Chelsea Manning Threatened With Indefinite Solitary Confinement For Expired Toothpaste & Having A Copy Of Vanity Fair

from the really-now? dept

The way the US treats prisoners is often barbaric. The UN has repeatedly highlighted how solitary confinement is a form of torture that should be stopped, but the US regularly uses it on its massive prison population (largest prison population in the world! Go USA!). And even if you don’t think it’s torture, you should at least recognize that people are thrown in solitary confinement for ridiculous reasons — such as looking at Facebook. Or, apparently, having expired toothpaste in your cell.

It appears that Chelsea Manning is now facing indefinite solitary confinment for a short list of “infractions” which include having expired toothpaste (“medicine misuse”) and having a copy of the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair, along with some other magazines (“prohibited property”). The other two charges may seem slightly less crazy, but not when you look at the details. They are for “disrespect” and “disorderly conduct,” but the “disorderly conduct” was for apparently sweeping some food on the floor during a dinner, and the “disorderly conduct” was for asking for a lawyer when Manning was being yelled at over the food incident.

There’s a hearing about this on August 18th, and Fight for the Future has set up a petition about this to call more attention to the way Manning has been treated. As the petition says, it’s clear that Manning is being “singled out and punished for speaking out.” Even if you don’t think Manning’s actions in leaking State Department cables was just, hopefully you can recognize that indefinite solitary confinement over such minor charges is ridiculous.

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Comments on “Chelsea Manning Threatened With Indefinite Solitary Confinement For Expired Toothpaste & Having A Copy Of Vanity Fair”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

well.. in North Korea they make the victim^H^H^H^H prisoner’s family pay for the bullet they are executed with…
US is more generous.. it gives free armored vehicles to county sheriffs so that they have toys to kill anything with. The heavy cannon ammo is also included, it arrives in monthly delivery batches.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

How dare you suggest that the US could ever have any similarity to such a country. It is clearly obvious that the US is incapable of such a thing. The proof is that while North Korea tortures people, the US has never tortured anyone. Instead, we have enhanced interrogation, which is completely different. You can tell it’s different because the letters “t” “o” “r” “d” and “e” are in different orders, and it doesn’t contain a “u” at all.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nobody’s denying that, but this would be solitary confinement for life. Several years ago, one of my cousins was put in solitary confinement for a month, but the officers took her off it after just a week when she developed isolation psychosis because her active mind had so little to do. Imagine what being in solitary confinement for life might do to a mind like Chelsea Manning’s.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Justification

It terrifies me that people in significant numbers feel torture can be justified…

…when it’s only psychological torture.

…when it is just a little torture.

…when no marks are made.

…when someone says a form of interrogation is not torture.

…when the victims are regarded as despicable.

…when the guys doing it are alleged good guys.

…when it’s neglect or inadequate care or otherwise by inaction (e.g. leaving a prisoner in his own filth or on the stockade).

…when the stakes are high enough.

…when time is short.

It tells me that not only do these people not really understand the immorality of torture, but they also don’t understand the Machiavellian pragmatism behind why we shouldn’t torture.

I’m afraid that such people don’t care.

I’m afraid that maybe these people are like Cheney, who just felt angry and powerless and that is justification enough to torture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Justification


lol…I never thought of basic training as torture, but when you view it from a certain perspective, it certainly seemed like torture. However, the “torture” is designed to help you adjust to the discipline required to be in the military. Be under no illusions. Military discipline, particularly in combat, is darn near absolute. The “torture,” as you call it, is intended to keep people alive, and is a core tenant of the military.

I presume you have never been in the military and have never known anyone who was in the military.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Justification

We’re not talking basic. We’re talking treatment of a prisoner. A political prisoner at that.

I understand that basic training is supposed to be harsh in order to expose recruits to the realities of the battlefield. I even understand the notion of discipline and even trust in the rank system.

But I’ve had friends in the military, and too many of them were discharged because a single senior-ranked person had it out for them, and they were unable to resolve their differences. The end result was universally the same. The senior would make his or her life miserable until she couldn’t stand it any longer. It seems way easy to do that in the US Army. And it seems that Army officers really like to do that.

(And this is not speaking of other friends in the Army who didn’t get screwed that way, only to see action and get their heads FUBAR’d)

Maybe you have statistics to prove that officers crushing subordinates is a very rare thing and my anecdotal examples are just unlucky exceptions. But I doubt it. I’m sure that would be classified. I also expect you to believe that all those friends deserved their lot in the name of discipline. But please: surprise me.

So no, I have some solid cause to totally distrust the military hierarchy, because it ruins lives.

And while I can empathize regarding discipline in hot zones, as Vonnegut noted, the contemporary troops are being treated like toys a rich kid got for Christmas, and being thrown into shitty situations where you shouldn’t be in the first place. Not that this helps troops, but your field discipline has already been sabotaged from the top.

