(Writer's note: By arrangement with the syndicators, these columns appear here a week after their newspaper release)
^QUANTICO AND GUANTANAMO: THE WIKILEAKS’ NAKED COMPARISON@<
^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@<
^By BOB FRANKEN@=
^C.2011 Hearst Newspapers@=
WASHHINGTON _ Now that President Obama is making Guantanamo Bay the Land of Broken promises and keeping the notorious prison camp open, Army Private First Class Bradley Manning might want to request a transfer to Gitmo from the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va.
In his new executive order, the president promised that the Guantanamo prisoners will be treated in conformity with the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit, among other abuses, ``outrages against personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.’’
Right now PFC Manning is being held in near solitary confinement at Quantico; he’s kept in his cell 23 hours a day with one hour out for limited exercise.
He's facing allegations that he leaked tons of classified documents. Military prosecutors just added 22 other charges, including ``Aiding the Enemy.’’ That one carries a potential death penalty, although prosecutors say they will not seek capital punishment.
His Marine jailers confirm that while he awaits preliminary legal action, he is required to spend a chunk of his time without clothes on. His lawyer David Coombs complains that Manning was ``stripped naked...forced to stand naked in front of his cell.’’ ``This type of degrading treatment...is inexcusable and without justification.’’
We have gotten some explanations from Quantico officials that Manning is on a POI, a ``Prevention of Injury’’ watch. Marine spokesman Lt. Brian Villard would not offer details, saying: ``I can't explain it to you without violating the detainees’ privacy.’’
``PRIVACY’’? The man stands there without a stitch, totally exposed.
Let's suffice here in this family environment to suggest that this rationale is a bit ludicrous. By the way, medical officers at the base reportedly insist that POI monitoring is not necessary.
Pentagon chief spokesman Geoff Morrell sheds more light on the justification for Manning’s treatment by explaining that it is appropriate because of the ``seriousness of the charges he's facing.’’
Now we're getting somewhere. Could this be bare spite? Literally?
Manning is suspected of being the source of that trove of classified documents turned over to WikiLeaks. While the actual damage from their public disclosure is subject to debate, they certainly were eye openers. Just about every day, they shed new light on fast-breaking developments and create a better understanding of the power game machinations that might have contributed to these crises. Arguably, their disclosure is a public service.
In the process, however, their release definitely embarrassed the keepers of their secrets, government officials up and down the chain of command, who suddenly had all the games they played, and misplayed, exposed to public examination. These are emperors who do not like it known that they have no clothes on _ and now Manning is going without his clothes.
Although officials refuse to comment, there are strong indications that the feds are using the legal system in an effort to bring down Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader. The emerging strategy is to prosecute him for violating U.S. laws by plotting with PFC Manning to make all the secret documents un-secret. At the moment, there is a battle continuing over government attempts to retrieve Assange’s Twitter communications. Obviously, a conspiracy case would be helped immeasurably by Bradley Manning’s direct cooperation.
Were he a war prisoner at Guantanamo, interrogation intimidation would run smack into those Geneva Conventions. The mandates against ``...insults and public curiosity’’ are widely interpreted to apply to coercive questioning. Down there, a lot badder guys than Bradley Manning get to wear their jump suits.
Manning is not a POW and he is held in the United States, of course. So these international agreements don't apply. Instead, his treatment is supposed to be guided by the Constitution's 8th Amendment which forbids ``cruel and unusual punishment.’’
Those holding him need reminding that there is no exception for vindictiveness or the Fifth Amendment prohibition against coercive interrogation of Bradley Manning or anybody.
(E-mail: bob(at)hearstdc.com; on the Web: www.bobfranken.tv)