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National Lawyers Guild calls for dismissal of charges against Bradley Manning

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls for the dismissal of all charges against Bradley Manning. The Army announced on Friday that Manning will face a general court martial for allegedly leaking classified information about U.S. policy and practices relating to, among other things, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NLG President David Gespass, said, “Manning’s prosecution is calculated to distract us from the real problem, that the U.S. government is once again hiding from the public proof of crimes committed in our name.”

More below

Kathleen Gilberd, executive director of the NLG’s Military Law Task Force (MLTF) said, “Manning is being prosecuted for patriotic acts akin to the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. His prosecution highlights both the way that military proceedings subvert fundamental due process rights and the dangers of government secrecy to a free society.”

The potential for prosecutorial abuse stems from the power that commanding officers have as the convening authorities over court martial hearings. The convening authority selects the officer who first investigates a case, recommends charges against the accused, and then selects the “members” of the court martial, who form the jury. Particularly in a high profile case such as this, where the government has already indicated its determination to convict and punish Manning, the ability of the convening authority to control the process and the outcome is overwhelming.

“The court martial system is fraught from beginning to end with the danger of command influence,” noted MLTF Chair James Branum. “It has permeated this case from the beginning and emanated from the Commander-in-Chief on down, making due process impossible. In this situation, dismissal of all charges is the only just option.”

Manning was treated by the military detention system in an absolutely despicable manner. Held without trial or charges for almost a year, in inhumane conditions easily bordering on torture. The only person within the Administration to speak out on this was promptly forced to resign.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned Sunday, just days after publicly criticizing the detention conditions of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking reams of classified information to WikiLeaks. Crowley's departure was first reported by CNN.

During an event on Thursday in Cambridge, Mass., Crowley called the treatment of Manning, whom military jailers forced to sleep naked for several days last week, "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

Manning is subject to trial by court martial in the military justice system. The Commander In Chief of the military is President Barack Obama. An officer who goes against the will of the President will find his or her career dead-ended or downhill fairly quickly, particularly if the treatment of P.J. Crowley over at the State Department is any indication. President Obama made it impossible, then, for Private Manning to receive a fair trial, when Obama said:
We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.
Certainly this was unfair, and it raises the question of whether there is any possibility of Bradley Manning receiving a fair trial, when any officer that would rule in Manning's favor risks severe career-ending repercussions. The Uniform Code of Military Justice has Articles against the influencing of court martial proceedings by those in the chain of command, and at least one lawyer with expertise in military law has raised questions of whether or not Obama broke federal law with his proclamation of Manning's guilt.
(a) No authority convening a general, special, or summary court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings. No person subject to this chapter may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case, or the action of any convening, approving, or reviewing authority with respect to his judicial acts.
It is likely that a military court would reject an undue command influence challenge, but that does not take away the unfairness to the defendant. The military jurors, or members, are under the command of Obama as commander and chief. Obama is poisoning the jury pool with such statements and as a lawyer (let alone a law professor) he should be ashamed.

By the way, Obama does not seem nearly so committed to the rule of law for Bush officials, including Bush himself, who are accused of war crimes. When it came to those crimes, Obama has blocked criminal investigations, let alone prosecutions. “He broke the law” is not sufficient for Obama when the political costs of prosecution make application of the law too inconvenient.

As a military veteran, I absolutely agree with the National Lawyer's Guild and with lawyers Glenn Greenwald and Jonathan Turley. This Administration has been tireless and merciless in it's pursuit, not of those that commit war crimes, but the whistleblowers who make those war crimes public. You may be sanguine about that, but it turns my stomach.

At minimum, the charges should be dismissed. At maximum, Manning should be hailed as a hero, and receive the Nobel Peace Prize for which she has been nominated.

Edit: Use of the female pronoun at the end there is not a typo. Private Manning reportedly identifies as a female, and I have this quote from the diary On Bradley Manning, The Nobel Prize, Gender Identity, and Security Risks in mind:

In his communications he said he would not mind being caught if it wasn't for the fact that he would be portrayed as a male doing these things instead of a female (because of his gender crisis).
Respecting her wishes is the least I can do.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Great diary. Thank you. (6+ / 0-)

    (I sent you a message through DK)

    We delivered. They failed us. We have moved on. (h/t to my good friend)

    by gooderservice on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 02:34:00 PM PST

  •  I'm agree on this issue... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poligirl, opinionated, elwior, Simplify

    Anyone know if there's some kind of petition to sign, or something?


