Obama Makes It Difficult for Pfc. Manning to Get Fair Trial

04/27/2011 11:56 am ET | Updated Jun 27, 2011

Now some may read that headline and think it is a non-starter because with a year past since he was first detained in the WikiLeaks case, his constitutional right to a speedy trial has been ignored. Under the Constitution that should have occurred within six months of his detention on May 26 of last year, the Uniform Code of Military Justice is said to be even stricter, though it has a way out.

President Obama, as a lawyer and therefore an officer of the country, should not be commenting on the Manning case at all. No question about that.

Even more importantly, as president his statements clearly amount to undue command influence. No question about that either.

And in an interview with Logan Price of the Bradley Manning Support Network, Obama made reference to the special rules covering military trials under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice.

Here is the pertinent part of the UMJ:


No authority convening a general, special, or summary court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings.
No person subject to this chapter may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case, or the action of any convening, approving, or reviewing authority with respect to his judicial acts.

While being interviewed by Price, Obama said: "He (Manning) broke the law!" The Pentagon, wanting to have it both ways, has said the leaks showed nothing that was not already known, but at the same time it put the lives of soldiers and our informants in danger. No resulting deaths have been reporting.

It would be a lot to expect to ask an officer sitting on a court-martial of Manning, if there ever is one, to ignore the fact that his commander-in-chief said Manning is guilty.

Manning was recently moved from the Quantico, Va., bridge after Marine guards were accused of abusing him, keeping him in solitary confinement for lengthy periods, and even forcing him sleep naked.

Manning is accused of leaking documents and videos that activists say show war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers. Some soldiers on the ground support that interpretation.

Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War made him a hero to many, said Obama has "given a virtual directed verdict" of guilty. Obama also said that Manning actions involved documents not classified in the same way. The information Manning is accused of leaking was classified. The papers Ellsberg gave to the New York Times were ranked as Top Secret.

Ellsberg has called the lengthy jailing of Manning "an act in search of a crime."