Bradley Manning: Truth on trial?
We examine the implications of Manning’s trial and speak exclusively to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Listening Post Last Modified: 15 Jun 2013 12:07. Email Article. Print Article. Share article. Send Feedback. This week, a special edition of the …
See all stories on this topic »The Bradley Manning Matter
Fog City Journal
Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army soldier, admitted sending 700,000 government documents to Wikileaks in 2010. It was the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Manning is now charged under Articles 92 and 134 of the Uniform Code of …
See all stories on this topic »WikiLeaks releases transcript of critical US film
WikiLeaks said it had not participated in the making of We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, a film by Alex Gibney that focuses on the website’s controversial founder Julian Assange and its chief informant Bradley Manning. Photo: AFP. Also Read.
See all stories on this topic »Weekly Wrap-Up on Week 2 of Bradley Manning’s Trial
With the identity of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower behind disclosures on National Security Agency top secret surveillance programs, forming a backdrop that dominated the news, Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial entered its second week. Another …
See all stories on this topic »Interview with Chase Madar on Bradley Manning and US transparency
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2015 – Journalist Chase Madar of The Nation, is a civil rights attorney in New York and the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower (Verso). As an expert on the courtmartial of Bradley …
See all stories on this topic »The Whistleblower’s Guide to the Orwellian Galaxy: How to Leak to the Press
Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Felt, Jeffrey Wigand, Sherron Watkins, Bradley Manning, and now… Edward Snowden. (He’s just the latest informant caught in the web of government administrations that view George Orwell’s 1984 as an operations manual.) But while …
See all stories on this topic »For Snowden, a Life of Ambition, Despite the Drifting
After handing over the documents, he told The Guardian of his admiration for both Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is now on trial for providing 700,000 confidential documents to WikiLeaks, and Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
See all stories on this topic »Military Judge Runs A Shell Game
Public access to the Bradley Manning court-martial doesn’t exist in any meaningful sense, despite the demands of the U.S. Constitution or the Manual for Courts Martial United States (MCM) published by the U.S. Dept. of Defense, which is the prosecutor.
See all stories on this topic »Julian Assange: a year in the embassy
“What we don’t want to see is him ending up the same way as Bradley Manning — detained without trial, abused in prison and now facing life imprisonment.” Manning, a 25-year-old US soldier, is being court-martialled for passing the war logs and cables …
See all stories on this topic »Assange: America is at the precipice of turnkey totalitarianism
Bradley Manning’s trial began on Monday last week, three years after he was arrested. The United States Department of Justice has admitted that its even larger investigation into WikiLeaks and myself continues. Despite this, or perhaps even because of …
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With Julian Assange holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and whistleblower Bradley Manning facing a full-blown military prosecution, it is tempting to regard the WikiLeaks saga as in its final chapter.
It’s not just the “incredible act of institutional vengeance” upon WikiLeaks source Manning, who faces charges including aiding the enemy and “could, theoretically receive a death sentence”.
There’s also “the horrific case of Aaron Swartz, a genius who helped create the technology behind Reddit at the age of 14, who earlier this year hanged himself after the government threatened him with 35 years in jail for downloading a bunch of academic documents from an MIT server”.
Taibbi notes a number of other examples of “fervent, desperate prosecutions” by US authorities in the cause of secret-keeping.
These prosecutions reflected an obvious institutional terror of letting the public see the sausage-factory locked behind the closed doors not only of the state, but of banks and universities and other such institutional pillars of society.
The WikiLeaks episode, therefore, “was just an early preview of the inevitable confrontation between the citizens of the industrialised world and the giant, increasingly secretive bureaucracies that support them”.
And, writes Taibbi, “the secret-keepers got lucky with WikiLeaks”, with the story playing out as “one about Assange and his personal failings”.
The main event, he reckons, is to come.