You’re not going to win our War on Terror. The only thing I would expect you to do is survive day-to-day.

But in the case of Manning, she’s now in a prison of the enemy, and anything they do to her has to be judged independent of his own behavior. Pretending she’s still a soldier in that service is a front to justify causing her further misery.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 I think you're missing the point that saying "indefinite" to the prisoner is abusive.

A point with is aggravated by the dubious basis of her conviction in the first place.

This is how we treat people who try to do the right thing and publicize when state agencies are violating the good faith given them by the people.

Really, indefinite punishments are abusive to even convicts who allegedly deserve it, but ours is a vengeful society, so it takes when it is applied to someone whose crimes are less severe or more controversial to put such prisoner abuse in sharp relief.

The prison and the people who run it are the ones with the power of Manning. And given that the US has lost its authority by any standards of righteousness or morality, their authority is strictly at gunpoint. Manning is a political prisoner, and it is his prerogative if he chooses to try to escape, let alone misbehave.

And abuse justified by misbehavior is abuse nonetheless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 I think you're missing the point that saying "indefinite" to the prisoner is abusive.


You continue to conflate military justice with politics. Manning is being faced with EXACTLY the same treatment as we faced in basic training. People in basic training often went into disciplinary squad INDEFINITELY. Except, it was not indefinite. It was only for as long as the sergeant in charge of the squad to say the soldier was prepared to enter training again.

You somehow thing that Manning is being treated differently from anyone else in the military who breaks discipline. She is not. Her treatment is consistent with my observations while in the military. The system is the system, and cares little as to the reason the person is there.

FYI: The authority in basic training was no less, and no more, than in a military prison. In other words, as much at gunpoint as a military prison.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 I think you're missing the point that saying "indefinite" to the prisoner is abusive.

Firstly, Indefinite disciplinary squad is not the same as indefinite solitary. At least I hope not. I don’t know disciplinary squad, and it could be subjectively worse. Maybe they waterboard you to sleep until you pass out or something.

Secondly, just because his treatment is ordinary doesn’t mean it’s not abusive, and whether or not the military regards him as a political prisoner, some of us on the outside do. Just because that others who allegedly did no wrong are being treated similarly doesn’t justify the treatment.

And I agree, the system is the system and does not care. But some do care. And I for one don’t trust Manning’s handlers to be fair with her. You may argue that brutality is just a part of the system, but I would then counter that then it’s systemically wrong.

As has been noted in civilian corrections across the nation, prisoner neglect, gang agitation, poor nutrition, instigated sexual assault and guard brutality are established norms and in fact justified as tools in order to keep the prison population destabilized. That doesn’t make these methods morally right because some warden agrees with their use.

So it is within the unified military.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 I think you're missing the point that saying "indefinite" to the prisoner is abusive.


Firstly, indefinite disciplinary squad is probably not like indefinite solitary. Frankly, I think I would rather have the solitary than some sergeant in your face from 5 AM to 9 PM, constantly yelling to do this, do that, and it is never (of course) good enough, because that is what disciplinary squad is all about.

Second, no, they do not waterboard prisoners in Leavenworth, or in disciplinary squad. However, they will taken away your fashion magazines so that you can whine about that.

Third, with respect to “abusive” treatment, frankly, the military was the harshest job I have ever had. There is nothing else that came close. The conditions are often abusive. Thankfully, the discipline instilled in you during training does prepare you for some of the abusive conditions under which people in the field sometimes work. On the other hand, if you are going to whine about fashion magazines, maybe you shouldn’t be in the military in the first place.

Fourth, with respect to whether Manning is a “political” prisoner, that is a definition that has no meaning within the military prisoner system. There are prisoners, and there are guards. You can call Manning a tribble, a freedom fighter, or whatever, but the system ignores all that and pretty much treats everyone equally. Is that treatment abusive? It is all relative. I suspect the treatment in a military prison is far less abusive than conditions on a hill top in Afghanistan.

Fifth: Is the treatment “brutal”? I suppose it depends on what you consider brutal. They do not beat Manning. They do not strip her and make her sleep on the floor. They do not feed her food filled with maggots. They will likely yell at her. Certainly they can and will take away all the meager privileges granted to prisoners, for even the smallest of infractions.

Is that treatment systematically wrong? That is not for me to answer. I knew that the military prison system is far more strict (which some read as harsh) than civilian prisons. On the other hand, gangs are not tolerated (on the other hand, military members have less of a propensity for things like that), and many of the things that exist in civilian prisons do not exist in military prison. If I had a choice, I would probably pick a military prison over a civilian prison. At least I would only be dealing with the guards, and not the guards and the other inmates. Further, I would not be neglected, and would receive edible and nutritious (though perhaps not particularly tasty) food. I know what to expect in a military prison, and, frankly, a civilian maximum security prison would scare the hell out of me.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Political prisoners

A political prisoner is one who is in prison not for committing (what would reasonably considered) a crime but for being in disfavor of the current Regime.

