The torturers win one

The State Department spokesman who spoke out on the maltreatment of Bradley Manning is forced out.

P.J. Crowley, having told an inconvenient truth regarding the maltreatment of Bradley Manning, has abruptly stepped down as the official spokesman for the State Department.

At one level, this is no surprise: it’s not normal for the spokesman for one cabinet department to refer to the conduct of another as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Doing so forces the President to take sides; if the spokesman keeps his job after saying that, the only interpretation is that the President more or less agrees. Apparently the President wasn’t willing to allow that interpretation to stand.

Such a statement also puts the spokesman’s boss in the middle, she (in this case) can either distance herself from the remarks, or not. In this case, Hilary Clinton chose “not.” She merely praised Crowley’s record without any hint that he was leaving on a sour note.

Though I’m not surprised, I am disappointed. Either the President really approves of what is being done to Manning, or he isn’t willing to oppose the military even when its conduct is, in fact, ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid: not to mention unconscionable and un-American and borderline criminal.

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

34 thoughts on “The torturers win one”

  1. The other possibility is that the information about Manning’s treatment that we have seen is wrong, or incomplete. Not laying odds, mind you. Just noting the unspoken assumption here.

  2. It’s at least mildly amusing how angry a lot of people are that Obama takes the word of his top advisors and military liaisons on this issue instead of relying on the consensus knowledge of the left blogosphere. The idea that the President should get personally involved Manning’s situation and overrule the professional judgment of the CO of the Quantico brig based on statements from Manning’s attorney and reportage from Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher is laughable.

    Oh, Mr Crowley, if you have a desire to speak truth to power, maybe you should have pursued a career other than State Department PR flack.

  3. The idea that the President should get personally involved Manning’s situation and overrule the professional judgment of the CO of the Quantico brig based on statements from Manning’s attorney and reportage from Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher is laughable.

    What are you claiming is false – the conditions he’s subject to? If you dispute the reportage, well, do so.

    If you accept that he’s being treated in the way it is being reported that he’s being treated (even if you don’t like Hamsher, Greenwald, or defense lawyers), do you see a problem?

    I suppose you can argue it is beneath the majesty his highness currently ruling the country, or something, to comment on torturing a whistleblower before he’s been found guilty. And I can argue that this is how empires fall.

    But all of that’s stupid. Obama is obviously aware of what is going on, and he is endorsing it.

  4. We have people at Gitmo who have been tortured and continue to be indefinitely detained for no crime at all except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Manning, on the other hand, may have committed a crime. So I’m neither surprised nor disappointed in the President for taking the side of torturers: it’s what he has always done for people who do not think the U.S. can just throw its military might around the world, no matter how small or big their protests might be. It’s just expected nowadays. As Glenn Greenwald always puts it, the biggest crime of this administration has been transforming Bush-era war crimes into bipartisan consensus.

    I’d like to say, “This isn’t how it’s always been in America!” and claim that the military was once upright, but hell, we’ve tortured innocents in every war we’ve ever fought.

  5. Chuchundra, I’d love to believe that Bradley Manning is not being maltreated. But so far, no one has tried to challenge the statements of Manning’s lawyer, who is a career military man. So let me repeat Jamie’s challenge: what fact do you doubt?

  6. Mark, the reported conditions of Manning’s treatment aren’t so clear-cut as you imply because they concern graded situations and thresholds. He has complained about his bedding and the light from the hall — does this actually mean he’s being “sleep deprived”? There are conflicting reports about the amount and nature of exercise he is permitted; is it within the boundaries of what’s legal and ethical? He is allowed to read and watch television — there are conflicting reports about the nature of the reading materials he’s permitted and how much and what kind of programming he’s allowed to watch. Does this constitute maltreatment? He’s relatively isolated from other prisoners — he interacts with guards of course and he is visited by his lawyer and others — does this constitute psychological abuse? He’s made to stand outside his cell in the morning before being given his clothing; humiliating no doubt — how much above and beyond the normal humiliations of imprisonment is this?

    You seem very sure that the above constitutes “maltreatment” — you’ve even mentioned torture — but none of this seems particularly clear-cut to me.

    This may sound harsh, but pardon me for thinking this may turn out to be a kind of low-rent Rosenbergs affair.

  7. To all who dispute the ill-treatment of Manning:

    We’ve watched the US military torture people, quite deliberately, and get away with it (aside from some extremely low-rankig fools who took pictures and then spread them around). We’ve watched the DoJ ignore clear violations of US law.

    At this point the US government has no credibility on this subject; they are proven liars and criminals.

  8. Again, this is a red herring; no one has alleged that Manning has been waterboarded, or forced into painful stress positions, or that loud music is blaring into his cell 24/7.

    His own allegations and those of his lawyer seem rather tepid to me. They include: he’s only allowed to watch an hour of television a day; he doesn’t get to read newspapers. Come on.

