Barack Obama's transition website -- created when he was president-elect following the 2008 elections -- says:
Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.
This statement is in stark contrast to the treatment of one of the most famous whistleblowers of our time, Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked thousands of military documents to the website WikiLeaks. Manning has been held in solitary at a Quantico Brig in Virginia for over seven months, allowed to leave his 6' X 12' cell for only one hour per day. In addition to this, Manning has now been deemed a threat to himself and must now sleep naked and report to attention in the morning nude. All of this despite the fact that Manning is not on suicide watch.
There is no argument that Manning's treatment is inhumane; he has not even been convicted of any crime. The silence of the American people is one thing, but the silence of our president is deafening. As terror trials and indefinite detention are the policy again at Gitmo, Obama is running out of people upon whom to blame these miscarriages of justice. Obama cannot blame Republicans for blocking the closing of the Quantico Brig and cannot blame Republicans for Bradley Manning's treatment. This one is on him and him alone.
For all of the talk of protecting whistleblowers -- which, if the chat logs portraying Manning's alleged intent are to be believed, he certainly is -- Obama is doing an about-face. Manning's detention is scary not only because of the violations regarding humane treatment, but also because of the implications of his situation. While Guantanamo was justified as a place for very bad people who were different from us -- Muslims from war-torn regions of the world -- Manning is an American citizen from the heartland. Take into account Jose Padilla's detention and it is clear that the American government has no qualms about defying Constitutional protections in order to break down those it deems enemies of the state. As Manning's captivity proves, the definition of "enemy of the state" is quite malleable.
While many like to point to Obama's successes -- repeal of DADT, the health care bill -- and assert that the man cannot solve all of the world's problems, in reality this is beside the point. Obama explicitly promised protection for federal whistleblowers yet he locks Manning up for exposing the wrongdoings of the armed forces. As Commander in Chief, Obama has the ability to stop the inhumane treatment of a U.S. citizen who is still awaiting trial. The question now is, will he?
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