The circumstances by which Chelsea Manning was convicted and imprisoned. The Espionage Act of 1917 is contrary to our bill of rights, and could be used to imprison large swaths of the population if applied consistently. As it is, thanks to discretionary prosecution it is only yanked out when some VIP wants to bury someone.

Of course it has no meaning in the military prisoner system which regards any conviction as sacred and absolute. But we’re now in an era in which the failings our our justice system are being revealed, and the UCMJ is not immune.

You say that what is systematically wrong is not for you to answer, but maybe it’s time to establish personal positions of right and wrong that are your own.

The official policy of all the armed forces is that every soldier is educated regarding all the rules of engagement, not just particular to theaters, but what is recognized worldwide as war crime, according to the Geneva convention. That way, when a squad commits a war crime under orders, they can be held responsible for obeying and executing illegal orders.

If you’re a lifer there’s a good chance that you may end up having to choose between obedience and your oath to protect and uphold the Constitution. You may have to choose between obedience and committing a war crime (which is a very common and very messed up dilemma). You may even have to choose whether or not to obey orders to open fire on unarmed US civilians.

So it may be a good idea to sort all that out ahead of time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Political prisoners

You bring up at least two issues, and maybe more. I will address a couple:

Issue 1: The Espionage Act would be difficult to apply to “large swaths of the population.” However, such was not a difficulty in this case, because one of the intents of the Espionage Act was to punish members of the military for various offenses specifically because they are in the military.

Members of the military have long been restricted from freedoms that civilians have. For example, active duty members of the military are forbidden from campaigning for a political candidate. There are other prohibitions that would seem to violate the bill of rights, but those prohibitions were implemented by the civilian government to prevent any appearance of interference by the military with what should be a civilian political process.

The Espionage Act includes prohibitions against active duty members of the military from doing certain things. Even so, those prohibitions are not absolute, and can be violated in certain specific circumstances, such as when an order may be unlawful. Of course, there are specific actions that must be taken in such an instance that are also specified by law. Fail to take those actions, and you violate the law.

As you correctly noted, members of the military constantly walk a fine line between breaking the law if they do, and breaking the law if they don’t. Somehow, the vast majority of military members do not seem to have an issue with walking the fine line. Otherwise, we would need multiple prisons to hold convicted members of the military.

Issue #2: Systematically wrong and not for me to say. I must stand by that position because I am insufficiently knowledgeable of the issues. Manning was convicted of a whole host of charges. Most of the charges were not under the Espionage Act. Many of the charges would put a civilian working for a corporate behind bars for many years, and perhaps decades. All the charges were under the UCMJ, as you noted.

If you have to violate a dozen laws, or more, to prove a point, do the ends justify the means? Do two, or several dozen, wrongs make a right? Manning was convicted with respect to specific documents that were alleged to be classified. I have not read the documents, and do not know whether a reasonable military person would consider them classified. The problem Manning had was compounded by a host of actions that he took. I guess you violate one UCMJ regulation, it gets easier and easier to violate a dozen or more after that.

I got into minor trouble while in the military. However, I followed the rules, and it all worked out in the end. You are correct that you should sort stuff out before you walk into situations, so know what to do.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 N wrongs make a right

Manning didn’t deny anyone else of life or property nor did he betray operational information to the enemy, rather he exposed to the public — to the people — actions that were being taken in their name.

Just because something is against the law doesn’t make it wrong. Just because something is the law doesn’t make it right. It’s interesting that during the cold war, soldiers were expected not only to understand what to do but also why, perhaps because we wanted the human beings with the keys to be absolutely sure they were doing the right thing before killing twenty million people.

Now it seems soldiers are expected to be content knowing that orders were heard right, and to Hell with the consequences of those actions.

This is how our drone strike program averages fifty civilian casualties per one person of interest this is how we have an extrajudicial detention and interrogation program. Both our drone strike program and our detention / interrogation program are somehow legal in the US, even though the international community practically unanimously disagrees.

Given you appear to agree with Manning’s sentence of 35 years, perhaps you can tell me what she specifically did to deserve it. For comparison ~35 years is the kind of sentence that is given to for rampage murder, raping children and violent acts of terror.

So what did she do, other than embarrass people in power by exposing wrongdoing to the public?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 N wrongs make a right

Flip your question around. Was the ONLY outcome of Manning’s numerous violations of the UCMJ to embarrass the government? It certainly seems that way. If that was the ONLY outcome, then the ends apparently did not justify the means.