Sooner or later, there’s going to be a pitched battle, one where the state won’t be able to peel off one lone Julian Assange or Bradley Manning and batter him into nothingness. Next time around, it’ll be a Pentagon Papers-style constitutional crisis, where the public’s legitimate right to know will be pitted head-to-head with presidents, generals and CEOs.
Taibbi’s piece was prompted by seeing a preview of Alex Gibney’s new documentary film We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks. He loved it (“brilliant … beautiful and profound”) but many of Assange’s supporters have been ferociously attacking the film, as Greg Mitchell notes in his Nation column. Even before going on release, the documentary has become “a media sensation”.
Mea Maxima Culpa Silence in the House
An unholy coincidence? Pope Benedict‘s once-in-600-year ‘abdication’ is highly suspicious in context to the timing of the ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’ doc release. Alex Gibney took some 4 years in researching this well crafted and informative film, which exposes an endemic, global,
cover-up of deviant Catholic priests, Bishops, Cardinals and Popes:
primarily on one prolific paedophile priest who operates a reign of terror at a
school for deaf children in the US, then widens the story out to expose the
Catholic church’s complicity on a jaw-dropping scale.As a top Cardinal at the time, Ratzinger took ‘ownership’ of the
hundreds/thousands of abuses reported – and locked them deep within the Vatican
archives. A gobsmacking expose by the award-winning doc maker (Enron,
Taxi to the Dark Side, among others), which merits a very public spotlight.
I urge believers and non-believers alike to get to a screening and spread a ‘call to action’, before he takes cover (tho’ if one was to be generous, it m
by Matt Taibbi, Taibblog, Rolling Stone magazine, March 2013
went yesterday to a screening of We Steal Secrets, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s brilliant new documentary about Wikileaks. The movie is beautiful and profound, an incredible story that’s about many things all at once, including the incredible Shakespearean narrative that is the life of Julian Assange, a free-information radical who has become an uncompromising guarder of secrets.
I’ll do a full review in a few months, when We Steal Secrets comes out, but I bring it up now because the whole issue of secrets and how we keep them is increasingly in the news, to the point where I think we’re headed for a major confrontation between the government and the public over the issue, one bigger in scale than even the Wikileaks episode.
We’ve seen the battle lines forming for years now. It’s increasingly clear that governments, major corporations, banks, universities and other such bodies view the defense of their secrets as a desperate matter of institutional survival, so much so that the state has gone to extraordinary lengths to punish and/or threaten to punish anyone who so much as tiptoes across the informational line.
This is true not only in the case of Wikileaks – and especially the real subject of Gibney’s film, Private Bradley Manning, who in an incredible act of institutional vengeance is being charged with aiding the enemy (among other crimes) and could, theoretically, receive a death sentence.
There’s also the horrific case of Aaron Swartz, a genius who helped create the technology behind Reddit at the age of 14, who earlier this year hanged himself after the government threatened him with 35 years in jail for downloading a bunch of academic documents from an MIT server. Then there’s the case of Sergey Aleynikov, the Russian computer programmer who allegedly stole the High-Frequency Trading program belonging to Goldman, Sachs (Aleynikov worked at Goldman), a program which prosecutors in open court admitted could, “in the wrong hands,” be used to “manipulate markets.”
Aleynikov spent a year in jail awaiting trial, was convicted, had his sentence overturned, was freed, and has since been re-arrested by a government seemingly determined to make an example out of him.
And most recently, there’s the Matthew Keys case, in which a Reuters social media editor was charged by the government with conspiring with the hacker group Anonymous to alter a Los Angeles Times headline in December 2010. The change in the headline? It ended up reading, “Pressure Builds in House to Elect CHIPPY 1337,” Chippy being the name of another hacker group accused of defacing a video game publisher’s website.
Keys is charged with crimes that carry up to 25 years in prison, although the likelihood is that he’d face far less than that if convicted. Still, it seems like an insane amount of pressure to apply, given the other types of crimes (of, say, the HSBC variety) where stiff sentences haven’t even been threatened, much less imposed.
