama is living in a bubble? I have no evidence that he’s not, but, unlike Bush, he seems like an intelligent man who does not spend most of his time vacationing. Is it possible that you resist facing that he is knowingly doing evil, and that his responsibility derives not merely from his occupying the highest office? We didn’t know the man whom we (including me) voted for.

  8. Obama is a disgrace. I will never vote for him again. I’d rather have an honest warmongering civil liberties stripping thug like Dick Cheney than the same thing dressed up as a “progressive constitutional rights scholar”.

  9. “You can’t be unaware of this, Mr. President. Silence gives consent.”

    Are you kidding us? He’s the friggin’ Commander In Chief. He’s not unaware of this. He’s the one who has to sign off on 10 plus months of what amounts to torture to a man who is at the moment technically innocent. If he’s not calling it shot by shot, he’s certainly let it be known there is nothing that can’t be done. I mean, two nights in a row and a warrant officer is making this decision? International Amnesty and several of our allies have protested and nothing changes? Anybody in the chain of command is going to disregard that unless he or she has been assured it’s not a problem? Obama is also the one who tells the DOJ what to focus on – i.e. months on finding something/anything to hang on Assange and allow the FBI to entrap “mad bombers” and raid anti-war groups while dropping any and all cases against the previous administration regarding criminal war acts. He ratcheted up predator drone attacks, calls CIA black ops diplomats, is allowing Iraq to descend into a state of chaos on a path to genocide – check out — and I’m not going into the rest of the list because those who don’t want to know don’t want to hear it.

    I mean I voted for the guy too, but it’s time to admit he has put himself just as much above the law as his predecessor did. They have no case against either Assange or Manning that would convince a judge, even a military court judge — Lamo and some supposed chat logs that Wired won’t let anybody see? Using inhumane treatment to obtain a confession might get him convicted but it’s not going to sit well with most of the world and much of the country.

    The sad fact is he’s very aware and very supportive.

  10. I think this is an utter disgrace. Regardless of what you feel about Manning or his actions, treating a prisoner in this manner is why organisations such as Amnesty have to exist. Anyone who is allowing this to happen and not making it stop should be ashamed. Ultimately this belongs with the President. All the hopes we had for Obama have been fading with each day that passes.

    IMO – Manning is a kid, he tried to stop war crimes, he did the only thing he thought he could, we should give him a medal, he is a very brave guy.

    Either way I very much doubt this young lad is a danger to other prisoners – so why the solitary confinement?… Trying to send the rest of the word a message about what happens to leakers? The message I am receiving is – Vengeful, extremist, more concerned about face than massacres being committed by a selection of own troops, approving of torture, rejecting of own First Amendment, bully …

  11. If it’s a secret don’t tell. If you think its a secret don’t ask. Don’t tell that secret because there are ten or twenty secrets in place to safe guard that original secret. If you tell one you will end up telling all. And each other secret guards other secrets in likewise. There has to be a secret oath taken by keepers not to tell. The mentality of secrecy has all ways been a mystery to me.
    Yes if your going to attack at dawn it’s best to keep it a secret from the enemy. If you have mowed down innocent civilians and laughed about it the country needs to know what is being done in their name, even if the enemy wins propaganda points.

  12. It is Manning’s treatment that has me resolutely decided that I will not vote for Obama in 2012, and perhaps I will never vote for a Democrat again. Since I certainly won’t vote for Republicans, I guess that means I’m left voting for Greens or suchlike.

    Sure, there is room for honest disagreement about many matters — perhaps, for example, Obama (or my local congressman) honestly do feel that rewarding bankers and massively boosting the unemployment rate are, in the longish run, the best solutions to the problems of 2008.
    But everything surrounding wikileaks, and especially now the Bradley Manning treatment, have ripped off the mask. The sad fact is that all of these people are, in fact, pure evil.

    Quick question. Is their a single congressperson (let alone senator) who has been willing to stand up against this? The closest I know of is Kucinich’s request to meet with him, which is fairly weak stuff. (And even so, it shows that Kucinich, for all his suing deli’s for hurting his teeth, appears to be the only inhabitant of Washington with even a faintly working conscience.)
    And for all the “without god we’d have no ethics” crowd out there, where exactly are the mainstream religious leaders willing to take a stand on this?

