Guilt By Proclamation: Obama Violates Federal Rules By Declaring Bradley Manning Guilty

President Barack Obama this week stepped over the line of both protocol and ethics by publicly declaring Bradley Manning guilty of crimes. During a speech, Obama stated Manning “broke the law” to an audience in an act that could be challenged as undue command influence in the military system and violates a long-standing rule of presidents refraining from prejudicing trials. Manning is accused of being the source for the wikileaks material, which have shown that the Administration and prior Administrations have lied to the American people in various areas of policy.

The President’s comments came after protesters interrupted one of his speeches. He stated:

“I have to abide by certain classified information,” Obama said on a video that quickly began to circulate among media outlets Friday. “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law. … We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate. … He broke the law.”

Remarkably, I have not seen any corrective statement from the White House. In litigating within the military system, one of the greatest concerns is undue command influence. This was a big issue in the Dan King espionage case that I handled as lead defense counsel at Quantico. Here is Article 37:

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)


(a) 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. The foregoing provisions of the subsection shall not apply with respect to

(1) general instructional or informational courses in military justice if such courses are designed solely for the purpose of instructing members of a command in the substantive and procedural aspects of courts-martial, or

(2) to statements and instructions given in open court by the military judge, president of a special court-martial, or counsel.

(b) In the preparation of an effectiveness, fitness, or efficiency report on any other report or document used in whole or in part for the purpose of determining whether a member of the armed forces is qualified to be advanced, in grade, or in determining the assignment or transfer of a member of the armed forces or in determining whether a member of the armed forces should be retained on active duty, no person subject to this chapter may, in preparing any such report (1) consider or evaluate the performance of duty of any such member, as counsel, represented any accused before a court-martial.

It is likely that a military court would reject an undue command influence challenge, but that does not take away the unfairness to the defendant. The military jurors, or members, are under the command of Obama as commander and chief. Obama is poisoning the jury pool with such statements and as a lawyer (let alone a law professor) he should be ashamed.

By the way, Obama does not seem nearly so committed to the rule of law for Bush officials, including Bush himself, who are accused of war crimes. When it came to those crimes, Obama has blocked criminal investigations, let alone prosecutions. “He broke the law” is not sufficient for Obama when the political costs of prosecution make application of the law too inconvenient.

Source: Politico

Jonathan Turley

50 thoughts on “Guilt By Proclamation: Obama Violates Federal Rules By Declaring Bradley Manning Guilty”

  1. Although Obama has claimed that he taught Constitutional Law, there is no actual evidence that this claim is factual. Anybody can claim they did something, but if they cannot prove their claim with actual documentation , then their claim is fraudulent.

  2. We Are Bradley Manning

    Posted on Mar 3, 2013

    By Chris Hedges


    Manning’s leaks, the government insists, are tantamount to support for al-Qaida and international terrorism. The government will attempt to prove this point by bringing into court an anonymous witness who most likely took part in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. This witness will reportedly tell the court that copies of the leaked documents were found on bin Laden’s computer and assisted al-Qaida. This is an utterly spurious form of prosecution—as if any of us have control over the information we provide to the public and how it is used. Manning, for substantial amounts of money, could have sold the documents to governments or groups that are defined as the enemy. Instead he approached The Washington Post and The New York Times. When these newspapers rejected him, he sent the material anonymously to WikiLeaks.

    When he was secretary of defense, Robert Gates said a Defense Department review determined that the publication of the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary had “not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods.” In the trial, however, the government must prove only that the “disclosure could be potentially damaging to the United States” and need only provide “independent proof of at least potential harm to the national security” beyond mere security classification, writes law professor Geoffrey Stone.

    The government reviews determined that the release of Department of State “diplomatic cables caused only limited damage to U.S. interests abroad despite the Obama administration’s public statements to the contrary,” according to Reuters. “We were told the impact [of WikiLeaks revelations] was embarrassing but not damaging,” a congressional official, briefed by the State Department, told Reuters. The “Obama administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers,” the official told the news outlet. Government prosecutors, strengthening their case further, have succeeded in blocking Manning’s lawyers from presenting evidence about the lack of real damage caused to U.S. interests by the leaks.

