Bradley Manning & the Destruction of our Bill of Rights


Bradley Manning has become the poster-boy for the civil liberties violations Obama’s committed, and for good reason. It’s awkward that we have to explain the Constitution to the constitutional law professor, Barack Obama, but if you look at it carefully, his administration has violated 5 Amendments of the Bill of Rights in total.

That’s half of the Bill of Rights, so it’s worth really looking into Bradley Manning’s case. In light of Snowden’s case with NSA surveillance, it’s important that we gauge where civil liberties are going in this country. Instead of going in the order of the Amendments, I’ll go in a more or less chronological order, so let’s get started:

6th Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…”

Bradley Manning was arrested in May 2010 and was placed in solitary confinement for about 1 whole year. His trial started on June 3, 2013. The Founding Fathers never specified an amount of time as “speedy,” but I’m pretty sure they would consider 3 years to be anything but speedy.  His defense team filed a motion to dismiss all charges based on this premise, but it wasn’t accepted.

7th Amendment: “In suits at common law…the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.”

Now, the Constitution does allow the Congress to determine how to discipline military officers, and traditionally, the trials are conducted under military tribunals. So, the way Manning’s being tried is technically legal, but many have disputed whether this method of trial is really just. Thus, military tribunals may be conventional, but according to the 7th Amendment, this entire framework of trying military personnel is unconstitutional.

5th Amendment: “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”

The government’s said that Bradley Manning cannot use the materials he leaked as evidence in court because they still consider those documents “classified,” even though they’re readily available to anyone on WikiLeaks. This is just another way to prevent him from using the argument that he exposed war crimes. Ruling out evidence in this manner is not fair, it’s not legal, and it taints the legitimacy of this trial.

9th Amendment: “…nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”

The government is apparently looking for a death penalty for Bradley Manning with the rationale that somehow, he “aided the enemy.” Angry terrorists didn’t need his revelations to know the American government’s war crimes, which include purposefully killing Reuters journalists. The government is simply afraid, as they should be, that the American people will fight against war, as we must do.

1st Amendment: “Congress shall make now law…abridging the freedom…of the press.”

Ultimately, this is the most important point the government is trying to make: The people have no right to know about the government’s crimes, and anyone who tries to expose them will face dire consequences. The government is trying to make an example out of Bradley Manning, and in the process, suppressing freedom of the press.

We have to ask ourselves, is this the kind of country we want to live in? Should the Constitution be blatantly violated in this manner whenever it’s convenient for the government? Or should we take action to prevent the destruction of our Bill of Rights? The answer is clear, and the stakes are high.

Author: Edwin Jain

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1 Comment

  1. “It’s awkward that we have to explain the Constitution
    to the constitutional law professor,” Edwin, but nevertheless, I’ve
    taken the time to compile why your arguments are fallacious at best. If you don’t
    mind, I’ll do it in chronological order.

    Violation of 1st Amendment Rights:

    From a literal point of
    view, your point is already incorrect. Congress has made no law “abridging the
    freedom of the press.” However, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and
    presume that you mean general suppression of freedom of the press. It’s a bit
    shameful that your so-called constitutional argument goes into a rant of
    rhetoric here about “government crimes,” but regardless, I’ll try to address it
    as best as possible. Let’s start with the basics; what you consider a crime is
    not necessarily a crime to someone else. From a constitutional perspective, the
    government has committed no crime and if you believe it has, I would ask that
    you point me to a piece of federal legislation or part of the Constitution and
    specifically explain to me how and where the government committed a crime. The
    government has the right to prevent individuals from “aiding and abetting the
    enemy,” “failing to obey a lawful order or regulation,” (in relation to
    hacking, a universally recognized crime, to reach these files and releasing
    classified information) and other counts regarding computer espionage, theft,
    etc. You might claim its censorship but that does not change the fact that
    under US legislation, Manning has committed a crime. What makes the United
    States so great is that in this country, justice is not determined by “anyone
    who tries to expose [government’s crimes].” We are not a country based upon
    vigilante justice. Rather, we are one based upon rule of law and the idea that
    there exist certain documents, videos, photos that are not designed for public
    viewing. Our Founding Fathers recognized this (after all, people were executed
    during the Revolutionary War for treason and sneaking away classified
    documents), our Supreme Court Justices have recognized this, and our current
    administration recognizes this.

