Obama professor protests Manning detention

Pink for Peace demonstrators protest the resignation of State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley and the detention of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning in front of the U.S. State Department  (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / AFP)
Over 250 legal scholars have signed a letter protesting the treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning, arguing his treatment has been degrading, inhumane, unconstitutional and may even be torture.

Scholars from across the legal spectrum have signed on to protest the Manning’s treatment, including US President Barack Obama’s former constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, who is widely considered to be the foremost expert on US constitutional law.

Tribe had held a position in Obama’s Justice Department but recently left. He explained to The Guardian that he signed the letter because Manning’s treatment at the hands of the Obama administration is both shameful and unconstitutional.

Manning has been held at the Quantico marine base in Virginia for months on end in solitary confinement often deprived of sleep, forced to stand naked for hours and emotionally traumatized. He is accused of leaking classified US documents and State Department cables to the online whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Tribe explained his treatment “violates his person and his liberty without due process of law and in the way it administers cruel and unusual punishment of a sort that cannot be constitutionally inflicted even upon someone convicted of terrible offenses, not to mention someone merely accused of such offenses."

Human rights advocates and organizations the world over have protested the US treatment of Manning. A number of high profile individuals, including former State Department Spokesperson PJ Crowley, who was forced to resign over his views, called the military treatment of Manning “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

The recent involvement of legal scholars however is a direct message to Obama, who fancies himself a legal scholar and was educated by some of the letter’s signatories. As an attorney by trade, this is an embarrassment to the US president.

Obama once declared the rule of law the cornerstone of his administration, the principle by which he planned to govern. That is now being called into question.

As the US President, Obama is responsible for the US military and how they handle WikiLeaks and Manning. His failure to respond to criticism may hurt him politically, and injury his reputation in his field.

The letter, written by legal professors Bruce Ackerman of Yale and Yochai Benkler of Harvard targets Obama directly saying, “he was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency.”

I find it tragic that it is Obama's administration that is pursuing whistleblowers and imposing this kind of treatment," Benkler remarked in an interview with The Guardian. “It is incumbent on us as citizens and professors of law to say that enough is enough. We cannot allow ourselves to behave in this way if we want America to remain a society dedicated to human dignity and process of law."