Thursday, March 3, 2011

Punishment Before Conviction: Bradley Manning Stripped Naked In Cell For Hours

This is not the United States of America I grew up to respect and love. In that USA, people were arrested, charged, tried, convicted if proved guilty, and punished... in that order. PFC Bradley Manning has been arrested and charged, but neither tried nor convicted at this point. Whatever Manning has or has not done, I see no justification whatsoever for doing this:

Last night, PFC Manning was inexplicably stripped of all clothing by the Quantico Brig. He remained in his cell, naked, for the next seven hours. At 5:00 a.m., the Brig sounded the wake-up call for the detainees. At this point, PFC Manning was forced to stand naked at the front of his cell.
The Duty Brig Supervisor (DBS) arrived shortly after 5:00 a.m. When he arrived, PFC Manning was called to attention. The DBS walked through the facility to conduct his detainee count. Afterwards, PFC Manning was told to sit on his bed. About ten minutes later, a guard came to his cell to return his clothing.
This quote is attributed to Manning's attorney, David E. Coombs. Later in the same article (again quoted on FDL), Coombs is quoted as saying, 
PFC Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight.
Is "military justice" now the same sort of oxymoron that "military intelligence" is said to be? PFC Manning has, for reasons not clear to me, been accused (about two days ago) of everything in the book, and has been reported in all respects to be a model of a cooperative prisoner. The only reasonable explanation for this sort of treatment is as a kind of abuse to obtain a confession. Whatever Manning may or may not have done, this kind of treatment... which, as noted by several people, is much like the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib... can only give him a basis for appeal of any conviction against him.

And once again I am ashamed to be an American. I hate that feeling!

AFTERTHOUGHT:  Don't bother telling me that Manning's accusers know things about him that I don't know. The "if you only knew" excuse is intolerable under the American legal tradition, civilian and military. And "if I only knew," I still would not see any basis whatsoever for applying degrading treatment to a prisoner, no matter what he is alleged to have done. Stripping a prisoner for hours at a time in his cell is un-American, plain and simple.

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