As for the violations of the UCMJ, I will note (1) military punishment for violations of either the law or the UCMJ tends to be more harsh than for comparable civilian violations. That makes sense from the perspective that the military has control of weapons that can, with the push of a button, kill tens of thousands of people. Even when service people have uncovered crimes through their own violations of the UCMJ, the military tends to not have a very forgiving attitude toward those individuals. In other words, the military has already decided, through decades of actions, that the means do not justify the ends.

(2) Manning already pleaded guilty to a BUNCH of the charges. Oh, gosh, sure I violated multiple UCMJ rules. Sure, I compromised military and government computers. But, it’s okay, because I embarrassed some people.

Here’s the thing, if someone, anyone, would have been charged with a crime as a result of what Manning did, if our government had apologized as a result of what Manning did, if there had been any outcome other than “embarrassment,” I would say that maybe the ends justified the means. The problem is that nothing that Manning did had any perceivable effect.

I remember reading early on about some of the alleged revelations from Manning’s leaks. Except, they were not revelations to anyone. The only difference is that stuff that had been going on, that lots of people knew about, even in foreign governments, was formally revealed. That’s it.

Do I think Manning deserved 35 years in prison? I was not part of the trial. I did not hear all the evidence. That is not for me to say. I neither agree or disagree with the SENTENCE.

However, I do not agree with all the actions that Manning took, because Manning violated his oath, he compromised systems that he had pledged to keep secure. Essentially, he is a liar who has pled guilty to a bunch of violations of the UCMJ that have nothing to do with the Espionage Act. As much as I dislike the “where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire analogy,” when someone is convicted, or pleads guilty to, more than a dozen violations of the UCMJ, I say that clearly some kind of harsh punishment is required. Something more than a pat on the bottom and send her on the way kind of thing.

If you are going to join the military, you need to take your oath seriously. Manning did not do so, in a MASSIVE way, and is paying the price.

I will lastly observed that Americans are not split on Manning. About half of all Americans think Manning deserved life in prison. The vast majority of Americans thought Manning should serve time in prison. Only a relatively small percentage of Americans think Manning was some sort of hero, or even qualified as a whistle blower.

My guess is that several factors weigh against Manning in the public’s mind. First, he was in the military. Second, he pled guilty to multiple violations of the UCMJ. Third, as he acknowledged, he disobeyed orders and violated his oath. Fourth, as he acknowledged, he compromised military and government computers. When you acknowledge, as a member of the military, that you did not live up to your oath and deliberately did things to compromise military systems, I think most people do not care what your intent was.

Very few good deeds are achieved by violating what a member of the military knows to be the rules.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mutually Assured Destruction

I’d like to believe that during the cold war, the people of the US were driven to an interest in leaders who would conduct themselves thoughtfully and with deliberateness, given theirs was the hand that activated the nuclear football, and no-one wanted that hand to be prone to rash or radical decisions.

I remember that we were disinclined to torture Soviet soldiers, even when they were brutal to captured US pilots. Part of the policy, then, was to shower our captives with the luxuries that a capitalist society could allegedly afford as a means of indoctrination. It wasn’t that difficult to impress them. (we did torture, or at least rapidly execute Soviet moles as they did to NATO moles. The feeling was mutual regarding enemies amid the ranks of our own spies.)

The exposure of Valerie Plame as a political reprisal by the Bush Administration was to me a shot across the bow that the rules had changed. Spies were burned only for the purpose of sparing or advancing other spies. The exposure of Plame was petty and wasteful.

Things only got worse from there.

I wonder if there’s wisdom to the notion that we stay polite when people are armed well enough to kill each other. The tension brought about by nuclear escalation demanded a high degree of responsibility and maturity in foreign relations that seems to have been lost, now that the threat of nuclear holocaust has subsided.

Is there honor among kings and statesmen only when brought about by a clear threat of judgement and Hellfire?

That One Guy (profile) says:

So about that 'fair trial'...

Manning made the USG look bad for a short period of time. Snowden continues to make them look bad with the gradual releases of what he gave to reporters. Manning is looking at indefinite solitary confinement for actions which basically boil down to ‘being rude’.

Anyone want to take a wild guess what kind of treatment Snowden would get if the USG got it’s hands on him?

Every additional piece of evidence as to how the USG treats whistleblowers makes it more and more clear that Snowden did the right thing in refusing to ‘face the consequences of his actions’ by staying in the US, and those who continue to insist that he should return to the US are either grossly ignorant or intentionally dishonest if they think or claim he would be treated in a fair manner, whether before, during, or after his joke of a ‘trial’.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: So about that 'fair trial'...

Don’t forget that Manning is also being punished for being a trans-gender, low-ranking officer.
Compare this treatment to what happened when General Patreus (a straight, white male) gave secrets to his mistress/ biographer, who then published it in a book. So which jail is he in for leaking secrets?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So about that 'fair trial'...

