Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Manning’

The ultimate threat to Wikileaks

April 25, 2019

The ultimate threat to Wikileaks is not that Julian Assange may be executed or imprisoned for life.  The ultimate threat is that the NSA, GCHQ, FSB or some other intelligence agency will crack the Wikileaks code.

If a government can commit crimes in secret, and can make it a crime to reveal that secret, there is no barrier to dictatorship and tyranny.

The greatness of Julian Assange was to create a program whereby whistleblowers could divulge secrets without revealing their identity, even to Wikileaks itself.

Assange is the founder and public face of Wikileaks, but there are other members who help keep it up and running, and who will continue even if Assange is put away.  If Wikileaks is shut down, the architecture of the system is available to anyone who wants to use it.  Most important news organizations have a Wikileaks-like system for receiving confidential information.

But this is not an achievement that will stand for once and for all.

I have no doubt that governments and corporations are working night and day to find ways to hack the Wikileaks system, and unmask the leakers and truth-tellers.  If and when they do, they will not announce it.

In 2010, Pvt Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning was caught sending unauthorized information to Wikileaks because she unwisely talked to an informer.  But now prosecutors have actual transcripts showing Manning conversed with Assange.

I wonder whether the authorities had these transcripts all along, or whether Assange and Manning used a secure communication system that the government only recently was able to crack.

I hope that the people who believe in disclosure are working just as hard to strengthen and protect the system as the government is to crack it.  This is a race that will not end until either all dissent is crushed or the veil of secrecy is removed from the crimes of governments—I say “governments” plural because it is not just the U.S. government that Wikileaks threatens.




The heroism of Chelsea Manning

May 19, 2017

Chelsea Manning was recently released from Fort Leavenworth military prison after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence for revealing classified information on U.S. war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere.

Glenn Greenwald wrote a fine tribute to her in The Intercept.

In sum, though Manning was largely scorned and rejected in most mainstream Washington circles, she did everything one wants a whistleblower to do: tried to ensure that the public learns of concealed corruption and criminality, with the intent of fostering debate and empowering the citizenry with knowledge that should never have been concealed from them.

Chelsea Manning

And she did it all, knowing that she was risking prison to do so, but followed the dictates of her conscience rather than her self-interest.

But as courageous as that original whistle-blowing was, Manning’s heroism has only multiplied since then, become more multifaceted and consequential. As a result, she has inspired countless people around the world.

At this point, one could almost say that her 2010 leaking to WikiLeaks has faded into the background when assessing her true impact as a human being.

Her bravery and sense of conviction wasn’t a one-time outburst: It was the sustained basis for her last seven years of imprisonment that she somehow filled with purpose, dignity, and inspiration.

The overarching fact of Manning’s imprisonment was its enduring harshness. In 2010, during the first months of her detention in a U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, I began hearing reports from her handful of approved visitors about the vindictive and abusive conditions of her confinement: prolonged solitary confinement, being kept in her cell alone for virtually the entire day, gratuitous, ubiquitous surveillance, and worse.

When I called the brig to investigate these claims, I was startled when a brig official confirmed to me, in the most blasé tones, their accuracy.


Manning to be freed—in exchange for Assange?

January 17, 2017

Five days ago Julian Assange stated on Twitter that he would agree to be extradited to the United States if President Obama freed Chelsea Manning.   Today President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, effective May 17.

Manning is the former U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning who provided information to Wikileaks about military coverups.   He has served nearly seven years of a 35-year sentence, the longest term any American has served for leaking information to the public.

Among the information that he revealed were reports that civilian casualties in Iraq were higher than reported.  He also gave Wikileaks the video footage used below..

I don’t have any way of knowing whether President Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence was done out of humanitarian feeling, or whether it was result of negotiations with Assange.

If it was Obama’s unconditional decision, he deserves credit for doing the right thing.

If it is part of an agreement to trade Assange for Manning, then all I can say is that Assange is a brave and honorable man, and Obama is not.

We’ll see what happens in May.  If Assange does surrender, we’ll see what President Trump does.


Statues in Berlin honor famous whistle-blowers

August 23, 2015


Life-size heroic bronze statues of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were unveiled in May in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz Square.

“They have lost their freedom for the truth, said Italian sculptor Davide Domino, creator of the artwork.  “They mind us how important it is to know the truth.’

