Category Archives: comment

A Letter to William Hague

Naomi Colvin
UK Friends of Bradley Manning

Rt. Hon. William Hague MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

28 April, 2011

Dear Mr. Hague,

I hope this letter finds you well.

It has now been over two weeks since Susan Manning wrote to you expressing her concerns about the welfare of her son, Bradley, and the conditions he is experiencing in pretrial detention in the United States.  It is my understanding that Mrs. Manning has not yet received a response from your office.

As you know, just over a week after Mrs. Manning wrote to you – and just over two weeks since your colleague Mr. Henry Bellingham confirmed in the House that diplomatic representations on the subject of Mr. Manning would be made to the US State Department for a second time – Mr. Manning was moved from the marine brig at Quantico, Virginia to the Joint Regional Correction Facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.  The news briefing given by the US Department of Defense on the eve of Mr. Manning’s move suggested that some relaxation in the onerous conditions of his detention might be expected at Fort Leavenworth.

However, as of today, eight days after Mr. Manning’s transfer, there has been no indication that this will in fact be the case.  I note that that the same Department of Defense briefing gave the time-frame for Mr. Manning’s ‘initial assessment’ – upon which any amelioration of his conditions will depend – as “anywhere from five to seven days.”  We are therefore now at the point where some news could be expected.  In the absence of this information, Mr. Manning’s conditions continue to be of considerable concern to his family, friends and many observers around the world.  I note, incidentally, that in my most recent correspondence with the FCO (dated 19 April, copy enclosed), Julie Hannan wrote that “We understand your concerns about Mr. Manning’s treatment.”

In her letter of 13 April, Mrs. Manning requested, on her son’s behalf, that a representative of the British Embassy in Washington visit Mr. Manning, to speak with him and check on his conditions.  Given the lack of information coming from Fort Leavenworth, a visit to ascertain whether Mr. Manning’s conditions have in fact improved would be very welcome at this time.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi Colvin

UK Friends of Bradley Manning

Enc. Julie Hannan 19 Apr 2011 – FCO

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Daniel Ellsberg and Eugene Fidell on “unlawful command influence”

The suspicion that Barack Obama may have prejudiced the legal process against Bradley Manning is not going away. “Unlawful command influence” is, essentially, the misuse of the military chain of command to influence a legal process that not only needs to be independent, but needs to be seen to be so. Here’s how UCI is defined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the rules that govern how Bradley’s case will proceed:

ART. 37. UNLAWFULLY INFLUENCING ACTION OF COURT
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.

The logic of how command influence works in practice was well described by Daniel Ellsberg on Democracy Now yesterday (Tuesday). A transcription of what he said follows below:

Nearly everything the President has said represents a confusion about the state of the law and the extent of his responsibilities.

Everyone has focused on the fact that this commander-in-chief has virtually given a directed verdict to his subsequent jurors who will all be his subordinates in deciding guilt in the trial of Bradley Manning.

He has told them already that their commander, on whom their whole career depends, believes him as guilty and they can disagree with that only at their peril. In career terms it’s clearly enough grounds for a dismissal of the charges, as in my trial, which was dismissed eventually for government misconduct.

Elsewhere, NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski (who broke this hugely important story back in January) reported on the “unlawful command authority” issue this morning. His piece breaks the following new ground:

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, a nonprofit group that promotes the fair administration of justice in the military system, told NBC News that the president’s remark “is unlawful command influence,” which includes an assumption of guilt.

“The president shouldn’t have said it. He should have been more circumspect,” Fidell said.

Eugene Fidell was also cited in the Politico piece last week, but this statement goes further in confirming that – in the opinion of an expert in military law – Obama’s words do indeed constitute unlawful command influence. Fidell goes on to remark that this is not necessarily a problem for the trial, provided that “potential jurors could be screened to ensure they are not aware of the remark.” Presumably, therefore, if there did prove to be difficulties finding jurors who were ignorant of what Obama said on Friday, then that could have serious implications for the viability of any prosecution. A high profile piece on NBC/MSNBC, needless to say, contributes towards that possibility, as does the continuing online coverage of what seems to be, in the eyes of just about everyone, a seriously misjudged Presidential remark.