  9. Larry Birnbaum,

    His own allegations and those of his lawyer seem rather tepid to me. They include: he’s only allowed to watch an hour of television a day; he doesn’t get to read newspapers. Come on.

    Come on?? Even leaving the allegations of worse treatment aside, Manning has not been convicted of anything. Why should he be treated as if he had been found guilty of a serious crime?

  10. larry birnbaum: “His own allegations and those of his lawyer seem rather tepid to me.”

    And in the 1950s, people would have said the same of extended sleep deprivation and prolonged stress positions–they’re pretty tepid compared to daily beatings. That prolonged isolation and forced nudity are methods of inflicting deliberate suffering is widely agreed, and if the prison warden were not the US, everyone in the US would agree.

  11. 1. Actually Mr. Coombs is a civilian. He is a reservist but not currently active. Manning also has assigned TDS counsel.
    2. Manning is not required to stand naked outside his cell and never has been.
    3. His conditions are identical to other military PTC inmates in POI/SW.
    4. For some reason no one complains about Hasan’s (who hasn’t been tried yet) conditions or anyone else in military PTC. Creature comforts isn’t one of our strong suits.
    5. Most important, Manning’s court-martial has been delayed at defense request. They requested a 706 sanity board which legally stops the 120 day speedy trial clock. This process takes sometime (Hasan’s hasn’t been completed and is over a year in). I say again, Manning’s trial has been delayed by the defense.

    I can’t reiterate point 5 enough. This is why the MSM doesn’t see Manning as a big deal. They know why his CM has been delayed. Meanwhile the blogosphere is in a circle-jerk predicated upon false assumptions.

  12. larry birnbaum: Bradley Manning is a suspect, not a convict. Even if you accept the notion that the state is right to inflict punishment on convicted violators of law, rather than merely to incarcerate them for the protection of the public, there is no excuse for punishing Manning in any way at this time. Clearly, a just society should only imprison a suspect with great reluctance, if it’s absolutely necessary to do so while awaiting a timely trial, with daily apologies and under the best possible conditions.

    He might be found innocent, after all. Or is it OK, under your value system, to punish an innocent person?

  13. It’s not Obama’s fault (or Gates’ fault either). It’s West Point’s/Annapolis’s/Colorado Springs’ fault.

    There are strong legal, constitutional, and traditional reasons that the civilian leadership of the military does not — indeed, cannot — intervene in the treatment of individuals who are undergoing active Uniform Code of Military Justice procedures until there is a final judgment. Believe me, the alternative to that bar is much, much worse; the highly insulated Congressional Inquiry system is bad enough for commanding officers.

    If there is an inappropriate treatment problem (and I say “if” because there hasn’t been a disinterested-third-party inquiry, not because I’m not disturbed by the reports), whether limited to PFC Manning or broader in scope, it results from cultural issues at the military academies more than any other cause. Bluntly, the academies do everything they can to undermine the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” among prospective officers… and fail to distinguish between proper attitudes when under fire and proper attitudes among REMFs away from the battlefield. If I had my way, I’d expand ROTC and use the academies as three- to six-month transitions to active duty for all newly commissioned officers (including nonline officers like lawyers). Unfortunately, I don’t have my way, and so we’re stuck with officers coming from educations in which they have to (for example) pass that damned statue of MacArthur every day for four years and never read non-“official” accounts of his multiple incidents of command failure.

    N.B. I was a commanding officer for the better part of a decade and closely involved with command support for the rest of my military career. I also got a real education and a commission through ROTC, not trade-school training and a commission through an academy. And I was a REMF and proud of it (you can win an engagement in the cockpit, but you win a war behind a desk — not playing with a stick between your legs).

  14. A Prosecutor,

    Most important…Manning’s trial has been delayed by the defense.

    I fail to see why this is important at all. Are you saying he should be punished for requesting a sanity board? And what is TDS, and PTC? And why shouldn’t pre-trial detainees be entitled to some level of comfort?

  15. It’s important because the primary complaint I see over and over again from Yglesias et al is “why hasn’t he been tried yet?” Which shows how lazy they are.

    TDS is the Trial Defense Service.
    PTC is pre-trial confinement.

    I’ll also note that his defense requesting a sanity board might give you some idea as to why he might be on POI watch.

    As for creature comforts, sure, maybe we should do more. But understand a. his conditions are not unusual for being on POI or SW. b. Neither the Army or the Marines do creature comforts in general. To the military this also looks like soft civilians whining about scratchy blankies. There are lots of unique military aspects to this whole thing. For example, why aren’t PTC inmates allowed to sleep during the day? Because they are on duty during the day (technically)’and they’re still receiving paychecks.

  16. A Prosecutor, it seems to me, is misleading readers, here, and dodging the main issue, which turns on the whether the classification of Manning as Maximum Custody detainee, and his prolonged status under POI, constitute an abuse of discretion, aimed at extra-judicial punishment or coercion of Manning.

