Archive for March 14th, 2011

PFC Bradley Manning – Torture?

On the 18 December 2010 Manning’s lawyer David E. Coombs, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army who served in Iraq (pictured), wrote a very clear and to the point blog post…

A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning

PFC Manning is currently being held in maximum custody. Since arriving at the Quantico Confinement Facility in July of 2010, he has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch…

Today, in The Guardian Daniel Ellsberg, a man who knows a thing or twowrites:

President Obama tells us that he’s asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”

If Obama believes that, he’ll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they’ve been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: “I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.”


The full article is worth reading. I have a fair number of friends in the US law blogging world,  but I have no experience of US law or politics.  If these facts are as stated, it seems to me that the conditions under which PFC Bradley Manning is held could come within the definition of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in any human rights jurisdiction.  I would welcome comment and ‘elucidation’ from American lawyers on this issue.  I shall email my friends in America for their thoughts.

It is, of course, important to remember that Bradley Manning has not been tried yet……

It is also important not to conflate Manning with the Assange issue(s)….

New York Times Editorial 15th March 2011:

The Abuse of Private Manning


UPDATE: Scott Greenfield , a US defense lawyer and author of the Simple Justice blog,  was kind enough to respond:

Ellsberg has been a bit of an hysteric about the whole Wikileaks thing, perhaps because it’s the first time he’s been relevant in two generations.  It was one thing for him to come out screaming in support of Assange, but Manning is an entirely different story.  He was a US soldier who betrayed his duty and oath.  Assange had no duty to protect the USA.  Manning chose to be an American soldier, to take that road on his own  Manning has neither right nor moral authority to betray the trust that came with the uniform.
Aside from the problem that Manning’s motives are dubious, his conduct was inexcusable and unjustifiable. He wasn’t doing this to save a life or prevent political catastrophe, but merely dumping a ton of classified content on the internet.  Whether we believe in Assange’s right to publish it, the justification for Assange provides no protection for Manning.  He was a traitor to his country. When you put on the uniform, you give up the right to do things just because you feel like it, and that includes disclosing classified information.

As for Manning’s prison conditions, they aren’t significantly different than max/protective custody for many, both pre and post conviction.  While I’m unaware of any rationale that would explain some of his confinement conditions, especially requiring him to be naked, it’s clearly pretty weird but it’s not exactly torture either.  I won’t assume there’s some great reason for the bizarre conditions, though there might be, but it’s hardly as bad as many, like Hope Steffy in Ohio, suffered, and appears to fall at the outer edge of lawful custodial conditions.
See also: Colin Samuels, a US lawyer and author of Infamy or Praise,  in the comments section

One of my US lawyer blogging friends is Scott Greenfield,  who writes each day about matters which interest him. He is a New York defense lawyer who has a very good understanding of the legal blogosphere in the US (and over here) and his blog, even if you aren’t interested in law, is worth reading for the humour and incisive analysis.

Scott Greenfield writes….

Niki Black: Blogging Is Dead, Dead, Dead (Update)

And..while we are on the subject of blogging…

Blogger Fined $60,000 For Telling The Truth

A Minneapolis blogger was ordered on Friday to pay $60,000 in damages to an ex-community leader who lost his job because of the blogger’s reporting — even though that reporting was accurate.


I’ve been doing a series of podcasts on legal education recently and I am doing a podcast tomorrow with a man in his mid-thirties who made a career change into law in his thirties – taking the full financial burden and risk which this entails.  This article from Legal Week, therefore, is of some interest to me..and is worth a read:

A fresh start – the growing band of professionals targeting law as a second career

I have noticed, with pleasure, that there are quite a few lawyers in the UK using twitter…not to broadcast, not to pump out bulletins about how good they or their firms are, but to take part.  David Allen Green, writing in The Lawyer today, has an interesting piece on Twitter…. Opinion: Twitter is more than just a fad, so don’t miss the boat

(I enjoyed being described as ‘sometimes surreal’.  Fair..and, probably, true..given the nonsense I sometimes write on twitter.)

And finally… I did enjoy this article by Alex Aldridge in The Guardian

Cherie Blair seeks ways to open up the law to working-class students

The Guardian: Widening access to the legal profession is not easy, but Blair has a message to convey: ‘If I can do it, so can you’

Well.. not quite finally… this rather unpleasant banker is worth a look at….

On the subject of bankers you may find this peice from Cory Doctorow interesting….

The Monster: the fraud and depraved indifference that caused the subprime meltdown

Banker suspended after Sunday Mirror challenges Deutsche Bank over £10 taunt to nurses and doctors

The Mirror: Mistaking medics chanting “Save Our NHS” and “No More Cuts” for an ­unemployed mob, he ­sneeringly mouths: “Get a job.” A laughing friend shares his sick joke.Last night the smirk was wiped off the banker’s face after the Sunday Mirror showed the picture to ­German giant Deutsche Bank in London.

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