Domino depicted the three whistle-blowers standing on chairs and he added an empty fourth chair for anybody who wants to take a stand and speak (as shown above).

We Americans like to see the world as a battle between the good guys and the bad guys.  It is hard to accept that so much of the world sees us as the bad guys.


New Statue in Germany Illustrates Just How Much the Rest of the World Opposes the U.S. Police State by Jay Syrmopoulos for The Free Thought Project.  Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley

August 26, 2013

Shortly after being sentenced to military prison, Pvt. Manning announced a new identity as a woman named Chelsea Manning, and asked friends to use the new name and the feminine pronoun.

This is obviously not a spur of the moment decision, as Manning’s e-mail dialogue with the informer, Adrian Lamo, reproduced in the above video, shows.

Given the great service Manning has performed, by letting me know what my government has been doing behind my back. the least I can do is to refer to Chelsea Manning by her preferred name.   It costs me nothing.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Manning as Chelsea

Manning as Chelsea

I don’t know why Manning thinks of herself as Chelsea instead of Bradley.  Maybe sometimes somebody’s neurological wiring doesn’t match their gross anatomy, and, when someone says they are a woman in a man’s body (or vice versa), they are speaking the literal truth.  But these are deeper waters than I know enough to swim in.

What is plain is that no sane person about to begin a long sentence in a men’s prison would announce that they were a woman in a man’s body unless they had a compelling reason to do so.

I knew of reports that Manning thought of herself as female long before the public announcement.  I never mentioned it in my posts about Manning because I thought that Manning’s whistle-blowing about crimes committed by the U.S. government was an issue I wanted to keep separate from Manning’s desire to change sexual identity.

But maybe these are not two separate things.  Maybe they are two aspects of the same thing—the desire to live in truth.


‘Sometimes you have to pay a heavy price’

August 22, 2013

Bradley Manning

The following is a transcript of the statement made by Pfc. Bradley Manning as read by David Coombs at a press conference on Wednesday after an Army judge sentenced Manning to up to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information.  I think it is worth reading and putting on record.

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in.  Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war.  We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country.  It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing.  It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. 

We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians.  Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture.  We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process.  We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government.  And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power.  When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few.  I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States.  It was never my intention to hurt anyone.  I only wanted to help people.  When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.  I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

For background, click on Bradley Manning to request pardon from Obama over 35-year jail sentence by Paul Lewis for The Guardian.  The article explained that Manning will get credit for time served, and an additional reduction for the abuse he suffered while awaiting trial.  The remainder of the sentence could be reduced by as much as two-thirds for good behavior.  But to my mind, that doesn’t mean he is getting off lightly.

Hat tip to Laura Bruno’s Blog.


Suppose Manning and Snowden really were spies

July 1, 2013

Suppose Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden really had been spies.

spy-vs-spy-without-bombs-775529Suppose they had taken their information to the Russian, Chinese or Iranian embassies instead of Wikileaks or The Guardian.

Would we even know about them?

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin reported in the Washington Post three years ago that more than 850,000 people, working for at least 1,271 agencies and 1,931 contractors at 10,000 locations, had not just clearances, but top secret clearances.   They said no single person in government knows the names of all the secret agencies involved in intelligence, national security and counter-terrorism work.

The other day Ronan Farrow, a former Obama administration official with top secret clearance, wrote than 4.8 million people have clearances to read classified information, and trillions of new documents are classified every year.

How would it even be possible to keep track of secret information, especially when so much work is done by subcontractors outside the direct control of the government?  The Obama administration last year launched a new policy of requiring government employees to report suspicious behavior on the part of fellow employees.  This policy, besides being creepy, seems like an admission of failure of security.

Click on Top Secret America for the Washington Post’s 2010 report.  It’s reasonable to assume that everything that was true then is worse now.   I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a million people with U.S. top secret clearances.

Click on Why are so many US government documents classified? by Ronan Farrow in The Guardian for his full article.

Click on Let’s Not Pretend the Government’s Mass Spying Is an Effective and Efficient Way to Keep Us Safe  for examples of why indiscriminate collection of data has not prevented intelligence failures.  This is from Washington’s Blog, which does a great job of keeping on top of this issue.

Is mass surveillance even legal?  Click on The Criminal N.S.A. for reasons why it isn’t.

