The Sixth Amendment has taken a beating in Manning’s case, and he’s already been in prison for longer than some convicted criminals serve altogether (beginning in May 2010), under conditions that appear contrived to maximize his discomfort. After being held for a long time with no charges at all, Manning was finally charged on 22 counts, the most serious of which is “aiding the enemy” … with no enemy designated. Opinions differ on how significant the leaked documents are to national security, with some saying Manning’s real crime, if indeed he is the one who leaked the documents to WikiLeaks, is embarrassing a lot of high officials in the American government. I don’t know, but I suspect the embarrassment is the real reason.
In any case, Manning is receiving his first pretrial hearing. The great and powerful Reuters news agency is secretive about the date, but they do say it’s the day before his birthday, which according to Wikipedia is tomorrow… meaning the hearing is today. Reuters now includes the word “Friday” in its post. The hearing is being held under tight security at Fort Meade.
So you can take out your copy of the Bill of Rights and scratch out the phrase “speedy and public trial.” They’re history.
Notwithstanding the non-public trial, some portions of the proceedings are finding their way (how?) into print: Manning’s defense attorney, David E. Coombs, promptly introduced a motion that the officer chairing the hearing, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza (a judge? I don’t know [added later: he is the Investigating Officer (IO)]), recuse himself on grounds of the public appearance of bias. Of course it’s up to Almanza to decide whether to do it; let’s see if he follows Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lead and refuses. In addition, several witnesses Coombs requested to call for the defense have already been denied by Almanza.
So you can take out your copy of the Bill of Rights again, and scratch out the clause in the Sixth Amendment that requires that a defendant “have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor”. That’s history, too. The Sixth Amendment is looking mighty sparse.
I know; I know… military trials are different. But unless they claim Manning was “in actual service in time of War or public danger” (that’s in the Fifth Amendment), I can’t see how they can ignore Manning’s due process rights so blatantly and expect any conviction to hold up. Then again, some have said I am naive about such matters… and it may be true.