Update

Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo (he resigned in 2007 amid allegations of political interference in the process) has written an Op-Ed piece for the Los Angeles Times on this subject in which he assesses the likely impact of Obama’s words to be rather serious:

In 1949, Gerald Ford, then a congressman from Michigan, described his firsthand experience with command influence when he served as a Navy officer in World War II. He said: “Too often a court-martial board does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.” Instead, he recalled military jurors retiring to the deliberation room to ponder, “What does the Old Man [the commander] want us to do?”

When the jurors retire to the deliberation room at the Manning court-martial, they will not have to speculate on the answer; arguably the most important “Old Man” of them all has spoken, and he said Manning is guilty.

He also concludes strongly, warning of the danger for America’s moral integrity and external reputation when “the judicial process becomes a stage for political theater — when justice appears to be scripted rather than blind.”  The idea of a predetermined judicial process as a vehicle for “political theater” is one that should raise uncomfortable comparisons in anyone with a more than glancing knowledge of 20th century history.

Update II

A new MSNBC article has appeared this evening with a much more conservative spin (“Obama Comment Unlikely to Affect Outcome of Bradley Manning Trial”) and a new quote from Eugene Fidell:

“It will generate motions by the defense and will require some care in selecting the military members of the jury, a process already complicated by the extensive press coverage of this case,” Fidell said. “It was going to have to be a very careful questioning process for potential jurors, to ask if they have seen reports or read about the case. Now they’ll also have to be asked whether they heard the president’s comment and if that would make any difference to them. But that will be the extent of it, and they’ll get on with the trial.”

Update III

Glenn Greenwald, speaking on Democracy Now, has described Obama as exerting “an amazing amount of improper influence over the military process.”

One of the cardinal rules about being a President is that you don’t decree private citizens guilty of crimes before they’ve been adjudicated of having been convicted of a crime. Amazingly, John Mitchell – the most corrupt Attorney General in American history – knew that, because Richard Nixon once stood up in the middle of the Charles Manson trial, who everyone thought was guilty while the jurors were sequestered and said, “he’s killed eight people.” John Mitchell knew that that was inappropriate, that you can’t do that and forced Nixon toretract it.

Here it’s much worse for Obama do to that because Bradley Manning is a member of the military under his command. The people who will decide his guilt are inferior officers to Obama as Commander in Chief. It’s an amazing amount of over- and improper influence over the military process.

Barack Obama on Bradley Manning – “We’re a nation of laws!”

On Thursday morning Pacific Time, a group of Bradley Manning supporters staged a flashmob at a Barack Obama fundraising event in San Francisco. Even more amazingly, one of those supporters, Logan Price, was able to question the US President directly afterwards:

Here’s a close-to-verbatim account of what was said:

So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.

And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

[Q: Didn’t he release evidence of war crimes?]

What he did was he dumped

[Q: Isn’t that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?]

No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.

I suppose it’s reassuring to hear the US President reaffirming the importance of the rule of law (if not, unfortunately, the principle of innocent until proven guilty). Nevertheless, if “we don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate” maybe he should point this out to James Averhart, who decided off his own back that suicide watch could be used as a means of punishment rather than protection.

Barack Obama might also want to have a quiet word with Denise Barnes about the use of forced nudity as a punitive measure. The President may moreover find it worthwhile to talk to that “senior official” at Quantico who reportedly ruled back in January that Bradley Manning should never have his Prevention of Injury Order lifted, against the repeated recommendations of Quantico psychiatrists. This same official is quoted as saying: “We’ll do whatever we want.”

It seems increasingly evident that at least one civilian and at least one military official at the Pentagon has come to the conclusion that these three individuals and their – how should I put this? Interesting use of initiative? – now have the potential to cause them very serious problems indeed once David Coombs’ writ of habeas corpus receives due consideration. There is ample precedent in case law that members of the US military are entitled to due process in that they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise and that procedures for the relief of their conditions need to work in a fair way and not be subject to the predetermination of military authorities.

Not only do the acts of certain individuals at Quantico risk putting the entire legal process against Bradley Manning in jeopardy, should those inividuals be found to be at fault, there is a mechanism by which they may be found personally responsible. Article 93 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides that “Any person … who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” If the US is indeed a “nation of laws”, then they should have reason to be concerned.

