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December 15, 2010

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you've got to pick up every stitch

"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."

"OK, the conditions ARE like jail movies where someone gets thrown in the hole. But it's DIFFERENT because we're SPECIAL!"

Simple message, here and with Assange: it doesn't matter what the law says. You'll get your punishment whether you go to court or not. And if you don't like it - what are you going to do about it?

And yet we continue to lecture the world as if we were somehow exceptional.

Whaddaya mean "we", paleface? I suddenly feel the need to channel Gary here: SOME of "us" talk "as if we were somehow exceptional". SOME of "us" may be OK with the government's treatment of Manning.

But you're not and I'm not, and since I like to think well of all of ObWi's participants, I will assume (until proven wrong) that nobody here is OK with it either.

--TP

TP: I don't think "channeling Gary" requires ignoring the clear context that's present within the same sentence you're quoting. The "we" who "lecture the world" would plainly be the US as represented by our government, in the international community. Blog commenters don't lecture the world - to be able to lecture someone, they have to at least know you exist.

At least I'm pretty sure that's what Eric was saying. It was equally hypocritical for the USSR to lecture other countries about human rights; that doesn't mean most Soviet citizens were pro-gulag.

This is sort of off topic but not really... because sadly I think most Americans are OK with this kind of abuse. At least, most Americans haven't raised any objections about supermax prisons, or even the conditions in ordinary prisons. I would very much love for that to change.

Oh please. Doesn't Manning have an attorney? Why doesn't Greenwald mention him? Why are the blogs the spokespeople for Manning when, in fact, he has a lawyer: David E. Coombs. Why hasn't Coombs complained about this - how about the fact that his mental health is being examined? Is this because his lawyer has asked for this?

Do we really have all of the facts here?

That's was my meaning. Hob explained it precisely.

Also, Hob, aren't you a Phillies fan? Or do I have you confused with someone else?

Hob: "sadly I think most Americans are OK with this kind of abuse. At least, most Americans haven't raised any objections about supermax prisons, or even the conditions in ordinary prisons. I would very much love for that to change."

Now, this is something I can agree with. Prison conditions are horrendous, and there's precious little anyone can do about it. But to say that Manning is a political prisoner being tortured along "terrorism" lines is kind of ridiculous and totally uncalled for without recognizing that he has a true spokesperson. That person is not Glenn Greenwald, It's his attorney. Has anyone actually looked at the case itself? Or is Glenn's diatribe considered "truth" beyond further examination?

Sapient: Greenwald stated in the comments to that post (I'm not sure why he didn't include it in the update) that he has been speaking with Manning's attorney. The other person, House, was only cited for the specific claim about TV news being restricted.

Greenwald also says that he communicated directly with Brian Villiard, the public affairs officer for the Quantico base (GG refers to him as a "brig official", but according to other unrelated news stories online he seems to be a spokesman), after publication of the article, and that Villiard read the entire article and stated that there was only one factual error in it: House's claim about TV news.

So unless Greenwald is blatantly lying about all of the above in a widely read forum-- in which case I would be amazed if we didn't hear some loud complaints about that from Villiard and/or Coombs very soon-- I don't see any reason to be so dismissive of this story.

Sapient, I should also say that I would find it odd if we didn't see any more direct statement about this from Coombs through any channels other than Greenwald after today. But someone had to break the story; Greenwald has a widely read column and Coombs doesn't. I find it highly plausible that either Coombs knew of Greenwald and contacted him (say whatever else you like about GG, but he is clearly the guy to go to to publicize a civil liberties case), or Coombs was holding off on talking to the press for whatever reason but Greenwald managed to get through to him. This is one of the things reporters are for.

Eric: Not me. Used to live in PA but never declared an affiliation that way.

Hob, Greenwald is a fierce advocate. I respect him for that, but have a problem with the way he advocates, in that he doesn't acknowledge facts or law that don't support his position. He may well be in contact with Manning's attorney - he's probably saying things that Manning's attorney wouldn't say himself because the attorney would have to adhere to professional responsibility standards. I don't think Greenwald is a wholesale liar. But, unfortunately, since Manning's actual case is going on in legal courts, rather than blog courts, there are probably nuanced facts and legal issues that aren't being presented by Greenwald or Olbermann, or others who are trying to prove a political point.

And, not that their political point is wrong, by the way. It's just that when these fights are fought in the court of public opinion rather than the court of law, there's a lot of really important nuance lost in translation. It's my understanding that Manning's psychiatric status is being examined. Someone should find out what the normal procedure for that is. In other words, there are more general criminal justice issues at stake here, that nobody on this blog seems to get exorcised about unless Glenn Greenwald seems to thing it's a "political prisoner" matter (of course, reflecting poorly on Obama as President).

In fact, Manning's treatment might be egregious. There might or might not be routine alternatives. But he did (apparently) violate the law and his orders as a military enlisted person. If we think that military enlisted people ought to be able to do whatever the hell they want, including making classified information known to the world (including US citizens and the enemies of the US) we should say so. If we think the prison system sucks, we should say so. If we think that Manning is being treated differently from other enlisted people accused of things and subject to psychiatric evaluation, we should say so, based that on facts. (And we should include the possibility that the lawyer, himself, wants a psychiatric evaluation, and inquire whether he's fighting for a speedier trial, or alternative disposition of the case).

