Bradley Manning Moved to More Humane Cell -- But Did Obama Stain His Right to Fair Trial?
Bradley Manning was moved to Ft. Leavenworth yesterday after a notoriously torturous experience at Quantico prison in Virginia. The Army, clearly concerned with its public image, let members of the press in for a full tour of the prison, though they were not allowed to see his specific cell. Regardless of their motives, clearly the public outrage has resulted in a better situation for Manning; in the medium-security prison, he will be allowed to interact with other prisoners, will have three hours of exercise a day and receive unlimited pay phone use, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, legal experts have been debating whether President Obama corrupted Manning's right to a fair trial when he said he 'broke the law' at a political fundraiser last week. At a political fundraiser in San Francisco, in an interaction caught on cell phone video, a Manning supporter shook the president's hand and asked him why Manning is being prosecuted.
Obama responded that what Manning allegedly did was "irresponsible, risked the lives of service members and did a lot of damage." But when Price persisted Obama shot back, "He broke the law."
A military legal expert says the president himself crossed a legal line with that statement.
Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, a nonprofit group that promotes the fair administration of justice in the military system, told NBC News that the president's remark "is unlawful command influence," which includes an assumption of guilt.
Still, Fidell also said the comment might be an easy one to get around. MSNBC:
The president should have been more circumspect, agrees Eugene Fidell, an expert on the military justice system. But he believes Obama's comment will not affect the outcome of Manning's trial.
"It will generate motions by the defense and will require some care in selecting the military members of the jury, a process already complicated by the extensive press coverage of this case," Fidell said. "It was going to have to be a very careful questioning process for potential jurors, to ask if they have seen reports or read about the case. Now they'll also have to be asked whether they heard the president's comment and if that would make any difference to them. But that will be the extent of it, and they'll get on with the trial."