(Many thanks to Marcy Wheeler whose close analysis of who has been saying what to whom provided the impetus for this post.)

Update I

A great piece has just been posted at WLCentral that takes a different – somewhat more pessimistic – slant on Obama’s words, noting that the US President is an individual who very much can “make decisions about how the law operates”:

Ideally, the US is a nation of laws but in reality it is not. The Executive Branch led by the President of the United States can choose what legal restrictions to abide by and what not to and it can choose what violations of the law to prosecute and what not to prosecute.

This being so, the author argues that when a figure with this kind of discretion openly dispenses with any sensitivity to the case being sub judice, the ramifications are very serious indeed:

Displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case. In the same way that criminal and civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz suggested former President George W. Bush was prejudicing the legal process against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he declared [he had] “willfully and repeatedly done great harm” and refused to participate in an event with Assange.

Update II

Michael Whitney at firedoglake clarifies that the writ of habeas corpus David Coombs was considering filing is now “moot” as a result of the move. Shame.

Update III

Barack Obama’s predetermination of the case against Bradley Manning is now being picked up by mainstream media outlets. CBS are now covering the story, the New York Daily News (whose record on reporting this case is not great) concede it “may have run afoul of Presidential protocol” and Politico actually cite a couple of commentators unafraid to take the President to task:

“The comment was not appropriate because it assumes that Manning is guilty,” Steven Aftergood, a classified information expert at the Federation of American Scientists, told POLITICO. “The president got carried away and misspoke. No one should mistake a charge for a conviction – especially the nation’s highest official.”

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice and military law expert, predicted that before the end of the day the White House will have issued a corrective statement.

That “corrective statement” has yet to appear.

Update IV

An updated version of the Politico article includes a not-terribly-convincing response from the White House:

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama was in fact 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,” he said Friday night. “He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically.”

This is, to say the least, an interesting interpretation of the sentence “He broke the law.”

Politico then cite Steven Aftergood and Eugene Fidell on the likelihood of Obama’s comments having an influence on Manning’s court martial:

Aftergood and Fidell agreed that Obama’s remarks — while unfortunate — probably will not affect whether Manning will receive a fair trial. “It’s not that hard to ensure that unlawful command influence hasn’t in fact prejudiced the right to a fair trial,” Fidell explained. “If the case goes to a court marshal, the military court will have to make sure that none of the members of the military jury have been influenced by the president’s stated belief that Manning broke the law.”

It is not surprising that the White House is keen to play down this incident. Military case law indicates that “pretrial publicity itself may constitute unlawful command influence” (United States v. Simpson, 58 MJ 368) and, if this is raised at court martial, the US Government will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the case has not been prejudiced. (United States v. Reed, 65 M.J. 487) Should unlawful command influence be proven, incidentally, then dismissal of the case is possible “as a last resort.” (United States v. Douglas, 68 M.J. 349)

Update V

Glenn Greenwald has now written a typically excellent piece on all this, pointing out the hypocrisy of Obama calling the US a “nation of laws”:

…it’s long been clear that this is Obama’s understanding of “a nation of laws”: the most powerful political and financial elites who commit the most egregious crimes are to be shielded from the consequences of their lawbreaking — see his vote in favor of retroactive telecom immunity, his protection of Bush war criminals, and the way in which Wall Street executives were permitted to plunder with impunity — while the most powerless figures (such as a 23-year-old Army Private and a slew of other low-level whistleblowers) who expose the corruption and criminality of those elites are to be mercilessly punished. And, of course, our nation’s lowest persona non grata group — accused Muslim Terrorists — are simply to be encaged for life without any charges. Merciless, due-process-free punishment is for the powerless; full-scale immunity is for the powerful. “Nation of laws” indeed.

Greenwald also draws attention to this interesting precedent of a US President pre-judging a criminal case. This example involves Richard Nixon and, as Greenwald points out, what Obama has done is arguably far worse:

Amazingly, this incident … 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).

Bradley Manning is leaving Quantico – but does this really change anything?

