President Obama said Pfc. Bradley Manning “broke the law” in a speech last week, interfering with Manning’s constitutional right to a fair trial by pre-judging the evidence. [Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2011]
The president, as commander in chief, ultimately is responsible for the fairness of court-martial proceeding in which Manning is accused of “aiding the enemy” by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
“Command influence is the mortal enemy of military justice” was the 1986 finding of the chief appellate judge of the US armed forces, according to a Times’ op-ed by Morris Davis, chief prosecutor at Guantanamo from 2000 to 2007. Obama’s remarks would seem to violate that judicial precept.
Ironically, the Wikileaks cables released this week document systemic abuse in the legal proceedings against some 700 detainees at Guantanamo, casting greater doubt on whether any military proceeding against Manning can be impartial. While Manning is silenced, the mainstream media continues to benefit from the stream of revelations, making Wikileaks “a large player in journalism” despite its notoriety around the White House and Capitol Hill. [Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2011]
This is the second time the president has gone out of his way to marginalize Manning. When the chief State Department spokesman, P. J. Crowley, was forced into retirement for his harsh criticism of the Pentagon’s treatment of the detainee, Obama commented that Manning was being treated properly, based on Pentagon assurances. Shortly thereafter, Manning was transferred from his isolation cell in the Quantico marine base, Virginia, which was becoming a popular and media-accessible site for anti-war protests. Manning now is imprisoned in the remote Ft. Leavenworth facility in Kansas.