Julian Assange on the Bradley Manning show trial

June 25, 2013

Julian Assange said in an interview Monday that the Bradley Manning court-martial is a show trial.   Just like the show trials in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the verdict has been pre-determined, and the purpose of the trial is to convince the public of the defendant’s guilt.

The judge has ruled out the Manning’s lawyers main line of defense, which is that the information he released was wrongly over-classified, and allowed only one of 33 witnesses the defense wanted to call.  The prosecution will call 141 witnesses, some of whom will present their testimony in secret.  Access by the press is controlled, and less than a quarter of those who applied were granted press credentials.

Assange pointed out that many American newspapers published articles using the information Manning revealed, but not one of them contributed to Manning’s defense fund.  Some reporters may have done so individually, however.

What Bradley Manning is accused of

June 7, 2013
Bradley Manning on trial.  Source: Slate

Bradley Manning at Fort Meade.   Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Here are some things the U.S. government has done that Bradley Manning has made known through Wikileaks.

  • During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to thousands of field reports.
  • There were 109,032 “violent deaths” recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians. Leaked records from the Afghan War separately revealed coalition troops’ alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country that opposed genetically modified crops, with U.S. diplomats effectively working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto.
  • British and American officials colluded in a plan to mislead the British Parliament over a proposed ban on cluster bombs.
  • In Baghdad in 2007, a U.S. Army helicopter gunned down a group of civilians, including two Reuters news staff.
  • U.S. special operations forces were conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan despite sustained public denials and statements to the contrary by U.S. officials.
  • A leaked diplomatic cable provided evidence that during an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.
  • A NATO coalition in Afghanistan was using an undisclosed “black” unit of special operations forces to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. The unit was revealed to have had a kill-or-capture list featuring details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida, but it had in some cases mistakenly killed men, women, children, and Afghan police officers.
  • The U.S. threatened the Italian government in an attempt to influence a court case involving the indictment of CIA agents over the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Separately, U.S. officials were revealed to have pressured Spanish prosecutors to dissuade them from investigating U.S. torture allegations, secret “extraordinary rendition” flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by U.S. troops in Iraq.
  • In apparent violation of a 1946 U.N. convention, Washington initiated a spying campaign in 2009 that targeted the leadership of the U.N. by seeking to gather top officials’ private encryption keys, credit card details, and biometric data.

Via Slate

If we the people have a right to know these things, then Bradley Manning should be exonerated.

If there is a duty to report war crimes, then Bradley Manning is a hero.

Bradley Manning is a criminal only if it is wrong for you and me to know that the U.S. government is committing crimes.


Julian Assange: a profile in courage

May 15, 2013

The United States and British governments treat Julian Assange like the ultimate terrorist threat.

police. ecuadorian-embassyMembers of the London Metropolitan Police, wearing Kevlar vests, surround the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange has taken refuge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They occupy the front steps and entrances, they occupy street corners nearby, one police officer occupies a room in a building adjoining Assange’s room.  Chris Hedges, a journalist and former war correspondent, said the Metropolitan Police spent the equivalent of $4.5 million in surveillance of Julian Assange just through January 31.

Behind the United Kingdom government is the power of the U.S. government.  A dozen government agencies are working on the Julian Assange case.  They have waged economic warfare and cyberwarfare to try to shut down Assange’s WikiLeaks operation.  They interrogate and try to recruit WikiLeaks supporters every time they pass through a U.S.-controlled airport.  Assange’s lawyers believe that Bradley Manning, who leaked confidential government information to WikiLeaks, could plea bargain for a reduced sentence by testifying that Assange solicited the information.

A secret grand jury in Arlington, Va., reportedly has handed down a sealed indictment of Assange.  Hedges reported that the Department of Justice is mounting a major effort on this.  It spent $2 million this year alone for a computer system to handle Assange prosecution documents.  The U.S. Congress in 1989 authorized the federal government to seize anyone, anywhere in the world, who is accused of a crime under U.S. law, even if this is done in violation of international law or the law of the country concerned.