    Manning has done what anyone with a conscience should have done. In the courtroom he exhibited—especially given the prolonged abuse he suffered during his thousand days inside the military prison system—poise, intelligence and dignity. He appealed to the best within us. And this is why the government fears him. America still produces heroes, some in uniform. But now we lock them up.

  3. Once upon a time, there were articles about Bradley Manning on this blog:

    “Bradley Manning’s One Thousand Days of Imprisonment Without Trial”

    By: Kevin Gosztola Friday February 22, 2013 7:30 am


    “The date of his trial has been postponed four times: first it was scheduled for sometime in September 2012, then it was scheduled for February this year, then it was scheduled for mid-March of this year and now it is scheduled for June 3 of this year.

    His defense argues he has had his speedy trial rights violated. The military prosecutors have requested delay after delay after delay for various reasons: a sanity review board to determine whether Manning was fit to stand trial was having trouble getting organized, classified information prosecutors thought they needed for the Article 32 hearing in December 2011 was not processed, more classified information for the court martial needed to be processed, etc. (The judge has not ruled on the speedy trial motion yet.)

    He has had three birthdays while in prison. For one of them, he was denied a birthday package from family because, as Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, who was supposed to be Manning’s counselor and advocate at Quantico, joked in an email, officers “felt like being a couple of dicks.”

    Manning faces 22 charges. The most significant charge is that of “aiding the enemy.” If convicted of “aiding the enemy,” he would serve life in prison without parole.

    The government argues his act helped al Qaeda. In fact, they went to the trouble of declassifying information that showed Osama bin Laden obtained copies of the US State Embassy cables and some war logs released. They haven’t demonstrated that any members of al Qaeda shared these with Bin Laden after requesting them from a staffer at WikiLeaks. They are simply saying it was available on the internet for terrorists to read and exploit for their own purpose so Manning should be convicted of “aiding the enemy.” But, there is virtually no difference between the New York Times publishing information that terrorists can read and WikiLeaks publishing information that terrorists can read.

    Manning’s case has developed into the biggest and one of the most important military justice cases in history. He has endured punishment in prison that no person should have to endure, even if they have been convicted. Incidentally, the longer it takes to get to trial, the more Americans support them as they come to the conclusion the military has mishandled the case. He has been punished enough for his alleged acts and should be set free now.”

  4. One of the interesting things about JAGs is that they operate in a system wherein they can be even more corrupt than civil judges out here in the other judicial system. In fact, some of our most corrupt judges WERE JAGS and some of them are still JAGS in the Reserve.

    One of the freakiest experiences I have had in the last decade is the realization that Obama has been doing what he has been doing, because I believe I read that Laurence Tribe proclaimed HIM to be his most outstanding student of Constitutional law.

    OMG OMG OMG nothing is what it’s cracked up to be; it is all a sham.

  5. OS,

    I agree. It is certainly a story that deserves both wider attention and deeper scrutiny.

  6. Wasn’t this kinda what caused the demise of Nixon……

    I agree that it’s unfortunate….. The DoD and entire military complex depend upon compliance….. Just like the Police departments…..

  7. My concern is the same as it would be if we found out the Army was investigating non-military civilians on US soil because they were supporting some political candidate they did not like.

    J. Edgar Hoover and Joe McCarthy are dead. I hope the DoD is not trying to revive some of their tactics.

  8. OS,

    I agree. However, I’m not a JAG and I’m not sure of all of the intricacies of how USACIDC jurisdiction works when civilians are involved. They’ve got to have some limits not to run afoul of Posse Comitatus. It does at first blush sound like if it’s not out of bounds, it’s pushing the limits just on general Constitutional principles. I don’t think without having the applicable USCMJ code and case law in front of me I can give a better answer than that though.

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