    Free Assange!


    Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle.

    by Radical def on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 02:34:58 PM PST

  •  yes, this is where the President is wrong. (11+ / 0-)

    Not the other stupid crap the Republicans and the media wave in our faces every day.

    A man, a plan, a canal, Panama

    by Karl Rover on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 02:37:12 PM PST

  •  Might be the only way to get him out, a fair (11+ / 0-)

    trial wouldn't seem in the cards. Compare the treatment of Manning with that of War Criminal George Bush, that's our nation of laws.

  •  Two questions: (5+ / 0-)

    Can we now state that someone has broken a law in the absence of a court finding of guilt?

    If a law is so repugnant to the supposed values of our country is it wrong to 'break' that law?

    Roman Catholic by birth---thoroughly confused by life.

    by alasmoses on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 02:47:54 PM PST

    •  MLK in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" said (8+ / 0-)
      "There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all... One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly...I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law."
    •  of course you can state that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      someone is guilty. Judges can't, but I don't see why the president couldn't. If you have any legal authority to support your proposition, I'd love to see it, but it flies in the face of common sense that a president is bound by the same duties as a judge.

      •  As Commander in Chief, the President (9+ / 0-)

        has, at the very least, a special relation to the military justice system. If Manning were facing civilian charges, your point might make sense.

        How can anyone ever be confident now that the military tribunal will act entirely fairly, that they won't be influenced in their ruling, won't hesitate to cross the express wishes of the guy atop their hierarchy?

        When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

        by PhilJD on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 03:46:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe Manning's lawyer will request dismissal (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib, johnny wurster

          based on your argument. And when that dismissal is rejected, we can get on with our lives.

          Can we get real here? The judge is going to instruct the court members to disregard anything they've heard about the case outside of the trial. And the judge is going to take it as a matter of honor that the court members will be able to do just that. Whether Manning's admirers believe it or not is not particularly relevant.

          •  I have no reason to think that a military tribunal (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            poligirl, jabbausaf

            is more venal than a civilian court. I don't doubt that justice is possible in that system.

            There's no reason to consider military courts less venal than civilian ones either though. Civilian courts are susceptible to all sorts of influences; of course the military tribunal will be influenced-- to an unknown & unknowable degree-- by the prejudgement of the Commander in Chief.

            Welcome to the Real World. Not just a TV show anymore.

            When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

            by PhilJD on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 04:55:42 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Phil - as you know a courts martial under the UCMJ (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              johnny wurster

              is not a "tribunal".

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 06:03:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  FIrst of all, the WH issued a later statement (0+ / 0-)

              walking away from that "pre-judgement" and saying that the trial should not be influenced by it. Your crowd continues to skip that part. If you're convinced that the court members will be influenced by a "pre-judgement" (I think that is bullshit), then you'll have to be consistent and say that they'll be influenced by the later statement as well.

              Let me ask you this: Were you on the jury, would YOU be unable to disregard the CiC "prejudgment" when evaluating the case? I know from your posts that you are a strong minded person, and I am confident that you would indeed be able to disregard such outside influence. And I think the court members will be able to do the same. I don't presume that they are a bunch of weak-minded saps.

              Second, yes this is the "real world". And that's too bad for Manning. Would that he did not buy into the Chomsky-ite fantasies and get it into his head that releasing 250k diplomatic cables was righting a wrong of some kind.

              The President and Manning's admirers pretty much agree on the facts of the case. I don't get why your harping on something the President said (then walked back) when he said what Manning's admirers celebrate Manning as a hero for.

        • don't have any authority. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          That's more or less what I expected.

      •  Common sense... (6+ / 0-)

        Was apparently more common during the Nixon years.

        UPDATE: In response to the controversy created by Obama’s declaration of Manning’s guilt,the White House now says that the President merely was “making a general statement that did not go specifically to the charges against Manning: ‘The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act,’ [a White House spokesman said] Friday night. ‘He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically’.” What Obama actually said was: “He broke the law.” I’ll leave it to readers to determine whether the White House’s denial is reasonable, or whether it’s the actions of a President constitutionally incapable of admitting error (h/t auerfeld).

