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. OS hit the nail on the head, he’s absolutely an example and since they haven’t gotten the confession they wanted (implicating Julian Assange) it seems that all of the attention his confinement has gotten is forcing the governments hand.

    That the President has condemned him as guilty is a very bad signal IMO. If I wanted Manning to ‘go away’ as an issue how could I arrange that? Putting him elsewhere and allowing him into situations where he could interact with others might do the trick. Personally, I think solitary confinement might be Manning’s best bet for staying alive.

    “WikiLeaks suspect Manning will be transferred from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth”

    ” … Quantico was built to house pre-trial inmates for about two months, whereas Leavenworth can hold pre-trial and post-trial inmates with sentences of up to five years, she said. After an initial assessment, Manning will be eligible to receive three hours of recreation time indoors and outdoors and will have the opportunity to regularly interact with other detainees, Hilton said.”

  2. Tack this up on the list of impeachable offenses. Add violation of the congressional perogative to declare war or commit US forces to armed conflict (as in Libya). How many more?


    Coleen Rowley 4/12

    By Joel Kilgour on Apr 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

    TIME Magazine’s 2002 Person of the Year and FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley will be in Duluth tomorrow for 2 events:

    At noon on the steps of the Duluth Federal Building, she’ll headline a Stand with Brad! rally to support accused Wikileaks whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning. The 23-year old Army intelligence specialist is facing brutal pre-trial punishment at Quantico for allegedly leaking information about war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    At 7:30pm in the Mitchell Auditorium at St Scholastica, Rowley will deliver the final lecture of the school’s Terrorism and Human Rights series, on the topic of Obama’s Response to Terrorism. Free and open to the public.

    For more details, visit

  4. This statement is revelatory to Obama’s interaction with reality: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate. … He broke the law.” 1. Obama has claimed he has the right to proclaim any person and terrorist and to kill them anywhere in the world 2. Obama has claimed the right to regime change anyone he wishes anywhere in the world on his own say so 3. Obama has decided he may go to war anywhere in the world on his say so 4. Obama has decided which laws he will honor and which he will not 5. Obama has decided he may drone persons in any country which he desires 6. Obama has decided he will torture anyone he wishes, usually in black sites but sometimes openly as in the case of Bradley Manning 7. Obama has stated he has the right to indefinitely imprison anyone he wishes.

    These are all examples of individuals (read himself) making decisions about how the law operates. There is a lot of information on our detainees in Gitmo on Glenn Greenwald’s site.

    As I said before, reactionary ideas are not the provenance of the right wing tea party. Dangerous, horrifying, reactionary cruelty resides in the Oval Office. Either we recognize and peacefully resist such ideas whenever they occur or we have just given consent to human cruelty.

  5. Guilty until proven innocent, isn’t that the way most finger pointers react. I believe the veneer is beginning to crack in Happy’s world. Can’t handle the cognitive dissonance any longer.



    The Wikileaks revelations that Manning is charged with having revealed, having to do with Iraq, show that in fact the US military in which Manning was a part, turns over suspect to the Iraqis with the knowledge that they will be and are being tortured. Turning these suspects over, with that knowledge, is a clear violation of our own laws and of international law. It makes us as much culpable for the torture as if we were doing it ourselves.

    Moreover, the Wikileaks logs show, the order is given: “Do not investigate further.” That’s an illegal order, which our president could change and should change and must change with one call.

    Reportedly, Manning was very strongly motivated, at one point, to try to change this situation, because he was involved in it actively, and knew that it was wrong. He found that it was not being investigated within the government and was not being dealt with at all.

    That’s a big difference between the Pentagon Papers and the WIkileaks logs. The former were higher level things which didn’t reveal field-level war crimes. The Wikileaks actually do.

    (end excerpt)

  7. OS hit the nail on the head. This internment of Manning is meant to be punishment and a warning. The fact that it is violating his rights as a defendant is not an issue for this White House. What is Obama going to do when he is out of office and the Teapublicans come after him for war crimes? Is he going to argue that he deserves the same professional courtesy that he showed to Bush?

  8. He has a way of dealing with members of the Armed Services.

    Army Medical Doctor Jailed for Questioning Obama’s Eligibility Release Date Announced.

    Terry Lankin will be returning to Baltimore on May 14, 2011, at around 10:30 am.

  9. Elaine,

    re: Maybe it should be: “We’re a nation of scofflaws.”

    To steal Buddha’s line: Yes, “that’s (much) better.”


  10. The last time I remember a President passing judgement (although I may have blocked out L’il Boots doing it, theres 8 years I wish I could forget completely) was Nixon. He announced Chuck Manson’s guilt before the trial.

    Puts Obama in some really nice company.

  11. Jeez,, he just gets better and better as time goes on..What university did he get his degree from? Whatever one it was should have its accreditation checked or downgraded to subpar.

  12. “We’re a nation of laws.” -President Barack Obama

    Really? Well, you could have fooled me. Walk a mile in my shoes, Mr. President. I assure you, we aren’t.

  13. Of course they are using Manning as a warning, OS. Punishing and threatening whistleblowers is one of the first steps in encroaching totalitarianism. Another step is pronouncing judgment before trial. It’s not just Manning either. There has been a steady erosion in the protections once provided to whistleblowers in the corporate world as well. Criminals do their best work in the dark. It’s not enough to turn out the lights. They have to stop anyone with a flashlight as well.

  14. I have been increasingly skeptical about whether they even want to have a trial. Manning was held in conditions that are designed to break the spirit if not the mind. Based on what we have been able to find out, it is more likely than not that he now has psychiatric problems that may impair his competency to stand trial. And now this ill-advised statement from the Commander in Chief. Where are they going with this?

    One has to wonder if the purpose of Manning’s treatment during incarceration has been to send a warning to others who might be contemplating giving documents to Wikileaks or its successors; “This could happen to you.”

  15. This is so sad…. I will reiterate this again… Manning even if innocent cannot get a fair trial here…. If he was under a cooperative agreement with the UN and is being charged while in activities there…would it not be consistent that he be prosecuted in a UN/World Court….to show that America is really fair? and we are all about right and fair play……Hmmmm

  16. I don’t believe that a defense could make that argument because even though Obama is the Commander in Chief, he is a civilian, and not subject to the UCMJ. Now I am just a layman and not a lawyer, but that is how I see it.

  17. Didn’t this dipshit teach constitutional law? And not at one of those make-believe places like Liberty or Anal Roberts.

    I did not expect a real liberal President but I did expect an intelligent, thoughtful, one that respected the rule of law and a couple of centuries of progress. What a complete and utter failure this little man turned out to be.

    With Boy Blunder you could expect this type of thing. He was not too bright, totally incurious and in well over his ity-bity head. But BHO has shown he is capable of so much better than that last buffoon.

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