A common thread runs through all of these cases. On the one hand, the motivations for these information-stealers seem extremely diverse: You have people who appear to be primarily motivated by traditional whistleblower concerns (Manning, who never sought money and was obviously initially moved by the moral horror aroused by the material he was seeing, falls into that category for me), you have the merely mischievous (the Keys case seems to fall in this area), there are those who either claim to be or actually are free-information ideologues (Assange and Swartz seem more in this realm), and then there are other cases where the motive might have been money (Aleynikov, who was allegedly leaving Goldman to join a rival trading startup, might be among those).
But in all of these cases, the government pursued maximum punishments and generally took zero-tolerance approaches to plea negotiations. These prosecutions reflected an obvious institutional terror of letting the public see the sausage-factory locked behind the closed doors not only of the state, but of banks and universities and other such institutional pillars of society. As Gibney pointed out in his movie, this is a Wizard of Oz moment, where we are being warned not to look behind the curtain.
What will we find out? We already know that our armies mass-murder women and children in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that our soldiers joke about smoldering bodies from the safety of gunships, that some of our closest diplomatic allies starve and repress their own citizens, and we may even have gotten a glimpse or two of a banking system that uses computerized insider trading programs to steal from everyone who has an IRA or a mutual fund or any stock at all by manipulating markets like the NYSE.
These fervent, desperate prosecutions suggest that there’s more awfulness under there, things that are worse, and there is a determination to not let us see what those things are. Most recently, we’ve seen that determination in the furor over Barack Obama’s drone assassination program and the so-called “kill list” that is associated with it.
Weeks ago, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – whom I’ve previously railed against as one of the biggest self-aggrandizing jackasses in politics – pulled a widely-derided but, I think, absolutely righteous Frank Capra act on the Senate floor, executing a one-man filibuster of Obama’s CIA nominee, John Brennan.
Paul had been mortified when he received a letter from Eric Holder refusing to rule out drone strikes on American soil in “extraordinary” circumstances like a 9/11 or a Pearl Harbor. Paul refused to yield until he extracted a guarantee that no American could be assassinated by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime.
He got his guarantee, but the way the thing is written doesn’t fill one with anything like confidence. Eric Holder’s letter to Paul reads like the legal disclaimer on a pack of unfiltered cigarettes:
Dear Senator Paul,
It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the president have the additional authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer is no.
You could drive a convoy of tanker trucks through the loopholes in that letter. Not to worry, though, this past week, word has come out via Congress – the White House won’t tell us anything – that no Americans are on its infamous kill list. The National Journal‘s report on this story offered a similarly comical sort of non-reassurance:
The White House has wrapped its kill list in secrecy and already the United States has killed four Americans in drone strikes. Only one of them, senior al-Qaida operative Anwar al-Awlaki, was the intended target, according to U.S. officials. The others – including Awlaki’s teenage son – were collateral damage, killed because they were too near a person being targeted.
But no more Americans are in line for such killings – at least not yet. “There is no list where Americans are on the list,” House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers told National Journal. Still, he suggested, that could change.
“There is no list where Americans are on the list” – even the language used here sounds like a cheap Orwell knockoff (although, to be fair, so does V for Vendetta, which has unfortunately provided the model for the modern protest aesthetic). It’s not an accident that so much of this story is starting to sound like farce. The idea that we have to beg and plead and pull Capra-esque stunts in the Senate just to find out whether or not our government has “asserted the legal authority” (this preposterous phrase is beginning to leak into news coverage with alarming regularity) to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil without trial would be laughable, were it not for the obvious fact that such lines are in danger of really being crossed, if they haven’t been crossed already.