Patraeus was not in the military when he committed those crimes. He would have been tried in civilian courts. The government probably realized that Patraeus could reveal a lot more in a trial than the government would like to have known, and decided to minimize further exposure by shuffling Patraeus off to the sidelines.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So about that 'fair trial'...

An Irish court concluded the same thing a few months ago:

The High Court has refused to order the extradition of an Algerian-born Irish citizen who is wanted in the US…. The main points of objection to his extradition include grounds related to the conditions of detention in which it is alleged Mr Damache would be held …. Other grounds cover the sentencing procedure under US federal sentencing guidelines, the plea bargaining system and the nature and length of the sentence he was bound to receive.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, that’s the old “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” line. One of several that’s a red flag that a politician/LEO is corrupt and out of control. Others include

“We have to be SEEN doing something!”

“Think of the children!”

and the ever popular

“It’s necessary for national security.”

and it’s corollary

“Because TERRORISM!!!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Military Prisons

Just so that everyone understands, Manning is in a maximum security military prison. Military prisons are notorious for their strictness and discipline. Fundamentally, it is much like being in basic training, EVERY DAY.

Further, it should be understood that every one of the charges against Manning are charges that you would routinely see in basic training, though in basic training such charges would only rarely get a person sent to the stockade. More routinely, such charges would cause a trainee to be set back two weeks, so they would have to repeat two weeks of training.

However, I have heard of circumstances where a very few individuals kept getting set back to the end of week 2 of basic training, for months. I never personally met one of these people, and it could be that these were rumors meant to scare other trainees, but if it was true, you could theoretically be stuck in weeks 3 and 4 of basic training for an entire enlistment of four years. Frankly, that would be worse than prison.

The charges against Manning likely seem petty to a civilian, and they are. However, the military is big on the whole discipline thing. People are punished until they conform to what seems like arbitrary standards.

As a side note, we tried very hard in basic training to conform, and the military often cheated. One thing that would get a recruit on report is having an “Inspected by” tag in their clothing. We went through every person’s clothing, one item at a time, multiple times, to ensure the tags were gone. The tags kept reappearing. That’s when we realized that the tags were being planted intentionally. Fundamentally, if you are not breaking the rules, the military will break them for you.

A civilian probably wonders why would anyone cause someone to appear to break the rules. It all comes back to discipline. The military drills discipline and conformism into recruits heads, day in and day out. Lapses of discipline are punished as examples for everyone else, and if the lapses do not exist, they are made up intentionally. The only good thing is that the planted lapses were typically spread around so that one person was not usually singled out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "typically"

Actually, the system is more geared to people who are considered whiners and complainers, and people who are deemed to have issues with discipline. The military system is designed to keep trying over and over to instill the type of discipline that is believed appropriate for a soldier, and Manning remains a soldier.

Manning pretty much has a choice. Either conform to military discipline standards, or keep getting subjected to the same treatment over and over. Manning’s treatment has little to do with being “liked,” and much to do with being non-conforming. The military does not like non-conformance.

Ragnarredbeard says:

Re: Military Prisons

All very true. The non-military types here don’t get the deal with Leavenworth. Its a maximum security prison where its basic training every day.

The expired toothpaste is a discipline training tool, not a tube of bad toothpaste. Basically, you give a guy a tube of toothpaste (or hand cream, or soap, or whatever) and put an expiration date on it. You’re supposed to turn the tube in for replacement/replenishment on the expiration date, at which point you get another tube with a new date on it. (yes, its stupid)

As for the books/magazines, prisoners are generally allowed to read in their free time, but only allowed to keep certain ones in their cells; all others are to be returned to the prison library. Its likely Manning was given the Vogue magazine by someone while visiting and it wasn’t turned in like the rules say.

In most prisons, including county, state, federal, and military, if you follow the rules you get extra privileges, which can be taken away if you break them.

I’d be willing to be that there isn’t any general order given to the staff at Leavenworth to fuck with Manning, but guards will be guards and they’ll single people out if they are, as a Japanese proverb says, “the stake that sticks up gets hammered down.” (most people think its a Chinese proverb, but it apparently originated in Japan)

Lastly, the term “indefinite solitary confinement” is a scare phrase. The quantity and type of infractions listed probably aren’t worth more than two weeks in solitary, but you put “indefinite” on it to show them you’re serious. Almost anyone can do a week or two in solitary, but if you throw them in the can and say “indefinite” when you intend to let them out in two weeks (and the prisoner doesn’t know its gonna be two weeks), its much more powerful in terms of controlling the prisoner. Kinda like when you were a kid and did something bad; your mom would say “wait until your father gets home” which only made the waiting and expectations worse.

