Yesterday, Col. Denise Lind ruled that the military illegally punished alleged WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning by holding in excessive and effectively punitive conditions during his 9 months at Quantico.
Manning will receive nearly 4 months of credit against any eventual prison sentence, but this is a Pyrrhic victory compared to the torture he endured--9 months of solitary confinement/isolation, humiliation techniques, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and stress positions, which I detail here.
I attended the torture hearing and, for me, what is so striking about this decision is how much it comports will all government investigations of itself:
We messed up, but no one meant to, so no one will be held responsible.What is also striking is the slick and dangerous way in which a person's mental health history can be selectively used or ignored to justify it all.
Judge Lind granted Manning 112 days of credit against any eventual prison sentence. While this is the longest sentencing credit ever granted in an Article 13 (unlawful conditions of pretrial confinement) hearing, it is really minuscule compared to the life imprisonment Manning is facing--and what was done to him at Quantico.
This is not to underplay that fact that this decision is a rare glimmer of justice in the human rights community, and an even rarer acknowledgment of torture. Or the fact that it belies President Obama's statement that Manning's treatment was "appropriate"--something that should convince people (if they don't get it already) that when it comes to torture, you can't rely on the government's empty reassurances and "just trust us" mantra.
Judge Lind exhaustively spent nearly two hours reading her decision aloud (something that's necessary because there are no transcripts or published decisions in this court-martial)--the subject of collateral litigation and another diary.
There were a number of things that were included--and omitted--especially with regard to Manning's mental health.
She spent an inordinate amount of time on Manning's psychological history--far more than was spent in the entire weeks-long hearing--as a way of rationalizing that Quantico officials had a reasonable belief that Manning was a risk of harm to himself. She adopted the Brig's justification for ignoring the recommendation of his treating psychiatrist (Dr. Hocter) that Manning was not a suicide risk. . . namely that the Brig officers didn't trust the doctor and placed their uninformed judgment above his. But while she detailed Manning's psychological history in excruciating detail, she neglected to mention that 4 other mental health physicians reached the same conclusion (to talk him off solitary) and were also ignored.
There was no intent to punish the accused by anyone in the Marine Corps brig staff or chain of commandand that everyone's concern was for Manning's health and getting him safely to trial. This defies credulity for anyone who listened to the horrific testimony, in which officers over and over again expressed their frustration that Manning refused to chat with them--kind of hard when you have to ask the same people for toilet paper every time you relieve yourself--which they also watch.
The judge's utilitarian calculus for sentencing credit is based on the fact that continually holding Manning on “suicide risk” or “prevention of injury” status became "excessive" after a certain point.
But the real point is, it was never necessary, and people should pay attention because Manning's Kafkaesque nightmare at Quantico foreshadows what "indefinite preventive detention" under the National Defense Authorization Act will look like.