Hob, I'm pretty sure that Manning's lawyer could call a press conference, and the press would come. I sincerely doubt that he'd have trouble getting the word out. You might well be right that he contacted Greenwald in order to propel a political movement on his client's behalf. But it's my understanding that he's a very competent attorney (supposedly charging Manning $100,000 dollars, part of which WikiLeaks has promised to pay, but has not payed), so I'm pretty sure that the reason we're hearing from Greenwald is for PR, not legal reasons. Since I'm not in the Greenwald = Saint Club, I'm skeptical.

sapient,
is the attorney in question a MILITARY attorney (or whatever the term is, advocate?) or a CIVILIAN attorney? Since Manning is facing military charges, he might not have a civilian attorney (and no way to get one but to pay for one himself)

Big difference. I don't think military attorney can just call a press conference and complain about how their "client" is treated.

Sapient: But none of those are reasons to respond as you did: "Oh please."

Of course Greenwald is an advocate. That's why I find it so plausible that Coombs chose him to break this story (or decided to let him break it). And as I said, I would hope and expect that other reporters would follow up on this so we're not just hearing it from Greenwald. But for crying out loud, this story was published seven hours ago.

Do you normally rush to say "oh please", and focus on who is qualified to be whose spokesperson, as soon as a story of prisoner abuse is reported by someone who's known to have a point of view on such things? Should reports from all human rights advocacy groups, or reporters like Amy Goodman, be not only received skeptically but mocked?

And I can't understand what point you're trying to make about Manning getting a psychiatric evaluation. As far as I can tell, neither Greenwald nor anyone else has said it's a bad thing for a prisoner to be evaluated by a psychiatrist; the point was that psychiatric studies of other prisoners have revealed that conditions like this are, not surprisingly, bad for people. If you're talking about something else, please explain.

Finally, this...

If we think that military enlisted people ought to be able to do whatever the hell they want, including making classified information known to the world (including US citizens and the enemies of the US) we should say so.

...is a ridiculous strawman corresponding to nothing anyone here has said, and it suggests to me that you didn't actually read Eric's post or are not interested in actually responding to it. Specifically the part where he said:

While his status as innocent until proven guilty renders this treatment exceedingly reprehensible, it should be noted that even subjecting the guilty to such inhumane punishment is beneath the principles of the United States. Or at least, it should be.

Snarki: "Big difference. I don't think military attorney can just call a press conference and complain about how their "client" is treated."

Do your own research - this is pretty easy to find. http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.com/

Hob, Eric is basically using Manning as a poster child in order to allege some kind of Obama administration political prisoner policy. Sure, fine, go right ahead. And Glenn Greenwald too, and Ralph Nader too. They're all doing the same extremely productive work of undermining the fight against the actual American Nazi party, the Republicans. So sure, go right ahead. In the meantime, ask yourself, why:

"Manning's attorney, David Coombs did not return calls for comment."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/15/bradley-manning-wikileaks-charges-_n_797276.html

Maybe because the situation is more complicated than Greenwald suggests?

Since I'm not in the Greenwald = Saint Club, I'm skeptical.

Excuse me? It's pretty hard to see you as arguing in good faith when you say something like that. It's the same as the "if you don't criticize Obama as much or in the same way as I do, you must be an Obot who thinks he's the Messiah" b.s.-- which Greenwald himself resorts to way too often.

I'm not in your alleged club and I doubt anyone else here is. I've had serious problems with some of Greenwald's stuff. If you've read any Internet commentary at all related to Greenwald, you surely must know that there are plenty of people who have very mixed feelings about the guy, but who can still evaluate what he writes on its own merits. You can't possibly believe that it's just you (and the True Skeptics who share your opinion) versus the Saint GG Club. So please stop being pointlessly insulting.

I'm pretty sure that the reason we're hearing from Greenwald is for PR, not legal reasons.

I have no idea what you mean by this. I never said it was for legal reasons.

Hob and Eric,

I was being snarky about "we". But not totally. The thread is still young. Give it another 50 comments or so, and then let's revisit the question of whether it's wise to lump ourselves together with those "we" who make excuses for "our" government.

--TP

But, unfortunately, since Manning's actual case is going on in legal courts, rather than blog courts, there are probably nuanced facts and legal issues that aren't being presented by Greenwald or Olbermann, or others who are trying to prove a political point.

Guess we shouldn't ever talk about anything then, with all these potential unknowns out there.

Is there some dispute over whether Manning is being held in solitary confinement? I'd seen that in the NYT months ago. Is the dispute over whether solitary confinement is humane? As Eric noted, hilzoy wrote some very good posts about that years ago. Or is the really important issue the possible besmirching of Obama's reputation?

"Guess we shouldn't ever talk about anything then, with all these potential unknowns out there."

No, actually, we should talk about a lot of things. I just don't think we should take Glenn Greenwald's narrative about Manning as conclusive. Maybe we should ask a couple of questions?

Hob, I apologize if I've put you in the category I described. I used to enjoy reading Greenwald and even engaging in the comments, but over time have become very disillusioned by the commenters there who seem to be mere sycophants. Eric citing Greenwald, and John Cole citing Greenwald, seems to be: Greenwald. Not to say that Greenwald isn't a good person to listen to, but he's not a sole source. And, by the way, I love John Cole's blog and often agree with him.

But, again, Eric citing Greenwald and Cole (citing Greenwald): why not just be reading Greenwald? And what about the other questions I've asked? Like, why is Manning's attorney speaking through Greenwald when it seems pretty apparent that most news organizations would be quite interested in Manning's attorney's take, but he's "not available for comment"?

These are other questions that might be asked:

How is Manning being treated differently from other criminal defendants?

Has Manning's attorney brought a "Motion to Show Cause" or any other procedural motion or tried anything else to challenge what Manning is going through?

Does Manning's attorney approve of the procedure for determining Manning's psychological state? Has he challenged it?

What, exactly, has Manning's attorney done? Is he (a private attorney) competently representing him?

