The American journalism trade is breathing a collective – but premature and, in many cases, grossly hypocritical – sigh of relief today. A military judge has found Bradley Manning guilty of many crimes, but “aiding the enemy” isn’t one of them.
Had the judge found Manning guilty of aiding the enemy, she would have set a terrible precedent. For the first time, an American court – albeit a military court – would have said it was a potentially capital crime simply to give information to a news organization, because in the internet era an enemy would ultimately have been able to read what was leaked.
However, if journalism dodged one figurative bullet, it faces many more in this era. The ever-more-essential field of national security journalism was already endangered. It remains so. The Obama administration’s war on leaks and, by extension, the work of investigative reporters who dare to challenge the most secretive government in our lifetimes, has been unrelenting.
The Manning verdict had plenty of bad news for the press. By finding Manning guilty of five counts of espionage, the judge endorsed the government’s other radical theories, and left the journalism organization that initially passed along the leaks to the public, Wikileaks, no less vulnerable than it had been before the case started. Anyone who thinks Julian Assange isn’t still a target of the US Government hasn’t been paying attention; if the US can pry him loose from Ecuador’s embassy in London and extradite him, you can be certain that he’ll face charges, too, and the Manning verdict will be vital to that case.
The military tried its best to make life difficult for journalists covering the Manning trial, but activists – not traditional journalists – were the ones who fought restrictions most successfully. Transcripts weren’t provided by the government, for example. Only when the Freedom of the Press Foundation crowd-sourced a court stenographer did the public get a record, however flawed, of what was happening.
That public included most of the press, sad to say. Only a few American news organizations (one is the Guardian’s US edition) bothered to staff the Manning trial in any serious way. Independent journalists did most of the work, and did it as well as it could be done under the circumstances.
The overwhelmingly torpid coverage of this trial by traditional media has been yet another scandal for the legacy press, which still can’t seem to wrap its collective brain around the importance of the case, and especially its wider context. National security journalist Jeremy Scahill summed it up after the verdict when he told Democracy Now: “We’re in a moment when journalism is being criminalized.”
For those who want to tell the public what the government is doing with our money and in our name, there are new imperatives. Governmental secrecy, surveillance and the systematic silencing of whistleblowers require updated methods for journalists and journalism organizations of all kinds. Americans pursuing this craft have to understand the risks and find countermeasures.
That is not enough. The public needs to awaken to the threat to its own freedoms from the Obama crackdown on leaks and, by extension, journalism and free speech itself. We are, more and more, a society where unaccountable people can commit unspeakable acts with impunity. They are creating a surveillance state that makes not just dissent, but knowledge itself, more and more dangerous. What we know about this is entirely due to leakers and their outlets. Ignorance is only bliss for the unaccountable.
The Executive Branch fought for that ruling — and is now celebrating.”We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: ” There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify ” in criminal proceedings.”
At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating. Press freedom is at stake.
Journalists who can be compelled to violate the confidentiality of their sources, or otherwise go to prison, are reduced to doing little more than providing stenographic services to pass along the official story. That’s what the White House wants.
The federal Fourth Circuit covers the geographical area where most of the U.S. government’s intelligence, surveillance and top-level military agencies — including the NSA and CIA — are headquartered. The ruling “pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters,” Marcy Wheeler writes.
That court decision came seven days after the Justice Department released its “News Media Policies” report announcing “significant revisions to the Department’s policies regarding investigations that involve members of the news media.” The report offered assurances that “members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities.” (Hey thanks!) But the document quickly added that the government will take such action “as a last resort” when seeking information that is “essential to a successful investigation or prosecution.”
Translation: We won’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs unless we really want to.
Over the weekend, some news accounts described Friday’s court decision as bad timing for Attorney General Eric Holder, who has scrambled in recent weeks to soothe anger at the Justice Department’s surveillance of journalists. “The ruling was awkwardly timed for the Obama administration,” the New York Times reported. But the ruling wasn’t just “awkwardly timed” — it was revealing, and it underscored just how hostile the Obama White House has become toward freedom of the press.