This morning, an Emory University law professor named Mary Dudziak wrote an op-ed in the Times in which she pointed out several disturbing aspects to the drone-attack policy. It’s bad enough, she writes, that the Obama administration is considering moving the program from the CIA to the Defense Department. (Which, Dudziak notes, “would do nothing to confer legitimacy to the drone strikes. The legitimacy problem comes from the secrecy itself — not which entity secretly does the killing.”) It’s even worse that the administration is citing Nixon’s infamous bombing of Cambodia as part of its legal precedent.
But beyond that, Obama’s lawyers used bad information in their white paper:
On Page 4 of the unclassified 16-page “white paper,” Justice Department lawyers tried to refute the argument that international law does not support extending armed conflict outside a battlefield. They cited as historical authority a speech given May 28, 1970, by John R. Stevenson, then the top lawyer for the State Department, following the United States’ invasion of Cambodia.
Since 1965, “the territory of Cambodia has been used by North Vietnam as a base of military operations,” he told the New York City Bar Association. “It long ago reached a level that would have justified us in taking appropriate measures of self-defense on the territory of Cambodia. However, except for scattered instances of returning fire across the border, we refrained until April from taking such action in Cambodia.”
But, Dudziak notes, there is a catch:
In fact, Nixon had begun his secret bombing of Cambodia more than a year earlier. (It is not clear whether Mr. Stevenson knew this.) So the Obama administration’s lawyers have cited a statement that was patently false.
Now, this “white paper” of Obama’s is already of dubious legality at best. The idea that the President can simply write a paper expanding presidential power into extralegal assassination without asking the explicit permission of, well, somebody, anyway, is absurd from the start. Now you add to that the complication of the paper being based in part on some half-assed, hastily-cobbled-together, factually lacking precedent, and the Obama drone-attack rationale becomes like all rationales of blunt-force, repressive power ever written – plainly ridiculous, the stuff of bad comedy, like the Russian military superpower invading tiny South Ossetia cloaked in hysterical claims of self-defense.
The Wikileaks episode was just an early preview of the inevitable confrontation between the citizens of the industrialized world and the giant, increasingly secretive bureaucracies that support them. As some of Gibney’s interview subjects point out in his movie, the experts in this field, the people who worked on information security in the Pentagon and the CIA, have known for a long time that the day would come when all of our digitized secrets would spill out somewhere.
But the secret-keepers got lucky with Wikileaks. They successfully turned the story into one about Julian Assange and his personal failings, and headed off the confrontation with the major news organizations that were, for a time, his allies.
But that was just a temporary reprieve. The secrets are out there and everyone from hackers to journalists to U.S. senators are digging in search of them. Sooner or later, there’s going to be a pitched battle, one where the state won’t be able to peel off one lone Julian Assange or Bradley Manning and batter him into nothingness. Next time around, it’ll be a Pentagon Papers-style constitutional crisis, where the public’s legitimate right to know will be pitted head-to-head with presidents, generals and CEOs.
My suspicion is that this story will turn out to be less of a simplistic narrative about Orwellian repression than a mortifying journey of self-discovery. There are all sorts of things we both know and don’t know about the processes that keep our society running. We know children in Asia are being beaten to keep our sneakers and furniture cheap, we know our access to oil and other raw materials is being secured only by the cooperation of corrupt and vicious dictators, and we’ve also known for a while now that the anti-terror program they say we need to keep our airports and reservoirs safe involves mass campaigns of extralegal detention and assassination.
We haven’t had to openly ratify any of these policies because the secret-keepers have done us the favor of making these awful moral choices for us.
But the stink is rising to the surface. It’s all coming out. And when it isn’t Julian Assange the next time but The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian standing in the line of fire, the state will probably lose, just as it lost in the Pentagon Papers case, because those organizations will be careful to only publish materials clearly in the public interest – there’s no conceivable legal justification for keeping us from knowing the policies of our own country (although stranger things have happened).