And if this were Dick Cheney being tried, would we be listening to his political advocates to determine whether he was being fairly treated? Or would we try to find out what was going on through his spokemen, versus government spokesmen? And if those spokespeople weren't commenting, how would we make a judgment? Would we be going to Glenn Greenwald? Or Nina Totenberg? Or would there be someone else who we trusted to present the truth? i (sorry to say - shoot me) don't trust Glenn Greenwald's slant. i think he's got a point, but I don't think he's got the answer.

On a purely non-legal level:

Manning, if he did what is alleged is probably going to be in prison the rest of his life, and will have deserved it.

Which I think is sad because he seems to have done it, from what I can tell, out of a stupid gee whiz hacker attitude that I can totally relate to.

But even if he did what is alleged, he doesn't deserve the torture of solitary, so if he is being subjected to that, it should stop.

@Sapient:
If we think that Manning is being treated differently from other enlisted people accused of things and subject to psychiatric evaluation, we should say so, based that on facts.

I have... some familiarity with military correctional procedures and regulations*. I don't know the specifics of his case, but holding him in maximum custody as a pre-trial does not sound like it is justified on the merits. As in, according to regulations governing custody classifications. Given the leeway military confinement facility commanders have in making classification determinations, I find it difficult to believe that his custody classification is intended to serve a penological rather than punitive purpose.

*Full disclosure (well, as full as I'm gonna give): most of my experience is with Army corrections regs and procs, with only a dash of Navy thrown in. But all military confinement facilities aim to adhere to certain (defined, accrediting) standards. They're different, but not grossly so.

Well, if I were in the army, and entrusted with government secrets, then I sent all of the information that I could get hold of to someone who was going to publish it all over the Internet, would I expect that the government would, after apprehending me, let me blab all of that confidential information to my fellow inmates?

Solitary confinement (except for an hour a day - is that really solitary confinement?) may well be torture according to many psychologists, but courts have ruled that it is not cruel and unusual punishment. In other words, lots of inmates are subjected to it for one reason or another, and it conforms with the "rule of law."

Maybe it's a worthy political fight - for people to try to eliminate solitary confinement. The prison system is grossly punitive and not rehabilitative, and it's not just solitary confinement that is objectionable. As I'm sure everyone here knows, many prisoners aren't represented by competent counsel (which Manning is), are not given the benefit of exculpatory evidence, and (you name it) subjected to loads of other horrific injustices such as physical and sexual abuse by fellow inmates and prison guards, inadequate medical treatment, etc. All of these things are worth reforming.

I hope that Manning's lawyer is zealously arguing for any legal advantage that Manning is entitled to, and that Manning obtains the justice that he deserves. I don't know that he deserves any more consideration than thousands of other people who are lawfully incarcerated and badly treated.

No, actually, we should talk about a lot of things. I just don't think we should take Glenn Greenwald's narrative about Manning as conclusive. Maybe we should ask a couple of questions?

That would be totally awesome, and much more interesting/useful that speculating that other facts *might* exist that would alter our view of these events and that *our* speculating without those speculative facts is a bad idea.

I do think that questions about his lawyer are something of a red herring; Seb gets to the heart of it but it's worth repeating- if he is being held in solitary or some other type of confinement for punative reasons rather than security ones, then this is a very bad thing, regardless of whether his lawyer is competent or not or has a good media strategy.
Now, maybe there is an alternative explanation. And this is where Id rely on the media version of the adversarial system to work for us- if there's some rationale, like this being standard procedure when a psych eval is requested or this is the only way they had of segmenting him from the regular population where they deemed him at risk, I would expect the government to say so.
But that would still leave questions like: why can't he exercise, or have a pillow? If those statements are, in fact, true. Given that it would be a useless trashing of one's credibility to assert things like that if they weren't true, Id tentatively accept them for the moment.

In other words, there are more general criminal justice issues at stake here, that nobody on this blog seems to get exorcised about unless Glenn Greenwald seems to thing it's a "political prisoner" matter (of course, reflecting poorly on Obama as President).

Ill have the ad hominen with a side of straw, please- so tasty and fresh.
(and was it really so long ago that Gary F was posting on "more general criminal justice issues"? Turns out, no.)

Hob, Eric is basically using Manning as a poster child in order to allege some kind of Obama administration political prisoner policy.

Interesting use of the language. "basically" = "totally unsupportable speculation / ad hominem". If you're going to redefine words on the fly like that, you probably ought to use footnotes so the rest of us can follow along. Otherwise, I'm sitting here scratching my head, wondering- what does this have to do with Obama? Where does Eric allege any sort of policy, let alone one dictated by the Executive branch?

Well, if I were in the army, and entrusted with government secrets, then I sent all of the information that I could get hold of to someone who was going to publish it all over the Internet, would I expect that the government would, after apprehending me, let me blab all of that confidential information to my fellow inmates?

If I were in the Army, Id understand that stopping someone from leaking information that has already been published on the internet is not a particularly compelling rationale. Id understand that there is little risk in his passing secrets on to his pillow.
Id probably also have taken my own advice about speculating. If I were in the Army.

Does anybody know what the UCMJ has to say about this? Does it say anything different about the detention of individuals suspected of espionage or offenses where secret information is distributed?

At least the airforce now seems to follow the policy of 'close the stable door lest the horse may come back in!' by blocking access to (among others) the NYT and The Guardian websites from their computers with the reasoning that 'we can't allow classified materials floating around in here'.
---
Another disgusting part of the Manning story is that allegations that he is gay is used by the usual supects in their crusade against gays in general and gays in the military in particular.

Hob, Eric is basically using Manning as a poster child in order to allege some kind of Obama administration political prisoner policy.

What Carleton Wu said about this. I don't even mention Obama. I talk about our national psyche, and a turn toward repressive means, but that is not the point of my post.

