President Barack Obama said on April 21 that PFC Bradley Manning “broke the law.” (http://youtu.be/IfmtUpd4id0 at :47 mark) This statement casts serious doubt on whether Manning can receive a fair trial from officers subordinate to Obama, their Commander-in-Chief.
“Members of the military are trained to follow orders. President Obama is the commander of all armed forces,” said Elliott Adams, president of Veterans For Peace. “Any officer who wants to advance in his military career would be wise not to contradict their commander-in-chief, especially after the military's brutal treatment of Manning this past year. The President seems to have forgotten what he taught his constitutional law classes about being innocent until proven guilty.”
The government has already violated Bradley Manning’s due process rights by keeping him in pretrial solitary confinement for nearly a year and the President bears ultimate responsibility for the abusive treatment Manning has endured since July 2010 at Quantico Marine Base, and possibly before that in Kuwait. He has been confined to a 6-by-12-foot cell for 23 hours a day, prevented from sleeping during the day, denied exercise, woken up constantly, given limited access to books and writing materials, stripped at night and forced to endure inspection naked, and deprived of his eyeglasses. Many mental health professionals characterize this as psychological torture. President Obama could have stopped this mistreatment at any time with one phone call.
The President made another critical misstatement in his comments. He claimed that Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, was less culpable because the documents he leaked were “not classified in the same way.” In fact, the Pentagon Papers were classified at the highest level of secrecy while the WikiLeaks documents were at the lowest level.
“It’s time to free Bradley Manning and pin a medal on the man,” said Leah Bolger, VFP vice-president. “He has already been punished beyond constitutional limits and now President Obama has made a fair trial impossible. If indeed he’s the one who released those documents, he is a hero for blowing the whistle on war crimes and other misbehavior by U.S. officials.”
PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF OBAMA’S REMARKS from http://youtu.be/IfmtUpd4id0
Obama: “So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy n an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works. And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law. We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.”
Q: “Didn't he release evidence of war crimes?”
Obama: “What he did was he dumped…”
Q: “Isn't that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?”
Obama: “No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.”