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Major Newspapers Editorialize Against Treatment of Bradley Manning

I know that PJ Crowley violated the 11th Commandment – thou shalt not speak ill of the human rights abuses of a fellow Democrat – and so he had to go. But the dismissal of Crowley by the Obama Administration had a perverse effect – it elevated attention to the issue of Bradley Manning’s confinement. Manning has been in a Marine brig for several months, and the traditional media generally ignored it. Now, after Crowley’s departure, both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have editorials criticizing the detention.


Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of handing government files to WikiLeaks, has not even been tried let alone convicted. Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama’s support to do so […]

Forced nudity is a classic humiliation technique. During the early years of the Bush administration’s war on terror, C.I.A. interrogators regularly stripped prisoners to break down barriers of resistance, increase compliance and extract information. One C.I.A. report from 2004 said that nudity, along with sleep deprivation and dietary manipulation, was used to create a mind-set in which the prisoner “learns to perceive and value his personal welfare, comfort and immediate needs more than the information he is protecting.”

The NYT editorial claims that “there is no indication that the military is trying to extract information from him,” but that may not be true; they are likely to be trying to extract a false confessions connecting Manning to Julian Assange directly in some way, so they can charge Assange with espionage.

Here’s the LAT:

Undercutting the argument that Manning needs to be protected from himself is the fact that he is not on suicide watch, which requires a recommendation from a brig mental health official. According to Manning’s attorney, a brig psychiatrist said that Manning’s comment about the elastic in his underwear was in no way prompted by his psychiatric state. It’s unclear whether President Obama knew these details when he told reporters last week that the conditions in which Manning was held were “appropriate” and that “some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety.”

It’s hard to resist the conclusion that punishment, not protection, is the purpose of these degrading measures. Punishment may be in Manning’s future; he was charged last week with an additional 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy. But Manning’s treatment should reflect the fact that he remains innocent until proven guilty.

Both editorials reference the Crowley resignation, and I don’t think either editorial would exist without it. The LAT says that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus should look at all the evidence in the Manning situation and come to a different conclusion than the President and the Defense Department. I don’t have much hope of that. But at least the country is starting to learn about this deplorable treatment, and waking up to how abuses of executive power do not know only one political party.

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David Dayen

David Dayen