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.

Filed Under: chelsea manning, prisons, solitary confinement, toothpaste, torture, vanity fair


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2015 @ 4:54pm

    Re: 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.

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