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Bradley Manning spent his third Christmas in solitary confinement on Tuesday. His imprisonment should trouble every citizen: if the government can detain any one of us indefinitely without bringing charges, it can do the same thing to anyone else. A constitutional scholar familiar with the Fifth Amendment will say that the military may do what it likes with service members during time of war or public danger. Say what you like, military law does not permit violation of these rights:

  • Prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Solitary confinement is cruel and unusual.
  • Right to a speedy and public trial.
  • Right to due process.
  • Rights of the accused “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation,” “to be confronted with the witnesses against him,” and “to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.”

These rights hold especially in cases of treason, which public discussion of Manning’s imprisonment suggests. Government cannot claim we are in a time of public danger indefinitely – that excuse has been the favored loophole of tyrants for centuries. Moreover, government cannot withhold Manning’s right to trial because his case involves classified information. We are well familiar with that bit of speciousness. Government can deny anyone anything based on that claim. Let’s take a look at an interesting comparison between Manning’s case and that of Alfred Dreyfus in France. Dreyfus’s began in the mid-1890s and extended well into the new century. Like Manning, Dreyfus served in the army. Let’s take a look at these two cases:

Alfred Dreyfus Bradley Manning
Charged with treason. Not charged. Suggestion made that Manning be charged under the Espionage Act.
Jewish, subject to anti-semitism. Suggestion made that Manning is gay, and that he was ostracized in the army as a result.
Convicted with false evidence. Held without evidence.
Punished with solitary confinement. Punished with solitary confinement.

For background on the Dreyfus case, see Dreyfus affair in Wikipedia. For information about Bradley Manning and his case, see Bradley Manning.