News broke last night (Tuesday) of Bradley Manning’s “imminent” move from the Quantico marine brig to a new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The Department of Defense held a press conference at 5.30pm their time on Tuesday, putting forward their reasoning for moving Bradley and for doing so at this particular time. The transcript and video of the press conference are available to view in full, but here’s a short clip:

Jeh Johnson, General Counsel at the Department of Defense here argues that, due to Bradley having now given the personal interview required for his mental competency (706 Board) hearing, his “presence in the Washington DC area is no longer necessary for that purpose,” notwithstanding that the review is still ongoing and may not report for a while yet. He went on to say the following:

Many will be tempted to interpret today’s action as a criticism of the pre-trial facility at Quantico. That is not the case. We remain satisfied that Private Manning’s pre-trial confinement at Quantico was in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects, and we salute the military personnel there for the job they did in difficult circumstances.

At this juncture of the case, given the likely continued period of pre-trial confinement, we have determined that the new pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth is the most appropriate one for Private Manning going forward.

That the conditions Bradley has been experiencing have been up until now have been “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards” is, obviously, highly questionable. Moreover, as P.J Crowley has remarked on twitter this afternoon, these remarks could very well be interpreted as an admission that mistakes had been made in keeping Bradley at Quantico for such an extended period. An unnamed military official has been even more candid (“The marines blew it.”)

Other revealing points from the full press conference included:

  • Army Secretary Joseph Westphalcommenting that the detention facility at Fort Leavenworth was a “medium security” one, which offered many resources – but there was no assurance that Bradley Manning would be transferred to a medium security regime from the maximum security plus prevention of injury order he suffers under currently, or that he would be granted access to any of those resources. Should Bradley’s regime continue as it is at present, he would likely be housed in the special confinement unit of the pre-trial facility, which has been described to me as follows:

    These cells are even worse than where Bradley is now, in that the room Bradley will be confined in for 23 hours will have a solid door with only a thin horizontal slot through which meals and mail can be slid through, and a panel at the bottom of the door that guards can open to chain his ankles together before he leaves the cell. Instead of guards constantly watching him through bars, he will have security cameras in his cell. He will have a glass pane for outside light, but not be able to see out or talk to anyone. The isolation is going to be even crueler, if that’s possible.

    While the DoD may say that Brad will be eating in a common area and get to go outside for up to 3 hours of exercise, this is in reality a privilege granted to inmates who are “good prisoners” after they get there, and Brad has been denied every single privilege available to him no matter how well he behaves.

    The likeliness of this eventuality may be indicated by the fact that Army Press updated the special housing unit web page on Monday, in advance of the press conference in which Bradley’s move was officially announced.

  • Jeh Johnson, drawing on his experience of federal trials remarking that, when Bradley does return to Washington to face trial (which he must to as he remains under the jurisdiction of the military authorities there) his trial may very well prove to me “a multi-month if not multi-year experience.”
  • Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, the Commander of the pre-trial facility at Fort Leavenworth, admitting that any changes to the conditions of Bradley’s confinement would be “based upon the initial assessment when he comes into the facility and environment and how he assimilates into the environment.”

Finally – and intriguingly for those who have been watching the UK campaign closely – when asked about the timing of the decision to move Bradley Manning, Jeh Johnson admitted that “We began to look at this a couple of weeks ago.” This dovetails almost exactly with the timing of Ann Clwyd’s adjournment debate of the evening of Monday 4th April, when it was promised that a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington would be making a second diplomatic protest to their counterpart at the US State Department, this time with the background of an official recognition that Bradley Manning is a British citizen by descent.

As reported here earlier today, Ann Clwyd has said that “I am pleased that the campaign to draw attention to the appalling detention treatment of Bradley Manning appears to be having some results, in that he is to be moved to another prison which the US Department of Defense claims will provide better conditions.” We agree with Ann that any indication of better conditions is, at the moment, purely based on the words of the Department of Defense – and, as discussed above, they were careful not to promise that Bradley Manning’s status as a maximum security prisoner under a prevention of injury order will change.

