Nearly 300 experts, scholars and authors demand an end to Manning's rough treatment

The Harvard professor who taught President Barack Obama about America's founding document has added his name to a letter damning the treatment of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, the lone soldier accused of leaking a vast number of government secrets to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Harvard Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe, who quit his post as an adviser to the Obama administration about three months ago, is just one of nearly 300 of the nation's top legal minds and other experts to sign an open letter calling on the government to treat Bradley Manning as it does other prisoners.

Manning has been held in solitary confinement in the Quantico military brig since July. He gets one hour of exercise per-day, must be checked by guards every five minutes and is forced to sleep naked and undergo a nude inspection every morning. Critics of this treatment say it amounts to torture and an illegal punishment for an American who has not been convicted of a crime.

Tribe wrote that Manning's treatment "violates his person and his liberty without due process of law and in the way it administers cruel and unusual punishment of a sort that cannot be constitutionally inflicted even upon someone convicted of terrible offenses, not to mention someone merely accused of such offenses".

"Private Manning has been designated as an appropriate subject for both Maximum Security and Prevention of Injury (POI) detention," the open letter explained. "But he asserts that his administrative reports consistently describe him as a well-behaved prisoner who does not fit the requirements for Maximum Security detention. The brig psychiatrist began recommending his removal from Prevention of Injury months ago. These claims have not been publicly contested. In an Orwellian twist, the spokesman for the brig commander refused to explain the forced nudity “because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning’s privacy.”

The letter also cites former U.S. State Dept. spokesman P.J. Crowley, who called the treatment of Manning "counterproductive and stupid," suggesting it may make prosecuting the soldier even more difficult. Crowley resigned his post after criticizing the administration's handling of the case.

"If Manning is guilty of a crime, let him be tried, convicted, and punished according to law," the open letter continues. "But his treatment must be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There is no excuse for his degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment."

The document was authored by Bruce Ackerman, of Yale Law School, and Yochai Benkler, of Harvard Law School. It had 295 co-signers at the time of this story's publication.

The full letter and list of distinguished signatories appears below. It was first published by The New York Review of Books.


Private Manning’s Humiliation

Bradley Manning is the soldier charged with leaking US government documents to Wikileaks. He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral.

For nine months, Manning has been confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day. During his one remaining hour, he can walk in circles in another room, with no other prisoners present. He is not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, but must answer the question “Are you OK?” verbally and in the affirmative every five minutes. At night, he is awakened to be asked again “Are you OK?” every time he turns his back to the cell door or covers his head with a blanket so that the guards cannot see his face. During the past week he was forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a “smock” under claims of risk to himself that he disputes.

The sum of the treatment that has been widely reported is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial. If continued, it may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture, defined as, among other things, “the administration or application…of… procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”

Private Manning has been designated as an appropriate subject for both Maximum Security and Prevention of Injury (POI) detention. But he asserts that his administrative reports consistently describe him as a well-behaved prisoner who does not fit the requirements for Maximum Security detention. The brig psychiatrist began recommending his removal from Prevention of Injury months ago. These claims have not been publicly contested. In an Orwellian twist, the spokesman for the brig commander refused to explain the forced nudity “because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning’s privacy.”

The administration has provided no evidence that Manning’s treatment reflects a concern for his own safety or that of other inmates. Unless and until it does so, there is only one reasonable inference: this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.

If Manning is guilty of a crime, let him be tried, convicted, and punished according to law. But his treatment must be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There is no excuse for his degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment. As the State Department’s P.J. Crowley put it recently, they are “counterproductive and stupid.” And yet Crowley has now been forced to resign for speaking the plain truth.

The Wikileaks disclosures have touched every corner of the world. Now the whole world watches America and observes what it does, not what it says.

President Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency. He should not merely assert that Manning’s confinement is “appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards,” as he did recently. He should require the Pentagon publicly to document the grounds for its extraordinary actions—and immediately end those that cannot withstand the light of day.