I read a lot about the partisan divisions in the U.S. government, but Democrats and Republicans, the so-called liberals and the so-called conservatives, are united in their desire for the U.S. government to capture Julian Assange.   If this happens, Julian Assange can look forward to spending the rest of his life in the equivalent of the Soviet Gulag.

jul650What is Julian Assange’s crime?  What makes him such a threat?  What he has done is to break the wall of secrecy which makes possible the “disposition matrix,” “signature strikes,” “extraordinary renditions,” “enhanced interrogation” and all the other secret Orwellian activities of government.  If he is guilty of revealing secret information to the enemy under the Espionage Act, it is only if the U.S. government regards the American people as its enemy.

The remarkable thing is that, with all this power arrayed against him, Julian Assange is not afraid.   The powers-that-be are afraid of him.  He is not afraid of them.  Trapped in a corner, he continues his work, to make known what the world’s governments want to hide.  To the extent that freedom and democracy survive the next few decades, he will be regarded as one of our era’s greatest heroes.

Click on The Death of Truth: Chris Hedges Interviews Julian Assange for Hedges’ full report and links to the interview.


Current history quiz for Obama voters

March 2, 2013


Answers (with links) are below.


Bob Woodward’s leaks vs. Bradley Manning’s

March 1, 2013

Bradley Manning is a hero, not a traitor

March 1, 2013

We live in a time when the government has more and more power to power to collect information about the citizens, the citizens have less and less power to find out what the government is doing, and the executive claims powers to operate outside the law.

Under such circumstances, the only way that we the people have to know what the government is doing is for courageous individuals to defy the government and reveal the secret crimes.

Double click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Private Bradley Manning is a hero.  He faces court-martial for massive disclosure of secret information to WikiLeaks, including the “collateral murder” video, which showed the crew of an Apache helicopter shooting unarmed civilians and then the passers-by to attempted to help the wounded.  He also made public war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, a vast number of diplomatic cables and information about mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including unauthorized disclosure of secret information, but not guilty to 12 other charges, including knowingly giving help to al Qaeda, causing secret information to be published with the intent of making it available to the enemy, and knowingly disclosing information that would be used to injure the United States or helping a foreign nation.

He said he made the information public because he thought the American people ought to know what their government was doing.  “We were obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and ignoring goals and missions,” he told the court.  “I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general [that] might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter-terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.”

I don’t think anybody who was followed his case would doubt that this was his motive.

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

Manning said that he first offered his information to the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Politico news service, and was turned down.  Only then, he said, did he turn to WikiLeaks.  This will undermine government attempts to claim that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange conspired with Manning to obtain the tapes.   I personally think the reason that the government waited so long to bring Manning to trial was the hope that he could be induced to implicate Assange.   If so, they were disappointed.

The New York Times and Washington Post editors, in rejecting the information, behaved differently from the editors of an earlier era who published the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War.  As with the WikiLeaks disclosures, the Pentagon Papers revealed little that enemy leaders didn’t already know, but much that was highly embarrassing to the government.

Manning’s trial judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said that you can’t have a functioning military if everyone is free to disregard orders because of conscience.   That’s a good point.   But it’s not as if Bradley Manning has gotten off scot-free.   He has been in prison for two and a half years (1,012 days), including months stripped naked in solitary confinement.  He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison on the charges to which he has pleaded guilty (voluntarily, without a plea bargain), and he could be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted on the other charges.  If it were up to me, I would find him guilty and sentence him to time served, plus a bad conduct discharge.


Julian Assange on the surveillance state

December 1, 2012

Julian Assange gave an an interview yesterday to Democracy Now! about Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and his new book Cypherpunks.  Here’s part of what he said.

There’s not a barrier anymore between corporate surveillance, on the one hand, and government surveillance, on the other.  You know, Facebook is based—has its servers based in the United States.  Gmail, as General Petraeus found out, has its servers based in the United States.  And the interplay between U.S. intelligence agencies and other Western intelligence agencies and any intelligence agencies that can hack this is fluid.

So, we’re in a—if we look back to what’s a earlier example of the worst penetration by an intelligence apparatus of a society, which is perhaps East Germany, where up to 10 percent of people over their lifetime had been an informer at one stage or another, in Iceland we have 88 percent penetration of Iceland by Facebook.  Eighty-eight percent of people are there on Facebook informing on their friends andtheir movements and the nature of their relationships—and for free.  They’re not even being paid money.  They’re not even being directly coerced to do it.  They’re doing it for social credits to avoid the feeling of exclusion.