When that happens, we’ll be left standing face-to-face with the reality of how our state functions. Do we want to do that? We still haven’t taken a very close look at even the Bradley Manning material, and my guess is because we just don’t want to. There were thousands of outrages in those files, any one of which would have a caused a My-Lai-style uproar decades ago.
Did you hear the one about how American troops murdered four women and five children in Iraq in 2006, including a woman over 70 and an infant under five months old, with all the kids under five? All of them were handcuffed and shot in the head. We later called in an airstrike to cover it up, apparently. But it barely registered a blip on the American consciousness.
What if it we’re forced to look at all of this for real next time, and what if it turns out we can’t accept it? What if murder and corruption is what’s holding it all together? I personally don’t believe that’s true – I believe it all needs to come out and we need to rethink everything together, and we can find a less totally evil way of living – but this is going to be the implicit argument from the secret-keeping side when this inevitable confrontation comes. They will say to us, in essence, “It’s the only way. And you don’t want to know.” And a lot of us won’t.
It’s fascinating, profound stuff. We don’t want to know, but increasingly it seems we can’t not know, either. Sooner or later, something is going to have to give.
View video at the bottom of this article
AN IRISH/US film on child abuse by a Catholic priest in an American school for the deaf has been selected for the Oscar nomination shortlist.
The documentary film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God was directed by Oscar winning director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), with funding from Bord Scannán na hÉireann/ the Irish Film Board (IFB).
It was produced by Jigsaw Productions, Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films. The film will be shown on HBO in the US in January 2013, and released in Irish cinemas in 2013.
It has been shortlisted for an Academy Award® nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category.
Filmed in Ireland, the US, and Italy and shot by Lisa Rinzler and Irish documentary filmmaker Ross McDonnell (Colony), Mea Maximum Culpa: Silence in the House of God explores the issue of abuse within the Catholic Church, following a trail from the first known protest against clerical abuse in the United States and all way to the Vatican.
One of the Irish members of the team, Eimhear O’Neill of Below the Radar productions, was associate producer of the film. “The team are very proud and honoured to be among the 15 films shortlisted, all of which are tremendous documentaries,” she told TheJournal.ie. “We’re hoping for the best.”
She said they were proud of the four men in the film “who courageously spoke out for the first time.” They were responsible for launching the first public attempt to expose clerical sex abuse in the USA, and their stories are told in the film. They were abused by Father Lawrence Murphy at a school for the deaf from the 1950s.
O’Neill said that the team remained balanced and objective when telling the men’s story. “In no way it is an attack on religion,” she said of the film. “The story is about crime, and about an abuse of power.”
The relationship between Below the Radar and Gibney developed a number of years ago, and was further strengthened when O’Neill won a place on the Alex Gibney Training Programme, during which she worked with his team in New York. “It has been a pleasure and delight working with him. It was a dream come true for me to work with someone like Alex,” said O’Neill.
After the Irish Film Board provided some funding, Below the Radar came on board as a co-producer. The film is mainly set in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, where the abuse occurred, but they also filmed in Ireland and Italy.
The film explores Ireland’s history with the Catholic Church and the abuse scandals that occurred here, using archive footage to show how the abuse stories emerged in Ireland, at a similar time to when they were emerging in the US.
“”It’s through [the men’s] story that we follow the cover up from America to Ireland, to the highest office in the Vatican,” explained O’Neill. “I think people are quite surprised that this was happening at the same time at different parts of the globe.”
With its focus on religion, there may be fears that the film could attract criticism. “There’s always going to be some people who are critical,” said O’Neill. “We did extensive research. As Alex says, it is not an attack on religion at all, it is a crime story.”
There are no subtitles in the film – the men use sign language and an actor speaks their words, which O’Neill said adds to their depiction of their traumatic experiences.
The shortlisting for an Oscar nomination has made the team behind the film happy, but O’Neill said they are proud “that four brave men and their stories are finally being heard and listened to for the first time” as word spreads about the film.
We just hope we do a good job for those men.
A still from the film