Tag Archives: Arrest of Bradley Manning

Why Bradley Manning Is a Patriot, Not a Criminal


by Tom Engelhardt and Chase Madar

Recently by Tom Engelhardt: Pox Americana

Source: http://www.lewrockwell.com/engelhardt/engelhardt419.html

The Obama administration came into office proclaiming “sunshine” policies.  When some of the U.S. government‘s dirty laundry was laid out in the bright light of day by WikiLeaks, however, its officials responded in a knee-jerk, punitive manner in the case of Bradley Manning, now in extreme isolation in a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia.  The urge of the Obama administration and the U.S. military to break his will, to crush him, is unsettling, to say the least.  Whatever happens to Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, Washington is clearlyintent on destroying this young Army private and then putting him away until hell freezes over.

It should not be this way.

Today, thanks to lawyer and essayist Chase Madar, TomDispatch is making a long-planned gesture towards Manning, whose acts, aimed at revealing the worst this country had to offer in recent years, will someday make him a genuine American hero – but that’s undoubtedly little consolation to him now.  When it comes to America’s recent wars, its torture regimes, black sites, and extraordinary renditions, as well as the death and destruction visited on distant lands, blood is on many official American hands, but not on Manning’s.  Those officials should be held accountable, not him.

With that in mind, TomDispatch offers its version of the defense of Bradley Manning.  (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast video interview in which Chase Madar explores Manning’s case and his defense, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

An Opening Statement for the Defense of Private Manning

By Chase Madar

Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old from Crescent, Oklahoma, enlisted in the U.S. military in 2007 to give something back to his country and, he hoped, the world.

For the past seven months, Army Private First Class Manning has been held in solitary confinement in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Twenty-five thousand other Americans are also in prolonged solitary confinement, but the conditions of Manning’s pre-trial detention have been sufficiently brutal for the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture to announce an investigation.

Pfc. Manning is alleged to have obtained documents, both classified and unclassified, from the Department of Defense and the State Department via the Internet and provided them to WikiLeaks.  (That “alleged” is important because the federal informant who fingered Manning, Adrian Lamo, is a felon convicted of computer-hacking crimes. He was also involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution in the month before he levelled his accusation.  All of this makes him a less than reliable witness.)  At any rate, the records allegedly downloaded by Manning revealed clear instances of war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq andAfghanistan, widespread torture committed by the Iraqi authorities with the full knowledge of the U.S. military, previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and the massive Iraqi civilian death tollcaused by the American invasion.

For bringing to light this critical but long-suppressed information, Pfc. Manning has been treated not as a whistleblower, but as a criminal and a spy.  He is charged with violating not only Army regulations but also the Espionage Act of 1917, making him the fifth American to be charged under the act for leaking classified documents to the media.  A court-martial will likely be convened in the spring or summer.

Politicians have called for Manning’s head, sometimes literally.  And yet a strong legal defense for Pfc. Manning is not difficult to envision.  Despite many remaining questions of fact, a legal defense can already be sketched out.  What follows is an “opening statement” for the defense.  It does not attempt to argue individual points of law in any exhaustive way.  Rather, like any opening statement, it is an overview of the vital legal (and political) issues at stake, intended for an audience of ordinary citizens, not Judge Advocate General lawyers.

After all, it is the court of public opinion that ultimately decides what a government can and cannot get away with, legally or otherwise.

Opening Statement for the Defense of Bradley Manning, Soldier and Patriot

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning has done his duty.  He has witnessed serious violations of the American military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice, violations of the rules in U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, and violations of international law.  He has brought these wrongdoings to light out of a profound sense of duty to his country, as a citizen and a soldier, and his patriotism has cost him dearly.

In 2005, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters: “It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member [in Iraq], if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to try to stop it.”  This, in other words, was the obligation of every U.S. service member in Operation Iraqi Freedom; this remains the obligation of every U.S. service member in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.  It is a duty that Pfc. Manning has fulfilled.

Who is Pfc. Bradley Manning?  He is a 23-year-old Private First Class in the U.S. Army.  He was raised in Crescent, Oklahoma (population 1,281, according to the last census count).  He enlisted in 2007. “He was basically really into America,” says a hometown friend.  “He was proud of our successes as a country.  He valued our freedom, but probably our economic freedom the most.  I think he saw the U.S. as a force for good in the world.”

When Bradley Manning deployed to Iraq in October 2009, he thought that he’d be helping the Iraqi people build a free society after the long nightmare of Saddam Hussein. What he witnessed firsthand was quite another matter.

He soon found himself helping the Iraqi authorities detain civilians for distributing “anti-Iraqi literature” – which turned out to be an investigative report into financial corruption in their own government entitled “Where does the money go?”  The penalty for this “crime” in Iraq was not a slap on the wrist. Imprisonment and torture, as well as systematic abuse of prisoners, are widespread in the new Iraq. From the military’s own Sigacts (Significant Actions) reports, we have a multitude of credible accounts of Iraqi police and soldiers shooting prisoners, beating them to death, pulling out fingernails or teeth, cutting off fingers, burning with acid, torturing with electric shocks or the use of suffocation, and various kinds of sexual abuse including sodomization with gun barrels and forcing prisoners to perform sexual acts on guards and each other.

Manning had more than adequate reason to be concerned about handing over Iraqi citizens for likely torture simply for producing pamphlets about corruption in a government notorious for its corruptness.

Like any good soldier, Manning immediately took these concerns up the chain of command.  And how did his superiors respond?  His commanding officer told him to “shut up” and get back to rounding up more prisoners for the Iraqi Federal Police to treat however they cared to.

Now, you have already heard what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say about an American soldier’s duties when confronted with the torture and abuse of prisoners. Ever since our country signed and ratified the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture, it has been the law of our land that handing over prisoners to a body that will torture them is a war crime.  Nevertheless, between early 2009 and August of last year, our military handed over thousands of prisoners to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well what would happen to many of them.

The next time Pfc. Manning encountered evidence of war crimes, he took a different course of action.

On the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) shared by the Departments of Defense and State Manning soon found irrefutable evidence of possible war crimes, including a now-infamous “Collateral Murder” video in which a U.S. Apache helicopter mowed down some 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, on a street in Baghdad on July 12, 2007.  The world has now seen and been shocked by this video which Reuters is alleged to have had in its possession but had not yet made public.  Manning is alleged to have leaked it to the whistleblower site WikiLeaks in April 2010.

Manning also found a video and an official report on American air strikes on the village of Granai in Afghanistan’s Farah Province (also known as “the Granai massacre”). According to the Afghan government, 140 civilians, including women and a large number of children, died in those strikes.  He is alleged to have released that video as part of a tranche of some 92,000 military documents relating to our escalating war in Afghanistan – already the longest war our nation has ever fought – and Pakistan, where the war is steadily spreading.  Manning is also alleged to have released to WikiLeaks some 392,000 documentsregarding the Iraq War, many of which relate to the torture of prisoners, as well as some 251,000 State Department cables.

Now, in your judgment of Bradley Manning, please know that the stakes are indeed high, but not in the feverish way our political and media elites have been telling you from nearly every newspaper, channel, and website in the land.  We will want you, a true jury of Manning’s military peers, to ask a few questions about what’s really been going on in this trial – and in this country. After all, when we reward lawyers in the Justice Department who created memos that made torture legal with federal judgeships andregular newspaper columns, while locking lock up a whistle-blowing private, you have to ask: What country are we now living in?

This trial couldn’t be more important or your judgment more crucial.  The honor of our country is very much at stake in how you decide.  When we let the aerial slaughter of civilian noncombatants pass without comment or review, when a reported 92 children die from an American air strike on an Afghan village and 18 civilians are shot dead on a Baghdad street without the slightest accountability, except when it comes to locking up the private who ensured that we would know about these acts – let me repeat – the honor of your country and mine is at stake and at risk.  Not the security of your country, though the prosecution will claim otherwise, but the honor of our country, and especially the honor of our military.

Pfc. Bradley Manning is one soldier who has done his duty.  He has complied with it to the letter.  Now you must do your duty as members of this jury and as soldiers.

Our Whistleblower Laws Protect Pfc. Manning

The prosecution will surely tell you that none of our existing whistleblower protection laws, interpreted narrowly, apply to Bradley Manning.

I say otherwise, and so will the experts we will call to the stand.  You will hear from legal expert Jesselyn Radack, an attorney and former whistleblower who was purged, punished, and then vindicated for her courageous acts of disclosing illegal wrongdoing inside the Bush administration’s Department of Justice.  Ms. Radack will explain to you why and how Bradley Manning is well protected by our current laws.  After all, the Whistleblower Protection Act is designed to protect a government employee who exposes fraud, waste, abuse, or illegality to anyone inside or outside a government agency, including a member of the news media.  This is well supported by case law.  (See Horton v. Dep’t of Navy, 66. F3d 279, 282 (Fed. Cir. 1995)].  Isn’t that exactly what Pfc. Bradley Manning has done?

As a fallback argument, the prosecution is sure to suggest that WikiLeaks is not a real media entity in the way that the New York Times is.  Any one of you who has ever gotten the news and information from the Internet knows otherwise.

The prosecution will also be eager to inform you that the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (MWPA) does not apply here.  We, however, will prove to you that the act applies with great and particular force to Pfc. Manning.  For one thing, the MWPA not only allows an even wider array of government officials to make disclosures of classified information, it also broadens the scope of what kinds of disclosure a soldier can make.  It expressly allows disclosures of classified information by members of the armed forces if they have a “reasonable belief” that what is being disclosed offers evidence of a “violation of the law,” “an abuse of authority,” or “a substantial danger to public safety.”  In other words, the purpose of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act is to protect soldiers just like Pfc. Manning who report on improper – or in this case, patently illegal – activities by other military personnel.

Now, there is no strict precedent, the prosecution will claim, for any of our whistleblower protection laws to apply to Pfc. Manning.  But as we will make clear, there is no contrary precedent either.  That’s because we’ve never seen a whistleblower disclosure as massive, vivid, and horrific as this one.  We are in uncharted territory.  If the plain language of these whistleblower protection laws is unclear, legal convention dictates that we look at the laws’ intent.  Clearly Congress meant, and legislative history supports this, for the whistleblower protection laws to protect whistleblowers, not – as this administration seems to think – to prosecute them.

The progress of our common law is prudent, it is incremental, it is slow.  But our common law is not dead.  It does progress.  Whether the common law will take that small step forward in the case of Pfc. Manning is your duty to decide.  And your decision will have repercussions.

For if you convict Bradley Manning, then you are also clearing the way to try and possibly convict Army Specialist Joseph Darby, the whistleblower who leaked the Abu Ghraib photos and thereby ended acts of torture and abuse that were shaming our military and our nation.  Now, Specialist Darby did not leak the photos of this disgrace up the chain of command or to the Army Inspector General as our whistleblower law envisions.  Instead, he leaked it straight to the Army Criminal Investigative Division, and this path is not strictly what our whistleblower laws allow.  Was Spc. Joseph Darby doing his duty as an honorable soldier when he exposed the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib?  Or was he just trying to damage the United States?  Your verdict on Bradley Manning could reopen that question, and answer it anew.

If you convict Bradley Manning, you will also potentially be convicting the father of Army Specialist Adam Winfield.  In February 2010, Winfield informed his father, Christopher Winfield, a marine veteran, via Facebook, of a homicidal “Kill Team” at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, that was murdering civilians.  Winfield’s father tried to sound the alarm via phone calls to the Army Inspector General’s 24-hour hotline, to Senator Bill Nelson, and even to members of his son’s command unit in Fort Lewis.

Both father and son went beyond the “proper” channels to stop the murder of innocent Afghan civilians.  Spc. Winfield is now on trial for possible complicity in the “kill team” murders, but no charges have been filed against his father.  Tell me, then: Is Winfield’s father guilty of damaging his country because he tried to warn the Army about a homicidal “kill team” in the ranks?  Whether you like it or not, whether you care to or not, this is something you will decide when you render your judgment on Bradley Manning’s actions.

The Espionage Charges

The most outlandish entries on the overachieving charge sheet are those stemming from the Espionage Act of 1917. After all, Pfc. Manning is just the fifth American in 94 years to be charged under this archaic law with leaking government documents.  (Of the five, only one has been convicted.)

The Espionage Act was never intended to be used in this way, as an extra punishment for citizens who disclose classified material, and that is why the government only carts it out when its case is exceptionally desperate.

In order for Espionage Act charges to stick, it is required that Pfc. Manning had the conscious intent – take note of that crucial phrase – to damage the United States or aid a foreign nation with his disclosures.  Not surprisingly, given this, you are going to hear the prosecution spare no effort to portray the release of these cables as the gravest blow to America’s place in the world since Pearl Harbor.

I hope you’ll take this with more than a grain of salt.  For where is the staggering fallout from all the supposed bombshells in these leaked documents?  Months after the release of the State Department cables, not a single American ambassador has been recalled.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who commands far more budget and power than the Secretary of State, publicly insists that these leaks – the Iraq War logs, the Afghan War Logs, and the diplomatic cables – have not done any major harm.  “Now I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer and so on,” said Gates. “I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought.”  Significantly overwrought?  “Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve,” he added, “and it has for a long time.”

So what happened to the biggest blow to American prestige since the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam?  And keep in mind that the Secretary of Defense is by no means the only official pooh-poohing the hype about the WikiLeaks apocalypse.  One former head of policy planning at the State Department looked at the cables, shrugged, and said that the documents hold “little news,” and that they are “unlikely to do long-term damage.”  A senior Pentagon spokesperson, Colonel David Lapan, confessed to reporters last September that there is zero evidence any of the Afghan informers named in the leaked documents have been injured by Taliban reprisals.  Tell me, where is the Armageddon that this 23-year-old private has supposedly loosed on our American world?

Of course, there’s no denying that some members of our foreign policy elite have been mightily embarrassed by the State Department cables.  Good.  They deserve it.

Their fleeting embarrassment is nothing compared to the shame they have brought down on our country with their foolish deeds over the past decade, actions that range from the reckless and incompetent to the downright criminal.  It’s no secret that America’s standing in the world has been severely damaged in these years, but ask yourself: Is this because of recent disclosures of civilian deaths and war crimes – most of which are surprising only to Americans – along with diplomatic tittle-tattle?

I suggest to you that the damage to our nation, which couldn’t be more real, has come not from the disclosures of a young private, but from our foreign policy elite’s long pattern of foolish and destructive actions.  After all, the invasion and occupation of Iraq have cost rivers of blood.  The price tag for our current foreign wars has now officially soared above the trillion-dollar mark (and few doubt that, in the end, the real cost will run into the trillions of dollars).  And don’t forget, the invasion of Iraq has inspired new waves of hatred and distrust of our country overseas, and has provided an adrenaline boost for Islamic terrorists.

Needless to say, our political, military, and media elites have not lined up to take responsibility for this series of self-inflicted wounds.  Before they try to pin a nonexistent catastrophe on Pfc. Manning, they ought to take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about the real damage they’ve done to our nation, the world, and not least the overstretched, overstrained U.S. military.

Just imagine: if only someone like Bradley Manning had leaked conclusive documentation about Saddam Hussein’s supposedly deadly but nonexistent arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, the excuse for our invasion of Iraq.  Such a disclosure would have profoundly embarrassed Washington’s foreign policy elite and in the atmosphere of early 2003, the media would undoubtedly have called for that whistleblower’s head, just as they’re doing now.

Such a leak, however, would have done a powerful load of good for our nation. Four thousand four hundred and thirty-six American soldiers would not be dead and thousands more would not be maimed, wounded, or suffering from PTSD.  At the very least, more than 100,000, and probably hundreds of thousands, of Iraqi civilians would still be living.  These are the consequences of policy-making by a secretive government that wants the American people to know nothing, and a media that is either unable or unwilling to do its job and report on facts, not government spin.

You all are old enough to have noticed that the health of our republic and the reputations of our ruling elites are not one and the same.  In the best of times, they overlap.   The past 10 years have not been the best of times.  Those elites have led us into disaster after disaster, imperiling our already breached national security, straining our ruinous finances, and tearing to shreds our moral standing in the world.  Don’t try to blame this state of affairs on Private Bradley Manning.

The Nuremberg Principles Mean Something in Our Courts

Our soldiers have a solemn duty not to obey illegal orders, and Pfc. Manning upheld this duty.  General Peter Pace’s statement on a soldier’s overriding duty to stop the torture and abuse of prisoners, whatever his or her orders, is not just high-minded public relations; it’s the law of the land.  More than 50 years ago, U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 incorporated the Nuremberg Principles, among them Principle IV: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”  This remains the law of our land and of our armed forces, too.

I suspect the prosecution will have other ideas.  They will tell you that the Nuremberg Principles are great stuff for commencement addresses, but don’t actually mean anything in practical terms. They will tell you that the Nuremberg Principles are of use only to the Lisa Simpsons of the human-rights industry.

But know this: some 400,000 of your fellow soldiers died in the Second World War for the establishment of those principles.  For that reason alone, they are something that you in the military ought to treat with the utmost seriousness.

And if the judge or prosecutor should tell you that the Nuremberg Principles don’t mean a thing in our courts, they would be flat wrong.  Courts have taken the Nuremberg Principles to heart before, and more and more have done so in the past few years. In 2005, for example, Judge Lieutenant Commander Robert Klant took note of the Nuremberg principles in a sentencing hearing for Pablo Paredes, a Navy Petty Officer Third Class who refused redeployment to Iraq, and whose punishment was subsequently minimized.

Similarly, at his court martial in 2009, Sergeant Matthis Chiroux justified his refusal to redeploy to a war that he believed violated both national and international law, and was backed up by expert testimony on the Nuremberg Principles.  The court martial granted Sgt. Chiroux a general discharge.

A long line of Supreme Court cases, from Mitchell v. Harmony in 1851 all the way back to Little v. Barreme in 1804, established that soldiers have a duty not to follow illegal orders.  In short, it is a matter of record and established precedent that these Nuremberg Principles have meant something in our courts. Yours will not be the first court martial to apply these principles, fought for and won with American blood, nor will it be the last.

Whistleblowers Are Patriots Who Sacrifice for Their Country

Whistleblowers who attempt to rectify the disastrous policies of their nation are not criminals.  They are patriots, and eventually are recognized as such.  Bradley Manning is by no means the first American to serve his country in such a way.

Today, Daniel Ellsberg is famous as the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, a secret internal history ordered up by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara himself that candidly recounted how a series of administrations systematically lied to the nation about the planning and prosecution of the Vietnam War.  Ellsberg’s massive leak of these documents helped end that war and bring down a criminal administration.  How criminal?  Midway through Ellsberg’s trial in 1973, the Nixon administration offered the judge overseeing his treason trial the directorship of the FBI in an implicit quid pro quo, a maneuver of such brazen corruption as to shame any banana republic.  The judge dismissed all the government’s charges with prejudice and now Daniel Ellsberg is a national hero.

Those born after a certain date may be forgiven for assuming that Ellsberg was some long-haired subversive of an “anti-American” stripe.  In fact, he had been, like Bradley Manning, a model soldier.

At the Marine Corps Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, Ellsberg graduated first in a class of some 1,100 lieutenants. He served as a platoon leader and rifle company commander in the Marine 2nd Infantry Division for three years, and deferred his graduate studies so he could remain on active duty with his battalion during the Suez Crisis of 1956.   (You will note that deferring graduate school in order to stay on active military duty is the exact opposite of what so many of our recent, and current, national leaders did in those decades.)  After satisfying his Reserve Officer commitment, Ellsberg was discharged from the Corps as a first lieutenant, and leaving the military went on to a distinguished career in government.

Daniel Ellsberg was a model Marine, and later a model citizen.  His courageous act of leaking classified information was only one more episode in a consistent record of patriotic service.  When Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers he did so out of the profoundest sense of duty, knowing full well, just like Bradley Manning today, that he might spend the rest of his life in jail.

Ellsberg calls Pfc. Manning his hero and he is a tireless defender of the brave Army private our government has locked away in solitary.

Vandals trash things without a care in their hearts, but real patriots like former Lt. Ellsberg and Pfc. Manning do their duty knowing that the privilege of living in a free society does not always come cheap.

“Frankly and in the Public View”: The American Tradition of Diplomacy

Today, Ellsberg himself is lionized, even by the U.S. government, as a national hero.  The State Department recently put together a traveling roadshow of American documentary films to screen abroad, and front and center among them is an admiring movie about Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.  But then it is only appropriate that the government recognize Ellsberg and his once-controversial disclosures as part and parcel of the American tradition.

After all, demands for more open and transparent diplomacy are as American as baseball and Hank Williams.  World War I-era President Woodrow Wilson himself insisted on the abolition of secret treaties as part of his 14 points for the League of Nations; in fact, it’s the very first point: “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”

How can foreign policy be democratic if the most serious decisions and facts – alliances, death tolls, assessments of the leaders and governments we are bankrolling with our tax dollars – are all kept as official secrets?  The “Bricker Amendment” was an attempt by congressional Republicans in the 1950s to require Senate approval of U.S. treaties, in large part to open up public debate about foreign affairs.  The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat who served as representative to the U.N. for Republican President Richard Nixon, was also a severe critic of government secrecy and the habitualover-classification of state documents. These American statesmen knew that if foreign policy is crafted in secret, without the oxygen and sunlight of vigorous public debate, disaster and dysfunction would result.

For the past 10 years, we have had exactly such disaster and dysfunction as our foreign policy.  Our leaders have plunged us into a dark world of secrecy and lies.  Tell me: Is this Private Bradley Manning’s fault?

Let me be clear as I bring this opening statement to a close: for all the complexities this case holds, your job will in the end prove a simple and basic one.  It’s your task not to let our leaders, or the prosecution, pin the horrendous state of affairs into which this country has been thrown on Pfc. Manning.  I am confident that you will see him for the patriot he is, a young man with a moral backbone whose goal was not self-aggrandizement or profit or even attention and glory.  His urge was to shine a bright light on his own country’s wrongdoing and, in that way, bring it, bring us, back to our nobler national traditions.

It is Pfc. Manning, not our fearless national leaders, who has sacrificed much to restore the rule of law and a minimal level of public oversight to American foreign and military policy. “Frankly and in the public view“: this once would have been called a reasonable description of the American character, something that set us apart from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Otto von Bismarck’s Prussia, or Imperial Japan.  Whether our government has any responsibility to conduct its affairs frankly and in the public view in 2011 and beyond – this is something else you will decide in your judgment on Pfc. Manning.

As soldiers, you know well that most Americans have insulated themselves from the last decade’s foreign-policy disasters.  Even as we spend a trillion dollars on foreign wars, our taxes are cut.   If you’re making decent money, the odds are it’s not your kids, grandchildren, brothers, or sisters who are off fighting, killing, and dying in our foreign wars.  Most Americans, thanks in part to the media, have little idea of what you and your peers have lived through, the weight you have shouldered.

This is not true of Pfc. Bradley Manning.  He came face to face with this disaster.   He saw, and participated in, the roundup of Iraqi civilians to be tortured by their own national police force.  Tell me honestly: Was this what Operation Iraqi Freedom was supposed to accomplish?  Is this why you, his jury of peers, enlisted in the military?

Pfc. Manning saw this misery and rampant illegality with his own two eyes, and then, online, he discovered more of the same – much, much more – and he did something about it, knowing full well the penalty. “I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me […] plastered all over the world press,” he confided to the informant who betrayed him.  Manning knew the stakes and the risks when he leaked these documents, but still he loyally performed his duty, both to the United States Army and to his country.

As one of Manning’s childhood friends from Crescent, Oklahoma, has testified, “He wanted to serve his country.”  It’s up to you to decide whether he did.

You have a duty as a fully informed jury of free citizens. You are not an assortment of rubber stamps pulled out of a judge’s desk drawer.  You are as important a part of this court as the judge, prosecutor, and the accused himself.

Whichever way you decide in your verdict, you will not face the consequences Bradley Manning already endures, but your judgment will have great consequences, not just for him, but for the honor and future of the country you have taken an oath to serve.

Now, go and do your duty.

February 12, 2011

Tom Engelhardt [send him mail] co-founder of the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com, is the co-founder of the American Empire Project. His book, The End of Victory Culture, has recently been updated in a newly issued edition. He edited, and his work appears in, the first best of TomDispatch book, The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso), an alternative history of the mad Bush years. His new book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s. Chase Madar is an attorney in New York and a member of the National Lawyers Guild.  He writes forTomDispatch, the American Conservative magazine, Le Monde Diplomatique, and the London Review of Books. (To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast video interview in which Chase Madar explores Manning’s case and his defense, clickhere, or download it to your iPod here.)

Copyright © 2010 Chase Madar


Visitor provides update on Bradley Manning’s condition

Visitor provides update on Bradley Manning‘s condition

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By Courage to Resist. February 6, 2011

After being detained and questioned the previous weekend, Bradley Manning Support Network member David House was allowed to visit accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning at the Quantico, Virginia Marine Corps brig on both January 29th and 30th. David has been visiting Bradley regularly over the last few months. Below (select “Read more…”) David talks about last weekend’s visits on MSNBC.

Thank you to everyone who called, or attempted to call, the White House switchboard on behalf of Bradley last Thursday, February 3. While there were thousands of calls regarding Egypt that day as well, switchboard operators shared that Egypt and Bradley were the “issues of the day” being recorded and noted.


Call White House to Support Bradley Manning on 2/3/11

National White House call-in day to support Bradley Manning

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Thursday, February 3rd, 2011~ 9am to 5pm EST

White House Switchboard: 202-456-1414
(or the White House comments line after hours: 202-456-1111)

From the Bradley Manning Support Network

Call the White House Thursday, February 3, 2011, to voice your support for accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower US Army PFC Bradley Manning. Express your concern that Bradley’s human rights need to be respected by the Quantico, Virginia, brig authorities.

Bradley has been held in solitary confinement-like conditions for over eight months, and his trial is still months away. This American citizen-soldier has been convicted of no crime, yet continues to endure inhumane conditions of pre-trial confinement like no other inmate at the Marine Corps brig at Quantico.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs recently stated that the White House was not paying attention to Bradley Manning’s extreme confinement conditions, or the fact that recently pre-approved visitors of Bradley’s have been detained and interrogated by military police in order to block their scheduled visit. It is critical that we educate the White House of this ongoing injustice!

Recommended points to make:

US Army PFC Bradley Manning, the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower being held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, is an American citizen who is innocent until proven otherwise. Yet, he has been subjected to continuous illegal pre-trial punishment since his arrest in May 2010. Based on these abuses alone, Manning should be freed pending court martial.

Military pre-trial confinement is supposed to be about ensuring a soldier’s presence at court martial, yet for eight months now Manning has been subjected to extreme pre-trial punishment through the arbitrary use of rarely applied regulations–specifically the “maximum security classification” and the “prevent of injury” order. If he is not freed pending court martial, then at the very least, Manning’s human rights need to be respected, and the illegal pre-trial punishment must end.

The arbitrary restrictions placed on Manning–and no other inmates at Quantico–mean that: Manning is allowed no meaningful physical exercise, he is allowed no social interaction with other inmates, he is kept in his cell at least 23 hours per day, and he is not allowed out of his cell without restraints.

If the charges against him are true, they actually show that Manning is a patriot acting to advance an informed democracy. There is no allegation that Manning did anything but share truthful information with the American public regarding the realities of our nation’s ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with absolutely no benefit to himself, in order to spark public debate regarding foreign policy.

The Bradley Manning Support Network: www.bradleymanning.org

Sign-up the “Stand with Bradley Manning” public declaration: www.standwithbrad.org

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Recent Letter to Quantico Marine Base Commander

Former Quantico commander objects to Manning treatment

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From David C. MacMichael. January 19, 2011

Dear Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos:

As a former regular Marine Corps captain, a Korean War combat veteran, now retired on Veterans Administration disability due to wounds suffered during that conflict, I write you to protest and express concern about the confinement in the Quantico Marine Corps Base brig of US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Manning, if the information I have is correct, is charged with having violated provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by providing to unauthorized persons, among them specifically one Julian Assange and his organization Wikileaks, classified information relating to US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department communications. This seems straightforward enough and sufficient to have Manning court-martialed and if found guilty sentenced in accordance with the UCMJ.

What concerns me here, and I hasten to admit that I respect Manning’s motives, is the manner in which the legal action against him is being conducted. I wonder, in the first place, why an Army enlisted man is being held in a Marine Corps installation. Second, I question the length of confinement prior to conduct of court-martial. The sixth amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing to the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial, extends to those being prosecuted in the military justice system. Third, I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement—solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc.—are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, US or international.

Indeed, I have to wonder why the Marine Corps has put itself, or allowed itself to be put, in this invidious and ambiguous situation. I can appreciate that the decision to place Manning in a Marine Corps facility may not have been one over which you had control. However, the conditions of his confinement in the Quantico brig are very clearly under your purview, and, if I may say so, these bring little credit either to you or your subordinates at the Marine Corps Base who impose these conditions.

It would be inappropriate, I think, to use this letter, in which I urge you to use your authority to make the conditions of Pfc. Manning’s confinement less extreme, to review my Marine Corps career except to note that my last duty prior to resigning my captain’s commission in 1959 was commanding the headquarters company at Quantico. More relevantly, during the 1980s, following a stint as a senior estimates officer in the CIA, I played a very public role as a “whistleblower “ in the Iran-contra affair. At that time, I wondered why Lt.Col. Oliver North, who very clearly violated the UCMJ—and, in my opinion, disgraced our service—was not court-martialed.

When I asked the Navy’s Judge-Advocate General’s office why neither North nor Admiral Poindexter were charged under the UCMJ, the JAG informed me that when officers were assigned to duties in the White House, NSC, or similar offices they were somehow not legally in the armed forces. To my question why, if that were the case, they continued to draw their military pay and benefits, increase their seniority, be promoted while so serving, and, spectacularly in North’s case, appear in uniform while testifying regarding violations of US law before Congress, I could get no answer beyond, “That’s our policy.”

This is not to equate North’s case with Manning. It is only to suggest that equal treatment under the law is one of those American principles that the Marine Corps exists to protect. This is something you might consider.

Sincerely,
David C. MacMichael

Source: http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/879/122/


Letter From Amnesty International To Robert Gates SecDef

 

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INTERNATIONAL SECRETARIAT

Peter Benenson House, 1 Easton Street

London WC1X 0DW, United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)20 7413 5500 F: +44 (0)20 7956 1157

E: amnestyis@amnesty.org W: www.amnesty.org

 

BY FAX AND MAIL

Ref: AMR 51/2011/004

AI index: AMR 51/006/2011

The Honorable Robert M. Gates

Secretary of Defense

1400 Defense Pentagon

Washington DC 20301

USA

19 January 2011

Dear Secretary of Defense

I am writing to express concern about the conditions under which Private First Class (PFC) Bradley

Manning is detained at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia.

We are informed that, since July 2010, PFC Manning has been confined for 23 hours a day to a single

cell, measuring around 72 square feet (6.7 square metres) and equipped only with a bed, toilet and

sink. There is no window to the outside, the only view being on to a corridor through the barred doors

of his cell. All meals are taken in his cell, which we are told has no chair or table. He has no

association or contact with other pre-trial detainees and he is allowed to exercise, alone, for just one

hour a day, in a day-room or outside. He has access to a television which is placed in the corridor for

limited periods of the day. However, he is reportedly not permitted to keep personal possessions in his

cell, apart from one book and magazine at a time. Although he may write and receive correspondence,

writing is allowed only at an allotted time during the day and he is not allowed to keep such materials

in his cell.

We understand that PFC Manning’s restrictive conditions of confinement are due to his classification as

a maximum custody detainee. This classification also means that – unlike medium security detainees

– he is shackled at the hands and legs during approved social and family visits, despite all such visits

at the facility being non-contact. He is also shackled during attorney visits at the facility. We further

understand that PFC Manning, as a maximum custody detainee, is denied the opportunity for a work

assignment which would allow him to be out of his cell for most of the day. The United Nations (UN)

Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), which are internationally recognized

guiding principles, provide inter alia that “Untried prisoners shall always be offered opportunity to

work” should they wish to undertake such activity (SMR Section C, rule 89).

PFC Manning is also being held under a Prevention of Injury (POI) assignment, which means that he is

subjected to further restrictions. These include checks by guards every five minutes and a bar on his

sleeping during the day. He is required to remain visible at all times, including during night checks.

His POI status has resulted in his being deprived of sheets and a separate pillow, causing

uncomfortable sleeping conditions; his discomfort is reportedly exacerbated by the fact that he is

required to sleep only in boxer shorts and has suffered chafing of his bare skin from the blankets.

We are concerned that no formal reasons have been provided to PFC Manning for either his maximum

security classification or the POI assignment and that efforts by his counsel to challenge these

assignments through administrative procedures have thus far failed to elicit a response. We are further

concerned that he reportedly remains under POI despite a recommendation by the military psychiatrist

overseeing his treatment that such an assignment is no longer necessary.

Amnesty International recognizes that it may sometimes be necessary to segregate prisoners for

disciplinary or security purposes. However, the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning’s case appear to

be unnecessarily harsh and punitive, in view of the fact that he has no history of violence or disciplinary

infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offence.

The conditions under which PFC Manning is held appear to breach the USA’s obligations under

international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992 and which states that “all persons deprived of

their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human

person”. The UN Human Rights Committee, the ICCPR monitoring body, has noted in its General

Comment on Article 10 that persons deprived of their liberty may not be “subjected to any hardship or

constraint other than that resulting from the deprivation of liberty; respect for the dignity of such

persons must be guaranteed under the same conditions as for that of free persons …”.

The harsh conditions imposed on PFC Manning also undermine the principle of the presumption of

innocence, which should be taken into account in the treatment of any person under arrest or awaiting

trial. We are concerned that the effects of isolation and prolonged cellular confinement – which

evidence suggests can cause psychological impairment, including depression, anxiety and loss of

concentration – may, further, undermine his ability to assist in his defence and thus his right to a fair

trial.

In view of the concerns raised, we urge you to review the conditions under which PFC Manning is

confined at the Quantico naval brig and take effective measures to ensure that he is no longer held in

23 hour cellular confinement or subjected to other undue restrictions.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Lee

Program Director

Americas Regional Program

Cc COL Carl R. Coffman Jr., Commander, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Myer, VA

COL Daniel J. Choike, Base Commander, MCB, Quantico


MLK Day protests at FBI headquarters and Marine Base Quantico

Following a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day protest at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, yesterday to demonstrate outrage and indignation against police state surveillance, infiltration, and attempts to entrap peace, environmental, animal rights, civil rights and solidarity activists, a convoy of attendees set off for Quantico, Virginia, to protest the isolation and torture of Bradley Manning at Marine Corps Brig Quantico.

The event was organized by the Defending Dissent Foundation in collaboration with many other activist organizations. The Foundation also recently delivered a letter of protest to military commanders demanding improvement to the conditions of Bradley Manning’s confinement, included in full below.

Bradley Manning Support Network steering committee member Kevin Zeese and advisory board member Medea Benjamin can be seen leading the charge in the videos below, as well as activists including FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley attempting to deliver a care package for Bradley. David Swanson of WarIsACrime.org also describes the attempted kidnapping of himself and another activist by police.

Video from FBI headquarters event:

 

Video from Marine Base Quantico event:

 

Group letter:

January 12, 2011

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
9999 Joint Staff Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20318-9999

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army Chief of Staff
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1400

Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps
3000 Marine Corps Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-3000

Colonel Daniel J. Choike, Base Commander
Marine Corps Base Quantico
3250 Catlin Avenue
Quantico, VA 22134-5000

Dear Adm. Mullen, Gen. Casey, Gen. Amos, Col. Choike,

The undersigned organizations are deeply concerned about the inhumane treatment of Pfc Bradley Manning, who has not been convicted of any crime, and yet has been subjected to six months of solitary confinement with no known end date. It has been reported by his attorney and a visitor that Manning’s mental health is suffering from this cruelty, which serves no known judicial purpose and could result in Manning being found unfit to stand trial.

Your conduct, as judged by the information available to the public, appears to be in clear violation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a treaty to which the United States is a party and which is therefore, under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land. The treaty is also enforced by US Code Title 18, Part I, CHAPTER 113C.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice states that “No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence.” The same UCMJ bans cruel and unusual punishments following convictions.

We urge you to come into immediate compliance with the law. As a U.S. citizen and as a member of the U.S. military, Bradley Manning has legal rights that are being grossly violated. If you have reclassified Manning as an enemy in some sort of war, the same is true. The US Code bans war crimes, defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party. The following are a few examples of the rights you are bound by the Supreme Law of the Land to respect for prisoners of war:

-Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.
-The Power detaining prisoners of war shall be bound to provide free of charge for their maintenance and for the medical attention required by their state of health.

-Prisoners shall have opportunities for taking physical exercise, including sports and games, and for being out of doors. Sufficient open spaces shall be provided for this purpose in all camps.

This is not to suggest that Bradley Manning could rightly be considered some kind of Prisoner of War, but under international treaties which the U.S. has signed, EVEN POWs are guaranteed certain rights now being ignored in the case of Manning, a citizen of the United States.  Manning is, in fact, being subjected to treatment almost certain to cause permanent psychological damage.  Please see the enclosed letter from Psychologists for Social Responsibility to Robert Gates re. Bradley Manning on January 3, 2011.  The following steps should, at a minimum, be taken immediately to mitigate the damage and increase the likelihood of Manning being capable of assisting in his own defense.  He should be permitted:

-Lifting of the baseless POI (prevention of injury) status that allows guards to harass him with inquiries

-Extensive daily interaction with other accused but not convicted prisoners

-His meals in a common area with other accused but not convicted prisoners

-Nightly sleep undisturbed by light, noise, or interruption

-Sleep during daytime as desired

-Normal blankets

-Sight at all times of daylight or night’s darkness

-Exercise in his cell anytime he wants

-At least three hours outside each day, and access to basic exercise and sports equipment

-Whatever reading material he wants


Sincerely,

Backbone Campaign, Bill of Right Defense Committee,  CodePink, Courage to Resist, DC Bill of Rights Coalition,  DC National Lawyers Guild, Defending Dissent Foundation, Democrats.com,  Friends of Human Rights,  Jobs for Afghans,  Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition,  National Accountability Action Network,  National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance,  Peace Action, Peace of the Action,  Progressive Democrats of America,  United for Peace and Justice, Voters for Peace, WarIsALie.org, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility,  Witness Against Torture,  World Can’t Wait


Bradley Manning: One Soldier Who Really Did “Defend Our Freedom”

 

http://www.bradleymanning.org/15918/bradley-manning-one-soldier-who-really-did-defend-our-freedom/

2010-12-30 Originally written by Kevin Carson for the Center for a Stateless Society

When I hear someone say that soldiers “defend our freedom,” my immediate response is to gag.  I think the last time American soldiers actually fought for the freedom of Americans was probably the Revolutionary War — or maybe the War of 1812, if you want to be generous.  Every war since then has been for nothing but to uphold a system of power, and to make the rich folks even richer.

But I can think of one exception.  If there’s a soldier anywhere in the world who’s fought and suffered for my freedom, it’s Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Manning is frequently portrayed, among the knuckle-draggers on right-wing message boards, as some sort of spoiled brat or ingrate, acting on an adolescent whim.  But that’s not quite what happened, according to Johann Hari (“The under-appreciated heroes of 2010,” The Independent, Dec. 24).

Manning, like many young soldiers, joined up in the naive belief that he was defending the freedom of his fellow Americans.  When he got to Iraq, he found himself working under orders “to round up and hand over Iraqi civilians to America’s new Iraqi allies, who he could see were then torturing them with electrical drills and other implements.”  The people he arrested, and handed over for torture, were guilty of such “crimes” as writing “scholarly critiques” of the U.S. occupation forces and its puppet government.  When he expressed his moral reservations to his supervisor, Manning “was told to shut up and get back to herding up Iraqis.”

The people Manning saw tortured, by the way, were frequently the very same people who had been tortured by Saddam:  trade unionists, members of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, and other freedom-loving people who had no more use for Halliburton and Blackwater than they had for the Baath Party.

For exposing his government’s crimes against humanity, Manning has spent seven months in solitary confinement –  a torture deliberately calculated to break the human mind.

We see a lot of “serious thinkers” on the op-ed pages and talking head shows, people like David Gergen, Chris Matthews and Michael Kinsley, going on about all the stuff that Manning’s leaks have impaired the ability of “our government” to do.

He’s impaired the ability of the U.S. government to conduct diplomacy in pursuit of some fabled “national interest” that I supposedly have in common with Microsoft, Wal-Mart and Disney.  He’s risked untold numbers of innocent lives, according to the very same people who have ordered the deaths of untold thousands of innocent people.  According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Manning’s exposure of secret U.S. collusion with authoritarian governments in the Middle East, to promote policies that their peoples would find abhorrent, undermines America’s ability to promote “democracy, open government, and free and open societies.”

But I’ll tell you what Manning’s really impaired government’s ability to do.

He’s impaired the U.S. government’s ability to lie us into wars where thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of foreigners are murdered.

He’s impaired its ability to use such wars — under the guise of promoting “democracy” — to install puppet governments like the Coalition Provisional Authority, that will rubber stamp neoliberal “free trade” agreements (including harsh “intellectual property” provisions written by the proprietary content industries) and cut special deals with American crony capitalists.

He’s impaired its ability to seize good, decent people who — unlike most soldiers — really are fighting for freedom, and hand them over to thuggish governments for torture with power tools.

Let’s get something straight.  Bradley Manning may be a criminal by the standards of the American state.  But by all human standards of morality, the government and its functionaries that Manning exposed to the light of day are criminals.  And Manning is a hero of freedom for doing it.

So if you’re one of the authoritarian state-worshippers, one of the grovelling sycophants of power, who are cheering on Manning’s punishment and calling for even harsher treatment, all I can say is that you’d probably have been there at the crucifixion urging Pontius Pilate to lay the lashes on a little harder.  You’d have told the Nazis where Anne Frank was hiding.  You’re unworthy of the freedoms which so many heroes and martyrs  throughout history — heroes like Bradley Manning — have fought to give you.

C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political EconomyOrganization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.

 


U.N. to investigate treatment of Bradley Manning

U.N. to investigate treatment of Bradley Manning

AP

(updated below – Update II – Update III – Update IV – Update V – Update VI)

Both The Guardian andthe Associated Press are reporting that the U.N.’s top official in charge of torture is now formally investigating the conditions under which the U.S. is detaining accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning.  Last week, I described the inhumane terms of his detention at a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, including being held 23 out of 24 hours a day in solitary confinement for seven straight months and counting as well as other punitive measures (such as strict prohibitions on any exercise inside his cell and the petty denial of pillows and sheets).  Manning’s lawyer, former U.S. Army Major and Iraq War veteran David Coombs, thereafter publicly confirmed those facts, and then announced two days ago that efforts to persuade brig officials to allow more human conditions have failed, meaning it is likely that Manning will languish under these repressive restraints for many more months to come, at least.

In addition to confirming the facts I reported, Maj. Coombs added several disturbing new ones, including the paltry, isolated terms of Manning’s one-hour-a-day so-called “exercise” time (he’s “taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk,” “normally just walks figure eights in the room,” “if he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell”); the bizarre requirement that, despite not being on suicide watch, Manning respond to guards all day, every day, by saying “yes” every 5 minutes (even though guards cannot and “do not engage in conversation with” him); and various sleep-disruptive measures (he is barred from sleeping at any time from 5:00 am – 8:00 pm, and, during the night, “if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him”).

Although prolonged solitary confinement can unquestionably constitute torture (the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande made the definitive, undeniable case for that last year in The New Yorker), I wasn’t prepared to state based on what I could confirm that the treatment of Manning met the legal definition of torture (though it is clearly inhumane and certain to produce long-term psychological damage).  That was because Manning wasn’t subjected to the full-on sensory deprivation used at America’s SuperMax prisons (his lawyer said “he can occasionally hear other inmates talk,” though he cannot now) and did get the minimally required one hour a day of “exercise.”  But others have made the argument persuasively that this is torture.

Ralph Lopez chided me for my equivocation on that question, assembling ample evidence to support his view that the treatment amounts to torture.  Digby made a strong case that “locking up someone who has not presented any kind of threat to other prisoners and who has not been convicted of a crime for months on end in solitary confinement under tight restrictions is torture.”  The psychologistand torture specialist Jeffrey Kaye made the same argument.  The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote:  “I don’t really see any argument for keeping Manning in these conditions, except a punitive one.”  And in the wake of my report, there have been several reports of the damage to Manning that is now apparent, including in The Guardian (“Bradley Manning’s health deteriorating in jail, supporters say”), The Independent(Manning “in weak health and wracked with anxiety”), The Daily Beast (“The conditions under which Bradley Manning is being held would traumatize anyone”), and from his lawyer (“who says the extended isolation — now more than seven months of solitary confinement — is weighing on his client’s psyche . . . . His treatment is harsh, punitive and taking its toll, says Coombs”).

The U.S. is one of the world’s most prolific practitioners of prolonged solitary confinement: unsurprising given that it enjoys the distinction of being the world’s largest Prison State and the Western world’s most merciless one.  As NPR noted in 2006, there are roughly 25,000 prisoners in the U.S. kept in those conditions.  But the vast, vast majority of them — unlike Manning — have actually been convicted of crimes.  It is very rare (though, when it comes to Muslims accused of Terrorism, by no means unheard of) for these conditions to be imposed on people who have yet to be convicted of anything and never posed any threat to prison security. Prolonged solitary confinement is inhumane, horrendous and gratuitous even when applied to those convicted of heinous crimes, but the fact that it’s being done to Manning here in order to “persuade” him to offer incriminating statements against WikiLeaks and Julian Asange makes it particularly repellent.

As is true for so much of what it does, the U.S. Government routinely condemns similar acts — the use of prolonged solitary confinement in its most extreme forms and lengthy pretrial detention — when used by other countries.  See, for instance, the 2009 State Department Human Rights Report on Indonesia (“Officials held unruly detainees in solitary confinement for up to six days on a rice-and-water diet”); Iran(“Common methods of torture and abuse in prisons includedprolonged solitary confinement with extreme sensory deprivation . . .Prison conditions were poor. Many prisoners were held in solitary confinement . . . Authorities routinely held political prisoners in solitary confinement for extended periods . . . All four [arrested bloggers] claimed authorities physically and psychologically abused them in detention, including subjecting them to prolonged periods of solitary confinement in a secret detention center without access to legal counsel or family”); Israel (“Israeli human rights organizations reported that Israeli interrogators . . .  kept prisoners in harsh conditions, including solitary confinement for long periods“); Iraq(“Individuals claimed to have been subjected to psychological and physical abuse, including . . . solitary confinement in Ashraf to discourage defections”); Yemen (“Sleep deprivation and solitary confinement were other forms of abuse reported in PSO prisons”);Central African Republic (“As of December, there were 308 inmates in Ngaragba Prison, most of whom are pretrial detainees. Several detaineeshad been held for seven months without appearing before a judge”);Burundi (“Human rights problems also included . . . prolonged pretrial detention“).

What’s been most striking to me since I wrote that Manning article has been how the debate over detainee abuse has “evolved” — and not evolved — from the Bush years.  Back then, Bush defenders were completely incapable of separating their opinions of the detainees from the question of whether the treatment was abusive and inhumane (these are Terrorists, so who cares what is done to them?).  That has been the primary response to those defending the government’s treatment of Manning as well (he’s a Traitor!!) — except now, of course, it’s found among many progressives:  note how identical is the response from this front page writer of the liberal blog Crooks & Liars (“the meme o the day seems to be on Manning’s so-called torture, to which I say ‘boo hoo‘”) to that of The Weekly Standard (“Don’t Cry for Bradley Manning”) andRedState (“Give Bradley Manning His Pillow and Blankie Back”).  This convergence is a perfect microcosm for how much our political discourse over such matters has transformed since January 20, 2009.  At The Atlantic, Coates asked:

I think the worse part, is that very few people care what kind of conditions the incarcerated endure. We have essentially accepted prison-rape. The New Yorker piece asks is solitary confinement torture? I’d ask, even if it is torture, whether we even care?

Three years ago, many people who are conspicuously silent now loudly and continuously claimed they did care.  Indeed, prolonged solitary confinement was one of the worst aspects of detention at Guantanamo, as many civil rights groups highlighted, but the type of glib and dismissive responses to such concerns back then (“‘It’s kind of like having their own apartment,’ Camp 6 Guard, Guantánamo Bay Naval Station”) is quite similar to what I’ve heard from people across the political spectrum in response to my Manning article.

As was true for the debates over War on Terror detainees, one’s views of Manning are totally irrelevant to the issue here (that’s aside from the fact that he’s been convicted of nothing; is not, contrary to many claims, charged with espionage or treason; and what he’s alleged to have done has resulted in no deaths).  The only relevant issue is whether — after reading Gawande’s New Yorker article — you believe that prolonged, 23-hour-a-day pre-trial solitary confinement is acceptable and humane treatment.  It may or may not fall short of actual torture — it’s good that the U.N. will now formally investigate that question — but either way, it’s designed to degrade both Manning’s psyche and resistance to incriminating WikiLeaks and is highly likely to achieve both.

* * * * *

Several related items:

(1) In early November, I reported that as part of the government’s campaign to harass and intimidate anyone remotely connected to WikiLeaks or Manning, Homeland Security agents — without any warrant or shred of judicial authority — seized the laptop, cameras and memory sticks of 23-year-old MIT researcher David House when he returned to the U.S. from a vacation in Mexico.  House’s crime appears to have been that he visited Manning several times at the Quantico brig.  Even after seven weeks, DHS refused to return his stolen goods, so the ACLU of Massachusetts demanded early this week on House’s behalf that they be returned immediately, and the following day, they were sent back to him.  But Jacob Appelbaum — the programmer who had his laptop and cellphones seized at the border without a warrant back in July — still has not had his possessions returned to him by the government.  This outrageous practice — seizing and storing the electronic communications of American citizens with no charges or even any warrants — is not confined to WikiLeaks; many legitimate American critics of the government are subjected to this repeatedly when they re-enter the country, and I intend to write much more about this shortly.

(2) Julian Assange was interviewed yesterday on MSNBC by Cenk Uygur, and his response to Joe Biden’s “high-tech terrorist” accusation — including a discussion of the definition of “terrorism” and to whom it does and does not apply — is well worth hearing:

http://videos.mediaite.com/embed/player/?layout=&playlist_cid=&media_type=video&content=P46T180S3YY89136&read_more=1&widget_type_cid=svp

(3) A comprehensive and helpful time-line of events relating to Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks has been assembled by FDL here.

UPDATE:  After his last visit to Manning over the weekend, David House has written a comprehensive report of his discussions with Manning, particularly Mannings’ statements about the conditions of his detention, many of which directly contradict claims by brig officials.

UPDATE II:  Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First compiles evidence and interviews experts to document that the treatment of Manning is “not customary.”

Earlier today on BBC’s Newshour, I debated Manning’s detention with former Reagan Pentagon official Jed Babbin, who was also one of the key members of the Bush Pentagon’s domestic propaganda program.  He, needless to say, vehemently defended Manning’s treatment; the debate was quite acrimonious; and I’ll post it as soon as it’s available.

For those in Canada:  I’ll be on the CBC tonight, on Mark Kelley’s Connect, at 8:00 p.m, discussing Manning.

UPDATE III:  Here is the BBC debate about Manning I did earlier today with Babbin.

UPDATE IV:  Substituting for Dylan Ratigan today on MSNBC, The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart conducted a very good interview with David House about the conditions of Manning’s detention — highly recommended:

 

UPDATE V:  The CBC interview I did last night on Manning is here; it’s the first segment of the show.

UPDATE VI:  The inhumane nature of Manning’s detention is now generating media attention — as it should; here is the front page of msnbc.com this morning, with a link to this article:

 


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Why the Hell Would Anybody Want to Be Free?

http://www.backwoodshome.com/blogs/ClaireWolfe/2010/12/20/why-the-hell-would-anybody-want-to-be-free/

by Claire Wolfe

That’s what I was going to call this post: Why the hell would anybody want to be free?

Yes, the question would have been rhetorical and no I don’t mean I’m thinking of taking up communism or nihilism instead of the freedomquest.

But seriously. You know from experience that being a freedomista often brings you grief. You get the sorrow of watching your country go to hell. The agony of knowing your children will have it worse than you do. You have to put up with the sneers or uncomprehending stares of people who don’t want to hear perfectly sensible ideas. You hear media morons who know nothing about economics dismiss real money as “weird.” You watch the Bill of Rights crumble to dust, day by day. You know that the policeman is not your friend. That public servants are cruel masters. You know somuch that it hurts.

Your neighbors, who fit in better than you, don’t know or don’t care. And they’re happy.

So why the hell would anybody want to be free? And by that I don’t mean, “Why would anybody rather be free than live in a Soviet gulag?” Or, “Why would anybody rather be free than to be tied up and waterboarded by a neocon puppet?” That’s obvious.

I mean, “Why would anybody rather be truly free than to live semi-free as we live now?” Or, “Why would anybody rather be Bill-of-Rights type free than live in, say, a European welfare state?” Why isn’t it enough to be relatively free? Freer than people in, say, Kenya or Saudi Arabia or even the UK or Massachusetts (sorry, Taxachusettsians).

The chances of achieving the degree of personal and political freedom we desire are slim, so why do we bang our heads when things really aren’t that bad (unless of course you’re Bradley Manning or Cory Maye or somebody else who has had too close an encounter with AUTHORITAH)?

But of course that’s looking at the question backwards.

The real question that dogged me all last weekend, the question whose answer could totally change minds, open eyes, and set spirits soaring is this:

 

What is the One Great Thing?

 

So that’s the new name of this post: The One Great Thing. What one thing about freedom makes it worthwhile for those who seek it? What One Great Thing can make all the struggle worthwhile?

If you could convey to people just one simple thing that makes true freedom better than the alternative — one little thing that even a child could understand — what would it be?



The Persecution of Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning, the PFC who allegedly leaked the info that Wikileaks has put out in recent months is being held without charges in a maximum security facility in Quantico Marine Corps Base. The Fact that he has been held without charge speaks volumes about the  new government of the US. There have been other spies, including military ones who have received much better treatment for having given secrets to foreign governments that were far more sensitive than anything Manning is alleged to have done.

Here is an email I received today laying out some of the conditions Bradley is dealing with. The letter is from the Bradley Manning Support Network. I will leave links in for those who would be interested in keeping up with what is going on to support him and protest the unconstitutional way in which the government is holding him.

Remember-if you don’t stand up for this type of treatment with Bradley you will have no reason to complain when it is you. And, the way things seem to be going, that may be sooner than you might imagine. (Ed)

Media:
Mike Gogulski
Bradley Manning Support Network
+1-202-640-4388
press@bradleymanning.org

Supporters Call for End to Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning

Quantico, VA, December 22, 2010 – After trying other avenues of recourse, the Bradley Manning Support Network is urging supporters to engage in direct protest in order to halt the punitive conditions of the soldier’s detention. Bradley Manning, 23, has been held in solitary confinement in military jails since his arrest in late May on allegations that he passed classified material to WikiLeaks..

In the wake of an investigative report last week by Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com giving evidence that Manning was subject to “detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries”, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, published an article at his website on Saturday entitled “A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning”. Coombs details the maximum custody conditions that Manning is subject to at the Quantico Confinement Facility and highlights an additional set of restrictions imposed upon him under a Prevention of Injury (POI) watch order.

Usually enforced only through a detainee’s first week at a confinement facility, the standing POI order has severely limited Manning’s access to exercise, daylight and human contact for the past five months, despite calls from military psychologists to lift the order and the extra restrictions imposed.

Despite not having been convicted of any crime or even yet formally indicted, the confinement regime Manning lives under includes pronounced social isolation and a complete lack of opportunities for meaningful exercise. Additionally, Manning’s sleep is regularly interrupted. Coombs writes: “The guards are required to check on Manning every five minutes […] At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.”

Denver Nicks writes in The Daily Beast that “[Manning’s] attorney […] says the extended isolation — now more than seven months of solitary confinement — is weighing on his client’s psyche. […] Both Coombs and Manning’s psychologist, Coombs says, are sure Manning is mentally healthy, that there is no evidence he’s a threat to himself, and shouldn’t be held in such severe conditions under the artifice of his own protection.”

In an article to be published at Firedoglake.com later today, David House, a friend of Manning’s who visits him regularly at Quantico, says that Manning “has not been outside or into the brig yard for either recreation or exercise in four full weeks. He related that visits to the outdoors have been infrequent and sporadic for the past several months.”

Bradley Manning Support Network founder Mike Gogulski stated that “the Marine Brig is using injury prevention as a vehicle to inflict extreme pre-trial punishment on Bradley Manning. These conditions are not unheard-of during an inmate’s first week at a military jail, but when applied continuously for months and with no end in sight they amount to a form of torture.”

The Bradley Manning Support Network calls upon Quantico base commander COL Daniel Choike and brig commanding officer CWO4 James Averhart to put an end to these inhumane, degrading conditions. Additionally, the Network encourages supporters to phone COL Choike at +1-703-784-2707 or write to him at 3250 Catlin Avenue, Quantico, VA 22134, and to fax CWO4 Averhart at +1-703-784-4242 or write to him at 3247 Elrod Avenue, Quantico, VA 22134, to demand that Bradley Manning’s human rights be respected while he remains in custody.

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References:

“The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention”, Glenn Greenwald, 15 December 2010, http://www.salon.com/news/wikileaks/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2010/12/14/manning

“A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning”, David E. Coombs, 18 December 2010, http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/

“Bradley Manning’s Life Behind Bars”, Denver Nicks, 17 December 2010, http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-12-17/bradley-manning-wikileaks-alleged-sources-life-in-prison/

Bradley Manning Support Network, http://www.bradleymanning.org/

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Brad Manning Has Rights!

by Karen Kwiatkowski

Recently by Karen Kwiatkowski: The Proper Response to WikiLeaks

At the culminating point of the movie A Few Good Men, Colonel Jessup, played magnificently by Jack Nicholson, angrily tells the truth and shockingly incriminates himself. The interrogating lawyer LT Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), in his moment of victory, refuses to gloat. Instead, he abruptly ends his interrogation and demands that rule of law prevail, saying, “The defendant has rights!”

The famous courtroom scenes from this movie are well-known and oft-quoted by many Americans. A Few Good Men is formulaic, but it is the formula we particularly love – proud patriots who believe in right and wrong, in black and white, in law over lawlessness, Davids who fight a powerful Goliath. Against all odds, eventually our heroes win when the powerful and vindicating truth is revealed for all to see.

In another time, this would be the story of Bradley Manning.

A Few Good Men dramatically exposes the deformation and distortion of right and wrong that is the very demand of state utilitarianism, which is to say, an action is right if is promotes the state’s happiness, and an action is wrong if it tends to make the state unhappy. Colonel Jessup called for the harsh physical punishment of a “substandard Marine” and thus Corporal Santiago was killed by his comrades. The state, represented by Jessup, explains, “…Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives….”

Charged but not convicted of any crime, American airman Brad Manning is being held largely incommunicado at Guantanamo, without bedding or permission to exercise in his cell. He is purposely deprived of human contact. His current treatment – based on unproven charges – is far harsher than the treatment and sentences of four famous and convicted US federal-level spies.

Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested in early 2001, and charged with selling secrets to the Soviets during the preceding two decades. Upon arrest, Hanssen confessed and was able to hire as an attorney the extremely competent Plato Cacheris, who negotiated a plea bargain. After an entire career spent profiting from the sale of classified information to the Soviets and later the Russian Federation, he is held at Supermax in isolation. Well, not exactly like Brad Manning – Hanssen has bedding, books, and exercise.

The case of career CIA employee and horrific spy/profiteer, Aldrich Ames, is also instructive. After his arrest and lawyer-facilitated plea bargain, Ames was not held forever in isolation at a Supermax-style facility. Instead, he resides at Allenwood Federal Prison with the general population, and is able to receive visitors and to correspond with people outside the prison on issues of current interest.

Two other famous convicted federal-level spies of the same era include Army Warrant Officer James Hall and Army Colonel George Trofimoff. These military officers who sold secrets were not tortured, nor were they deprived of their constitutional rights to a fair defense. Even though they are convicted military spies, they are serving less intensive punishments than either Ames or Hanssen, and were treated far better than Airman Manning.

Manning is not accused of selling secrets, or profiting from their release. Washington has made charges; it suspects Manning is partly responsible for publicly embarrassing the federal security apparatus. But as the Pentagon and the State Department both admit, even if Manning was the source of some government documents, the revelations did not seriously impact government operations.

What has changed? Is Brad Manning thought by government to be a different kind of criminal? Has what he is alleged to have done more evil, more dangerous, more damaging than previous crimes, or even the crimes he may have exposed? Or is it Americans themselves who have changed, with a new 21st century sangfroid?

The Constitution languishes and the state has surged since 9/11. Americans, by and large, still accept the strawmen arguments for giving up their liberty. The modern American is afflicted, not blessed, with an overgrown and paranoid state, as this timeline of the evolution of solitary confinement in the land of the free and the home of the brave illustrates. Administrative lockdown –torture really – is the new black in the fashion of American governance, and many Americans politely applaud it.

Bradley Manning’s incarceration has been clearly designed to punish, to threaten, and to pressure him, and to frighten thousands of others who have access to records of government criminality and idiocy, and may be having pangs of conscience. To date, Manning has not confessed or plead guilty to any crime, despite months of pressure by his military-appointed defense team (only recently replaced by civilian attorney David Coombs). He is deprived of pillow and sheets as an apparent means of coercing some testimony that would help the government create a separate case against the Australian Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Keeping secrets – shutting down critics and eliminating public dissent – is the lifeblood of the state, and a reliable marker of totalitarianism. The mistreatment of Brad Manning while in military custody continues. As with others before him, Manning may be permanently physically and psychologically damaged before it’s over. This calculated destruction of a real human being is no accident. It is a widely practiced technique of despotic government at any level – whether in a disturbed family, in a prison or mental hospital, or by a government ostensibly put in place through a democratic process. Despotic government is sustained by silence, by blindness, by fear. It is destroyed by shared truth, by open eyes, and by a few courageous souls to lead the way.

Thus, Brad Manning is made out to be a different kind of criminal, one far more deadly to the state than international spies, profiteers, murderers and cheats. He angered the state when he exposed a few of its many crimes. Instead of thanking Brad Manning for revealing weaknesses in their secret-keeping mechanisms – the state became enraged and violent, and now demands his moral and spiritual destruction. Inseparable from Washington’s call for Brad Manning’s continued torture and deprivation of rights is Washington’s public political cheerleading for the detention and death of Australian Julian Assange.

The state believes that Brad Manning’s death, though tragic, will save lives of those the state deems valuable. Washington believes that Julian Assange’s death, while unfortunate, is necessary to maintain good order and discipline among the ruled.

The state indeed is at fault, but at least the US government assaults on Brad Manning, and on Julian Assange, are battles for nothing less than its own survival. If we do not believe in the state, we cannot be ruled by it. This is the fundamental lesson of the rise and fall of empires, from Rome to the Soviet Union.

In A Few Good Men, Lt Kaffee battled state-utilitarianism, in the face of near certain public humiliation, the almost certain end of his career, and the extreme likelihood of professional and personal failure. When he rose to the challenge, and took a great risk to do the right thing, the audience felt a rush of pride, cheering his achievement, and sharing a real sense of what we like to think it means to be an American. Brad Manning is both the hero in our modern story, as well as the defendant. If we as Americans cannot cheer him, because we are numb, fearful, afraid, and have forgotten our principles, at the very least we must be able to stand up and loudly proclaim, “The defendant has rights!”

December 20, 2010

LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty and Power and The Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here or join her Facebook page.

Copyright © 2010 Karen Kwiatkowski

The Best of Karen Kwiatkowski






 

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Of Urgent Concern To All Who Claim To Love Freedom of Speech!!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Bradley Manning Support Network Condemns Unjust Detainment of Activist

MEDIA:
Mike Gogulski, Steering Committee, Bradley Manning Support Network press@bradleymanning.org

Washington, DC, November 10, 2010 – Last week, David House, a developer working with the Bradley Manning Support Network, was detained and had his computer seized by the FBI when returning from a vacation in Mexico. He committed no crime, nor was he ever alleged to have committed a crime. He was questioned extensively about his support for alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned at Quantico for over 160 days.

This invasive search is of great concern to all Americans who value the Constitutionally-protected rights to free speech and free assembly. The campaign to free Bradley Manning – which has garnered the support of tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States and the world – is rooted in a belief that government transparency is key to a healthy democracy. Our network stands firm in support of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning and has raised over $80,000 for his defense. If he is a source for documents published by WikiLeaks illuminating the campaign of disinformation about US foreign wars, then Manning deserves the gratitude of the entire nation.

House sent an email to the Network describing his detainment, saying that, “My computer, video camera, and flash drive were confiscated, leaving me in a tough spot in terms of research obligations; the reason for the seizure, said the officials, was ‘border search.'”

The FBI denied House’s requests to have a copy of his research data. This seems to be part of a disturbing trend of intimidation and property seizure being carried out against activists critical of US policies, including the detainment and laptop seizure of activist Jacob Applebaum in July and the September 24th FBI raids against antiwar and social justice activists.

House has not been charged with a crime.

“I try to be as even-handed as possible, but based on the subject of the search I can’t help but feel that this constitutes a form of intimidation,” wrote House in an email to the Network, “I feel as though the DHS has turned to harassing the friends and supporters of Bradley Manning in a potential attempt to disrupt our abilities to run a legal defense network.”

The Bradley Manning Support Network denounces this recent attempt by the FBI to intimidate its supporters. Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime, and neither is standing up for Bradley Manning.

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WikiLeaks and Assange Honored

From Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence
October 24, 2010

Editor’s Note: WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange have received the 2010 Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award for releasing secret U.S. military reports on the Iraq and Afghan wars.
The award from the group – named after legendary CIA analyst Sam Adams – was presented to Assange on Saturday in London where he was speaking about WikiLeaks’ recent release of almost 400,000 classified battlefield reports from Iraq. The award reads as follows:

It seems altogether fitting and proper that this year’s award be presented in London, where Edmund Burke coined the expression “Fourth Estate.” Comparing the function of the press to that of the three Houses then in Parliament, Burke said:

“… but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far then they all.”

The year was 1787 — the year the U.S. Constitution was adopted. The First Amendment, approved four years later, aimed at ensuring that the press would be free of government interference. That was then.

With the Fourth Estate now on life support, there is a high premium on the fledgling Fifth Estate, which uses the ether and is not susceptible of government or corporation control. Small wonder that governments with lots to hide feel very threatened.

It has been said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” WikiLeaks is helping make that possible by publishing documents that do not lie.

Last spring, when we chose WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for this award, Julian said he would accept only “on behalf of our sources, without which WikiLeaks’ contributions are of no significance.”

We do not know if Pvt. Bradley Manning gave WikiLeaks the gun-barrel video of July 12, 2007 called “Collateral Murder.” Whoever did provide that graphic footage, showing the brutality of the celebrated “surge” in Iraq, was certainly far more a patriot than the “mainstream” journalist embedded in that same Army unit. He suppressed what happened in Baghdad that day, dismissed it as simply “one bad day in a surge that was filled with such days,” and then had the temerity to lavish praise on the unit in a book he called The Good Soldiers.

Julian is right to emphasize that the world is deeply indebted to patriotic truth-tellers like the sources who provided the gun-barrel footage and the many documents on Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks. We hope to have a chance to honor them in person in the future.

Today we honor WikiLeaks, and one of its leaders, Julian Assange, for their ingenuity in creating a new highway by which important documentary evidence can make its way, quickly and confidentially, through the ether and into our in-boxes. Long live the Fifth Estate!

Presented this 23rd day of October 2010 in London, England by admirers of the example set by former CIA analyst, Sam Adams.

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a movement of former CIA colleagues and other associates of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. Sam did precisely that, and in honoring his memory, SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence profession exemplifying Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth — no matter the consequences.

It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were 500,000 Vietnamese Communists under arms — more than twice the number that our military in Saigon would admit to in the “war of attrition.”  Gen. William Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number that Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. And Gen. Creighton Abrams specifically warned Washington that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers were released, and that this would weaken the war effort.

Westmoreland’s figures were shown to be bogus in January/February 1968, when Communist troops mounted a surprise countrywide offensive in numbers that proved that Adams’ analysis had been correct. But because Sam was reluctant to go “outside channels,” the CIA and Army were able to keep the American people in the dark.

After the Tet offensive, however, Daniel Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland had asked for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam — right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond. In his first such act, Ellsberg leaked Sam Adams’ data to the then-independent New York Times on March 19, 1968. Dan’s timely truth telling, and that of the Times’ Neil Sheehan, won the day.

On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us…We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks…I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.” On March 31, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November 1968.

Sam Adams continued to press for honesty and accountability but stayed “inside channels” — and failed. He was not able to see that the supervening value of ending unnecessary killing trumped the secrecy agreement he had signed as a condition of employment. Nagged by remorse, Adams died at 55 of a sudden heart attack. He could not shake the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled, the entire left wall of the Vietnam memorial would not exist. There would have been no new names to chisel into such a wall.

In the past, the annual Sam Adams Award has been given to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; former US Army Sgt. Sam Provance, who told the truth about Abu Ghraib; and Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence, who exposed his government’s eagerness to conspire with the Bush administration in advertising non-existent weapons of mass destruction in order to “justify” the invasion of Iraq — and went to prison for it; and Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Secretary Colin Powell at the State Department, who exposed the powers behind many of the crimes of the Bush administration — first and foremost what he called the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal;” in Washington, DC.


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