News broke in May that the Justice Department had seized records of calls on more than 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters over a two-month period and had also done intensive surveillance of a Fox News reporter that included obtaining phone records and reading his emails. Since then, the Obama administration tried to defuse the explosive reaction without actually retreating from its offensive against press freedom.
At a news conference two months ago, when President Obama refused to say a critical word about his Justice Department’s targeted surveillance of reporters, he touted plans to reintroduce a bill for a federal shield law so journalists can protect their sources. But Obama didn’t mention that he has insisted on a “national security exception” that would make such a law approximately worthless for reporters doing the kind of reporting that has resulted in government surveillance — and has sometimes landed them in federal court.
Obama’s current notion of a potential shield law would leave his administration fully able to block protection of journalistic sources. In a mid-May article — headlined “White House Shield Bill Could Actually Make It Easier for the Government to Get Journalists’ Sources” — the Freedom of the Press Foundation shed light on the duplicity: As a supposed concession to press freedom, the president was calling for reintroduction of a 2009 Senate bill that “would not have helped the Associated Press in this case, and worse, it would actually make it easier for the Justice Department to subpoena journalists covering national security issues.”
Whether hyping a scenario for a shield law or citing new Justice Department guidelines for news media policies, the cranked-up spin from the administration’s PR machinery does not change the fact that Obama is doubling down on a commitment to routine surveillance of everyone, along with extreme measures specifically aimed at journalists — and whistleblowers.
The administration’s efforts to quash press freedom are in sync with its unrelenting persecution of whistleblowers. The purpose is to further choke off the flow of crucial information to the public, making informed “consent of the governed” impossible while imposing massive surveillance and other violations of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Behind the assault on civil liberties is maintenance of a warfare state with huge corporate military contracts and endless war. The whole agenda is repugnant and completely unacceptable.
Norman Solomon is the author of many books, including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” which has been adapted into a documentary film. For more information, go to: http://www.normansolomon.com
Defense team now expected to motion for dismissal of charges for ‘lack of evidence’
(Image via Bradley Manning Support Network)After 14 days and 80 witnesses, the United States government prosecuting Pfc. Bradley Manning in the long-awaited trial against the military whistleblower has rested their case.
As Manning’s defense team prepares to present their case next week, they are hoping Manning’s prospects have risen after the government was forced to close their portion of the trial with an “embarrassing admission” that the Army had misplaced Manning’s military contract, the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) , which laid out the terms of his access to classified information.
Over three years after being arrested for leaking details of military atrocities and intelligence to WikiLeaks, Manning is on trial for 21 charges including aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence.
Ahead of the trial, Judge Colonel Denise Lind stated that in order to prove their charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ the prosecution must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Manning had “a general evil intent,” in that he “had to know he was dealing, directly or indirectly, with an enemy of the US.”
Lind added that the soldier cannot be found guilty if he acted “inadvertently, accidentally, or negligently.”
Reporting from the trial, The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington writes, “Whether or not the prosecution succeeds in meeting that high bar set by Lind will have far-reaching implications, not just for Manning, whose fate depends on it, but also for the wider relationship in the US between government, whistleblowers and a free press.”
Explaining the gaff related to Manning’s missing military contract, Pilkington also reports:
The document is important as it clarifies whether or not the soldier exceeded the terms of the authorized access to secret documents through his work computer that he directly agreed to.
[…] The AUP could be relevant to charges that Manning knowingly exceeded authorized access to a secret internet network, that he obtained classified information without authorization and that he violated the computer fraud and abuse act.
Consequently, the defense is expected to begin next Monday with a motion to have a number of the charges against Manning dismissed on the grounds of lack of evidence.
“Whether or not the prosecution succeeds in [proving he ‘aided the enemy] will have far-reaching implications, not just for Manning, whose fate depends on it, but also for the wider relationship in the US between government, whistleblowers and a free press.” -Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington
To counter the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge, Manning’s attorney David Coombs will argue that, rather than premeditation, the soldier was provoked to leak information after witnessing a series of military atrocities and that he specifically chose information “that he believed the public should hear and see, information that would make the world a better place.”
