Saturday March 5th, I wrote a letter draft to Sen. Mark Begich, regarding the treatment of Army PFC Bradley Manning. I sent a copy of the letter to 27 progressive Alaska bloggers and writers, asking whether or not they were willing to co-sign the letter. So far, I’ve heard back from Kelly Walters, Deirdre Helfferich, Mel Green, Jesse Griffin, Stephen Taufen, and John & Heather Aronno, all of whom want their names attached. Additionally, award-winning progressive activist, writer and blogger Howie Klein from California asked to have his name attached.
Thanks, friends of justice and decency!
Here’s the letter. If you want your name attached, please let us know in the comments.
I am adding names as people request their names be added.
I will attach instructions directing Sen. Begich’s staff to the URL of this post in the letter, which I will hand deliver to his local office Tuesday afternoon (March 8):
March 8, 2011
Hon. Sen. Mark Begich
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Sen. Begich
Since May 2010, U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning has been held as a pre-trial prisoner at the brig located at Marine Corps Base Quantico. During his incarceration there, PFC Manning has been subjected to what many view as outrageous practices, some have characterized as torture.
On February 4th, acting in his role as a member of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Dennis Kucinich wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, requesting he be able to visit Manning at the Quantico brig:
Dear Secretary Gates:
I write to request that I be able to visit Private First Class Bradley Manning at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.
As you know, I am concerned about reports of his treatment while in custody that describe alarming abuses of his constitutional rights and his physical health. A March 2009 article by surgeon Atul Gawande discusses the effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates and prisoners of war: “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.” Studies highlighted that such prisoners, months after being released, revealed severe brain abnormalities mirroring those who had endured significant physical head trauma .
Private Manning’s guilt or innocence is a question for adjudication and his treatment at Quantico severely undermines the presumption of innocence as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and raises questions as to whether he is truly able to stand trial. His care while in the custody of the Department of Defense is the responsibility of the U.S. Government and as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform it is my duty to conduct effective oversight.
Thank you for your attention to this request. I look forward to your prompt reply.
Secretary Gates responded to Rep. Kucinich on February 8th, notifying the congressman that he had asked Secretary of the Army John McHugh to report to Rep. Kucinich on Manning. Secretary McHugh responded to Rep. Kucinich on February 24th, in a letter containing numerous inaccuracies about Manning’s treatment. The letter leaves doubt as to whether or not Secretary McHugh actually investigated the specifics of Kucinich’s concerns. McHugh informed Rep. Kucinich that the latter’s request to visit Manning “has been forwarded to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Legislative Affairs) for review and appropriate action.”
On March 4th, Rep. Kucinich, having been informed that PFC Manning is being stripped of his clothes every night, wrote, “Is this Quantico or Abu Ghraib? Officials have confirmed the ‘non-punitive’ stripping of an American soldier who has not been found guilty of any crime. This ‘non-punitive’ action would be considered a violation of the Army Field Manual if used in an interrogation overseas. The justification for and purpose of this action certainly raises questions of ‘cruel and unusual punishment,’ and could constitute a potential violation of international law.”
Rep. Kucinich also stated:
“After initial allegations of mistreatment, I requested a visit with Private Manning to see for myself the conditions of his treatment. Despite the fact that Manning has not been found guilty of any crime, his lawyer reports that he is in isolation 23 out 24 hours every day, conditions which may violate his 8th Amendment protection from ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment. This treatment is in stark contrast to a presumption of innocence and raises questions of whether Pfc. Manning can be fit for trial.
“My request to visit with Pfc. Manning must not be delayed further. Today we have new reports that Manning was stripped naked and left in his cell for seven hours. While refusing to explain the justification for the treatment, a marine spokesman confirmed the actions but claimed they were ‘not punitive.’”
Senator Begich, we the undersigned Alaska bloggers, writers and constituents, along with out-of-state supporters, respectfully request that you join Rep. Kucinich in his effort to visit PFC Manning at the brig. Irrespective of the crimes Manning has been charged with, his treatment at the brig is in direct contradiction to the values of the United States of America, and of those we Alaskans hold dear.
Your position on the Senate Armed Services Committee includes the responsibility to assure treatment of U.S. Armed Services members meets the most basic standards of human dignity and recognized human rights.
wJohn & Heather Aronno
Steve W. Henderson, Veteran
Katharine Babb, Anchorage
Alicia Greene, Wasilla, Alaska
John Coffey, USMC, Soldotna, AK
Deb Chapman, Fairbanks, AK
Mark Miller, Juneau, AK
Jon Nierenberg, Healy, AK
Dianne Woodruff, Wasilla, AK
Bob Ritchie, Homer Alaska
Kathie Baldwin, Homer Alaska
George Stuart, Wasilla Alaska
William Arnold, Veteran, Juneau Alaska
Dan Heynen, U.S. Army Veteran, District 13 Chair, Palmer Alaska
Jean Hartman, Trapper Creek Alaska
Judith & Allan Morotti, Fairbanks, Alaska
Linda Scates, Anchorage, Alaska
Deve Metheny, Anchorage, Alaska
Stephen Courtright, Sitka, Alaska
Philip Munger, U.S. Army Veteran
Howie Klein (non-constituent)
Laura Doty (non-constituent)
Bruce Sims (non-constituent)
Charles Tuttle (non-constituent)
Sarah McKee, Member DC Bar (non-constituent)
Kris DeWeese (non-constituent)
Bill Egnor (non-constituent)
John VanderMolen (non-constituent)
Richard Taylor (non-constituent)
Katie Jensen, mental health professional (non-constituent)
Wat Stearns, Peterborough, NH 03458
Terry J. Beitl, American citizen
Cynthia Graham (non-constituent)
Joseph M. Firestone (non-constituent)
Melody Dickson (non-constituent)
Jason Wilder (non-constituent)
Traci Birge (non-constituent)
Wendy Davis (non-constituent)
Richard De Berry (non-constituent)
Mark R. Miller (non-constituent)
Betsy Perry-Fingal (non-constituent)
Frances Elliot (non-constituent)
Allen Brooks (non-constituent)
Lloyd Fillion, Boston, MA