Tag Archives: court-martial

Non-Judicial Punishment: Middle Ground Between Admin Proceedings And Courts-Martial

 This material appeared in the June 2014 issue of On Watch (Volume XXV No.2). The PDF version of the issue is available in the On Watch archive, and a stand-alone memo version is pending. 

James M. Branum on Democracy Now, June 4 2014

James M. Branum on Democracy Now, June 4 2014

by James M. Branum

In this article I will be discussing an important area of the UCMJ, Article 15 (NPJ: Non-Judicial Punishment)1. NJP is used by commanders to deal with misconduct issues that are too serious to be dealt with using administrative corrective procedures, but are minor enough to not necessarily be appropriately handled through a full court-martial prosecution.2

While it is often neglected as area of concern by many attorneys, this is a mistake. NJP is one of the most powerful disciplinary tools used by commands to punish servicemembers for “crimes” while avoiding a formal court-martial proceeding.3 As such, the practical ramifications for servicemembers facing NJP can be serious.

In this article I will review the statutory and regulatory basis for NJP and then move to a practical discussion of tactics that can be used in dealing with a possible NJP. Much of this discussion will be relevant for all branches of the military, but I will only be discussing the branch-specific regulations of the Army. If your case involves another branch of the military, it is essential that you refer to the appropriate branch-specific regulations.

Military Law and the New NDAA

Changes include sexual assault reform, repeal of sodomy ban, numerous other important updates to UCMJ, court-martial procedure.

This article first appeared in the March 2014 issue of On Watch, MLTF’s quarterly newsletter and military law journal. 

The new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014, enacted Dec. 26, 2013, contains a number of significant changes to the UCMJ and court-martial procedure, some but not all are focused on military sexual assault cases. These changes are summarized below; their implications for court-martial practice will be discussed in future issues of On Watch.

MLTF submits clemency request to Manning convening authority

MLTF submitted a letter requesting clemency to the officer authorized to review (and reduce, if he wishes) Chelsea Manning’s court-martial sentence. We use her former name, Bradley, in keeping with her wishes for legal documents. For information on what you can do to support her, see the Pvt. Manning Support Network website.

October 10, 2013

To:        GEN Jeffrey S. Buchanan
From:   Kathleen M. Gilberd, Executive Director, Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild

Subj: PVT Bradley Manning clemency petition

On behalf of the one hundred and sixty lawyers, law students, legal workers and counselors of the National Lawyers Guild’s Military Law Task Force, I am calling on you, as Convening Authority, to reduce PVT Manning’s sentence to time served and to upgrade the dishonorable discharge imposed by the court. The Military Law Task Force has been in existence for some forty years, and we have collectively developed considerable experience and tried many cases before courts-martial. PVT Manning’s case is, however, unique.

One of the benefits of courts-martial, rapidly disappearing from civilian courts, is the emphasis on the individual in determining an appropriate sentence. PVT Manning was accused of, and owned up to, various violations of the law, but motivation and character were not adequately considered by the military law judge. You have the opportunity to correct that.

The information PVT Manning revealed, while embarrassing to the government, is universally recognized as important for a democratic society to have and to debate. It is, as many have pointed out, similar to the revelations made by Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo with their release of the Pentagon Papers. They, too, were prosecuted, albeit unsuccessfully because of government violations of their rights and, today, their act is regarded as patriotic and noble. PVT Manning’s rights were also violated, with overlong pre-trial confinement under conditions that were, at a minimum, cruel, inhuman and degrading. Even if insufficient to warrant dismissal of the charges, those conditions certainly warrant that there be no further incarceration.

We would suggest that PVT Manning should be given the kind of consideration given to James Clapper, Director of National Security, who unquestionably perjured himself in testimony to Congress about government surveillance, yet was not prosecuted and has not even lost his job. Without any proof that any of PVT Manning’s revelations were damaging, and with substantial sentiment that they were beneficial to our democracy, immediate release from confinement seems the least that can be done.

PVT Manning acted out of conscience and the best of motives under difficult circumstances, including moral struggle and isolation. While many would not have made the same choices, we should nonetheless respect the courage of his convictions that PVT Manning possesses. For all these reasons and more, which others have no doubt expressed, we believe that PVT Manning should be freed immediately. Respectfully submitted KATHLEEN M. GILBERD For the Military Law Task Force

Manning clemency letter (.pdf)

Team Manning: How a grassroots crew of war resisters took on the US Army

BY RENA GUAY

Thanks to help from the Task Force, I was able to attend the first days of the Manning court-martial, and also attended the June 1 rally outside the main gate to Ft. Meade, which was organized by the Bradley Manning Support Network (now the Private Manning Support Network).