Manning has already pleaded guilty to a number of charges which carry a combined maximum prison term of 20 years, including reduced charges on seven of eight espionage counts and two counts of computer fraud. He has also admitted guilt for violating a military regulation prohibiting wrongful storage of classified information.
“Such a substantial admission of responsibility has failed to satisfy military prosecutors, who are clearly determined to send a bold message that will give any would-be leaker pause,” notes Pilkington, who adds that the “aggression displayed” by the US government carries “additional significance” in light of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s ongoing attempts toseek amnesty from US persecution.
All of the trial transcripts are made available to the public via the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which has led a grassroots initiative to crowd-fund a stenographer for the duration of the trial.
To Have a Constitutional Public Trial, Don’t You Have to Let the Public in?
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.
Court-martial judge Col. Denise Lind hasn’t exactly banned the public — or reporters, who are part of the public — from the courtroom or its extensions, but she has presided over a system that, so far, seems designed to protect the public’s right to know as little as possible.
It’s a scripted con game, a kind of judicial three-card monte in which the public is expected to keep believing it has a chance to know. The following excerpts from the script, the unofficial court transcript, illuminate how the military plays the shell game of doing injustice while trying not to let injustice be seen to be done.
The comments here are all by Judge Col. Lind from the June 10 morning session:
“Just for the record, while the court is not interested in getting into the area of who is credentialed and who isn’t credentialed as it’s beyond the scope of this trial, the court does note and so advised the parties in the RCM 802 that rules of court-martial are not structured to provide a contemporaneous transcript of proceedings.”
Nice distraction, putting attention on “who is credentialed” when the substantive issue us who gets access. The Judge‘s MCM has no index listing for “press” or “media.” There is a listing for “public,” which by definition includes all reporters, as well as all military personnel. That’s in Role 806(a), which also sets the primary expectation that “courts-martial shall be open to the public.”
That “shall” in the rule means that it’s a judge’s primary obligation to open the court-martial to the public, not an option, although the rule provides limited exceptions under exigent circumstances. The rule’s discussion section states: “However, such exigencies should not be manipulated to prevent attendance at a court-martial.”
RCM 802 is a jargon reference to pre-trial hearings that have already been held.
The provision of a “contemporaneous transcript” is another distraction that leads attention away from the need for a meaningfully public trial.
That “the court is not interested” in all this bespeaks a disdain for the public that one would expect to be better concealed.
And that the court has, in effect outsourced its responsibility to control the courtroom and access to it, as described in Rule 806(b)(1), suggests possible dereliction of duty.
Turning to Reader Supported News’s motion, without identifying it beyond “the request for public access or in the alternative motion to intervene to vindicate right to public access,” Judge Col. Lind made findings:
“One. The proceedings have been open to the public since the start of the trial”.”
This may be technically correct and short of a false statement, but it suggests a non-existent state of affairs sharply at odds with the widely-observed restraints put on public access by the judge, the government, or its contractors. “The court martial of Manning,” observed the Huffington Post, “has been surrounded by secrecy and security .”
An example of what amounts to military doublespeak is that the court says it’s not “structured” to provide a daily transcript, as if that wasn’t something other courts do and the Army could do if it wanted to. Worse, even though the Freedom of the Press Foundation is paying for its own stenographers, the judge continues to tolerate interference with the stenographers’ ability to do their job.
“Two. Neither the court nor anyone acting pursuant to order of the court has specifically excluded any person from observing the proceedings either in court or in a designated overflow area.”
One might argue that this is another technically correct statement in the furtherance of falsehood, but it’s more deceitful that that. Dozens if not hundreds of members of the public have been excluded, by apparent design, either implemented or tolerated by the court.
But they have not been “specifically” excluded and that “specifically” has a serious lawyerly purpose in the worst sense of the word. Rule 806(b)(1) says, in part: “When excluding specific persons, the military judge must make findings on the record establishing the reason for the exclusion, the basis for the military judge’s belief that exclusion is necessary, and that the exclusion is as narrowly tailored as possible.”