        Amazingly, this incident — as this truly excellent post documents — is highly redolent of the time Richard Nixon publicly declared Charles Manson’s guilt before the accused mass murderer had been convicted. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, was at Nixon’s side when he did it and immediately recognized the impropriety of Nixon’s remarks, and the White House quickly issued a statement claiming that Nixon misspoke and meant merely to suggest Manson had been ”charged” with these crimes, not that he was guilty of them. Obama’s decree was worse, of course, since (a) Obama has direct command authority over those who will judge Manning (unlike Nixon vis-a-vis Manson’s jurors); (b) Manson’s jurors were sequestered at the time and thus not exposed to Nixon’s proclamation; and (c) Obama is directly responsible for the severe punishment to which Manning has already been subjected (h/t lysias).

        It is notable indeed that an act immediately recognized as grossly improper by John Mitchell — “easily American history’s crookedest Attorney General ever” — is engaged in by our nation’s top political-leader/Constitutional-scholar, and no attempt is made to rectify it until it becomes clear that the controversy could harm both Manning’s prosecution and the President’s political standing.

        Emphasis mine.
      •  Yes, you and I can say, "Guilty!" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PhilJD, gooderservice, poligirl, Simplify

        I wasn't exact in the phrasing of my question. I meant to imply that those in a position of authority over the outcome of a verdict shouldn't proclaim guilt or innocence prior to an appropriate finding of such.

        President Obama is in the line of authority in this matter and his words have the grand potential of having an impact on the outcome.

        While not as powerful as a prospective juror say, "Yep, he's guilty" and this individual not being struck for cause, or the 'trial' judge or even the Chief Judge of whatever entity is in charge weighing in on the issue of guilt, it is so potentially influential, in my view, to be at a minimum, inappropriate.

        Roman Catholic by birth---thoroughly confused by life.

        by alasmoses on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 03:57:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You can't be serious: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PhilJD, poligirl, SouthernLiberalinMD
        of course you can state that someone is guilty. Judges can't, but I don't see why the president couldn't
        Do you not understand that the very same people who are subordinates to Obama are the ones who will decide the verdict?

        If your boss told you that an employee was guilty of something, and you were in charge of deciding the guilt or innocence of the employee, are you telling me that your boss' declaratory statement on the matter wouldn't influence your judgment?

        Are you really saying that?

        We delivered. They failed us. We have moved on. (h/t to my good friend)

        by gooderservice on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 04:17:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  goodservice - I agree it was an Obama blunder (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          however, it will not have an impact on this case. Manning never stood a chance before the President made the statement and surely stands no chance now. He was always going to be found guilty. The President does not write anyone's fitness report. The members of the panel are more concerned about their immediate superior officers than the President, and that has not changed.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 06:07:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I hear what you're saying, but do you believe (0+ / 0-)

            and are you saying that any member of the panel doesn't know X and Y person and doesn't want to get that extra star?

            You never know who you're dealing with and what they want and who they know.

            We delivered. They failed us. We have moved on. (h/t to my good friend)

            by gooderservice on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 06:56:57 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  goodservice - everyone in the Army is going (0+ / 0-)

              to know who is on the panel. If the Army has ANY evidence, even circumstantial, that Manning released any confidential material he will be found guilty. No one will ever want to be the person who voted for an acquittal for Manning. It would be career ending, and that has absolutely nothing to do with President Obama. In additions to Manning's civilian lawyers it will be interesting to see who is the military lawyer defending him. My guess is that it will be someone ready to retire or about to leave the service at the end of their commitment.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 07:48:08 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  I think your concern is disingenous, and you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          johnny wurster

          are reaching for something, anything, to try to defend Manning (even as you celebrate what he did as heroic).
          That's what it looks like to me.

          And no, my boss wouldn't influence me were I on a jury. I'd take my jury responsibilities seriously. I've disagreed with my bosses before in the course of my real job, told them they were wrong to their faces; and either win the argument or not. Why would I be afraid to do so on a jury? Or are you that chicken-shit of your boss that you'd do whatever he said on a jury? I seriously doubt it.