Given that Department of Defence statements on how Bradley Manning is being treated have not been conspicuously reliable in the past (how shall I count the ways? Let’s start with this, this, this and this – not to mention this), we believe that the onus is firmly on the DOD to demonstrate in due course that Bradley’s treatment has improved so that it meets internationally accepted minimum standards. Lifting the Monitoring Order that prevents respected authorities from visiting Bradley in conditions of confidentiality would probably be a good way of achieving this in the first instance and would do much to demonstrate that the DOD is serious about being seen to treat Bradley Manning in a civilised fashion.

(big thanks to Michelle Tackabery for all the background information on Fort Leavenworth)

Update I

Press releases have been issued by Dennis Kucinich and the Bradley Manning Support Network. The latter makes the important point that the move to Kansas places Bradley at some distance from his legal counsel and much of the US side of his family. However, if the Pentagon reckoned that the move would prevent high-profile protests like that seen at Quantico a month ago happening again, they will disappointed: local activists are getting organised and a demonstration is already being planned for 4th June.

Update II

The always-instructive Chirpinator has compiled a selection of Tuesday night’s reaction to the announcement of Bradley’s move on twitter.

Update III

Bradley Manning is now at Fort Leavenworth. His family have welcomed the move with Bradley’s aunt Sharon expressing the view that the ongoing campaign was responsible for these latest developments.

Update IV

Good to see that Amnesty feel similarly to us:

“We believe sustained public pressure for the US government to uphold human rights in Bradley Manning’s case has contributed to this move” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas.

“We hope Bradley Manning’s conditions will significantly improve at Fort Leavenworth, but we will be watching how he is treated very closely. His conditions at Quantico have been a breach of international standards for humane treatment of an untried prisoner.”

The organisation will be monitoring the conditions under which Bradley Manning is confined at Fort Leavenworth following the risk assessment Manning will undergo upon arrival there, which could last up to a week.

“Until this assessment, it is still not possible to know how Bradley Manning is going to be treated, and what restrictions he will be under at the new detention centre,” said Susan Lee.

“Bradley Manning is entitled to be treated humanely and, as an unconvicted prisoner, to the presumption of innocence and to be held under the least restrictive detention conditions possible.”

As does Dennis Kucinich on the reliability of DOD statements:

“Frankly, I don’t believe anything they say when it comes to Bradley Manning.”

Complete footage of Kucunich’s Wednesday interview with MSNBC may be viewed at firedoglake.

Press release from Ann Clwyd MP – Bradley Manning to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth

We have just received the following press release from Ann Clwyd MP, whose action at the Parliamentary level has done much to make US Government action on the conditions of Bradley Manning’s confinement unavoidable:

“I am pleased that the campaign to draw attention to the appalling detention treatment of Bradley Manning appears to be having some results, in that he is to be moved to another prison which the US Department of Defense claims will provide better conditions.

“Campaigners in the US and the UK, however, will continue their support for Bradley, since his imprisonment at the Quantico Marine Base has not, according to his lawyer, been “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects”, as was claimed by the US Department of Defense in their press briefing.

“I am in close contact with Bradley’s mother and family in Wales and they have many concerns about his welfare. I share their concerns.”

Ann Clwyd

Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP
Member of Parliament for the Cynon Valley
Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Right
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Visiting Bradley Manning – Can Quantico Deny Consular Access? (Part I)

The list of elected representatives expressing their concerns over the conditions of Bradley Manning’s pre-trial detention is growing. On Wednesday, the human rights committee of the German Bundestag released details of a letter that had been sent to Barack Obama describing those conditions as “unnecessarily hard and [of] a penalizing character.” This follows questions asked in the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and of course at Westminster (which has now brought us to this wonderful point).

Notwithstanding these successes, the answer supplied to one of those questions deserves some attention; it comes from Catherine Ashton, Vice President of the European Commission and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy:

EN
E-001527/2011
Answer given by High Representative / Vice President Ashton
on behalf of the Commission
(5.4.2011)
The EU institutions are aware of the allegations referred to in the question. We have received no independently verifiable information that would substantiate the allegation of torture to soldier Bradley Manning. But we treat the publicly available reports with all the seriousness due to any allegation of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and will continue to monitor how these are being dealt with by the US authorities.