But people should understand what is really going on.  I don’t believe people are doing this or would do it if they truly understood what was going on, that they are doing hundreds of billions of hours of free work for the Central Intelligence Agency, for the FBI, and for all allied agencies and all countries that can ask for favors to get hold of that information.

William Binney, the former chief of research, the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence division, describes this situation that we are in now as “turnkey totalitarianism,” that the whole system of totalitarianism has been built—the car, the engine has been built—and it’s just a matter of turning the key. And actually, when we look to see some of the crackdowns on WikiLeaks and the grand jury process and targeted assassinations and so on, actually it’s arguable that key has already been partly turned. The assassinations that occur extra-judicially, the renditions that occur, they don’t occur in isolation. They occur as a result of the information that has been sucked in through this giant signals interception machinery.

That’s a strong statement, but I don’t think it is an exaggeration.   Watch the interview and decide for yourself.  The key parts are between the 10th and 20th minute and after the 32nd minute.   Or click on Julian Assange on Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and the Emerging Surveillance State and read the transcript.

Retracing Julian Assange’s trail in Sweden

July 30, 2012

The Four Corners investigative team of Australia’s ABC broadcasting network tried to retrace Julian Assange’s steps during the time he is accused of having abused two women in Sweden.  They showed that there are many questionable things about the charges, and that there are good reasons why he fears being extradited to Sweden, although exactly what happened remains a mystery.

Click on Sex, Lies and Julian Assange for the video, a transcript and links to additional information.  If you viewed the video above, I recommend you click on this link and then the link to the sidebar showing an interview with Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer for Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen, the two alleged victims.

Click on Wikileaks: the Forgotten Man for the Four Corners report on the Bradley Manning case.

Click on The Wikileaks Interviews for Four Corners’ in-depth interviews with eight key figures in the Bradley Manning Case.

These Four Corners links have further links to further information and updates in the Julian Assange and Bradley Manning cases.

Bradley Manning, an American hero

June 22, 2012

This documentary, aired on Australian television last week, gives good background on the Bradley Manning case and its connection with the campaign against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  It is 45 minutes long, but well worth watching.

To me Bradley Manning is an American hero.  He is risking his life to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Under any constitutional government, nobody is below the protection of the law and nobody is above the obligation to obey the law.  There is no obligation to cover up crimes simply because the criminal actions were committed by somebody above you in the chain of command.

I have heard people say that Bradley Manning has no right to reveal “our” secrets.  They aren’t my secrets.  They are secrets being kept from me.  It is not a question of revealing U.S. military secrets to the nation’s enemies.  It is a question of revealing the truth about the U.S. government’s actions to the American people, and the people of the world.

Defending Bradley Manning

March 2, 2012

Click on United States vs. Manning & Assange for a transcript of this interview on the Real News Network.

Is Bradley Manning the real criminal?

December 18, 2011

This program aired on the Real News Network last Wednesday, and is based on a documentary that was on German television about 10 months ago.

My morning newspaper carried an Associated Press dispatch saying that material in the video may not have been classified information.

During its cross-examination of [Special Agent Toni] Graham [an Army criminal investigator], Manning’s defense team … sought to convince the court that not all the material he is accused of leaking is classified.

Graham, who collected evidence from Manning’s living quarters and workplace, testified that among the items seized was a DVD marked “secret” that contained a military video showing the 2007 incident in which Apache attack helicopters gunned down unarmed men in Iraq.

[Major Matthew] Kemkes, one of Manning’s lawyers, asked Graham whether she knew the video was unclassified.  She said she didn’t.  “In fact, it was an unclassified video,” Kemkes said.

At the time the video was posted by WikiLeaks, the Pentagon called it a breach of national security and it was believed to be a secret.

There is nothing in the Apache helicopter video that was unknown to the people of Iraq and their neighbors.  They knew very well how war was waged in Iraq.  The people that the American government didn’t want to see the video were the people of the United States.  The secrecy was aimed at us.

Manning is accused of releasing a great deal of other material, some of which really is classified as confidential or secret.  An estimated 2.5 million personnel reportedly had access to that material.  If so, it can’t have been all that secret.

It should be noted that the program refers to conditions under which Manning was then being held at the Marine Corps station at Quantico.  Subsequently he was moved to Fort Leavenworth and held under more humane conditions.  And Manning is no longer in jeopardy of the death penalty, although if convicted he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.  So there has been some improvement in his situation since the program was made.

