Law Review: Bradley Manning torture? – Fined for telling the truth – Cherie Booth QC

PFC Bradley Manning – Torture?

On the 18 December 2010 Manning’s lawyer David E. Coombs, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army who served in Iraq (pictured), wrote a very clear and to the point blog post…

A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning

PFC Manning is currently being held in maximum custody. Since arriving at the Quantico Confinement Facility in July of 2010, he has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch…

Today, in The Guardian Daniel Ellsberg, a man who knows a thing or twowrites:

President Obama tells us that he’s asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”

If Obama believes that, he’ll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they’ve been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: “I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.”


The full article is worth reading. I have a fair number of friends in the US law blogging world,  but I have no experience of US law or politics.  If these facts are as stated, it seems to me that the conditions under which PFC Bradley Manning is held could come within the definition of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in any human rights jurisdiction.  I would welcome comment and ‘elucidation’ from American lawyers on this issue.  I shall email my friends in America for their thoughts.

It is, of course, important to remember that Bradley Manning has not been tried yet……

It is also important not to conflate Manning with the Assange issue(s)….

New York Times Editorial 15th March 2011:

The Abuse of Private Manning


UPDATE: Scott Greenfield , a US defense lawyer and author of the Simple Justice blog,  was kind enough to respond:

Ellsberg has been a bit of an hysteric about the whole Wikileaks thing, perhaps because it’s the first time he’s been relevant in two generations.  It was one thing for him to come out screaming in support of Assange, but Manning is an entirely different story.  He was a US soldier who betrayed his duty and oath.  Assange had no duty to protect the USA.  Manning chose to be an American soldier, to take that road on his own  Manning has neither right nor moral authority to betray the trust that came with the uniform.
Aside from the problem that Manning’s motives are dubious, his conduct was inexcusable and unjustifiable. He wasn’t doing this to save a life or prevent political catastrophe, but merely dumping a ton of classified content on the internet.  Whether we believe in Assange’s right to publish it, the justification for Assange provides no protection for Manning.  He was a traitor to his country. When you put on the uniform, you give up the right to do things just because you feel like it, and that includes disclosing classified information.

As for Manning’s prison conditions, they aren’t significantly different than max/protective custody for many, both pre and post conviction.  While I’m unaware of any rationale that would explain some of his confinement conditions, especially requiring him to be naked, it’s clearly pretty weird but it’s not exactly torture either.  I won’t assume there’s some great reason for the bizarre conditions, though there might be, but it’s hardly as bad as many, like Hope Steffy in Ohio, suffered, and appears to fall at the outer edge of lawful custodial conditions.
See also: Colin Samuels, a US lawyer and author of Infamy or Praise,  in the comments section

One of my US lawyer blogging friends is Scott Greenfield,  who writes each day about matters which interest him. He is a New York defense lawyer who has a very good understanding of the legal blogosphere in the US (and over here) and his blog, even if you aren’t interested in law, is worth reading for the humour and incisive analysis.

Scott Greenfield writes….

Niki Black: Blogging Is Dead, Dead, Dead (Update)

And..while we are on the subject of blogging…

Blogger Fined $60,000 For Telling The Truth

A Minneapolis blogger was ordered on Friday to pay $60,000 in damages to an ex-community leader who lost his job because of the blogger’s reporting — even though that reporting was accurate.


I’ve been doing a series of podcasts on legal education recently and I am doing a podcast tomorrow with a man in his mid-thirties who made a career change into law in his thirties – taking the full financial burden and risk which this entails.  This article from Legal Week, therefore, is of some interest to me..and is worth a read:

A fresh start – the growing band of professionals targeting law as a second career

I have noticed, with pleasure, that there are quite a few lawyers in the UK using twitter…not to broadcast, not to pump out bulletins about how good they or their firms are, but to take part.  David Allen Green, writing in The Lawyer today, has an interesting piece on Twitter…. Opinion: Twitter is more than just a fad, so don’t miss the boat

(I enjoyed being described as ‘sometimes surreal’.  Fair..and, probably, true..given the nonsense I sometimes write on twitter.)