Here, where the court is allowing large-scale, random exclusions there’s no need for findings on the record of the basis for the exclusion, or concern that the exclusion is narrowly tailored. The exclusion is not narrowly tailored and thus gives the appearance of bad faith.
“Three. Reasonable policies and procedures for media registration and credentialing have been established and published by the Military District of Washington as set forth in appellate exhibit 561.”
That there are “reasonable policies and procedures” is not self-evident and continues to be widely challenged.
More importantly, Rule 806 does not provide for the judge to outsource her responsibility for the courtroom to a third party who is neither answerable nor accountable in reasonably timely manner within the time-pressure of a court-martial.
“Four. 806C prohibits photography and broadcasting to include audio and video recording.”
This is absolutely true, but only if you stop after the first sentence of Rule 806(c).
The second sentence begins, “However, the military judge may, as a matter of discretion permit contemporaneous closed-circuit video or audio transmission”.”
By making this finding, Judge Col. Lind effectively admits that she has chosen to use her discretion to severely limit public access to the court-martial under conditions explicitly anticipated in the rule — “when courtroom facilities are inadequate to accommodate a reasonable number of spectators.”
In what way are the judge’s deliberate truncating of public access not clear violations of at least the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the public and the press?
“Five. The two parties to this trial are the United States and PFC Manning. Unless authorized by the rules for court-martial, or in special circumstances recognized by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, only parties to the
trial have standing to file motions to be considered by this court. ABC Inc. versus Powell, Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, 1997.”
The opinion cited is not on point, as it deals with an investigative hearing, not a court-martial, and the issue leading to closing the hearing to the public was the protection of women whose sexual histories were likely to be explored during their testimony.
The question of parties to the trial is not at issue in the opinion cited. The petitioners in the case were media companies (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, and the Washington Post). They filed a Writ of Mandamus requesting the court to open the hearing in question to the press and public.
The court, in both its preliminary order and final order, ordered the hearings open to the press and public. The court noted in passing that “we have consistently held that the Sixth Amendment right [to a public trial] does apply to a court-martial.”
So what is Judge Col. Lind talking about? Certainly not the fact that one of the parties in the case is also her employer.
“Ruling. The court declines to consider [the request for public access] as it is from three individuals who are not parties to the trial and who under the circumstances lack standing to file a motion with the court.”
Done and done. The ruling ignores the clearly, repeatedly stated intent of both Rule 806 and the opinion cited to give primacy to the openness of the proceedings.
It might be tempting to think that petitioners who are not parties to a case might be perpetrating a fraud upon the court, but that would be a stretch. Here, it’s much less of a stretch to consider that perhaps the court is perpetrating a fraud on the public.
“Quia volo” is a seldom-used term in legal circles for judicial decisions of this nature. It means, “Because I want to.”
After more than three years in custody, Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial finally began on June 3. The 25-year old Oklahoma native has already pled guilty to ten charges, but faces prosecution on 12 more relating to the 2010 release of restricted government documents to Wikileaks.
For his ten guilty pleas, Manning can face up to 16 years in prison. But the 12 additional charges could send Manning to jail for the rest of his life. Although he is charged with “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty. While Manning’s actions were in defiance of U.S. government secrecy, his trial will be almost completely shrouded in it.
Less Access Than Guantanamo Bay Proceedings
Court documents are being withheld and redacted and pretrial hearings have been closed off from public view. It is estimated that 30% of the trial’s proceedings will be conducted in secret to protect witness identity and national security information. Other, more ridiculous secrecy measures have also taken place. Photographers are denied a clear shot of the defendant and his supporters were forced to turn their pro-Manning t-shirts inside out.
The government has even refused to provide transcripts of the proceeding. In response, the Freedom of the Press foundation attempted to hire stenographers to attend the public portions of the trial in order to give the world the most accurate possible picture of the events. This measure was denied at first but the government relented after a few days.