At this point, it is clear that “independently verifiable information” about what is happening to Bradley is sorely needed. It is therefore unfortunate that Quantico seem to be determined to obstruct attempts to gather that information at every turn. As has been widely reported, on Friday Bradley’s legal representative David Coombs announced that the US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Amnesty and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez had all been denied the opportunity to speak to Bradley in a private, unmonitored situation. The marine brig’s own rule book (paragraph 3.17b) defines such an ‘official’ visit as follows:

These visits are for the purpose of conducting official government business, either on behalf of the prisoner or in the interest of justice. Visits from lawyers. military officials. civilian officials, or anyone listed as a privileged correspondence in paragraph 3.17f of this regulation, having official business to conduct are considered official visits and may be authorized by the Commanding Officer to visit at any time during normal working hours.

The denial of such a status to the UN Special Rapporteur is highly irregular and means that he cannot carry out his job: not only has Bradley been given good reason in the past not to comment about the conditions of his detention in front of military personnel, the Pentagon has made clear that anything Bradley says in such a monitored situation may potentially be presented in evidence against him at trial.

To have a prominent UN official announcing that he is “”deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication” of multiple branches of the US Government should be embarrassing enough – and let’s be quite clear here, it is profoundly embarrassing, not least when public concern has produced half a million signatures on an Avaaz petition and what looks to be a top-10 showing in Time’s 100 poll – but, if anything, the denial of ‘official’ status to Dennis Kucinich is even more difficult to justify. The brig rules cited above stated that anyone who met the criteria for ‘privileged’ (ie. non-intercepted) correspondence would automatically qualify to visit in an official capacity. The categories of privileged correspondence, according to the brig rules, are as follows:

a. The President or Vice President of the United Siaies.
b. Members of Congress of the United States.
c. The Attorney General of the United States and Regional Offices of the Attorney General.
d. The Judge Advocale General of each military service or his/her representatives.
e. Prisoners Defense Counsel or any military/civilian attorney of record.
f. Any attorney listed in professional or other directories or an attorney’s representative.
g. Prisoner’s clergyman, when approved by the chaplain.

That Dennis Kucinich, who is after all a member of the US Congress, was denied the status of an official visitor therefore appears to be a quite egregious breach of the rules. In an article published on Wednesday, Kucinich revealed a little more about the dimensions of the situation:

When Pfc. Manning indicated his desire to meet with me, I was belatedly informed that the meeting could only take place if it was recorded because of a Monitoring Order imposed by the military’s Special Courts-Martial Convening Authority on September 16, 2010, which was convened for the case. Confidentiality is required, however, to achieve the candor that is necessary to perform the oversight functions with which I am tasked as a Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I was also told that I could be subpoenaed to testify about the contents of my conversation with Pfc. Manning.

This is a clear subversion of the constitutionally protected oversight process and it severely undermines the rights of any Member of Congress seeking to gather information on the conditions of a detainee in U.S. custody.

It therefore appears that it is the existence of this Monitoring Order that lies behind the Pentagon’s assertion that only lawyers are allowed to visit Bradley Manning without those visits being monitored and it seems that official visits will continue to be denied until the Order is lifted.

There may yet be another means of securing “independently verifiable information” on the conditions of Bradley’s confinement, however. On Wednesday morning, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office acknowledged the receipt of an official request for consular access from Bradley’s mother. In her letter, Susan Manning specifically asks that an official of the British embassy be sent to see Bradley (“if you can make that happen”) to “check on his conditions.” Susan also notes that “I do not believe that Bradley is in a position to be able to request this himself, so I am asking as his mother on his behalf.”

***

Juan Mendez’s condemnation of the United States’ refusal to allow him unmonitored access to Bradley Manning was a big enough story to make it on to Channel 4 news:



PART II – preview

Not only is the obligation of states to respect other countries’ requests for consular access enshrined in treaty law, our research indicates that specific rules governing the access of British consular officials to nationals held in pre-trial detention in the United States guarantee the right of those consular officials “to converse privately” with the subject of their visit – something which is also noted in the advice the US State Department provides their own consular staff. As agreements between sovereign states, ratified by Congress, these pieces of international legislation would presumably overrule the guidelines of the Quantico brig. Further information on this will appear here very shortly.