Bruce Ackerman, Yale Law School

Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School

Additional Signatories (institutional affiliation, for identification purposes only):

Jack Balkin, Yale Law School

Richard L. Abel, UCLA Law

David Abrams, Harvard Law School

Martha Ackelsberg, Smith College

Julia Adams, Sociology, Yale University

Kirsten Ainley, London School of Economics

Jeffrey Alexander, Yale University

Philip Alston, NYU School of Law

Anne Alstott, Harvard Law School

Elizabeth Anderson, Philosophy and Women's Studies, University of Michigan

Kevin Anderson, University of California

Scott Anderson, Philosophy, University of British Columbia

Claudia Angelos, NYU School of Law

Donald K. Anton. Australian National University College of Law

Joyce Appleby, History, UCLA

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Princeton University

Stanley Aronowitz, Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center

Jean Maria Arrigo, PhD, social psychologist, Project on Ethics and Art in Testimony

Reuven Avi-Yonah, University of Michigan Law

H. Robert Baker, Georgia State University

Katherine Beckett, University of Washington

Duncan Bell, Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge

Steve Berenson, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Michael Bertrand, UNC Chapel Hill

Christoph Bezemek, Public Law, Vienna University of Economics and Business

Michael J. Bosia, Political Science, Saint Michael's College

Bret Boyce, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law

Rebecca M. Bratspies, CUNY School of Law

Jason Brennan, Philosophy, Brown University

Talbot Brewer, Philosophy, University of Virginia

John Bronsteen, Loyola University Chicago

Peter Brooks, Princeton University

James Robert Brown, University of Toronto

Sande L. Buhai,Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

Ahmed I Bulbulia, Seton Hall Law School

Susannah Camic, University of Wisconsin Law School

Lauren Carasik, Western New England College School of Law

Teri L. Caraway, University of Minnesota

Alexander M. Capron, University of Southern California, Gould School of Law

Michael W. Carroll, Law American University

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Ph.D, Foreign Service Officer, retired

Jonathan Chausovsky, Political Science, SUNY-Fredonia

Carol Chomsky, University of Minnesota Law School

John Clippinger, Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Andrew Jason Cohen, Georgia State University

Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University

Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Doug Colbert, Maryland School of Law

Sheila Collins, William Paterson University

Nancy Combs, William& Mary Law School

Stephen A. Conrad, Indiana University Mauer School of Law

Steve Cook, Philosophy, Utica College

Robert Crawford,Arts and Sciences, University of Washington

Thomas P. Crocker, University of South Carolina

Jennifer Curtin, UCI School of Medicine

Deryl D. Dantzler, Walter F. Gorge School of Law of Mercer University

Benjamin G. Davis, University of Toledo College of Law

Rochelle Davis, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Wolfgang Deckers, Richmond University, London

Michelle M. Dempsey, Villanova University School of Law

Wai Chee Dimock, English, Yale University

Sinan Dogramaci, Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

Zayd Dohrn, Northwestern University

Jason P. Dominguez, Texas Southern University

Judith Donath, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Norman Dorsen, New York University School of Law

Michael W. Doyle, International Affairs, Law and Political Science, Columbia

Bruce T. Draine, Astrophysics, Princeton University

Jay Driskell,History, Hood College

Michael C. Duff, University of Wyoming College of Law

Lisa Duggan, Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU

Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Graduate Center,CUNY

Stephen M. Engel, PhD, Political Science, Marquette University

Simon Evnine, Philosophy, University of Miami

Mark Fenster, Levin College of Law, University of Florida

Martha Field, Harvard Law School

Justin Fisher, Philosophy, Southern Methodist University

William Fisher, Harvard Law School

Joseph Fishkin, University of Texas School of Law

Mark Fishman, Sociology, Brooklyn College

Martin S. Flaherty, Fordham Law School

George P. Fletcher, Columbia University, School of Law

John Flood, Law and Sociology, University of Westminster

Michael Forman, University of Washington Tacoma

Bryan Frances, Philosophy, Fordham University

Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School

Nancy Fraser, Philosophy and Politics, New School for Social Research

Eric M. Freedman, Hofstra Law School

Monroe H. Freedman, Hofstra University Law School

Kennan Ferguson, University of Wisconsin, MilWaukee

John R. Fitzpatrick, Philosophy, University of Tennessee/Chattanooga

A. Michael Froomkin, University of Miami School of Law

Gerald Frug, Harvard Law School

Louis Furmanski, University of Central Oklahoma

James K. Galbraith, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin

Herbert J Gans, Columbia University

William Gardner, Pediatrics, Psychology,& Psychiatry, The Ohio State University

Urs Gasser, Harvard Law School, Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Julius G. Getman, University of Texas Law School

Todd Gitlin, Columbia University

Bob Goodin, Australian National University

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy, Human Rights, University of Washington