  13. HeleninCarp asks “why the solitary confinement”? I ask, why is he in prison in the first place? The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution (which once limited executive powers) provides, “Excessive bail shall not be required.” I suppose that the judge was afraid that he might reveal more war crimes if he were not imprisoned.

  14. Henry, please stop beating that strawman. You said Bush, not me. You bizarrely brought up vacations, not me.

    The President things that protesters weren’t beaten and shot in Egypt. The whole rest of the world knows better. That’s a bubble.

    He’s letting his aids and advisers tell him stories that have little to do with reality.

    Well, I prefer to think that than to think he’s just lying. Then I’d have to give up hope.

  15. I don’t read the Army’s response as saying that Manning was forced to stand naked outside his cell. Only that he was naked. His lawyer said he was forced to stand naked outside his cell. Perhaps he was, but the wording of the Times report doesn’t say the Army said so.

    Speaking of ethical responsibilities, here’s a question that I have: Who is Manning’s lawyer defending — Manning, or Assange. If Manning did what he’s accused of doing, and his lawyer thinks the Army has good evidence that he did what he’s accused of doing, then of course the right thing to, if he’s representing his client, is advise him to bargain and cooperate. Is Manning’s lawyer doing that?

  16. Larry – I really don’t think Manning has anything on Assange even if he wanted to turn on him. They never met or had any contact. It seems (no one knows for sure) that Manning used Wikileaks anonymous channels to upload the info.

  17. Well if he did that and the evidence is clear that he did that then his lawyer should advise him to confess to it and offer whatever cooperation he can.

    I mean, Ethel Rosenberg probably shouldn’t have been executed, even though she was guilty of espionage. Perhaps the government shouldn’t have tried to pressure her husband by holding this over him, but they did, and they decided to be martyrs. I’d like to know that Manning has decided to be a martyr, and that his lawyer hasn’t decided it for him.

  18. I expect I will still support Obama, because the alternative will probably be too gruesome to contemplate, but if I decide not to, it will most likely be because of pointless violations of human decency like this one.

  19. Matt, it is a difficult choice, because no matter how many people Obama tortures, we can be sure that the Republican nominee, whoever he or she is, would torture more. He or she would also sign a repeal of health care, and probably kill people in other ways as well. Yet I am with you; I have to draw the line at torture and will not vote for Obama. But I have the luxury of living in a non-swing state, where my vote for president won’t matter; if I lived in a swing state, I’d feel a responsibility to the potential additional torture victims of the next Republican president. Yet to vote for Obama would be to tell him that he can torture as much as he wants, because we fear the Republicans more than we fear him. Great country, isn’t it?

  20. Paul Krugman noted an instance of Obama rewriting Social Security history, and, of course, there was also the Amity-Schlaes-like smear of FDR, for sitting on his hands while Hoover did his lame duck waddle.

    I was an early and enthusiastic Obama supporter, as well as a life-long Democrat; I’m very much aware both of “being taken” and of being trapped by the structure of our politics, which carries on a made-for-cable kabuki-cum-extortion play, featuring the threat of a ludicrously bad Republican as “the alternative” to re-electing Obama. It is interesting to me that so many commenters feel themselves committed to not-voting-for Obama; I feel the same way, but I wonder how many we are, and whether it can make any difference.

    Obama is not some outlier or anomaly. He represents his country in the age of its decline. The problem is not simply that Obama is not accountable, by reason of not being dependent on the discretion of the mass of voters. The problem is that no one in the elite that runs the country — no leading politician, or bankster, or hedge fund manager, or corporate CEO, or billionaire — is accountable. None of them feel anything, but immunity for their deeds. They are not dependent on the mass of people. The industrialists can out-source everything. The financiers are just farming the shrinking middle-class like a played-out tobacco plantation. No one at the top feels the least bit responsible for the consequences of anything they do, beyond deserving honor and wealth, of course.