And finally… I did enjoy this article by Alex Aldridge in The Guardian

Cherie Blair seeks ways to open up the law to working-class students

The Guardian: Widening access to the legal profession is not easy, but Blair has a message to convey: ‘If I can do it, so can you’

Well.. not quite finally… this rather unpleasant banker is worth a look at….

On the subject of bankers you may find this peice from Cory Doctorow interesting….

The Monster: the fraud and depraved indifference that caused the subprime meltdown

Banker suspended after Sunday Mirror challenges Deutsche Bank over £10 taunt to nurses and doctors

The Mirror: Mistaking medics chanting “Save Our NHS” and “No More Cuts” for an ­unemployed mob, he ­sneeringly mouths: “Get a job.” A laughing friend shares his sick joke.Last night the smirk was wiped off the banker’s face after the Sunday Mirror showed the picture to ­German giant Deutsche Bank in London.

8 thoughts on “Law Review: Bradley Manning torture? – Fined for telling the truth – Cherie Booth QC

  1. I’m no expert on either the military justice system generally or the circumstances of Manning’s case particularly. What I know of Manning’s case comes to me via the same press reports others have seen. I’ve no great insights to offer, in other words.

    I don’t know that it’s accurate to say the US reports and coverage are more or less accurate than those in the non-US press. What I can say is that the US reports are conflicted as to the nature of Manning’s incarceration and that these reports seem to fill in the gaps in knowledge with either trust in the military’s/administration’s public positions or supposition that these statements amount to cover-ups of the torture of Manning which MUST be taking place. Either is probably wrong to some degree, based as they are on subjective considerations and predispositions.

    If the foreign press is getting the story “wrong”, I don’t think that this is in misreporting the facts. As far as these are known, they’ve been accurately reported, as far as I’ve seen. Where the foreign media (and many US outlets as well, believe me) are wrong on the Manning story is in conflating it with the Assange matter and with the incarcerations at Guantanamo and the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. These are all separate stories and to stitch them all together into a narrative of cover-up and abuse is misguided.

    Manning was a US soldier, bound to protect not only the interests of this country generally but the classified information entrusted to him particularly. In this, he was very different than Assange, who is not an American and owed this country nothing. To the extent that the US has sought to prosecute Assange, it’s in the wrong; this doesn’t change the fact that prosecuting Manning is right. He betrayed this nation’s trust and it’s not hyperbole to call him a traitor — his actions are the definition of the term.

    Similarly, whatever abuses have been visited upon detainees of the US during these past several years, the assumption that such abuses (and worse) MUST be occurring in Manning’s cell seems without much basis. There is considerable oversight of Manning’s detainment; that that oversight is not more public or more distinct from the military/administration bureaucracy is troubling perhaps, but not automatically indicative of wrongdoing.

    I realize that your linking to Ellsberg’s opinion piece (and that’s just what it is, rather than an objective news article by someone without an agenda in this matter) was to prompt commentary. What he “reported” was not fact; what details he provides are unverified, out-of-context, and presented to support his point-of-view. I’d tend to agree that some of the details which have been cited by Ellsberg and others are at best curious. I’m not sure that “curious” means anything sinister in this instance; out of context, any number of incarceration measures would probably seem curious, particularly to those of us who’ve never been exposed to them firsthand.

    I’m not suggesting that blind obedience to the government line is warranted. Questions should be asked and answers insisted upon. While I’m confident that that will occur in due time, that’s just me speaking from my own prejudices. Regardless, the one fact that we know is this: Manning is a soldier accused of a grievous breach of at least military rules; as such, I see nothing wrong with the military handling his — admittedly high-profile — case in accordance with its rules. That, it seems, is precisely what they’re doing.

