The Wright Perspective℠
Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠
A Blog by Gary Wright II
Over 250 legal scholars are against treatment of PFC Bradley Manning
Monday, April 11th, 2011
How can President Obama (who is a Constitutional Law attorney) not understand how the treatment of PFC Bradley Manning is wrong?
More than 250 of America's most eminent legal scholars have signed a letter protesting against the treatment of PFC Bradley Manning.
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor who is considered to be America's foremost liberal authority on constitutional law. He taught constitutional law to Barack Obama and was a key backer of his 2008 presidential campaign.
Tribe joined the Obama administration last year as a legal adviser in the justice department, a post he held until three months ago.
He told the Guardian he signed the letter because Manning appeared to have been treated in a way that "is not only shameful but unconstitutional" as he awaits court martial in Quantico marine base in Virginia.
Tribe said the treatment was objectionable "in the way it violates his person and his liberty without due process of law and in the way it administers cruel and unusual punishment of a sort that cannot be constitutionally inflicted even upon someone convicted of terrible offences, not to mention someone merely accused of such offences".
Tribe is the second senior figure with links to the Obama administration to break ranks over Manning. Last month, PJ Crowley resigned as state department spokesman after deriding the Pentagon's handling of Manning as "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid".
The intervention of Tribe and hundreds of other legal scholars is a huge embarrassment to Obama, who was a professor of constitutional law in Chicago. Obama made respect for the rule of law a cornerstone of his administration, promising when he first entered the White House in 2009 to end the excesses of the Bush administration's war on terrorism.
As commander in chief, Obama is ultimately responsible for Manning's treatment at the hands of his military jailers. In his only comments on the matter so far, Obama has insisted that the way the soldier was being detained was "appropriate and meets our basic standards".
The protest letter, published in the New York Review of Books, was written by two distinguished law professors, Bruce Ackerman of Yale and Yochai Benkler of Harvard. They claim Manning's reported treatment is a violation of the US constitution, specifically the eighth amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment and the fifth amendment that prevents punishment without trial.
In a stinging rebuke to Obama, they say "he was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency".
Benkler told the Guardian: "It is incumbent on us as citizens and professors of law to say that enough is enough. We cannot allow ourselves to behave in this way if we want America to remain a society dedicated to human dignity and process of law."
He said Manning's conditions were being used "as a warning to future whistleblowers. I find it tragic that it is Obama's administration that is pursuing whistleblowers and imposing this kind of treatment."
-- Gary Wright II
I've written several blog entries on this topic. To read more, visit our page devoted to PFC Bradley Manning .