I wanted to witness the court-martial for myself and more clearly understand the case and the support campaign developed around it. MLTF executive director Kathy Gilberd reflects the general consensus among military law professionals (and progressive activists like me) that the Manning court-martial is “one of the most important cases in our military’s history.”

“It raises,” she observes, “critical issues about the moral and legal obligations of soldiers, and demonstrates the lengths to which the government will go to keep its military actions secret.”

I had to be there, even if only for five days.

As fascinatingly bizarre as the trial proceedings were and as admirable as the work of the legal team in the courtroom was, it was the staff and volunteers with the Support Network that most impressed and inspired me. (Likely this is due to not being a lawyer, but a long time organizer.)

This is the team behind the team, which for over three years has raised funds for legal fees, public education and publicity efforts, coordinated a massive and creative advocacy effort, made sure that reports of the case were made available to the public, despite the best attempts of the government to keep things secret, and generated awareness and action at countless panels, workshops and conferences within the wider peace/progressive movement.

Now that the court-martial is over, and as the needs for the future are being assessed and planned for, it’s worth taking time to consider – and praise — the stunning results this small organization achieved.

Verdict in Manning Case Slow Death for Democracy

Op-Ed for MLTF

[Update]: In a public statement issued on 8/22/13, Pvt. Manning disclosed that her name is now Chelsea Manning, and that she is a female. Going forward, we will honor her request to use her new name and appropriate pronouns, in support of her transition.

Today, although he was acquitted of aiding the enemy, Bradley Manning was found guilty of five counts of violating the Espionage Act. It has long been said that military justice is to justice what military music is to music, but Manning’s prosecution has failed to clear that low bar. Since his arrest in 2010 and the long road to his court martial, the government has perverted the values it claims to represent, and made a mockery of its military justice system. The case has been a travesty since it began. Manning was tortured, held for years before trial, and overcharged. While the process of “justice” for Bradley Manning will proceed through the sentencing phase and appeals process—along with continued advocacy for a full pardon and release—it’s a good time to reflect on the most egregious of the government’s sins thus far.

On July 21, the New York Times reported that accused sexual predators in military service are claiming unlawful command influence because President Obama declared that anyone who committed a sexual assault should be punished and “dishonorably discharged” from military service. He did not name names. He accused no individual of a being guilty of any crime yet, the Times says, his statement will complicate prosecutions and render convictions more difficult.

When it came to Bradley Manning, however, Obama declared him guilty before he was even charged, at a time he was in “detention,” solitary confinement with no clothes, little contact with other human beings, no intellectual stimuli and presumably presumed innocent.

So the first question to be asked in the wake of Manning’s conviction is why he should not be accorded the same rights as rapists. Why did the Times not question potential command influence when the commander in chief declared Bradley Manning—not some nameless future defendant—guilty? Was it possible for any subordinate to ignore that presidential proclamation when rendering a verdict? Some credit must be accorded the judge who acquitted him of at least some charges, but that only demonstrates just how extreme the charges were.

That is not all that is questionable about the case. Recently, Eric Holder had to promise Russia that if Edward Snowden is returned to the United States, he will not face execution or torture. Snowden’s fear is well-founded, not just because of Abu Ghraib, but because of Bradley Manning, who suffered months of torture, defended by Obama. There was a time in the not too distant past when the treatment Manning suffered through would have led to dismissal of the charges against him and condemnation of the prosecution by the courts and media. Now, it appears, the United States no longer has any shame and is more than willing to sacrifice what it proclaims to be our fundamental principles at the altar of security.

Obama came to office promising the most transparent administration ever. He claims that we need an open and frank discussion of what the government should be able to do to protect ourselves from threats, but did so only after its secret operations were exposed. And he aggressively prosecutes those whose actions give rise to the questions he claims should be answered through a national debate.

Hypocrisy and criminality are rife in the United States government and, in its eyes, the worst criminals are those who expose such evils. Among the many documents Manning released, for example, was the notorious “collateral murder” video, showing U.S. pilots killing a Reuters journalist, his driver and several others. Some have argued that, although unfortunate, the killing was justified in the heat of battle but the U.S. denied any knowledge of how the reporter, Namir Noor-Eldeen, died until the video was released. Reuters had simply asked how such events could be avoided in the future and was stonewalled. It is only thanks to Manning that the world knows exactly what happened.

There are two ways in which any government can seek to control security leaks. The first is by honesty and transparency, by allowing the public to know enough to make democratic decisions about how far is too far. That is the path that the United States, and this president, claims to follow. The second is by threatening draconian consequences to anyone who exposes questionable policies and practices to the light of day. That is the path the United States, and this administration, has chosen with the prosecution of Bradley Manning and others. No amount of sophistry can hide that truth, try as the administration might. The result, for Bradley Manning, is many years in prison. The result for democracy is a slow death.