Whistleblower Bradley Manning is now on trial. Military prosecutors are pursuing the charges of aiding the enemy, violation of the Espionage Act, and “putting the lives of fellow soldiers at risk.” Likely sentence: life in prison, but the death penalty is possible.
A strong message is being sent by the Obama Administration: repress dissent, stifle critique, and punish those who challenge the prerogatives, or expose the crimes of the powerful. The assault on democracy continues apace.
Manning is accused of sending classified files (none “Top Secret”) and videos, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, to Wikileaks. Some of the material contains heart-wrenching evidence of war crimes (a small trove in a mountain of war crimes perpetrated). Soldiers are under a legal obligation to report war crimes. Manning upheld that duty.
An Apache helicopter gunship kills 12 civilians (including two AP reporters) and wounds two children, then fires on and kills those trying to rescue the wounded. A tank drives by and cuts a body in half. In mockery, the killers laugh. That is the “Collateral Murder” video (CMV). Watch it and scream. These are war crimes, three among thousands, many far worse.
These war crimes follow from what at Nuremberg was called “The Supreme International Crime,” i.e. the crime of international aggression, for which no U.S. leader has been held legally accountable. The U.S. president is therefore not upholding his Constitutional obligation to enforce the law. We should note it is the leaders (the planners and perpetrators of aggression) who “put the lives of soldiers [and civilians] at risk.”
Manning brought his concerns to his superiors. Violating their legal and moral obligation, they refused to investigate the war crimes and other “war porn” about which Manning was concerned. Manning said, “I was disturbed by the response to injured children” and bothered by soldiers who “seemed to not value human life.” Caring for life is the crime.
The assault on democracy continues apace.
Manning is accused of “aiding the enemy” and there is truth in the accusation when we understand that the real enemy of (and only real threat to) destructive U.S. power is the people of the U.S. Manning aided the people in gaining wider knowledge and a clearer understanding of the mass horrors and egregious destruction imposed on the Iraqi people by U.S. power.
In short, Bradley Manning aided democracy, and will likely be punished severely for it. The victims of U.S. crimes in Iraq already know those crimes, so that “enemy” is not aided by repetitive information. Those aiding the so called “enemy” are the originators and perpetrators of the crimes: the aggression, the missile strikes, the drone strikes, the torture, and renditions, etc.
“Every violation of the law of war is a war crime” (U.S. Army Field Manual). The “law of war” contained in the Geneva Conventions tells us that making the civilian population the object of attack is a grave breach. The CMV reveals a vicious breach.
Harming those caring for the wounded violates Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions: “No one shall be harmed . . . for such humanitarian acts.” The Apache helicopter in the CMV fires on and kills civilian rescuers.
A soldier’s obligation to report violations of the “law of war” is enshrined in the “US Army Subject Schedule.” The Uniform Code of Military Justice places soldiers under a duty to refuse to obey unlawful orders. Therefore, an order to suppress clear evidence of war crimes is an unlawful order. In essence, Manning is accused of not suppressing the evidence. By following his legal (and moral) obligation he is accused of illegal action.
Imagine the U.S. under monstrous attack by a massive superpower carrying out egregious war crimes against us, killing and maiming millions, and destroying much of our society. Then, imagine a brave soldier inside that “other” superpower releasing documents to the public to educate them about the atrocities being perpetrated against us with the hope that the revelations might assist in stopping the brutality and suffering. Would we laud that soldier as a great hero or denounce them as a criminal?
Manning believed his heroic actions would assist in helping the people of the U.S. both understand the situation of the Iraqi people and also reconsider the systemic and serial nature of U.S. power’s aggression against other countries and people.
But truth-tellers in criminal enterprises, in a world of systemic deceit, surveillance, and misinformation, are always a threat. Again, the real enemy in a warfare state is democracy, i.e. the people. It is a lesson for all.
Doug Morris grew up in Harrisburg and now teaches at Eastern New Mexico University.He spends summers and holidays in Mechanicsburg. Readers may e-mail him at email@example.com.
U.S. Attorney’s Office asks judge to toss motion to intervene in the case of detained hacktivist Barrett Brown
Journalist-turned-hacktivist Barrett Brown has been in a federal detention center since September, when FBI agents raided his apartment while he was engaged in an online chat. And he will remain there until at least September, when he’s due to stand trial for more than a dozen criminal charges, among them threatening an FBI agent, conspiring to release the personal information of a U.S. government employee, identity theft and releasing credit card information.
Brown, the not-a-spokesman for Anonymous and the subject of a D cover story in 2011, has now become an international story: A lengthy piece on the U.K. Guardian‘s website appeared on March 21 beneath the headline “The persecution of Barrett Brown – and how to fight it,” and insists Brown’s being punished by the government for trying to reveal “the secret relationships and projects between … intelligence firms and federal agencies.”
Aside from its myriad indictments, the federal government hasn’t said much about its case against Brown — or what it’s after. But according to a motion to intervene and quash subpoena filed yesterday, the government is attempting to get its hands on records related to domain name server Cloudflare — and, more specifically, those involving someone named Sebastiaan Provost, who, according to the motion, “built newsgathering websites for Mr. Brown.” Jason Flores-Williams, a New Mexico attorney, filed the motion.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office promptly responded, asking the judge to dismiss the motion. Sarah Saldana’s office offers several reasons, among them Flores-Williams isn’t licensed to practice law in Texas and he
Flores-Williams is among a handful of activists attorneys who co-founded the Whistleblowers Defense League, whose creation was announced yesterday. Their website says the WBDL “stands with those brave souls willing to act against and expose the damaging corporate and political forces injuring our democracy.”
In a press release, WBDL co-founder and attorney Jay Leiderman, who has represented Brown in the past, says, “The internet is the new frontier for civil rights. This indictment of Barrett Brown, like Ai Weiwei, is an affront to democracy. We have to stop this government from criminalizing dissent in our society.”
Doug Morris, the public defender representing Brown, says it “appears the government is trying to get information from these folks, and they believe it’s related to Mr. Brown. That’s what it tells me.” And, for now, that’s all he knows about Flores-Williams’ motion. Morris also doesn’t want to comment on how his client is doing behind bars. For that information we must instead turn to Vice, which published an interview with Brown last week — shortly after Brown’s mother pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice by hiding computers for her son.
“I don’t want to talk to you about the case or the people involved at this point, but obviously I’m not terribly worried about it,” he insisted. When asked why not, he responded: “Just because of my knowledge, I know how long they were in there monitoring our stuff. … I know what documents and records of my activities are available. They’re trying to claim that I intentionally tried to spread credit card information, but I was opposed to that. And I was on record being opposed to it. They’re just not aware of that. They don’t have their [expletive] together in terms of going through what they spied on me regarding … and I obviously know what’s there in that evidence so … I’ve always been opposed to spreading credit cards.”
Brown, ruled competent last January to stand trial, was initially scheduled to go to trial in March. But his attorney asked the judge for the OK to put it off until September, which gave them more time for discovery.
“Every case is unique,” says Doug Morris. “If you have an illegal reentry case, that doesn’t take a long time. Felony possession of a handgun — did you have the gun or not? But if it’s computer-generated, there’s a lot of discovery, and it takes time.”
Brown remains behind bars because, according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney’s September ruling, “Mr. Brown is a danger to the safety of the community and a risk of flight.”