And yes, one hour a day out of a cell is solitary confinement.

Also: keep in mind, this is a suspect. He has not been convicted of anything.

Finally, what Carleton Wu said: Manning seems like the LAST place someone would go to for WikiLeaks documents at this point in time. Why work from his recollection of what a million documents said when they are archived and searchable in databases in the Internet?

but that is not the point of my post

By this I mean that the point of my post is not about Obama's political prisoner policy. Just that the new normal post 9/11 is disturbing.

Though as Hob points out, prison conditions in the US have been horrific for some time, and few people seem to care.

"Just that the new normal post 9/11 is disturbing."

I don't know that this is the "new normal" - it's pretty much the same old "normal". Manning is apparently being treated similarly to Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames. (Don't know about their bedding situation, but they are both in solitary confinement.)

Again, I'm not defending the criminal justice system generally, or solitary confinement in particular, but people who disclose government secrets can probably expect to be treated like spies - harshly. Our law has allowed that for a very long time. (Don't know what the pretrial detention of Hanssen or Ames looked like - maybe they were treated better before they were convicted. Somehow, I doubt it.)

And, yes, the Air Force is ridiculous to block news sites - they're making themselves a laughing stock. And, yes, turning the Manning case into a gay bashing fest is disgusting, but not surprising from the "usual suspects."

Eric, let me apologize for imputing Glenn Greenwald's agenda (as I perceive it) onto you. Whether any prisoner deserves solitary confinement is certainly a worthy topic of discussion. It doesn't seem to me, however, that Manning is being singled out for harsher treatment than anyone else who has disclosed government secrets to enemies. (Whether the information should be secret, etc., has been discussed elsewhere, but the fact remains that these were secrets, and he did allegedly disclose them - to friends, enemies and everyone else.)

Don't know what the pretrial detention of Hanssen or Ames looked like - maybe they were treated better before they were convicted. Somehow, I doubt it.)

Perhaps that's maybe something you want to know before you go off half-cocked about what is or isn't new or normal?

Gee, Private Manning, we might be able to do something about the conditions of your confinement if you, you know, helped us out with this Mr. Assange problem we have, are you sure you don't remember in more detail how much he helped you get those documents? We have some suggestions here on how he might have done that, be sure to use the underlined language in your response (if it seems a little stilted, we lifted it directly from the federal criminal code).

Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information.
Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.
....
Justice Department officials have declined to discuss any grand jury activity. But in interviews, people familiar with the case said the department appeared to be attracted to the possibility of prosecuting Mr. Assange as a co-conspirator to the leaking because it is under intense pressure to make an example of him as a deterrent to further mass leaking of electronic documents over the Internet.

Wouldn't you like to see a little Monday Night Football, Private Manning? Or how about a pillow?

Prosecutors could overcome [a hearsay] hurdle if they obtain other evidence about any early contacts — especially if they could persuade Private Manning to testify against Mr. Assange. But two members of a support network set up to raise money for his legal defense, Jeff Paterson and David House, said Private Manning had declined to cooperate with investigators since his arrest in May.

Maybe we could even allow you to spend two whole hours outside your cell. You received alot of help from Mr. Assange, didn't you? In fact, wouldn't you say that he encouraged you to leak information and showed you how best to do so? Indeed, he did it himself sometimes, didn't he?

It's good to hear that you love Big Brother, Private Manning.

Eric: The treatment of Bradley Manning is microcosmic of a broader trend that does not speak well for the degree of civilization in our society.

Sapient: It doesn't seem to me, however, that Manning is being singled out for harsher treatment than anyone else who has disclosed government secrets to enemies.

Seems they agree.

It seems to me that Donald Johnson asked the relevant questions.

Sapient, on what grounds do you dispute these two claims:

1) Manning is being held in solitary confinement

2) Solitary confinement is inhumane

It seems to me that the factual accuracy of the article is sufficiently confirmed by this part of Glenn's post:

I [Glenn Greenwald] was contacted by Lt. Villiard, who claims there is one factual inaccuracy in what I wrote: specifically, he claims that Manning is not restricted from accessing news or current events during the prescribed time he is permitted to watch television. That is squarely inconsistent with reports from those with first-hand knowledge of Manning's detention, but it's a fairly minor dispute in the scheme of things..

Glenn could be lying in part or entirely. I suspect, however, that he would not have written the above if he didn't have an email which he could use to prove that Villiard said those things. And it seems reasonable to me that, using the logic of debate judging, Villiard's statement that there was one factual inaccuracy meant that there was only one.


I [Glenn Greenwald] was contacted by Lt. Villiard, who claims there is one factual inaccuracy in what I wrote: specifically, he claims that Manning is not restricted from accessing news or current events during the prescribed time he is permitted to watch television. That is squarely inconsistent with reports from thoseothers with first-hand knowledge of Manning's detention, but it's a fairly minor dispute in the scheme of things.

Fixed!

Countme - America's thirst for vengeance, punishment, and retribution has long outstripped its willingness to pay for justice.

I don't know that this is the "new normal" - it's pretty much the same old "normal".

Yes, the second paragraph after the first you cited concedes this.

Greenwald follows up on his post from yesterday in the context of citing the same NYTimes story I linked to above (and making the same point on why the gov't might be treating Manning so harshly), and answers at least one of Sapient's questions:

In The Huffington Post yesterday, Marcus Baram quoted Jeff Paterson, who runs Manning's legal defense fund, as saying that Manning has been extremely upset by the conditions of his detention but had not gone public about them in deference to his attorney's efforts to negotiate better treatment.

Slarti, why "fixed?" I copied that from GG's blog, and as far as I can tell it still says "those."

Oh, because it implies that Villiard is not in a position to know. Which would be odd indeed, I think.

