Bradley Manning

Reports are that military authorities are keeping Manning in “solitary confinement.” There are further indications that these same authorities are taking some extraordinary steps to interfere with what little visitation Manning might be entitled to.

I don’t have any first hand knowledge of what’s going on with Manning’s confinement, but I can give an informed guess as to why it might seem like he’s in solitary confinement. Just as in the civilian system, once a person is suspected of committing a crime, they can be kept in jail pending trial. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), that would be called “pretrial confinement.” A military member can be kept in pretrial confinement for the same reasons that someone would be denied bail in the civilian system – fear of flight or the fact that the individual might continue to commit crimes. In order to put a military member into pretrial confinement, you also have to show that less severe forms of restraint are inadequate. This is sometimes a key point in the military system since military commanders have the ability to restrict their Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines in ways that don’t extend to full confinement in a jail cell.

So, based on these guidelines, sounds to me like PFC Manning is in ordinary pretrial confinement. What might lead others to think he’s been put into solitary confinement? Well, when you’re in pretrial confinement, there are rules about how much, if at all, you can be commingled with post-trial confinees. If Manning is being held in a confinement facility without other pretrial confinees, he might be separated from all other confinees due to the rules about commingling. Also, considering the charges against Manning, military authorities might also be legitimately worried about Manning’s safety if he were allowed to be together with other confined military members (even military members facing charges could be inclined not to be happy with what PFC Manning is accused of having done). To me, sounds like “so far, so good” in his pretrial confinement and likely not the ominous sounding “solitary confinement” that is being claimed.

As to the tweets sent out by Ms. Hamsher, if those are accurate, it appears the authorities may be going beyond the permissible bounds of pretrial confinement. Remember, whatever time PFC Manning spends in pretrial confinement will be credited against his eventual sentence if he’s found guilty. Antics like those described could lead to a successful motion by the defense for extra credit due to “illegal pretrial confinement.” If they’re denying Manning his alloted visitation or visits with his attorneys, that could add up at the end of the day. Now, if he gets LWOP, maybe it doesn’t matter. But what if he doesn’t? Do the military authorities want to be responsible for a tripling of his pretrial confinement credit (not rare at all) because they play these games? No, I didn’t think so.

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