(Many thanks to Serena Zanzu for the European Parliament link)

Today in Parliament – Bradley Manning’s Citizenship Status Confirmed

At just after 10pm this evening (Monday) Ann Clwyd MP addressed the House of Commons on the subject of ‘The Treatment of Bradley Manning’.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Ann for her continued support and tenacity, which has brought frankly amazing results this evening.  We will post the full transcript of the debate as soon as it appears in Hansard (the official verbatim record of Parliamentary proceedings) but here, in the meantime, is a summary of the response of Henry Bellingham MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  It covers some incredibly important ground.

Henry Bellingham noted that the case was of concern not only to a number of MPs, but “obviously” in Wales as well as in the country as a whole.

He then asserted the place of human rights as “an irreducible core” of UK foreign policy. Furthermore, an essential part of that core is a commitment to the eradication of “cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

“The conditions an individual is detained in must meet international standards… this is particularly important in pretrial detention.”

When determining what level of security is appropriate pre-trial, factors such as the seriousness of the offence and the safety of the defendant may be taken into account, but ultimately conditions must be justified by the relevant authority in each instance.

In general, the UK feels that pre-trial conditions in the United States meet internationally recognised standards; they are also open to be challenged by defendants.

Furthermore, Barack Obama has been questioned about the conditions Bradley Manning is experiencing in pretrial detention and has said that he has been assured that these are “appropriate and meet basic US standards.”

Bellingham went on to note that the US has an “effective and robust judicial system,” that Bradley Manning was receiving active legal representation and that “we must not interfere” in this process.

Notwithstanding all the above, if concerns are raised then, as a government, “we have an obligation to listen.” On 16th March Ann Clwyd raised concerns to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee. A day later, Ann raised the issue again in the House during Business Questions. An Early Day Motion was presented.

It appears that these concerns are widely shared. Henry Bellingham noted that over 30 MPs had reported their constituents’ concerns to the Foreign Office.

On 29th March a senior official in the British Embassy in Washington called his counterpart in the US State Department. He handed over a copy of the “uncorrected evidence” of Ann Clwyd’s exchange with William Hague at the Foreign Affairs Committee, together with a copy of Early Day Motion 1624. This official drew attention to the fact that this debate in the UK now existed at the level of Parliamentary interest.

Bellingham notes that the representative of the US State Department took note of the above and agreed to take these concerns forward. This shows, said Bellingham, how “the strength of our relationship empowers us to raise difficult issues.”

Bellingham acknowledged that “many feel we should do more.” He stressed that he could not comment directly on Mr Manning’s citizenship status – partly out of respect for his privacy and partly because it would be inappropriate to do so without Mr Manning’s express consent. Bellingham also noted that Mr Manning’s military lawyer David Coombs had noted in a blog post that Bradley does not hold a current UK passport and “does not consider himself British.” Bellingham asserted that “it is clear he is not asking for our help” and therefore the standing of the UK Government in this matter is limited.

However, Henry Bellingham then acknowledged that Ann Clwyd’s “understanding of the British Nationality Act is accurate.” A child born abroad after 1983 to a British citizen “not by descent” automatically acquires citizenship at birth.

[& Bradley Manning is therefore a British citizen… just in case anyone reading this was still in any doubt]

Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP for New Forest East was then allowed to interject. He noted that Bradley Manning has been accused of extremely serious offences and that the viability of any resulting prosecution might well be brought into question by abuses occurring pre-trial. The US Government was in danger of snatching “defeat out of the jaws of a sort of victory.”

Henry Bellingham was then given leave to continue. He counselled all in the Chamber to “recognise the limitations on UK involvement.” To date, he noted that the UK Government had not received a request for consular access from the family, but that “we will look at such a request” if one were made. In the meantime, Mr Manning does have access to legal counsel and “we are confident that US judicial processes are sound.” He concluded by assuring the House that in light of this debate he “would instruct our embassy to again report our concerns to the State Department.”