But meanwhile the soldiers who shot a wounded man and his rescuer, and the people who ordered them to do it, and the people who gave them orders, are in jeopardy of nothing at all.

Bradley Manning to get a day in court

December 14, 2011

After 17 months in prison, PFC Bradley Manning will get his day in court on charges that he leaked confidential government information to Wikileaks.  He faces the possibility of life in prison.

The U.S. Army will begin a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Md., to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring him to trial.  This hearing is expected to last about a week.  Barring the unexpected, a date for his actual trial will then be set.

PFC Manning, a 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst (his 24th birthday is Saturday), is accused of making public the “Collateral Murder” video of a US helicopter attack that killed a dozen unarmed Iraqis, the “Iraq War Logs”, the “Afghan Diaries”, the “Gitmo Files”, and a trove of embarrassing US State Department cables by providing these files to the WikiLeaks website.

Like any other defendant, he is entitled to a legal presumption of innocence, but I have not heard any claim by his supporters or his lawyers that he is falsely accused of leaking the information.  Rather their claim is that he was justified.

Although he is charged with espionage, along with lesser charges of theft of property and he is not accused of working for a foreign power.  Rather he is accused of embarrassing the government by making the American people and the people of the world aware of things the government wants to cover up.

He had a legal obligation as a soldier to keep classified information secret.  If that legal obligation is to mean anything, a violation has to be punished.  But life imprisonment?   This is wildly disproportionate when you consider that government officials leak confidential information all the time, and suffer no punishment, because this advances some powerful person’s agenda.  If it were up to me, I would sentence PFC Manning to the time he has already served, and let it go at that.

Click on Bradley Manning deserves a medal for Glenn Greenwald’s comment in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.  [Added 12/15/11]

Click on Accused Wikileaker defense argues Obama must testify for PFC Manning’s lawyers likely defense.

Click on Bradley Manning’s “no touch” torture for my earlier post on the conditions of his imprisonment.

Click on Manning Hearing Moves Forward Under a Cloud of Questions for a dispatch from Wired magazine.  [Added 12/17/11]

Does freedom of press apply to Julian Assange?

December 1, 2011

The U.S. State Department, as well as many high-level American editors and commentators, have questioned whether Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is a journalist.  It is a practical as well as a theoretical issue.  If Assange comes under constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom of the press, the government will have a hard time justifying a prosecution of Assange.

Last weekend Assange was given Australia’s top journalism award, the Walkey Prize, that nation’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.  But that won’t impress Assange’s enemies, including the U.S. State Department, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the editors of the New York Times or Britain’s The Guardian, despite the fact that Wikileaks gave the latter two scoops they never could have got for themselves.

I spent 40 years working for newspapers, and I can say from personal experience that journalists are not professionals in the sense that lawyers and professionals are professionals.  Most of us are employees, and are accountable for what we write to our employers, not professional associations.  Many of us do maintain high personal professional standards, and many of us have press credentials, but the second is not contingent on the first.

Fox News reporters, who have no standards whatever, have press credentials, and are accepted as legitimate journalists by the rest of the Washington press corps.  What grounds, then, to they have for questioning the legitimacy of Julian Assange.

Freedom of the press means simply the right to disseminate knowledge and opinion through the printed word, just as freedom of speech means the right to disseminate knowledge and opinion through the spoken word.  You don’t need special status to be entitled to this basic right.  The U.S. Constitution does not contain the word “journalist”; its guarantees are intended to apply to all people, not just those with some official status.

Julian Assange currently faces extradition to Sweden to answer questions related to charges of sexual misconduct.  He fears extradition from Sweden to the United States on as-yet unspecified charges.  His lawyers on Monday will ask Britain’s new Supreme Court to hear an appeal of Assange’s extradition order on the grounds that it is a matter of “public importance.”


Iraq war veteran says Manning is a hero

July 29, 2011

PFC Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 14 months on charges of leaking secret government information, including the tape for the Collateral Murder video, to Wikileaks.  He was held at Quantico Marine barracks from July 2010 to April of this year under conditions of solitary confinement and maximum security that resemble Soviet-style brainwashing.  He is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  No trial date has been set.