This level of secrecy at trial is not surprising if one examines the history of the case. After being arrested, Pfc. Manning was held in solitary confinement for 11 months at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia under conditions which led the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to say that the U.S. government was guilty of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
While Manning was locked away, the government gave minimal access to his lawyers and other concerned groups. In May 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a petition for extraordinary relief filed with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and a subsequent writ-appeal filed with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, arguing that the First Amendment ensured public and press access to the government’s motion papers, the court’s own orders, and transcripts of proceedings, which had remained hidden from view. The petition was denied in a 3-2 decision.
A letter signed by more than 40 news organizations was sent to Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson claiming that less access was given to reporters in the Manning case than cases involving Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Constitutional Protections for Speedy and Public Trial Flouted
This begs the question of the appropriate level of secrecy in such a high profile case. The 6th Amendment demands that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” Military law generally requires a trial within 120 days. The court martial of Bradley Manning is certainly a criminal trial, yet the military is allowed to deny access to significant portions of it. This has led some to question the constitutionality of the proceedings.
According to the Rule of Court Martial 806, the 6th Amendment guarantee of a public trial is preserved but is “not absolute.” Closure is possible if, (1) there is a substantial probability that an overriding interest will be prejudiced if the proceedings remain open; (2) closure is no broader than necessary to protect the overriding interest; (3) reasonable alternatives to closure were considered and found inadequate; and (4) the military judge makes case-specific findings on the record justifying closure. But why do we accept this watered down version of the Sixth Amendment for members of the military accused of crimes? The Sixth Amendment exists in order to protect defendants from “malicious prosecutions, corrupt judges and dishonest jury members.” Military service men and women are as deserving of these protections as everybody else.
Military judge Army Col. Denise Lind, who also presided over the closed pretrial hearings, has denied public access to testimony by some of the 24 witnesses in order to protect “classified information.” Defense lawyers offered alternatives to closing public accesses, but Judge Lind found those alternatives to be insufficient to guard the overriding interest of secrecy. Others have argued that Judge Lind’s confidentiality measures are designed to “minimize distractions and maintain law-and-order.” Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School stated “people do occasionally act out in courtrooms, both spectators or witnesses or the accused, but I’m sure that the Army knows how to maintain order, and I’m not sure that it’s necessary to do it with as heavy a hand as seems to be implied here.”
What is the Government Afraid Of?
Even if we accept that criminal cases in military courts can be closed more easily than civilian courts, it does not appear that there is strong justification for closure in the Manning trial. Chase Madar of The Nation, pointed out seven myths that have surrounded Manning’s release of sensitive documents, his prosecution, and the media’s coverage of these events. He reports the fact that none of the documents Manning released were “top secret.” In fact, “more than half of the diplomatic cables are not classified in any way, and neither was the infamous helicopter gunfight video that shows an Apache gunship slaughtering a dozen Iraqis, including two Reuters news agency employees.”
Secondly, Madar asserts that there is no evidence to prove that Manning’s leaks resulted in the death of any American or damage to national interests. If the information released by Manning was not so secret and did not result in any destruction of American lives or interests, why must his trial involve evidence so secret that it warrants public closure?
The government can always offer the same line of national security interests to justify keeping the public blissfully ignorant of the crimes it commits. The same argument was proffered by the government to stop the release of the Pentagon Papers which included explosive revelations about the U.S. war in Vietnam. The release of the papers did no harm to American interests, but rather informed people of the crimes perpetrated in their name and the lies told to the public by the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
First Amendment law expert Floyd Abrams, who represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case and Yochai Benkler of Harvard Law School, wrote about the significance of the Manning trial for whistle blowers in America in a Times op-ed entitled “Death to Whistle-Blowers?”
If found guilty on serious charges, “the prosecution will establish a chilling precedent: national security leaks may subject the leakers to a capital prosecution or at least life imprisonment,” the two wrote. “Anyone who holds freedom of the press dear should shudder at the threat that the prosecution’s theory presents to journalists, their sources and the public that relies on them.”
The Freedom of the Press Foundation continues to provide crowd-funded professional stenographers for the Manning trial. Learn more here and access the transcripts here. Also related to this story CMD’s SourceWatch articles on Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
The US military has refused to release transcripts of Bradley Manning’s trial. In addition, they’ve denied press passes to 270 out of the 350 media organizations that applied. Without public transcripts or a press pass, it’s virtually impossible for media organizations to accurately cover the trial and for the public to know what the government is doing in its name.
