“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
These words are enshrined in our Bill of Rights in the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They apply to every American. They apply to Private First Class Bradley Manning.
Private Manning is a twenty-one year old solider accused of leaking confidential information to the news media via WikiLeaks. He has been arrested and held in isolation and solitary confinement for approximately eight months at a military brig in Quantico, Virginia.
He is being treated worse than the most hardened criminal.
Whenever our constitutional liberties are violated, every American’s freedom is threatened. While some have already argued that Private Manning committed treason and should be executed and the government has charged Manning with serious crimes for leaking classified information, no trial has been held. Regardless of your views as to what Private Manning did, under our constitutional system the following rights apply:
First, he is innocent until proven guilty.
Second, he cannot be tortured. He is currently held under conditions that constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment.
Third, like any American accused of a crime, under the 8th Amendment, he is entitled to be released on bail. There is no indication that Private Manning is a threat to flee the United States and he no longer has access to classified information, which is the basis of the charges against him.
Fourth, Private Manning has a right to a fair trial and the right to raise all defenses, including his rights under the First Amendment.
Former State Department official Philip J. Crowley correctly described Private Manning’s treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” We agree with Mr. Crowley’s assessment and would add “cruel and unusual” to describe the conditions under which the Government holds Private Manning.
As explained in a carefully written commentary by Glenn Greenwald published today on Salon.com, Private Manning’s treatment is having a chilling effect on future whistleblowers. His inhumane treatment sends a terrible message to patriotic Americans who want to lawfully disclose government misconduct.
The terms of his confinement are unconstitutional, and under our Bill of Rights Private Manning must be offered the opportunity to be released (i.e. to post bail) prior to trial. If the government goes forward with a prosecution, Private Manning must be able to raise a defense based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
We encourage all Americans to TAKE ACTION on this important issue.