But to clarify: I wasn't correcting you, I was correcting Greenwald.

Why would it be odd for a PR-type person not to have first hand knowledge of the detainee's condition?

Villiard is quoted as "a Quantico brig official", which would seem to imply that he is in some way familiar with the brig & conditions therein at Quantico.

I'm slightly surprised they haven't arrested Manning's family in order to put pressure on him. It's standard US army practice.

Longer me:

Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning's detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard)

and this:

I [Glenn Greenwald] was contacted by Lt. Villiard, who claims there is one factual inaccuracy in what I wrote: specifically, he claims that Manning is not restricted from accessing news or current events during the prescribed time he is permitted to watch television. That is squarely inconsistent with reports from those with first-hand knowledge of Manning's detention

seem to be mutually contradictory. Unless he's saying that Villiard is contradicting himself.

Unless he means "others" instead of "those" in the bolded portion of the second excerpt.

Sure. That's kind of what I suggested, upthread.

I suck a little bit.

Only a little, Eric. You're at least one standard deviation under the mean, at suckiness.

Florid praise, I know.

I'll take it

With the quotes all bundled together, what it looks like now is Greenwald getting cute with the qualifiers depending on his rhetorical needs.

I don't think that kind of expediency is new territory for him.

Eric is basically using Manning as a poster child in order to allege some kind of Obama administration political prisoner policy.

What kind of poster child are the folks holding Manning using him as?

Solitary confinement (except for an hour a day - is that really solitary confinement?) may well be torture according to many psychologists, but courts have ruled that it is not cruel and unusual punishment.

The former President's OLC stated that, in order to qualify as torture, purposefully inflicted pain had to reach a level associated with organ failure.

Sometimes the law is a whore.

Manning screwed with the big boys, so now they are screwing with him. His life is going to suck, in a very large way, from here on out.

It is, plainly and simply, wrong to subject people to treatment that is well known to make them go insane. No matter what they did.

It is, plainly and simply, wrong to subject people to treatment that is well known to make them go insane. No matter what they did.

If only responsible people in the U.S. were capable of understanding this and doing something about it, but alas:


In this country, in June of 2006, a bipartisan national task force, the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons, released its recommendations after a yearlong investigation. It called for ending long-term isolation of prisoners. Beyond about ten days, the report noted, practically no benefits can be found and the harm is clear—not just for inmates but for the public as well. Most prisoners in long-term isolation are returned to society, after all. And evidence from a number of studies has shown that supermax conditions—in which prisoners have virtually no social interactions and are given no programmatic support—make it highly likely that they will commit more crimes when they are released. Instead, the report said, we should follow the preventive approaches used in European countries.

The recommendations went nowhere, of course.

From the New Yorker article linked in Eric's post, which notes toward the end:


In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement—on our own people, in our own communities, in a supermax prison, for example, that is a thirty-minute drive from my door.

@Slarti:
I [Glenn Greenwald] was contacted by Lt. Villiard, who claims there is one factual inaccuracy in what I wrote: specifically, he claims that Manning is not restricted from accessing news or current events during the prescribed time he is permitted to watch television. That is squarely inconsistent with reports from those with first-hand knowledge of Manning's detention

Given my own familiarity with maximum custody arrangements in military prisons (with all above caveats I made above still applying), the statement is true but totally misleading, as I've never seen maximum custody prisoners having any time whatever prescribed for television access. However, different branches of service, different facilities, etc. will all lead to different SOPs. Take this as anecdata.

Does anybody know what the UCMJ has to say about this? Does it say anything different about the detention of individuals suspected of espionage or offenses where secret information is distributed?

The UCMJ says exactly nothing about this. Nada. That's beyond its scope. Such matters are left to service and DoD regulations governing the running and management of military corrections facilities; e.g., AR 190-47 for the Army.

Well, you could say the UCMJ has something to say about it, but only generally:

Article 13 Punishment prohibited before trial
No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances require to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline.

russell: "What kind of poster child are the folks holding Manning using him as?"

The kind that says that "if you've been entrusted with the confidences of the United States, you're going to be in serious trouble if you betray that trust."

It's true, his life is going to suck. I feel bad for him. I wish he hadn't done what he did. I wish prisons weren't as horrible as they are - the penal system is gruesome, and not just for those in solitary. It badly needs to be reformed. I'm sorry for Manning in the same way that I feel sorry for anyone who ruins his own life, and I hope his lawyer does a good job for him, and that he doesn't spend the rest of his life in prison. People should be furious at Assange for encouraging this kid to do what he did (if that's what's happened). Instead, they're applauding him.

And, russell, just for the record, I don't agree with former President Bush's OLC. Most lawyers and legal scholars don't either, so I wouldn't say that the OLC opinion was "the law" or that their opinion was an example of "Sometimes the law is a whore." I do believe generally in our system of laws. If we have laws we don't like, we need to work to change them for everyone, not just Manning.

@sapient:
Well, if I were in the army, and entrusted with government secrets, then I sent all of the information that I could get hold of to someone who was going to publish it all over the Internet, would I expect that the government would, after apprehending me, let me blab all of that confidential information to my fellow inmates?

Right. 'Cause someone guilty of indiscriminately leaking truly massive amounts of electronic data has enough juicy bits of it memorized that he can rattle it off to fellow pre-trials w/o references, long after having his access to government information systems revoked. Uh-huh.

Thin reed is thin.

"'Cause someone guilty of indiscriminately leaking truly massive amounts of electronic data has enough juicy bits of it memorized that he can rattle it off to fellow pre-trials w/o references, long after having his access to government information systems revoked."