  2. Thanks Colin… important to get a reasoned US lawyer’s thoughts on this……

    I suspect that many here would take a tough line with a British soldier who betrayed his country (and, as important, his fellow soldiers?)

    A very complex and interesting issue. The remarks by politicians and ‘others’ in US about ‘executing’ Assange have not been helpful to considered debate.

    Interestingly – there is still no resolution of any case against Assange under The Patriot Act or other US law?

  3. I also note…as did @BlawgReview on twitter – that Bradley Manning has not been tried yet.

    We shall see what happens… in due course…and due process… one assumes.

  4. Re: Manning, to me it’s just not that complex an issue. Even mildly anti-military limousine liberals & way pro-first amendments Yanks like me have a huge problem with what Manning is alleged to have done. And, of course, his uniform gave him an even higher duties and standards with respect to American interests he was sworn to safeguard; he seems to have mucked up that badly. I doubt he was or is being “tortured”–and none of us want him to be.

    But if he’s convicted, I wouldn’t mind it if his guards whacked him around a little, dispensed lots of aggressive “nuggies”–and maybe ended every day by giving old Bradley a 4-man circle-the-wagons “Royal Supreme” Wedgie, if you know what I mean.

    Many journalists don’t get War, Security & Secrets. Especially the European media, in my view. Talk about paranoid poofs.

  5. The US authorities ought to address the concerns being raised about Bradley manning’s treatment. Either allay the concerns or take action to treat him properly as a suspect held in detention. As things are, the standing of the US is being damaged by the reports.

    Bradley Manning has neither been tried nor convicted of anything. It is one thing supporting a tough line on a soldier who discloses secret material but the toughness has to be by way of a judicially imposed sentence after a fair trial and conviction.

    There have always been serious questions hanging over the general fairness of military justice. {Historically the UK had an abysmal system of courts-martial}. These issues have been addressed to a considerable extent by the UK since the changes made by the Armed Forces Act 2006 which introduced a single disciplinary code for all three services and made other reforms.

    I am not sure what the protections are for military prisoners facing court-martial in the US. However, it is probably very doubtful that their military trial process would measure up to the standards requried under the European Convention on Human Rights. I would be delighted if your US legal friends are able to correct me on that observation.

    I would tend to agree with Colin Samuels who argues that issues such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib have little to do directly with Bradley Manning’s case. However, they might all be symptomatic of a general disregard of proper standards by the US authorities when dealing with certain categories of accused persons.

    When Obama was elected he promised to close Guantanamo but has failed to do so. Here, in the UK, the government has entered into an out-of-court and without prejudice (and certainly very expensive) settlement with certain men who alleged mistreatment by US agents possibly with the connivance of UK agents. The men are now locked into a confidentiality clause and so we will never get their stories though we know what was alleged. Further, it is unlikely that the general public will get to see the report of the Gibson Inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture. A further step is that the government are no doubt keen to win the Al Rawi case which is now in the Supreme Court and which would allow “special advocate procedure” in civil proceedings without statutory authority for such procedure. They also plan to legislate to address the whole topic of “government evidence” across the whole range of legal proceedings – (e.g. they have been highly embarrassed by certain inquests into deaths in Iraq and elsewhere and, of course, we have yet to receive the 7/7 Inquest verdicts).

  6. I should say at the outset, that I make comment as a layman and not a lawyer of any description. With all the noise coming from the usual quarters in the USA about Assange’s ‘treason’ and his guilt without trial, linked with his being a soldier, I suppose that the treatment of Bradley Manning is not surprising although it does seem a lot like punishment before trial to me. If this is how the USA normally treats soldiers on remand then I can see how this led to Guantanamo Bay and why it seems quite so monstrous to those in the west who do not necessarily share the addiction to retribution before trial which seems prevalent in the United States.

  7. Pingback: The Torture of Bradley Manning « Nick Boorer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *