Posts Tagged ‘Whistleblowers’

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.

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What Obama could do to curb Trump’s power

December 5, 2016

President Obama said during the campaign that he’s worried about somebody like Donald Trump with access to the nuclear codes and all the other powers of the Presidency.  A writer named Pratap Chatterjee listed nine things Obama could do to reduce Trump’s power to do harm.

  1.   Name innocent drone victims.
  2.   Make public any reviews of military errors.
  3.   Make public the administration’s criteria for its “targeted killings.”
  4.   Disclose mass surveillance programs.
  5.   Make public all surveillance agreements with private companies.
  6.   Make public all secret laws created in recent years.
  7.   Punish anyone who has abused the drone or surveillance programs.
  8.   Punish those responsible for FBI domain management abuses.
  9.   Pardon Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and the other whistleblowers.

That wouldn’t eliminate a President Trump’s power to start wars without authorization from Congress, but it would be a start on reducing Presidential powers to their Constitutional limits.

LINKS

Obama’s Last Chance by Pratap Chatterjee for TomDispatch.

FBI and NSA Poised to Gain New Surveillance Powers Under Trump by Chris Strohm for Bloomberg News.

 

The passing scene: Links & comments 2/21/2015

February 21, 2015

China pivots everywhere by Pepe Escobar for RT News.

EU Reeling Between US and Russia by Pepe Escobar for Sputnik News.

A couple of years ago, President Putin proposed an economic partnership between Russia and the European Union, which would have been to Europe’s benefit.

Now, with Germany caught up in the U.S.-lead conflict with Russia over Ukraine, this has been wiped off the blackboard.  Now Russia looks to China as its economic partner.  If there is any winner in the Ukraine conflict, it is China.

I have misgivings about linking to RT News and Sputnik News.  They are as much organs of the Russian government as the Voice of America is an organ of the U.S. government.

But I’ll make an exception in Pepe Escobar’s case, just as I did some years back with Julian Assange’s short-lived interview show. I think Escobar is both intellectually acute and independent.

Ukraine Denouement: the Russian Loan and the IMF’s One-Two Punch by Michael Hudson for Counterpunch.

A New Policy to Rescue Ukraine by George Soros for the New York Review of Books.

One of the sidelights of the Ukraine situation is the pivotal role of the wealthy speculator George Soros.  A major contributor to the Democratic Party, he has urged a $50 billion loan to Ukraine in order to fight Russia.

Michael Hudson reported that Soros’s funds are drawing up lists of assets they’d like to buy from Ukrainian oligarchs and the Kiev government when the International Monetary Fund demands they be sold by pay down Ukaine’s debts..

A Whistleblower’s Horror Story by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

It’s not just the federal government that shields wrongdoers while doing after employees that expose them.  Wall Street buys its way out of prosecution while blacklisting employees who reveal its misdeeds.  A case in point: Countrywide / Voice of America whistleblower Michael Winston.

The plight of the bitter nerd: Why so many awkward shy guys wind up hating feminism by Arthur Chu for Salon.

‘I’m Brianna Wu And I’m Risking My Life Standing Up to Gamergate’ by Brianna Wu for Bustle.

Feminist writers are so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire by Michelle Goldberg for The Washington Post.  (Hat tip to Mike the Man Biologist)

Harassment of women on the Internet is no joke, as is shown by this woman’s story of doxing (tracking down and publishing home addresses and other personal information), swatting (sending false emergency calls in her name) and death threats.

The nine billion dollar whistleblower

November 8, 2014

A year ago, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $9 billion settlement with JP Morgan Chase to settle a case of securities fraud.

The $9 billion was the price paid for not going to trail, and not hearing the testimony of whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann, which was a bargain, because the market value of the bank’s stock rose by more than that amount when the settlement was announced.

Fleischmann was a deal maker for JP Morgan Chase who warned her superiors back in 2008 that the bank would be guilty of securities fraud if it sold risky mortgage-backed securities based on false  information.

She was brushed off and lost her job.  She contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice and other authorities and also was brushed off.   But she is determined to bring out the facts anyway, despite the legal risk of violating a confidentiality agreement and the certainty of being blacklisted from working on Wall Street.

“The assumption they made is that I won’t blow up my life to do it,” she said.  “But they’re wrong about that.”  Matt Taibbi told her story in the current Rolling Stone.

LINKS

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JP Morgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Matt Taibbi and Bank Whistleblower on How JP Morgan Chase Helped Wreck the Economy, Avoid Prosecution, the full Democracy Now broadcast with transcript.

Eric Holder stepping down as attorney general

September 25, 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder plans to step down as soon as a successor is confirmed.  I think the following is a just summary of his legacy.

Holder’s tenure as Attorney General has been a tragic one. Not only has he been engulfed in partisan scandals over an incompetent gun running sting known as “Fast and Furious,” he has been under fire for attacking the First Amendment rights of the media and is widely seen as having given his friends and former clients on Wall Street a complete pass on the criminal conduct that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

Holder’s involvement with the war on whistle-blowers, tracking and intimidating reporters, killing Americans without judicial review, and the abysmal failure to enforce the law against criminals in the financial services industry has left America a more divided and unjust society.

Not a particularly good legacy to leave behind.

America not only saw a white collar crime wave go unpunished, but saw Holder himself announce a doctrine that has been called Too Big To Jail.  