In response, Freedom of the Press Foundation has crowd-sourced funding to place a professional stenographer in the media room covering the trial.
We will post full transcripts shortly after each day’s proceedings end. The morning session with be posted by 7 pm the same evening. The afternoon session will be posted by 9 am the next morning. The transcripts will be released under an Attribution 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.
Depending on how long the trial lasts, transcriptions will cost between $60,000-120,000, so please help support this project by going here to donate.
Here are the transcripts.
Also, read this opinion piece at the Foundation’s website, by Rainey Reitman: “Searching for an Enemy in the Case of Bradley Manning”
Leaked Audio of Bradley Manning’s statement released by Freedom …
Help crowd-fund a court stenographer for the trial of accused …
Freedom of the Press Foundation: an update, from John Cusack …
Boing Boing joins media coalition asking Manning judge to provide …
A Salute to Bradley Manning, Whistleblower, As We Hear His Words …
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing’s in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: email@example.com.
America honors its worst. It persecutes its best. Manning is heroic. He risked great personal harm. He did so to reveal vital truths. People have a right to know. Washington has no right to conceal them.
Secrecy, lawlessness, and contempt for humanity define US policy. Evidence vital to Manning’s defense is prohibited. Information refuting charges of “aiding the enemy” is barred from trial proceedings.
Claiming it’s not relevant or harmful to national security doesn’t wash. Excluding it reflects police state justice.
On June 3, United States v. Bradley Manning court-martial proceedings began. Pre-trial, Obama pronounced him guilty by accusation. Doing so denies any possibility of judicial fairness. His word is final.
“We are a nation of laws,” he claimed. “We don’t let individuals make decisions about how the law operates. (Manning) broke the law.”
No nation spurns inviolable laws more egregiously than America. Obama reflects the worst of US governance. He rules by diktat authority. He does so secretly. He’s waging war on humanity. He does so at home and abroad.
With a stroke of his pen he could free Manning. Pronouncing guilt by accusation assures his conviction. Doing so publicly leaves no doubt.
So do secret trial proceedings. They violate constitutional law. The Sixth Amendment states:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
The Constitution mandates ALL criminal prosecutions. Pentagon ones aren’t exempt. Especially high-profile cases like Manning. If convicted, he faces possible life in prison. At issue is convicting him for doing the right thing.
Manning’s trial proceedings will be secret, not public. Doing so violates constitutional law.
It mandates the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury. He’s denied both. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) calls for trial within 120 days of restraint and arraignment.
The Rule for Court Martial (RCM) 707 mandates the same thing. It’s to assure speedy trial proceedings. Manning’s been held over three years without trial.
He’s been isolated throughout much of it. Doing so violates Eight Amendment protection against “cruel and unusual punishments.” US statute laws were violated.
So was UCMJ’s Article 13. It prohibits pre-trial confinement conditions “any more rigorous” than what’s minimally needed to ensure the accused appears for court hearings.
America should be on trial, not Manning! He revealed war crimes too egregious to be kept secret. He should be honored for doing so. Top culpable civilian and military officials should be held fully accountable. Justice demands no less.
Manning faces 22 charges. He pleaded guilty to 10 lesser ones. He denied 12 greater ones. He called war logs given WikiLeaks “some of the most important documents of our time.” He chose ones he believed “wouldn’t cause harm to the United States.”
He hoped a national debate would follow his revelations. It’s sorely needed more than ever.
America’s “obsessed with capturing and killing people,” he said. “Collateral murder” is policy. US helicopter pilots gunned down innocent civilians.
They murdered anyone trying to help them. Shooting wounded victims was like “a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass,” he said.
He wanted everyone to know. It’s their right. At issue are high crimes of war and against humanity. They’re too grave to ignore.
Manning’s charges include 1917 Espionage Act violations. Doing so contradicts the law’s intent. It doesn’t deter Justice Department or Pentagon officials from using it. It passed shortly after America’s entry into WW I. Over time, it’s been amended numerous times.