  21. The wife helped be responsible for a Michele visit during the campaign. We got face time and all that. One of the frequent refrains in our circle was “why would you take that job?”. The situation is so FUBARed that there is no relief from the quicksand. Surely at least a decade would be taken off your life in that job.

    That said, few things could be easier to discern what was right and wrong. Sadly, this is the Yew-Ess-Eh. And we are in decline. There are handlers saying such things are necessary so more leaks won’t happen. Some of the historians here can relay how common this is in declining empires over the last 5 millenia or so.

    That is all. Carry on.

  22. I haven’t failed to vote since Nixon was in office. I voted for Obama. It haunts me. He’s managed to do what Bush never could, he’s convinced me the system is completely beyond redemption. I don’t much care how many of us there are who won’t be voting Democratic again. I don’t care whether it will make a difference. I just want to be able to sleep at night knowing I didn’t support someone who allows this kind of stuff to go on. No more lesser of two evils. I’m not bashing my head against this wall any more. Even reading political blogs has become painful. I’d rather just bury myself in work and let society degenerate around me than try to hold up the building and get crushed when it falls down anyway.

  23. I am ashamed to think voting for this man would change any corruption here. This is disgusting and Obama has NO RESPECT from me. I am sad to think I believed his lies.

  24. Maynard Handley — To date, only two Congressmen have publicly stood up for wikileaks — Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. John Conyers. Both indicated unqualified support for for Wikileaks, Assange and the principle of free speech. Neither mentioned Manning, but just the Wikileaks statements set them apart from the rest of the herd. Kucinich is the only congress critter to date who has questioned what is being done to Manning and requested a visit with him.

    Larry Birnbaum – “. . .the evidence is clear that he did. . .” Is it? My take on this is the military knows they have a case they may not be able to prove in any court, even a military court of “justice”. There are 3 main stumbling blocks, they are playing a dangerous game and may provide a fourth. 1. At Fort Drum, incidents there convinced army psychiatrists that he should not be deployed to Iraq and they recommended this to commanding officers, who ignored it. In Iraq he had an incident in which he was dropped a rank but still kept his security clearance. 2. The number of people who could see those documents. If not the thousands overall as is often stated, certainly hundreds, if a first class private with past mental health problem still had access to them 3. Their entire case at this time rests on Lamo, a convicted felon and habitual liar and a book of chat logs that Wired is letting nobody see – no doubt on orders from the military. The military admits it has no proof of Assange and Manning collaborating on this, but I think their treatment of Manning goes even further — without a confession from Manning, they have no chance of convicting him. (Well, they shouldn’t but the empire hates to lose face and a kangaroo court will be spun like a top as the only way justice could be served. Plus remember, our CIC has post-acquittal incarceration powers — i.e. you can have any kind of trial you want as long as it’s guilty). Chat logs can be faked; Lamo has told so many conflicting stories a defense lawyer would rip him to shreds in five minutes; he’s a well-known publicity hound who could have talked to someone else, made the whole thing up, or what he says Manning says could be taken out of context. Whatever actually happened between Lamo and Manning if anything, if the Army had any kind of case against Manning that they knew was a winner, he would not be sitting in what amounts to degraded inhumane treatment for ten months, with new variations on humiliating the man being instituted despite protests from human rights organizations, allies and Americans about his treatment. 4. If they need a confession to convict, only in the US and only in a US military court would one gotten after close to a year of psychologically torturing a suspect to get it be used as evidence to convict him. Well, in countries ruled by despots it would probably suffice, but in a “civilized” country ruled by Law (supposedly like this one) it would be thrown out. His lawyer is an experienced legal defender who’s specialty is dealing with military courts and he knows what he’s doing. In any just country, this man would have been released by now. In a just country, the prosecution would have thrown in the towel by now.