All about control, and Manning is upsetting their apple cart. Can’t have that nail sticking up, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Military Prisons

John Fenderson:

Yes, you can see that as an interpretation. However, the goal is to have soldiers understand that if they are faced with adversity, they need to deal with it in a disciplined way, not whine and complain. Of course, whining and complaining NEVER work in the military. Whining and complaining DOES get the bright shiny light turned on you very quickly, and until you step back into line, it remains on you. I have seen it before in the military. As someone else noted, the military is not set up for the nail that sticks up.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Military Prisons

“the goal is to have soldiers understand that if they are faced with adversity, they need to deal with it in a disciplined way, not whine and complain.”

That can’t be the goal, because there are much better ways of achieving that. I rather suspect that the actual goal is to get soldiers to be instinctively subservient and as divorced from humanity as possible. This would make sense: when you’re trying to convert people into killing machines, you need to break them.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Military Prisons

So…rather than escalating gripes upwards and having a channel to redress grievances, the process the ranks learn is to do without until they find out who has what they want (or who is blocking them from getting it) and frag the poor sod in the night.

Maybe if you’re kind, you just distract him with a fire in the head or drug his coffee.

Sorry, private. It’s nothing personal, but I really need a fucking chocolate bar right now.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm pretty sure that "indefinite" solitary confinement

Becomes actual indefinite solitary confinement when some high-level official wants you oublietted.

It’s not like the US hasn’t tossed inmates into the hole for years at a time.

It’s not like the prison system, civilian and military, aren’t corrupt from the top warden to the lowliest orderly.

No, abuse has already been established and never fixed. Until proven otherwise we can assume that Manning is going to be tortured until she’s mad or dead.

And we can assume the same for anyone else that some official wants to see disappear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm pretty sure that "indefinite" solitary confinement

You call it “torture.” The military calls it discipline. Remember, this same “torture” is precisely what occurs in basic training, and it is done for a specific purpose.

Manning will not be in solitary indefinitely, because then the training won’t work. What will happen is that he will be led to believe that he will be in solitary, told over and over and that he has to follow the rules, of which there are many in solitary, and once he follows the arbitrary, made-up rules, then he will be released back into the general population, until he (and any other prisoner) violates the rules too often again.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm pretty sure that "indefinite" solitary confinement

The prison can call it whatever it wants. You can justify it to yourself all you want.

It’s still torture.

The prison will be judged by the public as having committed torture.

The people who put Manning in prison will be judged by the public as having gulag’d him.

At best, this is going to be the reference point of how the US treats whistleblowers, and why (for instance) Snowden would be a fool to return home to face justice.

At worst, every last guard and orderly will be gathered up and tried by an international tribunal for crimes against humanity. Because even though you may be convinced that it’s not really torture in context, that won’t be an excuse. As US soldiers you’re all expected to know the Geneva conventions, and hold to them over illegal orders.

And your superiors will probably betray you to cover their own asses when it happens.

Craig Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 I'm pretty sure that "indefinite" solitary confinement

Congratulations. You’re the first person in this thread to completely mis-represent the issue.

No-one has suggested that the confiscation of a magazine is torture.

Most have opined that the threat or the actuality of solitary confinement for having said magazine is torture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 I'm pretty sure that "indefinite" solitary confinement

Let’s go to the sources.

The Association for the Prevention of Torture refers to “Torture in International Law – A guide to jurisprudence” (2008) for guidance on what constitutes torture. At no point in that guide is there a blanket statement that solitary confinement is torture. Indeed, the guide provides examples of when solitary confinement was not deemed torture.

The threat of solitary confinement can be considered torture. HOWEVER, the same guide also said that the rules need to be clearly defined, and the consequences for violating the rules need to be clearly stated. If a consequence of violating a rule is solitary confinement, it would violate the guide to not provide that information to the subject.

In this particular case, Manning was informed of the potential consequences for violating of established rules. The ONLY aspect that MIGHT be considered torture is the “indefinite” length of the solitary confinement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 I'm pretty sure that "indefinite" solitary confinement

I did. Did you? One UN expert alleges that solitary confinement is a form of torture. So? Some people allege many things are torture.

The Association for the Prevention of Torture, aka APT, is a non-governmental body with an unbiased perspective on torture. Their guide is not one person’s opinion, but the collective work of many people who have researched and analyzed torture. Solitary confinement is NOT necessarily torture. The guide provides lots of guidance as to when it is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Military Prisons

I have an acquaintance who’s ex-military, and he gave his daughter some interesting advice when she enlisted in the Army:

“It’s their duty to break down your sense of individuality and engender feelings of conformity and unthinking compliance with rules, even if some of those rules violate your own sense of morality. It’s your duty to pretend they’ve succeeded.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Military Prisons

Both of you pretty much nailed it. The best advice I got before going to basic training was to keep my mouth shut and do exactly what they told you to do. I did that and essentially breezed through basic training.

