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On our show today, we spoke to Glenn Greenwald of Salon, Jon Shelburne, a Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the Marine Reserves and the New York Times’s Scott Shane about the incarceration of Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of having released 100s of thousands of documents to Wikileaks and has been in solitary confinement in the Marine brig in Quantico, VA.
There is an interesting exchange at around three quarters of the way through the hour. It began with a listener called to say he had time in a federal prison on marijuana charges and that he saw many prisoners endure the same conditions as Bradley Manning. The caller added that federal prisoners have it even worse, because at least Manning enjoys notoriety, is visited by congressmen and will get a book deal out of it of he ever gets out.
Here is Greenwald’s response and an exchange with Ashbrook comparing President Obama to President George W. Bush. We’ve highlighted key passages:
Greenwald: “Well first of all, the fact that some abuse or injustice is common is not a reason to refrain from discussing it and objecting to it in a particular case. Secondly, there are all kinds of people who have been raising all sorts of concerns about the heinous treatment of prisoners inside the American domestic prison system. Jim Webb actually introduced a bill 18 months ago to have fundamental reform because there are serious abuses inside America’s prison system. It’s estimated that 25,000 inmates are held in solitary confinement, which itself is a form of torture.
“But one thing that I would point out is that there is a difference between people who are in federal and state prisons after having convicted and Bradley Manning. And that difference is rather fundamental when it comes to things like constitutional rights, which is that unlike people who are in prison after having been convicted, Bradley Manning has never been convicted of anything. And therefore the government is required to treat him as an innocent person. To assume he is not guilty but innocent. No form of inhumane treatment or torture is ever justifiable whether someone is guilty or not. In fact, I have a book coming out about the legal system in several months. And a whole chapter deals with the inhumane treatment of prisoners inside the United States. So it’s not true that people ignore it or it’s only Bradley Manning that’s getting this form of attention.
“But what’s particularly pernicious here is that he is innocent in our legal system and yet is still being treated this way. The military code of justice prohibits holding people in pre-trial detention in a way that’s designed to punish them, which is exactly what’s happening here. And [the military] has broader objectives, about stifling whistle-blowing, bolstering the regime of secrecy and inducing testimony against Wikileaks, which is why it’s received added attention as well.”
Ashbrook: “Glenn, before you came on, we played the tape of President Obama in his recent press conference saying –he was asked about him in particular Bradley Manning, he said ‘Look, I asked the Pentagon about it and they said everything is just fine.’ And you heard me perhaps reading one of our listeners online saying ‘What’s the defense for that?’ You know, Guantanamo’s still open, here’s President Obama awfully tough on Bradley Manning and by extension I think other whistleblowers as well. What about the president’s position here, Glenn?”
Greenwald: “Well, what’s extraordinary is, if you look at George Bush’s book Decision Points, he talks about why he believes that what he did was correct with regard to the interrogation regime --that was actually a torture regime. And what he said in his book to defend himself is almost verbatim what Barack Obama said at that press conference. George Bush said, ‘I went to the Pentagon and to the Justice Dept. and asked whether or not any of these things were inappropriate and I was told that they were not.’
“That was George Bush’s defense to the inhumane and abusive treatment of detainees. It was exactly Barack Obama’s. And in Barack Obama’s case, it’s even more inexcusable because he ran on a platform of reforming exactly these kinds of abuses and putting an end to the inhumane treatment of detainees. That’s why millions of people voted for him.
“And so for there to be all kinds of credible reports over the period of months that Bradley Manning is being abused, inhumanely treated and even tortured, using the definition that the United States government itself has used in the past in terms of holding people in prolonged solitary confinement, and in response to that, do nothing but go to the Pentagon, the very people who are responsible for the treatment and say, ‘Are you doping anything wrong,’ and once he’s told, ‘No, we’re doing everything by the book. No need to worry,’ to have that be the end of the matter is really quite inexcusable.
“It’s his military that’s doing this. He’s the commander-in-chief, he obligated himself to investigate such concerns and put an end to detainee abuse. And so for him to simply brush it aside and dismiss it away, based upon these kinds of conclusory and very cursory questions, I think is something people expected [from] George W. Bush and got from George W. Bush, but not from President Obama.”
This program aired on March 17, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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