    I agree with Bruce Wilder’s post 100%. Obama and the power elite can get away with stuff like the treatment of Manning, with crap like extraditing Assange when there is no law he broke, with tanking the economy, pretending that keeping a tax cut for the rich is as beneficial as UI extensions for the working poor and that one party held the other hostage to make it happen because they are accountable to nobody. As Taibbi wrote “Nobody goes to jail.” Obama and the D’s will play the guilt trip and fear card on us — if not us, it’s the Republicans and you’ll be responsible. I am so thoroughly disgusted with this man, this party, and the the slope we slipped on and are now are hurtling to the bottom of, I would not vote for him or any Dem running on a national ticket if the alternative was W again, or a ticket of Jeb and Sarah. I’ll not vote or I’ll vote for a third party even knowing it has no chance. Obama and his fellow bought toadies in the Senate and many in the House have proved it really is one party with two faces. As George Carlin said a decade ago “It’s all run by a club and we ain’t in it.”

  25. And I can understand the desire to pressure him into implicating Julian Assange.

    Professor Kleiman could work for the Washington Post, such is his knack for a turn of phrase. Another way to say this is: “I understand the desire to torture Manning to until he implicates Assange.”

    Silence gives consent.

    Pursuing torture and civil rights violations as a matter of public policy also gives consent. The desire to distance Obama from his crimes is understandable – Lord knows it would be nice to be able to take a break from thinking about this stuff after 8 years of Bush – but it just shows again what a bunch of suckers constitute the alleged “Reality Based Community.”

    It’s oh so reality-based and even-handed to say that Bradley Manning “earned himself a prison cell,” but somehow shrill and obnoxious to notice that Obama is complicit in crimes much worse than Manning’s, and that Assange – if he really did get information from Manning – is apparently guilty of no crime at all in this matter.

  26. mecormany, upon review I see you could read my comment as an assertion that Manning did what he’s accused of doing; that’s not the only reading I intended. I wrote it under the scope of the “if”; which you can see also if you look at my previous comment.

  27. The great Chris Floyd describes how Obama brought Fascism to America (Arthur Silber predicted back in 2009 that Obama would be more dangerous than Bush)
    “in the guise of a young, hip, educated progressive, it has just now declared that anyone who reveals any hidden evil committed by the fascist state is subject to prosecution for a capital crime. That’s right. It has revealed that you — you American citizen, you patriot, you believer in goodness and justice and genuine democracy — you can be killed by the government if you tell the truth.

    This is what the administration of President Barack Obama has demonstrated — indeed, has proudly proclaimed — in its treatment of the young man it is avowedly, openly torturing for telling the truth about American war crimes, Bradley Manning. There can be no mistaking the meaning, implications and import of Barack Obama’s action”

  28. What a shock! And I was given to understand that Mr. Obama was the greatest moral leader of our lifetime!

  29. just a heads up, that link to apparently has malware on it. Avast blocked it when I tried to open the page.

  30. Yeah, I do prefer the open advocates of torture because it’s really hard for people to understand that this is actually starting to bake torture into the heart of our body politic. As a person who supported and voted for Obama, partly because I couldn’t stomach a second round of the Clintons, I greatly regret my choice. His failure to stand up for civil liberties, close Guantanamo Bay and support of torture (even as he denies that is what is happening) has hardened the US as a torturing state. It is unacceptable and it is pathetic that there is no realistic path towards rolling back torture and civil rights violations as state policy for the foreseeable future.

  31. Do you see your dilemma, American Sheeple: You go to vote but do not have a vote anymore. If you choose the Democrat or the GOP Candidate, both with f*** you over, and p*** on your civil rights, on morals, on honor, on your country. Your are helpless to prevent it. And in fact 95% of you don’t even know who Bradley Manning is, or that the WMD were a lie, or that almost all people in GTMO were tortured for almost a decade and then proclaimed innocent, and that you are supervised by your Security State (TM), your emails, your phonecalls, your bank transactions, your internet traffic. All nicely supervised for your “security”, to “protect” you from the Terrorist Threat (TM). Welcome to Orwell’s 1984. You won’t get out of it.

  32. Great thread. I voted for Obama as well and am completely disgusted. Wish we had viable third choice rather than the two legacy gangs driving us over the cliff.

  33. Third party alternative is pretty much hopeless because of the first-past-the-post electoral system.

  34. My guess that Manning is getting this treatment as a warning to everyone else in uniform. He’s paying a price for this lesson to all current and future members of the US armed services.

Comments are closed.