David Golove, NYU School of Law

James R. Goetsch Jr., Philosophy, Eckerd College

Thomas Gokey, Art and Information Studies, Syracuse University

Robert W. Gordon, Yale Law School

Stephen E. Gottlieb, Albany Law School

Mark A. Graber, University of Maryland School of Law

Jorie Graham, Harvard University

Roger Green, Pol. Sci. and Pub. Admin., Florida Gulf Coast

Daniel JH Greenwood, Hofstra University School of Law

Christopher L. Griffin, Visiting, Duke Law School

James Grimmelmann, New York Law School

James Gronquist,Charlotte School of Law

Jean Grossholtz, Politics, Mount Holyoke College

Lisa Guenther, Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

Christopher Guzelian, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Gillian K. Hadfield, Law, Economics, University of Southern California

Jonathan Hafetz, Seton Hall University School of Law

Lisa Hajjar, University of California - Santa Barbara

Susan Hazeldean, Robert M. Cover Fellow, Yale Law School

Dirk t. D. Held, Classics, Connecticut College

Kevin Jon Heller, Melbourne Law School

Lynne Henderson, UNLV--Boyd School of Law (emerita)

Stephen Hetherington, Philosophy, University of New South Wales

Kurt Hochenauer, University of Central Oklahoma

Lonny Hoffman, Univ of Houston Law Center

Michael Hopkins, MHC International Ltd

Nathan Robert Howard, St. Andrews

Marc Morjé Howard, Government, Georgetown University

Kyron Huigens, Cardozo School of Law

Alexandra Huneeus, University of Wisconsin Law School

David Ingram, Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago

David Isenberg,

Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School

Christopher Jencks, Harvard Kennedy School

Paula Johnson, Alliant International University

Robert N. Johnson, Philosophy, University of Missouri

Albyn C. Jones, Statistics, Reed College

Lynne Joyrich, Modern Culture and Media, Brown University

David Kairys, Beasley Law School

Eileen Kaufman, Touro Law Center

Kevin B. Kelly, Seton Hall University School of Law

Antti Kauppinen, Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin

Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School

Daniel Kevles, Yale University

Heidi Kitrosser, University of Minnesota Law School

Gillian R. Knapp, Princeton University

Seth F. Kreimer University of Pennsylvania Law School

Alex Kreit, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Stefan H. Krieger, Hofstra University School of Law

Mitchell Lasser, Cornell Law School

Mark LeBar, Philosophy, Ohio University

Brian Leiter, University of Chicago

Mary Clare Lennon, Sociology, The Graduate Center, CUNY

George Levine,Rutgers University

Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School

Margaret Levi, Pol. Sci., University of Washington and University of Sydney

Tracy Lightcap, Political Science, LaGrange College

Daniel Lipson, Political Science, SUNY New Paltz

Stacy Litz, Drexel University

Fiona de Londras, University College Dublin, Ireland

John Lunstroth, University of Houston Law Center

David Luban, Georgetown University Law Center

Peter Ludlow, Philosophy, Northwestern University

Cecelia Lynch, University of California

David Lyons, Boston University

Colin Maclay, Harvard University, Berkman Center

Joan Mahoney, Emeritus, Wayne State University Law School

Chibli Mallat, Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School

Phil Malone, Harvard Law School

Jane Mansbridge, Harvard Kennedy School

Jeff Manza, Sociology, New York University

Dan Markel, Florida State University

Daniel Markovits, Yale Law School

Richard Markovits, University of Texas Law School

Michael R. Masinter, Nova Southeastern University

Ruth Mason, University of Connecticut School of Law

Rachel A. May, University of South Florida

Jamie Mayerfeld, Political Science, University of Washington

Diane H. Mazur, University of Florida Levin College of Law

Jason Mazzone, Brooklyn Law School

Jeff McMahan, Philosophy, Rutgers University

Richard J. Meagher Jr., Randolph-Macon College

Agustín José Menéndez, Universidad de León and University of Oslo

Hope Metcalf, Yale Law School

Frank I. Michelman, Harvard University

Gary Minda, Brooklyn Law School

John Mikhail, Georgetown University Law Center

Gregg Miller, Political Science, University of Washington

Eben Moglen, Columbia Law School and Software Freedom Law Center

Immanuel Ness, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Charles Nesson, Harvard University

Joel Ngugi, Law, African Studies, University of Washington

Ralitza Nikolaeva, ISCTE Business School, Lisbon University Institute

John Palfrey, Harvard Law School

James Paradis, Comparative Media Studies, MIT

Emma Perry, London School of Economics and Political Science

Charles Pigden, University of Otago

Adrian du Plessis, Wolfson College, Cambridge University

Patrick S. O'Donnell, Philosophy, Santa Barbara City College

Hans Oberdiek, Philosophy, Swarthmore College

Duane Oldfield, Political Science, Knox College

Michael Paris, Political Science, The College of Staten Island (CUNY)