To summarise – the British Government has tonight recognised that Bradley Manning is a citizen of the United Kingdom. His plight is of wide concern in the UK, as evidenced by over thirty MPs conveying their constituents’ concerns onwards to the Foreign Office – and, by the way, all those reading this who did write to their MP should feel very proud of themselves right now.

The Government has also revealed that representations about Bradley’s treatment have been made on a diplomatic level and that they will be again as a result of tonight’s debate. Not only this, but Parliament has been assured that a request for consular access from the family will be “looked at” should one be made. Tonight’s events have been extraordinarily positive and we trust that developments on this latter point will emerge in short order.

Update

The full proceedings may now be viewed in Hansard. Ann Clwyd’s address is well worth reading in full, but here’s an extract:

I am not raising Bradley Manning’s case because he is a British national but because I believe his treatment is cruel and unnecessary and that we should say so. I am also chair of the all-party group on human rights and so I often raise human rights cases from around the world. They might be in Burma, Chechnya, East Timor, China, or, sadly, too many other places besides. I do not raise them because they involve British citizens, but because they involve human rights abuses or wrongdoing and because I am in politics because I want to do something to try to stop those things happening.

I want the British Government to raise Bradley Manning’s treatment with the US Administration because his treatment is cruel and unnecessary and we should be saying so. We cannot deny, however, that Bradley’s connection to the UK adds an additional dimension.

Bradley’s mother, Susan, is Welsh and lives in Pembrokeshire. Bradley lived and went to school in Wales between the ages of 13 and 17. There is a great deal of interest in the UK, and in particular in Wales, in Bradley’s case and much of that is grounded in his close connection to the UK. Both London and Wrexham have seen protests against Bradley Manning’s treatment, and I pay tribute to those people in the UK who have raised his case.

Perhaps the Minister will take this opportunity to clarify, on the record, just what the position is with regard to British nationality. My understanding is that under the British Nationality Act 1981 anyone born outside the UK after 1 January 1983 who has a mother who is a UK citizen by birth is British by descent. Perhaps the Minister will assist us by confirming that that is the case. I am aware that Bradley Manning’s lawyer has issued a statement that Bradley is not asserting any kind of UK nationality. I know that, but from the point of view of British law, is it the case that Bradley Manning qualifies for British nationality?

Part of Bradley’s family live in Pembrokeshire and their son is in a military prison in Virginia in the US. They are being contacted by journalists, campaigners and politicians who are trying to raise the case. This is a difficult situation for any family to deal with. What kind of consular, official or other support could be made available to Bradley’s mother and family? When they visit Bradley in the US, for example, can they expect assistance from British embassy staff in the US? Can they receive advice and assistance in understanding the charges faced by their son, and perhaps advice, too, about the issue of British nationality?

I hope that the Minister can give two undertakings tonight-first, that the British Government will officially raise the case with the US Administration, and secondly, that the Government will consider what support they could provide to the British family of Bradley Manning as they try to do whatever they can to help Bradley.

Update II

The Bradley Manning Support Network have just issued a press release praising the latest British developments:

“We welcome the support of the MPs, who join Amnesty International and activists worldwide in urging the U.S. to end this inhumane pretrial punishment,” said Jeff Paterson, steering committee member of the Bradley Manning Support Network and project director of Courage to Resist. “Thirty-seven British parliamentarians have shown their commitment to justice and a fair trial,” said steering committee member Mike Gogulski. “We hope to see twice as many American legislators respond with a similar motion.”

Update III

Ann Clwyd’s speech may now be viewed online, together with Henry Bellingham’s reponse – which provides the official Government confirmation of Bradley’s citizenship status:





Confirmation that the UK Government is now applying diplomatic pressure on behalf of its citizen, Bradley Manning, has been covered widely in the international press with only the BBC’s own parliamentary coverage failing to be fully candid about the salient facts. I am aware of reports on WL Central and firedoglake, in the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, CBC, The Register and from AP. New York Magazine and The Guardian have been kind enough to quote me in their coverage and I note that Alan Rusbridger specifically emphasised the importance of Bradley’s case when accepting an award for Newspaper of the Year at the Press Awards last night.

I also note that three additional signatures have now been added to Early Day Motion 1624, which brings the total up to 40.

(with thanks to leaksource.wordpress.com and to Alex Weir)