He had access to the information before he started dumping the files - who knows what he knew? All we can be pretty sure of is that he's willing to let everybody know whatever it is he knows. Of course, we don't really know the reasons for the conditions of his pre-trial detention (even though there was probably an adjudicatory hearing of some sort). Greenwald didn't fill us in on that, and Manning's attorney isn't talking.

sapient: The kind that says that "if you've been entrusted with the confidences of the United States, you're going to be in serious trouble if you betray that trust."

But being in a military jail awaiting trial for something that is going to get you locked up for a long time is not in itself enough?

He has to also be denied a sheet and pillow?

Trial first, punishment later. It's pretty simple.

"Trial first, punishment later. It's pretty simple."

Agreed. They should be giving him a sheet and pillow, and generally treating him well while he's in custody, even if his solitary confinement is justified.

I don't think the deprivation of the sheet and pillow (if it occurred) was part of their attempt to make him a poster child though. I agree with Ugh's evaluation - they're trying to get him to cooperate in their investigation of Assange. Maltreatment is the wrong way to do it, and that's why I hope his lawyer is doing his job.

I wish prisons weren't as horrible as they are - the penal system is gruesome

Yes, it is.

just for the record, I don't agree with former President Bush's OLC. Most lawyers and legal scholars don't either, so I wouldn't say that the OLC opinion was "the law" or that their opinion was an example of "Sometimes the law is a whore."

Whether you agree or don't agree, and whether "most lawyers and legal scholars" agree or disagree, we tortured people to death and used the OLC findings to justify it. And nobody's gone to jail for it yet. F***ing John Yoo teaches ConLaw at Berklee.

So, yeah, sometimes the law is a whore.

Read the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and explain to me how deliberately subjecting people to treatment that is known to make them insane complies with it.

I don't really care what Manning did, it's not about Manning. It's about the rest of us.

I wouldn't say that the OLC opinion was "the law"

No, it only had the force of law.

John Yoo teaches ConLaw at Berklee.

Sorry, at Berkeley.

At Berklee, he teaches tenor saxophone and ear training.

"No, it [the OLC opinion] only had the force of law."

No, actually, it didn't. What the Bush administration did was against the law and should have been prosecuted. And russell's right, people should have gone to jail for it. And Scooter Libby should be in jail. And a whole lot of bankers. You won't get any argument from me that those people shouldn't be in jail. But it's not because what Yoo said had the force of law, because it didn't.

I were in the army, and entrusted with government secrets, then I sent all of the information that I could get hold of to someone who was going to publish it all over the Internet, would I expect that the government would, after apprehending me, let me blab all of that confidential information to my fellow inmates?

sapient, you belie your name. You're saying that, now he's put "all the information he could get hold of" on the Internet, where anyone could see it, what we should really be worried about is that he'll also tell some of it to his cellmate?
How can you even think that makes sense?

Whether you agree or don't agree, and whether "most lawyers and legal scholars" agree or disagree, we tortured people to death and used the OLC findings to justify it. And nobody's gone to jail for it yet. F***ing John Yoo teaches ConLaw at Berklee.

There's a weird dynamic at work there that wouldn't be permitted in any other circumstance. Let's say a mob boss goes to his lawyer and says "Id really like to shoot John Smith. Maybe if I were to walk up to him and he were to turn around really quick, maybe that could be perceived as a lethal threat, right? He's a big guy."
Lawyer:"Uh, yeah, sure, I guess it could be, legally."
Mob boss goes and shoots Smith when Smith turns around, and goes free because- after all, he trusted the advice of his lawyer, right? And the lawyer- well, he just had an opinion, right?

Maybe the next guy gets a law degree, and then he can do anything, unmolested by the legal system- "Well, I decided that, in my legal opinion, I had to snort that coke in self-defense, your honor!"

Or, novel idea, we could try locking up criminals rather than practicing our sophistry...

ajay, all the information isn't up on the Internet, from what I've read, but I'm not going to go search for a news article about it. You can find it if you care about doing so.

Carleton Wu, I couldn't agree more. Yoo's opinion shouldn't have shielded anyone. The way it's supposed to work is that the crooks go to jail and the lawyer is sued for malpractice. So I'm with you all the way here.

Sapient, what do you mean when you say that the OLC ruling did not have force of law? How are you defining "force of law?"

ajay, all the information isn't up on the Internet, from what I've read, but I'm not going to go search for a news article about it. You can find it if you care about doing so.

Ouch. Just... ouch. Seriously, you're doing contortions at this point to try to present this as not only an understandable approach, but a laudable one that precludes others. The man is accused of collating massive amounts of classified data and indiscriminately leaking it. As in, not picking and choosing only important stuff, but dumping... how did you put it? "[A]ll the information [he] could get hold of"? This is a thin, thin reed.

You might as well argue that he needs isolated from other pre-trials since some of them almost certainly had security clearances too (Secret clearances being very common in the Army these days), so who knows what this known - er, accused - leaker of secrets might learn and leak again!

Thin reed.

I hope sapient's generous offer of a sheet and a pillow in solitary doesn't discourage Manning from a plea bargain.

Glenn has an update on Manning--his lawyer has described the situation, which is pretty close to what Glenn said (except that Manning has more TV time than Glenn was told).

It all sounds cruel in a soul-sapping petty kind of way--Manning isn't even allowed to do pushups or other forms of exercise in his cell and when he gets his one hour outside the cell he's only allowed to walk.

link

I wonder how you keep someone from doing pushups?

"I wonder how you keep someone from doing pushups?"

They constantly watch him, apparently, and if he starts doing any form of exercise they come into his cell and make him stop. They also prevent him from taking naps during the day. It's just amazingly petty and small-minded, but I could see where treatment like that could make someone go nuts if extended over a prolonged period.

