1,005 Days Later
Hey, do you remember Bradley Manning?
I’m really not all that surprised that he pled guilty to a number of the lesser charges against him. But since he did, we can set aside questions about the presumption of innocence. He’s guilty of at least some of the things he’s accused of. He will still stand trial, but the issue in the trial will now revolve around questions of his intent. In such a trial, he probably has a fighting chance.
On the one hand, it seems rather arrogant of a Private First Class to think that he could make decisions that would lead to the alteration of public policy. On the other hand, it’s also kind of noble. I’m not saying he’s a hero. I am saying he’s an American.
He may have wanted to reveal things about our military and about our foreign policy. Inadvertently, though, he revealed some things about our justice system. And those things are not cause for national pride.
Manning may have waived his right to a speedy trial. Most defendants do (through counsel). So 45 days after arrest might not be a magic number, and that doesn’t bug me, but even with that waiver in place, I don’t think I’m out of line to say that 1,005 days between arrest and resolution of a pending charge* is simply too long to comport with the idea of a fair justice system, for any justice system purporting to provide due process to its stakeholders, particularly in a case where, as here, the underlying facts are simply not in substantial dispute.
He wasn’t even arraigned until over a year ago.
Meanwhile, Manning was quite poorly treated in his pre-conviction custody in a military detention facility at Quantico, Virginia. Re-read that linked article, if you will — you may remember it from 2010 when it was first published. Remember, until today, he wasn’t guilty of a thing, and with the revocation of his security clearance, he would have been incapable of repeating his crimes even if he were at his liberty. The justification of the treatment was “prevention of injury,” on the theory that he might attempt suicide. After the scandal about his prison treatment conditions erupted, he was transferred in June of 2011 to the principal military prison at Fort Leavenworth and has had social interactions with other prisoners and has not attempted suicide at all.
The processing of charges aren’t done yet: there are still eight serious charges against Manning that await trial, as we near three years since his arrest. Right now, it is anticipated that he will be tried in June of this year. He was arrested on suspicion of espionage and treason in May of 2010.
Moreover, the great apathy with which the American public has considered his case is a conviction of us all. We ought to care that our prisoners are mistreated, that people can’t get trials in reasonable amounts of time, that in practice guilt is presumed. I’m guilty of that apathy to some extent, too; I haven’t been protesting Manning’s ongoing incarceration.
Now, I never thought he was a hero and I have some real problems with what he did. So when I say “Justice for Bradley Manning!” that doesn’t really mean what a lot of his actual supporters mean. “Justice” as I’m using it means access to counsel and judicial process, trial, conviction, and sentencing. But that’s beside the point. I think due process, even more so than secrecy of sensitive information, is part of what makes America strong, and part of what makes America great. Manning hasn’t been getting it. And no one seems to give a shit about it.
The whole thing is shameful. And Manning’s now-admitted guilt has nothing whatsoever to do with that shame — Manning has not shamed us. We have shamed ourselves.
* The article seems to be poorly written; the reduction of time will be in “compensation” for Manning’s poor treatment in his initial confinement at Quantico.