Specialist Ethan McCord, who served Bravo Company 2-16, the ground troops depicted in the video, told blogger Glenn Greenwald that if Manning was the leaker, he is “a hero of mine.”  Here is his statement.

Serving with my unit 2nd battalion 16th infantry in New Baghdad Iraq, I vividly remember the moment in 2007, when our Battalion Commander walked into the room and announced our new rules of engagement:

“Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!”

We weren’t trained extensively to recognize an unlawful order, or how to report one. But many of us could not believe what we had just been told to do. Those of us who knew it was morally wrong struggled to figure out a way to avoid shooting innocent civilians, while also dodging repercussions from the non-commissioned officers who enforced the policy.  In such situations, we determined to fire our weapons, but into rooftops or abandoned vehicles, giving the impression that we were following procedure.

On April 5, 2010 American citizens and people around the world got a taste of the fruits of this standing operating procedure when WikiLeaks released the now-famous Collateral Murder video.  This video showed the horrific and wholly unnecessary killing of unarmed Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists.

I was part of the unit that was responsible for this atrocity.  In the video, I can be seen attempting to carry wounded children to safety in the aftermath.

The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. Covering up this incident is a matter deserving of criminal inquiry. Whoever revealed it is an American hero in my book.

Private First Class Bradley Manning has been confined for over a year on the government’s accusation that he released this video and volumes of other classified documents to WikiLeaks — an organization that has been selectively publishing portions of this information in collaboration with other news outlets.


PayPal vs. Bradley Manning

February 24, 2011

I just received the following e-mail from the Bradley Manning Support Network.

PayPal just froze the account of the Bradley Manning Support Network, a group raising funds for the legal defense of alleged Wikileaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning. The group can no longer accept donations through PayPal, or access the money in its account.

The Bradley Manning Support Network didn’t do anything illegal. PayPal even admits there’s no legal reason to shut down the group’s account; it’s an “internal policy decision.”

If I understand this e-mail correctly, PayPal is not only refusing to forward money to the Bradley Manning Support Network, it has denied the network access to its own money.

Click on PayPal Freezes Account for details from Firedoglake,

Click on Bradley Manning’s “no touch” torture for background.

[Update 3/1/11]  I received an e-mail today from the Bradley Manning Advocacy Fund saying that PayPal, after receiving a petition signed by 18,000 people, unfroze Bradley Manning’s account and resumed processing donations.

Bradley Manning is an American hero

February 3, 2011

The following is from an article by Dave Lindorff on the TruthOut web site.

Bradley Manning

When you see photos of … Bradley Manning, the fresh, boyish-faced 23-year old private who has spent the last seven months in solitary confinement, first in Kuwait and later at the Marine base at Quantico, VA, enduring the tender mercies of military guards, you don’t get the sense that this is someone who could withstand a lot of pressure and physical and mental abuse.

But it turns out he’s one tough hombre. Manning, according to his attorney, to a friend who has been allowed to visit him, and to activists who have been demonstrating outside Quantico for his release from this private hell, has been subjected to sleep deprivation, has been barred from exercising in the slightest, and recently was improperly placed by the Quantico base commander on suicide watch–meaning his clothing was removed, and also his reading glasses–as punishment for “disobeying” orders of the guards. (After news of this order, and publicity about it, the commander rescinded it, and was criticized by the Pentagon for allegedly overstepping his authority, an indication that public pressure in this case can help.)

The aim of all this abuse, which is now being investigated by a UN human rights investigator, has been blatantly to crush his spirit, in hopes of getting him to agree to implicate Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks organization, in inducing him to leak the hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, and the visual tapes, of Iraq and Afghan war reports, helicopter murder, and US State Department cables, all of which have been undermining the US war effort and the US diplomatic agenda. ……

Pvt. Manning, whatever his fate at the hands of his military overlords, will someday be hailed as one of America’s heroes. Confronted by the overwhelming might of the most powerful war machine the world has ever known, and by a government that long ago tossed out any semblance of conscience or morality, he has stood his ground, refusing to lie on the promise of leniency.

What the Obama administration, and President Obama as direct boss of the AG’s office and as commander in chief of the military, has been doing in Manning’s case–holding him in solitary confinement in a Marine brig, subjecting him to conditions that the world and international and US law recognize as torture, denying him the right to a speedy trial or court-martial on a charge of allegedly leaking secret documents–all in the attempt to wring a false confession out of him–is exactly what was done for years in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.