Did I get angry? Hell yeah. But I ignored it, because I knew their purpose was to break you down to see how you would behave. The wimps either got kicked out with an “Other than honorable” discharge, they got set back to do it all over again (God forbid!), or they ended up in the stockade, and THEN they got set back. The system, whether in basic training or in military prison, is to keep breaking you down until the discipline takes hold.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Military Prisons

An excellent summary of the surrounding issues here. Manning knew what (s)he was getting into when signing up for basic training.

However, in this case, we’ve got a situation which should have constituted Manning being assigned mess hall duty for the month, and instead being tortured via indefinite solitary confinement.

Now there’s likely a further reason for this… being transgender, which of course can’t be given as an actual reason, Manning is a 24-hour example of non-conformity that goes completely against basic training. ANY success on any level that Manning experiences would be a crack in the entire social order used to unify and strengthen the military. And then you add “whistleblower” — and “irresponsible whistleblower” on top of that. Scenes from A Bug’s Life come to mind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Military Prisons

She’s in a military prison and hopefully her lawyer will explain to her why saying,”I want my lawyer” is not a proper way to shut down EVERY negative interaction with a guard. Being a military prison means discipline is more strictly enforced than in a civilian prison. She was MI, so her intelligence is fairly high, she should know the difference between saying sorry, she’d pay more attention next time and doing things to force it higher.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: That makes it all better.

Oh, I see. Because she’s in a military prison that justifies putting her in solitary indefinitely.

Which can still be two days or two years.

And this is based on a fucked-up law that punishes whistleblowers in the first place, but it’s totally justified because it’s military, and she should know how things fly in the military.

Maybe the military is wrong to work that way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 That makes it all better.

Or maybe if you are unable to follow rules, you should not be in the military.

Two points:

The discipline is intentional, and is required. Without the discipline, people die. I am not kidding. I am not exaggerating. The military is a special environment that is poorly understood, at best, by people who have never been exposed to it.

As bad as you seem to think it is, it was once FAR worse. The military’s approach to training, except for special forces, is the “softest” it has ever been. Stuff is permitted in the current environment that would have gotten you thrown in the stockade 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago. The military has mellowed with age.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "It was once FAR worse"

Prisons generally used the separate system as well.

It being far worse doesn’t make it okay that it’s bad now.

And discipline is not an excuse for abuse or torture.

As you might have noticed, we’re rather used to people with authority being real shits about it. Knuckling under and blending in is a viable strategy.

But in the school of thought from whence I came, it became safer for the squad to frag the officer before he sent us into certain death. Officers are very fond of expending troops to accomplish goals. Also re-establishing discipline in hot zones. That’s a good one too. Just as they are of making examples of the guy he doesn’t like.

Discipline may mean something back at academy, but I’ve seen it used too often as an excuse for abuse. And where I come from, rank and commission are never to be trusted to have a plan, or not totally ready to charge the troops into the kill-zone.

Ambrellite (profile) says:

Orwell strikes again

I thought back to Orwell’s 1984, and I think this section (adjusted for gender) captures my thoughts on this: “Obedience is not enough. Unless she is suffering, how can you be sure that she is obeying your will and not her own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

Sheogorath (profile) says:

First off, since when has toothpaste been medication? Secondly, how long has Chelsea Manning been locked up and when did Caitlyn Jenner reveal herself in her ideal form? Yet Manning is facing punishment for having a copy of this magazine when it was clearly okay when she first received it. Fucking ridiculous! Techdirt does right exposing this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

manning exposed criminal acts and international war crimes after finding out the criminals in charge would not let that information slip.

They chose to leak that info to the world knowing that laws created to protect criminals are not worth obeying.

If you truly believe they should be punished for exposing corruption among the military all I can say to you is to remember this phrase when you get into trouble.

“I was just following orders, I have no conscience, I do what I am told without thinking about it”

New Mexico Mark says:

Approved torture degrades a nation

As a vet, I understand military discipline. However, like hazing and other forms of “discipline” there is a point where it simply becomes sadistic abuse. In fact, one of the differentiators between legitimate punishment and torture is a clear communication to the convicted of the sentence / punishment, including duration.

Studies have shown that isolation beyond a few days is psychological torture designed to break minds. In extreme cases it is the “clean hands” equivalent of a lobotomy. It may be arguable whether Manning’s behavior in a military prison setting merited punishment. However, legitimizing torture as acceptable for any reason is indefensible. It degrades its practitioners and advocates along with its victims.

Some might make an argument based solely on perceived efficacy. My response is that “The ends justify the means” for otherwise horrific behavior is the stock rationalization of the craven and the cowardly. Surely we can do better as a nation.

GEMont (profile) says:

Solitary Confinement - as good as dead.

I have to wonder just how long this “ruling” has actually been on the books – that is, how long has it been standard punishment policy that someone charged with; say, “disrespect” is punished with “indefinite solitary confinement”.