    Prolonged status under POI is egregious, as the conditions of POI only make sense in an acute situation; prolonging such conditions would predictably aggravate many psychiatric conditions.

    If many prisoners are treated as Manning is being treated, the service is a very, very costly as well as criminal one. As a taxpayer, I want a refund.

  17. The truth is that it is irrelevant to the military whether any preexisting conditions are aggravated; only that Manning shows up to trial alive.
    The incentives all weigh toward the latter. If you’re the brig commander, anything is better than the risk that he kill himself.

  18. A Prosecutor,

    why aren’t PTC inmates allowed to sleep during the day? Because they are on duty during the day (technically)’and they’re still receiving paychecks.

    You’re joking, right?

    If not, the claim here is that, for purposes of making his life miserable Manning is considered “on duty.” But if it would make his confinement easier he’s not.

    Don’t on duty soldiers enjoy certain privileges. Like watching TV when their day is complete, or reading whatever they feel like, and so on? Does anyone object if they want to exercise during their free time?

    This really is lame.

  19. Sigh. Oh you know so little. When deployed I worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day (or more).
    You have no clue.

    Anyway, Manning is allowed to watch tv and is allowed to use exercise equipment. He is also allowed to read almost anything he wants (porn and escape manuals are off limits). These false Internet memes are disgusting.

  20. Manning is not being treated like any other detainee at Quantico. David Coombs (Manning’s lawyer):

    http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/2011/03/response-to-pentagon-press-secretarys.html

    ” . . .PFC Manning is the only detainee at Quantico that is being held both in Maximum custody and under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch. The POI watch is being continued over the recommendation of mental health professionals . . .The conditions imposed on PFC Manning under the POI watch (which have been ongoing for 8 months) are unduly harsh and punitive in nature. . .”

    ” . . .Briefly, under POI watch, the guards check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay; PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner . . .”

    “Other detainees typically are removed from Maximum custody and from POI watch once they demonstrate, through their behavior, that the conditions are no longer warranted. Under Secretary of the Navy Instruction (SECNAVINST) 1649.9C, Maximum custody and POI are intended to be used sparingly and for a limited duration of time. Despite the Navy Instruction, PFC Manning remains subject to unduly harsh confinement conditions”

    I’d think doing this every 5 minutes every waking hour for 8 months would be dangerous for anyone’s mental health, bad for the detainee and bad for the guards forced to carry out these orders.

  21. “I’ll also note that his defense requesting a sanity board might give you some idea as to why he might be on POI watch. “

    Got that backwards: The government put him on the POI watch, and the defense responded with a sanity board request, to prove the POI watch was unjustified. You’d think that, if the gov really though he was a suicide risk, THEY would have called the sanity board.

  22. Incorrect. Sanity boards are virtually always requested by the defense as they deal with potential defenses at trial (1. Was the accused sane at the time of the alleged acts? 2. Is the accused sane enough to stand trial.).

  23. When deployed I worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day (or more).

    Fine. No doubt you had important assignments to attend to. What critical assignments does Manning have?

  24. (A Prosecutor}: “…you know so little. When deployed I worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day (or more).
    You have no clue.”
    Try underweigh aboard ship, in three-section duty: if the other two sections occur from 0800 to 1400, you face a 16-hour day.

  25. (Roublen): “I’d think doing this every 5 minutes every waking hour for 8 months would be dangerous for anyone’s mental health, bad for the detainee and bad for the guards forced to carry out these orders.
    If it’s “every five minutes” 24 hours a day, that’s sleep deprivation and, so, torture. If they let him sleep, it isn’t and it counters Mark’s original “social isolation” cause for concern.
    Manning’s lawyer has not alleged torture, to my knowledge. I’ll accept correction, here. Got a link?

  26. Malcolm,

    Got a link?

    Here’s one. Just read the post titled “A Statement on Private Manning’s Detention.”

  27. (Bernard): “Here’s one.
    Interesting. He’s not socially isolated nor sleep deprived. Whether I’d consider having to stand naked before Marine guards “humiliation” (to say nothing of “torture”) would depend on the abmient air temperature.

  28. To be asked whether one is ok, and being forced to answer, every five minutes, day in and day out, for nine months, during the entire time when one is awake, is an effort to degrade, humiliate, and drive one crazy. He is not allowed even to daydream uninterruptedly or to have the slightest privacy. The attempts to defend this abuse are sickening.

  29. (Henry): “To be asked whether one is ok, and being forced to answer, every five minutes, day in and day out, for nine months, during the entire time when one is awake, is an effort to degrade, humiliate, and drive one crazy.
    It must be driving the guards crazy, too.
    Seems to me you’re shifting the goalposts. He’s neither isolated nor sleep-deprived. Distracted every your daydreams every five minutes? That’s working at a sales counter or a reception desk.

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