Click on Tyranny American-style for the full article.

It is an exaggeration to compare Manning with the victims of Joseph Stalin.  Maybe he is like a Soviet dissident in the late 1970s and early 1980s, for whom I was writing letters for Amnesty International back then.  Certainly his treatment is incompatible with the principles of American freedom and democracy.


Bradley Manning’s “no touch” torture

December 26, 2010

The movie “X2: X-Men United” begins with the super-villain Magneto in solitary imprisonment in a clear plastic cell suspended in mid-air.  His captors hope, in vain, that his conditions of captivity will prevent him from using super-powers to escape.

Bradley Manning out of uniform

Pfc. Bradley Manning, awaiting trial on charges of disclosing thousands of confidential diplomatic files to Wikileaks, has no super-powers.  Yet he is confined under these conditions.

At Quantico, Manning was placed in solitary confinement under “maximum custody” and a restrictive “Prevention of Injury” order while he awaits trial.

Those restrictions include:

* Detained in his cell for 23 hours a day

* Guards must check on Manning every 5 minutes, and he must reply

* Not allowed to have a pillow or a blanket.

* Not allowed to sleep between 5am and 8pm, with heavy restrictions when he is allowed to sleep.

* Not allowed any substantive exercise.

* No communication allowed beyond a limited list approved by the brig commander. All other letters must be destroyed.

* Not allowed to watch national news.


What’s so terrible about that?  It is not as if his tongue is being cut out, as happened to some Iraqis who spoke disrespectfully of Saddam Hussein or his sons.  No, his body will not be mutilated, but he is being tortured nevertheless.

The U.S. State Department in its human rights reports on other countries describes solitary confinement as a form of torture.  An article in The New Yorker magazine last year told how prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons destroys prisoners mentally; they either become passive, child-like and obedient, or uncontrollably violent.  John McCain once said that when he was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, solitary confinement was worse than physical abuse – which, given the physical abuse he suffered, is an extremely powerful statement.

Experiments with mice, rats and monkeys show that animals deprived of physical contact with other living things become incapable of functioning.  Memoirs of American servicemen imprisoned by the North Vietnamese and of Soviet prisoners in the Gulag tell of tapping on the walls of their cells to make contact with other human beings, and of how this human contact enable them to survive mentally.

These ex-prisoners of the Communists tell of how they maintained their sanity through physical and mental exercise – working mathematical problems, recalling and mentally reciting poetry and Bible verses, playing old movies in their minds, prayer and meditation, mental baseball, anything that would give the mind a focus.

Manning is systematically prevented from doing this.  He is forbidden to do push-ups or knee-bends; his only permitted exercise is walking (but not jogging) aimlessly in an empty room for one hour a day.  Every five minutes, his captors interrupt any chain of thought he may have by asking him if he is okay and demanding he reply.  The lights are on in his cell 24 hours a day, so that day or night are the same – except that he is allowed to sleep only between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., in boxer shorts on a bed with no sheets, and subject to being waked up whenever his guards can’t see his face.

This is being done to someone who has not been convicted of anything, and who, by all accounts, has been a model prisoner.  Why?  I can think of three possible explanations, not mutually exclusive.

(1) Pure spite and sadistic cruelty.

(2) To instill fear in others who might be tempted to follow his example.  What Manning is going through is more terrifying than any punishment prescribed by law.

(3) To induce Manning to testify, truly or falsely, against Julian Assange of Wikileaks.  The U.S. government is in the embarrassing position of having declared Assange its Public Enemy No. One without first figuring out what, if any law, he has broken.  Attorney-General Eric Holder is said to be thinking of charging Assange with “conspiracy,” which is the crime of helping somebody else plan or commit a crime.  I don’t see how he could do that without showing that Assange and Manning had some kind of personal contact.  Assange denies this, but maybe Manning can be induced to say otherwise.

The U.S. government need not come up with evidence sufficient to convict Assange in court, only evidence sufficient to take him into custody.  The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has claimed the authority to hold people indefinitely and put them on trial only when and if a guilty verdict is certain. Bradley Manning’s treatment is a only a taste of what Julian Assange would suffer if he fell into the hands of U.S. security agencies.