Below is the link to Manning's army lawyer who wrote a post today describing the conditions under which Manning is confined--

link

Can't they just put his head in a vise until his eye pops out if he won't tell them what they want to know?

That's ridiculous. I can see that they might want to suicide-watch the guy, but death by pushups just isn't one of the top 5,000 ways to kill yourself in a prison cell.

Apparently, Manning's mattress has a built-in pillow, something Greenwald forgot to mention. And he has blankets. And he can watch TV and read books and magazines. And he gets to see visitors for 3 hours per day on weekends. And he gets to write letters to people and receive them. Still not fun but not similar to the psychosis inducing conditions described by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker, rather more like the "lifeline" conditions later provided to the prisoner named Robert Felton in that article.

The link supporting my above comment was found at John Cole's site.

That link was also at Glenn's site and I provided both the link to GG and to his lawyer. The built-in pillow is a recent addition. Glenn mentioned TV. Apparently, then, you don't think that living under those conditions is particularly inhumane. That's nice.

Donald, I was posting shortly after you did, and hadn't read your comments. Sorry for duplicating the link.

As I've mentioned before, I think the American prison system is generally inhumane. Plus, there are way too many people incarcerated. I don't know that much about military prisons other than what I've been reading lately, but having had many friends and family in the service, I've long been aware that the people who (now voluntarily) join the military give up their rights to a very substantial degree. This is why when anyone has ever sought my advice about joining, I've suggested that they try to find a different way to serve their country.

As I've said previously, Manning is barely an adult, and I feel sorry for people (especially young people) who do stupid things to ruin their lives. But when a military person is entrusted with secrets of the United States, and betrays that trust in as huge a way as Manning allegedly did, it is serious. He has a chance to meet with his lawyer and other visitors, he can read, he has access to tv entertainment for part of the day. Is it humane? I don't think prison is particularly humane. The army generally seems like an inhumane existence to me, but many people choose it.

The prevention of injury watch is apparently being contested by his lawyer, and that's good: “The command is basing this treatment of him solely on the nature of the pending charges, and on an unrelated incident where a service member in the facility took his own life,” Coombs [his lawyer] said, referencing the February suicide of a marine captain in the Quantico brig. Coombs says he believes Quantico officials are keeping Manning under close watch with strict limitations on his activity out of an overabundance of caution. Both Coombs and Manning’s psychologist, Coombs says, are sure Manning is mentally healthy, that there is no evidence he’s a threat to himself, and shouldn’t be held in such severe conditions under the artifice of his own protection."

So his attorney is contesting the POI watch, and that's a good thing. Meanwhile, his own attorney has stated that he is "mentally healthy" so, although he's not having any fun (unless he's having a chance to read some really good books), he's not lost his mind.

Coombs says he believes Quantico officials are keeping Manning under close watch with strict limitations on his activity out of an overabundance of caution.

And you actually believe this?

How silly. They're trying to break the guy.

You may think it is right or wrong to try to break the guy, but at least be honest about what is going on. They're trying to break the guy.

julian, just now saw your comment re: force of law, where you asked:

"Sapient, what do you mean when you say that the OLC ruling did not have force of law? How are you defining "force of law?"

"Force of law" is an expression used in law to mean that something would be legally binding (could be enforced), and that a court would recognize it as such. For example, a statute has the force of law - a judge and an executive officer has to honor it. A judge's ruling or order has the force of law - a sheriff can execute on it. An appellate court holding has the force of law - a lower court has to follow it, and other courts have to respect it as precedent. An attorney general's opinion is advisory and does NOT have the force of law - it is something worth strong consideration, but it does not have to be followed. Same with the advisory opinion of a court. Same with dictum in a judicial opinion (Dictum is the part of a judge's opinion that isn't necessary to decide the case.)

If there were ever a trial of the torturers, the OLC opinion might be used by the defendants to try to persuade the judge that they weren't culpable. But it is pretty well settled that "ignorance of the law is no excuse" for a crime, even if you've gotten bad advice from an attorney. It might mitigate punishment, in that a judge might be persuaded that the defendant was acting under a good faith belief about the law, but it wouldn't absolve the crime. And, as in the example about the mafia, such a defense could easily be used by corrupt people all the time, and judges aren't that stupid. (Which is not to say that say that if a Republican judge were deciding a case about Republican political people, the judge wouldn't rule based on political bias - but that's a problem with politicalization of the courts - not the concept of "force of law".)

Duff Clarity, I don't have any reason to believe that Manning's lawyer would have any reason to lie. The people at Quantico have a plausible reason to do what they're doing. However, as I said before, we know that they're trying to get Manning to cooperate in their investigation of Assange. If they're mistreating him in order to do that, I hope that stops. I also hope that Manning cooperates in exchange for favorable plea bargain so that the government gets the information it wants, and so that Manning can eventually have some kind of a decent life.

I also hope that Manning cooperates in exchange for favorable plea bargain so that the government gets the information it wants

How can that possibly make us, as citizens, better off?

Do you not care to know what your government is doing in your name with your money?

You're responsible whether it is done in secret or in the clear.

"Do you not care to know what your government is doing in your name with your money?"

I do know what the government is doing, just not every random bit of correspondence from every state department analyst who transmits a cable. Hell, I don't know that amount of detail from my own organization. The fact is, most people in most professions need a certain sphere of confidential, candid discussion and correspondence so that they can accumulate working knowledge about particular issues. When the government is sending rumors and observations around to its own personnel, to be verified later, or to be considered in negotiations, these don't need to be made public, just as notes by journalists don't need to be made public. As I've said before, it's different if someone is truly whistleblowing - pointing out illegal behavior, such as the video of the murdered Reuters reporters. But no - not what Manning did.