I suspect that normally only the possession of prohibited property might incur such wrath, and even then “indefinite” seems a tad draconian and “inquisition-ish”.

Then again, I suspect this whole thing was set up just for Miss Manning’s “benefit”, including the solitary confinement punishment, as that is the government’s desired situation – that Miss Manning no longer has access to the public or to any external communications of any sort.

Well what can you expect from an organization that once held the motto: “Dead Men Tell No Tales”, when its no longer able to just shoot the person who embarrassed it publicly, in the back of the head with a 22 caliber pistol.

Solitary confinement is the next best thing. Look at how well it has prevented all the other incarcerated government scapegoats and patsies from speaking out.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

From FTFF:

Just two days before she needs to present her defense before the disciplinary board that could remand her to indefinite solitary confinement, military correctional staff are now inexplicably denying Chelsea access to to the prison’s legal library. Chelsea’s attorneys are not allowed to be present during the hearing–she has to represent herself–so the fact that she’s being denied access to the library is very serious.

GEMont (profile) says:

RANT WARNING: The Oldest Trick in the Book

When the Self Appointed Gods Speak, it is necessary that the Subjects beneath them, believe they are infallible.

Miss Manning has proven herself to be far more than the buck private the government assumed it could simply bully into a mental breakdown and a full confession of every un-solved crime since 1784.

In order to insure “fascist justice” – that is, justice that fulfills the needs of the Rich Rulers and supports the claims of the Rich Rulers, and which can never possibly exonerate anyone accused by the Rich Rulers – it is always necessary for the Rich Rulers to stack the deck in the favor of the Rich Rulers.

Its pretty much Rule Number one of the Fascist Handbook.

This is why their first order of business is the altering of the laws to give their machinations legal backing.

The general public will mostly never know that the deck was stacked and will only be aware of the final verdict of guilt, and perhaps, some of the charges which the victim was accused of.

The General Public will see the verdict, through its controlled media, as fulfilled justice, as always, and go happily back to work in the factories and businesses of their Rulers.

The Facade that protects Fascism is all important, for while the fascists seldom really care what the public might think, as long as what the fascist do is covered by law, it needs desperately to maintain its absolute control of the peasants it has armed in the military forces it has adopted, just in case the civilian public should catch on and comprehend the whole plot – as unlikely as that might be, it can happen.

While it is easy to push the majority of the public in almost any direction desired through simple false information disseminated through the state-controlled media, losing control of the military means a quick and bloody end to the coup and no more cocaine, bimbos and yachts for the fascists or their rich “collaborators” from among the conquered population, that supports the occupying forces for fun and profit.

As long as the Rich Rulers own the minds of the military, they can use it to quell any kind of civilian dissent.

In every conquest and occupation, there are always collaborators – civilian members of the conquered nation who join forces with the invaders and support their new regime.

These collaborators are ALWAYS among the conquered nation’s wealthiest members and could care less about their fellow countrymen’s fate as long as the money keeps rolling in.

In the United States today, the nation’s wealthiest members are both the invading inner-circle conquerors and the civilian outer-circle collaborators.

Normal invaders bring their own army.

Fascist simply take control of the standing army of the nation they invade, by pretending to be the government that pays their wages.

But in truth, they are simply a gang of extremely wealthy and corrupt businessmen, running the oldest and most lucrative business model on earth next to religion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I wouldn't count on it either.


In this case, I do not think the out-of-date toothpaste offense screams of someone having it out for her. For example, here is a sample of infractions that have garnered solitary confinement for other inmates:

– Refusing a hair cut for religious reasons.
– Eating an apple incorrectly (maybe they went bottom to top instead of periphery to core?).
– Failing to work as instructed by a supervisor.
– Being untidy (we WILL stamp out untidiness in this prison!).
– Abusive or offensive language.
– Circulating a petition (a petition to get out of prison, maybe?).
– Reckless eyeballing (I have to wonder what this even is).
– Possession of an “excess quantity of postage stamps (clearly a severe offense – wouldn’t want anyone mailing themselves out of prison).

These are actual infractions that sent people to solitary confinement. There are many more, of course.

When you consider that the average term in solitary for a prison inmate in California is nearly 7, you quickly realize that solitary confinement is not an exception, it is a norm. Manning is not exceptional or being singled out. She is just one more person caught up in the system.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: It's not just ubiquitous, it was the norm.

The Separate System was the norm, in which there was no common interaction for any prisoners ever. Usually inmates who stayed in such a system for very long were in no condition to leave once their sentence ended. To be fair, though, conditions were such that they often died from disease or malnutrition.

Our current systems are a vast improvement from what they once were, but that’s akin to saying that the situation in Ferguson is a vast improvement from antebellum conditions.

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