    Also, just to preempt a
    point out might want to mark, I believe you might cite the trial of Daniel
    Ellsberg in relation to the Pentagon Paper as one in which the courts released
    a man for revealing “illegal” government activities. Just so you can’t put a
    twisted spin on the truth, what actually happened was that there was increasing
    evidence that the Nixon administration was violating Ellsberg’s right to
    privacy and using other illegal means to gather evidence.

    Violation of 5th Amendment Rights:

    I was actually
    extremely confused when you wrote this point. Nowhere is it stated in the 5th
    Amendment that the United States government has to permit the usage of
    classified information in a trial. Nevertheless, I’ll try to relate your point
    back to a constitutional standpoint. To my understanding, you’re upset that the
    court has refused to allow classified documents to be used in a case. However, their
    “readily accessible” nature on Wikileaks does not change the classification of
    the documents. These documents remain property of the United States Government and
    are not cleared for screening by average citizens. Their availability on a
    website that is aiding and abetting multiple suspected criminals does not mean
    it can be presented in court. Your point that “this is just another way to
    prevent him from using the argument that he exposed war crimes,” is false and
    erroneous. I would like to once again see you cite specific provisions in
    international law that stipulate the crimes of the United States. However, I must
    say, even if you do, it does not change the fact that this country does not
    operate on vigilante justice. We do not simply “take justice” into our own
    hands whenever we see fit. No, we bring up out issues in court, both national
    and international to air our grievances and our perceived injustices by another
    individual, group, or even nation. I do apologize seeing as this has divulged
    into an argument about the morality of actions, but your point does not relate
    to constitutional law.

    Violation of 6th Amendment Rights:

    I thank
    you, for it seems this is the first point you’ve made that actually has
    constitution standing. Regardless, it remains upsetting because one cannot
    simply interpret the constitution their own way without examining Supreme Court
    precedent or Founding Fathers intent. I will ignore the Founding Fathers intent
    argument simply because I don’t believe this issue can be related to Founding
    Fathers intent given the development of modern day technology, hacking,
    compilation of enormous amounts of data, etc. Thus, I shall examine it from a
    Supreme Court precedent perspective. I defer to the case Barker v. Wingo which saw the Supreme Court establish the Barker
    test to determine the legitimacy of a prolonged delay between a defendant’s
    arrest and his trial. The Supreme Court recognized the right of Barker to a
    speedy trial but was unable to conclude on how long was a period of time before
    it became unreasonable. Thus, the Supreme Court established the test with the
    following conditions: the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, the
    time and manner in which the defendant has asserted his right, and the degree
    of prejudice to the defendant which the delay caused.