Holder claimed in congressional testimony that some Wall Street banks could not be prosecuted because of their size, saying “If you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

Holder made no corresponding effort to break up the banks so they could become the appropriate size for him to feel comfortable prosecuting them when they broke the law. 

Instead, the comment signaled to everyone that if you were big and powerful enough the Holder Justice Department was not coming after you in criminal court – which still holds true as there has not been any major prosecutions against the banks or bankers.

As Eric Holder exits the stage America remains worse off from his having been in office.

via FDL News Desk.

‘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.

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Should good deeds be allowed to go unpunished?

August 22, 2013

There are many people who think that Edward Snowden did a public service in revealing lying and abuse of power by the National Security Agency, but still think he should be punished for revealing secret information.

snowden.spy.paradoxKevin Drum, who writes for Mother Jones, argued the other day that no government can afford to tolerate the workings of its secret espionage organizations being made public.  On the other hand, he wrote, Snowden has revealed a lot of things that are important for the public to know and this information never would have been made public otherwise.

I believe that 30-year-old contractors shouldn’t be the ones who decide which secrets to keep and which ones to reveal. I also believe that, overall, Snowden has been fairly careful about what he’s disclosed and has prompted a valuable public conversation.

So how do you prevent an epidemic of Snowdens while still allowing the salubrious sunlight of the occasional Snowden?  The answer to the former is that intelligence workers need to be afraid of prosecution if they reveal classified documents. I t can’t be a casual act, but a deeply considered one that’s worth going to prison for.  The answer to the latter is that prosecution needs to be judicious.

There’s no question in my mind that Snowden should be prosecuted for what he did.  That’s the price of his actions.  But he shouldn’t be facing a lifetime in a Supermax cell.  The charge against him shouldn’t be espionage, it should be misappropriation of government property or something similar.  Something that’s likely to net him a year or three in a medium-security penitentiary.

via Mother Jones.

This reasoning would make more sense to me if, in fact, the U.S. government did systematically prosecute people who leak classified information.   But in fact classified information is leaked all the time—the latest example being how the U.S. government detected the al Qaeda plot to attack U.S. embassies (assuming that the leaked information was not an attempt to mislead).   Leaking sensitive information that makes the government look good is common and accepted.  Only the leakers who make the government look bad are prosecuted.

snowden.quote_nRobert Zubrin, writing for National Review, had a much better idea:  Offer Edward Snowden immunity from prosecution in return for testimony before a congressional committee.  He reasoned that if Snowden has all this vital secret knowledge, it is better from the standpoint of national security to have him under U.S. jurisdiction than Russian jurisdiction.

There are two important kinds of information that Snowden might reveal.  The first is information of value to America’s adversaries in operations against the United States, its armed forces, and its intelligence agencies.  The second is information of value to Congress and the American public in assessing the NSA’s domestic operations and in taking action, if necessary, to uphold the Constitution and stop NSA malfeasance.

In Moscow, Snowden is well situated to provide the first type of information to our enemies and poorly situated to provide the second to us.  If he were here, on the other hand, he would be well positioned to provide Americans with the second kind of information, and his opportunities to provide our nation’s foreign adversaries with the first kind would be most limited.

So we need to get Snowden back, and the only way to get him back is to set forth terms that induce him to return voluntarily. […]

One must therefore ask the conductors of the chorus chanting “Death to Snowden” why they prefer to have the analyst talking to Russia, Iran, and North Korea rather than to Congress.  Is it because the NSA regards the holders of America’s purse strings as the greater threat?  If so, it would appear that the agency’s leadership has misplaced its priorities.

On the other hand, Snowden may be lying, or grossly exaggerating, in his accusations of deeply subversive anti-constitutional actions by the NSA.  If so, he has done real harm to American freedom by chilling the public with unnecessary fear of a nonexistent panopticon state.  Such falsehoods therefore need to be refuted.

The NSA has issued denials.  Unfortunately, however, because the agency previously lied to Congress and the public about the very existence of the domestic-spying program, those denials have no credibility.  If the NSA is now being truthful, it needs to establish that by taking Snowden on in open confrontation.

via National Review Online.

And maybe after Snowden gets finished testifying to Congress, he should testify to a special prosecutor and a grand jury.  I would think there would be a rich field for investigation just of financial corruption, given the lack of supervision of the vast sums that the secret surveillance agencies handle.

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NSA’s PRISM slides: what they show

June 9, 2013

The leak of a set of Power Point slides revealed the surprisingly wide scope of the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program.  Click on Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations for a report on the leaker and his motivations by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras for The Guardian.

But just what is on the slides?  This is what I found in a Google Image search.

Click to view.

Click to view.

Prism

Click to view.

prism-slide-4_1

Click to view.

new prism slide

Click to view.

The top slide indicates that the NSA is leveraging the United States’ position as the world’s telecommunications center in order to monitor Internet and electronic traffic which, as indicated in the third slide, covers virtually everything.

The second slide shows the dates in which the NSA started collecting PRISM data from various companies.  I wonder why they started with Microsoft in 2007 and didn’t get to Apple until five years later.  Did Apple management have objections?  How were those objections overcome?  Or was there some technical reason why it wasn’t practical to start PRISM collection with all the companies all at once.

The bottom slide indicates that the NSA does not depend on access to Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the other six companies in the PRISM program for electronic eavesdropping.  It collects information as data flows through fiber optics cables and Internet nodes.   PRISM is just a supplemental program.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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