Philip Pettit, University Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton

Frank A. Pasquale, Seton Hall Law School

Matthew Pierce, University of North Carolina

Charles Pigden, Philosophy, University of Otago

Leslie Plachta, MD MPH, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Thomas Pogge, Yale University

Giovanna Pompele, University of Miami

Joel Pust, Philosophy, University of Delaware

Ulrich K. Preuss, Law& Politics, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin

Margaret Jane Radin, University of Michigan and emerita, Stanford University

Aziz Rana, Cornell University Law School

Gustav Ranis, Yale University

Rahul Rao, School of Oriental& African Studies, University of London

Calair Rasmussen, Affiliation: Political Science, University of Delaware

Daniel Ray, Thomas M. Cooley Law School

Jeff A. Redding, Saint Louis University School of Law

C. D. C. Reeve, Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bryan Register, Philosophy, Texas State University

Robert B. Reich, University of California, Berkeley

Cassandra Burke Robertson, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

John A. Robertson, University of Texas Law School

Corey Robin, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center

Clarissa Rojas, CSU Long Beach

Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Susan Rose-Ackerman, Law, Political Science, Yale University

Norm Rosenberg, History, Macalester College

Clifford Rosky, University of Utah

Brad R. Roth, Poli. Sci. and Law, Wayne State University

Barbara Katz Rothman, Sociology, City University of New York

Bo Rothstein Political Science, University of Gothenburg

Laura L. Rovner,University of Denver College of Law

Donald Rutherford,Philosophy, University of California, San Diego

Leonard Rubenstein, JD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Chester M. Rzadkiewicz, History, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

DeWitt Sage, Flimmaker

Cindy Skach, Comparative Government and Law, Oxford

William J. Talbott, Philosophy, University of Washington

Natsu Taylor Saito, Georgia State University College of Law

Dean Savage, Queens College, Sociology, CUNY

Kent D. Schenkel, New England Law

Kim Scheppele, Princeton Univeristy

Ben Schoenbachler, Psychiatry, University of Louisville

Jeffrey Schnapp, Harvard University

Kenneth Sherrill, Political Science, Hunter College

Claire Snyder-Hall, George Mason University

Jeffrey Selbin, Yale Law School

Wendy Seltzer, Fellow, Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy

Jose M. Sentmanat, Philosophy, Moreno Valley College, California

Omnia El Shakry, History, University of California

Scott Shapiro, Yale University

Stephen Sheehi, Languages, Lit. and Cultures, University of South Carolina

James Silk, Yale Law School

Robert D. Sloane, Boston University School of Law

Ronald C. Slye, Law, Seattle University

Matthew Noah Smith, Philosophy, Yale University

Stephen Samuel Smith, Political Science, Winthrop University

John M. Stewart, Emeritus, Psychology, Northland College

Peter G. Stillman, Vassar College

Alec Stone Sweet, Yale Law School

Robert N. Strassfeld, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Mateo Taussig-Rubbo, SUNY-Buffalo Law School

Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College of CUNY

Frank Thompson, University of Michigan

Matthew Titolo, West Virginia University College of Law

Massimo de la Torre, University of Hull Law School

John Torpey, CUNY Graduate Center

Vilna Bashi Treitler, Black& Hispanic Studies, Baruch College, City

Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard University

David M. Trubek, University of Wisconsin (emeritus)

Robert L. Tsai, American University, Washington College of Law

Peter Vallentyne, Philosophy, University of Missouri

Joan Vogel, Vermont Law School

Paul Voice, Philosophy, Bennington College

Victor Wallis,Berklee College of Music

David Watkins, Political Science, University of Dayton

Jonathan Weinberg, Wayne State University

Henry Weinstein, Law, Literary Journalism, University of California

Margaret Weir, Political Science,University of California, Berkeley

Christina E. Wells, University of Missouri School of Law

Danielle Wenner, Rice University

Bryan H. Wildenthal, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Langdon Winner,Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Naomi Wolf, author

Lauris Wren, Hofstra Law School

Elizabeth Wurtzel, Attorney and author

Betty Yorburg, Emerita, City University of New York

Benjamin S. Yost, Philosophy, Providence College

Jonathan Zasloff, UCLA School of Law

Michael J. Zimmer, Professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago

Lee Zimmerman, English, Hofstra University

Mary Marsh Zulack, Columbia Law School