I disagree that we live in a police state just because there's confidentiality in the State Department. The loose security that allowed those documents to be released represents a general atmosphere of comfortable confidentiality, where abuses are fairly easy to uncover and disclose, but where state department officials are accorded a certain degree of trust by third parties. That's a good balance, and keep things functional. The foreign policy mistakes and disasters of our recent history didn't occur because of secrecy; they occurred because citizens of our country didn't care enough to stop what was very obviously going on.

I also hope that Manning cooperates in exchange for favorable plea bargain so that the government gets the information it wants

I guess I'm unclear on exactly what kind of information the government might want from Manning.

As I understand it, he walked up to a secure computer, put a CD into it, burned a bunch of docs on the CD, and walked away. He then gave the CD with the docs to Assange.

Assange, of course, is a public figure, and Wikileaks is a widely known website. No secretive cabal involved.

Is there more to know?

Yes, russell. It's whether Assange induced him, paid him, whatever, to do that. That would make Assange a conspirator.

I do know what the government is doing, just not every random bit of correspondence from every state department analyst who transmits a cable. Hell, I don't know that amount of detail from my own organization. The fact is, most people in most professions need a certain sphere of confidential, candid discussion and correspondence so that they can accumulate working knowledge about particular issues

Random bits of correspondence like the fact the US military has begun fighting a ground war in Pakistan without this ever having been debated by the American people or their representatives, and after being told by their government that "there are no American troops in Pakistan"?

Random trivial unimportant bits of correspondence like that?

That's what you think should be kept from the public that is paying for it and responsible for it?

That soldiers were in Pakistan comes as news to you?

It didn't come as news to me, except for maybe a year ago. Although with the broad Congressional authorization to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons," I've been assuming that military action in Pakistan and Yemen fell under this authorization.

The fact that this is a surprise to you is, frankly, a shock to me.

The fact that this is a surprise to you is, frankly, a shock to me.

Here's what the US Special Envoy to Pakistan told the press last December: "there are no American troops in Pakistan".

We now know that he was lying and that the claim in your link, that we were "currently training Pakistani soldiers in counterinsurgency tactics" was also a lie and that there were troops on the ground directly involved in combat operations at a time when the government was claiming that there were not troops on the ground directly involved in combat operations.

When the Nation, last fall, published an article claiming there were US forces fighting on the ground in Pakistan here is how the government responded:

In response to theNation story, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell called it"conspiratorial" and explicitly denied that US special operations forces were doing anything other than "training" in Pakistan. More than a month after the October 2009 cable from the US embassy in Pakistan confirming JSOC combat missions, Morrell told reporters: "We have basically, I think, a few dozen forces on the ground in Pakistan who are involved in a train-the-trainer mission.

These are Special Operations Forces. We've been very candid about this. They are-they have been for months, if not years now, training Pakistani forces so that they can in turn train other Pakistani military on how to-on certain skills and operational techniques. And that's the extent of our-our, you know, military boots on the ground in Pakistan."

He was also lying.

Is it shocking to me? Of course not. But it is also not an example of "confidential, candid discussion and correspondence so that they can accumulate working knowledge about particular issues". It is an example of the government lying to its citizens about its involvement in the wars it is fighting and it is an example of something that should be done after a public debate instead of in secret.

WikiLeaks cable reveals secret pledge to protect US at Iraq inquiry

Awesome!

Open covenants of peace must be arrived at, after which there will surely be no private international action or rulings of any kind, but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

Woodrow Wilson

Word!

At least this whole thing has given SOME lulz:

Michael Moore was as surprised as anyone when WikiLeaks revealed a US cable asserting that Cuban officials banned his Sicko documentary because it depicted a "mythical" view of health care there. He was even more surprised when the media picked up on the cable and reported it as gospel truth. (See the Guardian, whose report in turn got widely disseminated.) The problem is that the documentary—a damning assessment of the American health care system—was not banned in Cuba, he writes at the Huffington Post.

Not only had the film been playing in Cuban theaters before the State Department cable of Jan. 31, 2008, it was shown on national television there in April of that year, writes Moore, who references news articles of the time to prove his point. So why would a US official write such a bogus cable? Mainly, the Bushies in power at the time didn't like him and wanted to discredit his movie, which had just been nominated for an Oscar, writes Moore. "It is a stunning look at the Orwellian nature of how bureaucrats for the State spin their lies and try to recreate reality (I assume to placate their bosses and tell them what they want to hear)."

"As I understand it, he walked up to a secure computer, put a CD into it, burned a bunch of docs on the CD, and walked away. He then gave the CD with the docs to Assange."

According to the charges he gained access to documents which were well beyond his security authorization, and they want to know how he evaded the controls--which is where suspicion about Assange comes in.

So, what are you doing about it, Duff?

You're entitled to cite random meaningless quotes from historical figures, novakant. None of the people you cite actually practiced what they preached.

Not sure what to make of this, Phil. That the cables aren't truthful and are unreliable? And weren't meant for publication? And "journalists" who rely on them are misguided? And that not every observation or rumor heard by a diplomatic analyst (and recorded for further assessment) is absolutely accurate? Shocker!!!! It's called note taking.

novakant, you do know that Wilson secretly intervened in the Russian civil war, right? "Word"s are cheap.

I am aware of that, thanks - he was a politician, what do you expect? It's just that this quote expresses my opinion on how diplomacy should be conducted. You on the other hand seem to be fine with the US government undermining a supposedly independent inquiry in an allied country and you also think that we as citizens shouldn't know about such matters, so that diplomats can go about their business protecting "interests" in secret.

Not sure what to make of this, Phil.

That it was funny, maybe? I mean, take a step back here. You're about to implode from the stress of this, apparently.

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Whatnot


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