Originally it prohibited interfering with US military operations, supporting the nation’s enemies, promoting insubordination in the ranks, or obstructing military recruitment.
In 1921, its most controversial provisions were repealed. In 2010, Manning was wrongfully charged under the Act. Technically its under Articles 104 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It includes parts of the US Code.
Colonel Denise Lind is both judge and jury. Official transcripts of proceedings will be kept secret. Weeks earlier, Freedom of the Press Foundation “launched a campaign to crowd-fund a court stenographer.”
Manning’s trial “will have an enormous impact on press freedom and the rights of future whistleblowers,” it said. “The government refuses to make its transcripts available to the public.”
Floyd Abrams is a constitutional law expert. Yochai Benkler is Harvard Law School’s Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies.
In March 2013, their New York Times op-ed headlined “Death to Whistle-Blowers?”
At issue is Manning’s trial. If found guilty on serious charges, “the prosecution will establish a chilling precedent: national security leaks may subject the leakers to a capital prosecution or at least life imprisonment.”
“Anyone who holds freedom of the press dear should shudder at the threat that the prosecution’s theory presents to journalists, their sources and the public that relies on them.”
Former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black one said:
“The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.”
What’s more destructive than imposing capital penalties or imprisoning heroic whistleblowers for life for doing the right thing.
According to Abrams and Benkler, Manning’s “leaks included important disclosures (and) their publication is protected by the First Amendment no less than the publication of the Pentagon Papers was.”
“We cannot allow our concerns about terrorism to turn us into a country where communicating with the press can be prosecuted as a capital offense.”
Both contributors agreed. WikiLeaks is part of the Fourth Estate. It’s right to publish is no less than any other media organization or contributor.
Over 350 media sources submitted applications to witness Manning’s trial. Only 70 got permission. In other words, those considered safe may do so. Others are prohibited.
Claiming space limitations denies others doesn’t wash. Proceedings can be held anywhere. According to the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF):
“In previous hearings, the Army has opened a public overflow theater with live audio and video streaming of the hearing.”
“Additionally, the Army has sole discretion over which room(s) to designate as media rooms – including how many rooms to make available.”
FPF enlisted a reputable court stenographer firm. With permission, its stenographers will work in shifts.
Doing so will provide a public record. All media sources will have access. Independent alternative ones are most important. People will learn what otherwise they won’t know.
On June 1, FPF headlined “Crowd-funded Stenographers Denied Press Passes to the Bradley Manning Court Martial.”
It said three of its media partners were denied them. It remains to be seen if FPF’s request discussed above will or won’t fare better.
Manning’s trial will be held at Fort Meade, MD. On June 2, Bradley Manning.org headlined “Nearly two thousand rally for Bradley Manning at Ft. Meade.”
They did so on June 1. Washington charged Manning with indirectly “aiding the enemy.” Saying so defies reason. It mocks fundamental constitutional rule of law principles.
Manning’s a political prisoner. Amnesty International (AI) claims otherwise. It refuses to name him a prisoner of conscience. From January 2012 – January 2013, former Hillary Clinton aide Suzanne Nossel headed AI USA. She’s an imperial insider.
Interim co-executive directors Bob Goodfellow and Frank Jannuzi replaced her. They’ve acted no less irresponsibly than she did.
According to Francis Boyle:
“Amnesty International is primarily motivated not by human rights but by publicity. Second comes money.” It relies on corporate foundations and other dubious sources to provide it. Services rendered in return are expected. Conflicts of interest are rife.
The Bradley Manning Support Fund is “100%” responsible for his legal expenses. Around 20,000 supporters contributed over $1.25 million.
David Coombs represents Manning. On June 2, he said:
“On behalf of both myself and PFC Manning, I would like to thank everyone for their continued support over the last three years.”
“I especially appreciate the the tireless fundraising and awareness efforts of Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network.”
“Finally, a special thank you to those journalists who have been reporting on PFC Manning since the beginning and who have brought worldwide attention to this important case.”
“I AM BRADLEY MANNING.”
We’re all Bradley Manning! His fate is ours!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.