          Here's the real deal: nobody on the jury is going to give a shit what the President said, because they know the President is not going to either punish them or reward them based on whatever action they take on the jury. The jury members likely (and rightly) will assume that the President won't even know who they are because he won't care to learn their identities. Lastly, with folks like you harping on this, it's even less likely (if there were any likelihood in the first place) that the President would reward or punish the jury members based on their decision, because guys like you would raise holy hell. Hell, I could argue htat Manning has an evern BETTER chance of walking due to the jury wanting to show that they weren't influenced bye ht Pres and therefore intentionally decided in the opposite direction of the Pres. statement. (I could argue that, but I won't; as I said to Phil, I doln't htink the jury members will be affected at all, I don't think they are weak-minded or weak-willed saps, cowering in their boots, afraid to decide in accordance with or contrary to whaever the President said).

          I repeat that I think your concern is disingenuous, and I submit that not even you believe what you're saying. It's just an academic argument made in desperation to throw anything at the wall hoping something will stick.

          •  OK, I am walking back the last paragraph. (0+ / 0-)

            I was wrong to submit that you don't believe what you're saying. I think you do believe it. But I still think you are making that argument more as a rhetorical device than a out of a strong concern over it. I think you think that in theory the jury would be influenced by the Pres statement, but I don't think you really think the outcome of the trial will be altered by that statement.

            Feel free to correct me and set me straight. :)

          •  Sorry, but I don't care what you think about what (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I say.

            Especially since you turned this into some fictitious "jury," which it will not be.


            But carry on. I hope you have a great night.

            By the way, you do know, don't you, that the "jury" will be made up by the military, people who come under the command of Obama. It's not some mom and pop "jury" they choose from people walking down the street.

            Here's the real deal: nobody on the jury is going to give a shit what the President said, because they know the President is not going to either punish them or reward them based on whatever action they take on the jury.
            I'm sorry that you don't understand how it works. But I don't blame you. A lot of people don't.

            We delivered. They failed us. We have moved on. (h/t to my good friend)

            by gooderservice on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 07:31:42 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Are you familiar with the court martial process? (0+ / 0-)

            Since Private Manning is subject to the UCMJ and not to the civilian court system, it would behoove you to become familiar with that process if you are not already. The expressed wishes of the Commander-in-Chief, who is in charge of the Secretary of Defense, who is in charge of the Department of Defense, carry a heavy weight with officers in the military controlled by that Department of Defense.

      •  In my country for any politician to comment on the (0+ / 0-)

        guilt of an individual prior to conviction would be seen as undermining the judicial system. (Same with the media. ) I can remember it happening just once by a government member and the politician had to go before the judge to explain herself and apologise. She was very lucky not to be held in contempt and certainly the defendants barrister used the remarks to argue he couldn't get a fair trial.

    •  Er yeah, presumption of guilt there (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I wish this weren't the side of Lincoln Obama chose to emulate.

      Rule of law? What's that? If I don't like what a Supreme Court Justice does, I can just throw him in jail!

      Being ignored is the difference between being a one percenter and an American.--sweeper

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 06:32:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Even if they find Manning guilty, he's already (8+ / 0-)

    served his time, not so much in minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years but the way he's been treated. No human being should have had to be subjected to that treatment.

    The people who treated him like they did should all be fired or discharged from whatever jobs they had, and it's time for Bradly to learn how to reacquaint himself in society. They should provide all the counseling and any other help he needs to readjust.

    We delivered. They failed us. We have moved on. (h/t to my good friend)

    by gooderservice on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 02:55:33 PM PST

  •  Bradley Manning is a political prisoner. (5+ / 0-)

    Speaking Truth to power, or allowing the sun to shine upon the Truth should not be called criminal.


    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 03:07:28 PM PST

  •  The fact that Manning identifies as a woman (4+ / 0-)

    casts an even darker light on the forced nudity she endured for months.

    When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

    by PhilJD on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 04:47:55 PM PST

  •  I call for the abolition of gravity. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Escamillo, VClib

    That ties me with the NLG in the silliness department. But enough about that.

    This stuff is harmful to Manning because it dilutes the vital advocacy in favor of his humane treatment and due process with stupid advocacy in favor of anyone and everyone's ability to leak anything and everything, wholly at their own discretion, without consequences. Since hardly anyone believes in the latter such advocacy makes it way harder than it should be to develop popular support for the former.

    This is an unfortunate aspect of progressive advocacy on a wide range of issues.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 04:59:45 PM PST

  •  Command influence (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, jabbausaf

    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 05:20:00 PM PST

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