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.