    relation to Bradley Manning, I’ll address each of the conditions and try to
    show why each condition was fulfilled. (Just a note, the Supreme Court ruled
    that every trial was different and should be ruled on a case by case basis
    using these conditions and actually, they found that Barker was guilty even
    though only one condition was satisfied) On the first condition (length of
    delay) and second condition (reason for delay), I would assert that given the severity
    and large amount of data transmitted, the government should be granted an
    extended period of time to examine the evidence. Bradley Manning released
    several hundreds of thousands of cables, military communiques, documents, etc.
    In addition, he covered the tracks of his hack. This enormous scope in terms of
    the leak (in regards to the charge of aiding and abetting the enemy) and in
    terms of determining the scope of his hacking and direct evidence for it would
    justify such a length of time between arrest and trial (note, that many other
    cases have seen a long period of time between arrest and trial. Casey Anthony
    was not tried for some 3 years after her arrest). Finally, on the fourth
    condition (degree of prejudice to the defendant which the delay caused),
    Bradley Manning was not prejudiced by the delay between arrest and trial. Prejudice
    through delay in trials include aspects like witnesses being hampered through
    delays or media publicity generating negative feelings towards a defendant. Bradley
    Manning has requested 48 separate witnesses and nowhere has his attorney
    claimed that any were hampered because of the time delay. Secondly, Manning’s
    trial would be before a council of military officers, not average citizens,
    easily swayed through media publicity. The prejudice that could possibly have
    been accrued during the three year waiting period was within reason especially given
    the scope of the case. Thus, we rest on point three (the time and manner in
    which the defendant has asserted his right). Coombs, Manning’s defense
    attorney, asserted Manning’s right and Judge Denise Lind denied the defense’s
    motion and referenced the complexity of the case and the various documents and
    other material necessary to form a case. She found the government largely
    diligent in their usage of time. Thus, all four conditions of the Barker test
    were fulfilled even though only one is the minimum.

    Violation of 7th Amendment Rights:

    To my
    understanding, here you question the constitutionality of military tribunals.
    It’s a bit unfortunate that your argument is filled with contradictions which I’ll
    point out first before tackling the major issue. You yourself concede that “the
    Constitution does allow the Congress to determine how to discipline military
    officers.” However, in the end you claim that, “this entire framework of
    trying military personnel is unconstitutional.” Ignoring the obvious
    contradiction, I took the liberty of reading the linked article. The LA Times
    does not argue that military tribunals are unconstitutional; rather, they argue
    the system in place with two separate ones under the MEJA in a civilian court
    and the one without access to appeal to the Supreme Court is unconstitutional. I’m
    inclined to agree; however, their proposed solution is not one based upon
    constitutionality, but one based upon “personal” preference. They never claim
    that the institution of military tribunals are unconstitutional. Thus, their
    and your assertion that Manning have access to a civilian court is not a
    constitutional argument, but instead is an argument from a personal point of

    On the
    issue of constitutionality of military tribunals, I just want to prop that
    point up a bit. Our Founding Fathers, many veterans of the American Revolution,
    understood the need to maintain military discipline that often could not be
    upheld in civilian courts. Our Founding Fathers believed in the creation of
    military tribunals that were distinct and different from civilian courts.
    Finally, the Supreme Court has recognized the legitimacy of military tribunals
    as they are as you said, “in the Constitution.”

    Violation of 9th Amendment Rights:

    upsetting to read your last argument here where you start with a potentially
    good argument and divulge onto one once again advocating vigilante justice and
    using rhetoric that lacks any standing. In regards to your argument that
    capital punishment is unconstitutional, I would beg to disagree. Capital
    punishment is permissible under Supreme Court ruling Wilkerson v. Utah. While you can argue whether or not his crime
    deserved the death penalty, the point remains from a constitutional
    perspective, it is completely legal. The Supreme Court has issued no ruling
    that “aiding and abetting the enemy” is not a capital offense. Aiding and
    abetting the enemy, also equivalent to treason, is a crime that is punishable
    by death which was intended for by our Founding Fathers to punish spies and
    those seeking to use subversion to destroy this nation.

    In conclusion, from one
    “constitutional law professor” to another, I express nothing but pure disappointment.
    While I understand that Graham’s hierarchy of disagreement puts ad-hominem
    attacks as one of the lowest forms of attacks, your post struck me as careless
    and without proper understanding of constitutional law. I always enjoy a
    discussion with others regarding politics and law, but I’m afraid that you fail
    to understand here how they are completely distinct. Constitutional law is actually
    based upon writing in the Constitution, Supreme Court case precedents, as well
    as Founding Fathers intent, not just the rambling rhetoric of a 16 year old. I
    only ask that the next time you take the time to compile this attack on our
    President that you at least compile actual facts.

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