Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kucinich calls accused leaker's treatment "Kafkaesque"

Dennis Kucinich is a busy guy these days. He's not only protesting the war in Libya, scrambling to raise a redistricting-survival fund, and buying a fixer-upper in Washington. He's also angling to become accused Army leaker Bradley Manning's most famous prison visitor.

“What is going on with Secretary Gates and the Department of Defense with respect to Pfc. Manning’s treatment is more consistent with Kafka than the U.S. Constitution,” Kucinich says today.

The Pentagon says it'll let Kucinich visit the suspected Wikileaks leaker, but it won't let them have a private conversation.

"I was belatedly informed that the meeting could only take place if it was recorded," Kucinich says. "Confidentiality is required, however, to achieve the candor that is necessary to perform the oversight functions with which I am tasked as a Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I was also told that I could be subpoenaed to testify about the contents of my conversation with Pfc. Manning." A United Nations torture investigator who wanted to meet with Manning recently got the same answer: if they met, they'd be monitored.

Manning is awaiting trial on more than 22 counts of leaking secret material and aiding the enemy. The Pentagon says he gave Wikileaks hundreds of thousands of classified documents. He could face life in prison if convicted.

Amnesty International and hundreds of legal scholars argue his detention conditions are punitive, inhumane and illegal. The Pentagon says he's being treated like any other maximum-security prisoner on a "prevention of injury watch," which Manning's on because of a comment he made about suicide. (Gawker writer John Cook doesn't buy many of the complaints on Manning's behalf.)

Kucinich wants to visit Manning to see if his detention conditions, which include being forced to strip naked, constitute torture. Even before the Kafka reference, he's been amping up his prison-protest rhetoric: "Is this Quantico or Abu Ghraib?" Kucinich asked last month. He's also needling Robert Gates, saying the defense secretary risks "a blot on his record" and "consequences under the law" for Manning's treatment.

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