If Manning is ever released, he will re-enter a world ready to embrace him, advanced with the understanding to recognize his greatness.
Mark Wilson, Getty Images)
Zoom in on an aerial image of the Fort Meade military base and you will see miles of sprawling green fields and parking lots separating homes and administrative buildings. From that vantage point the magistrate court looks about the size of a Mack Truck. History is being made in that little building, the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held there.
Two weeks ago, in the swampy heat, I stood outside that single-floor courthouse. A crowd of about twenty-five of us were gathered in a narrow paved area between trailers for restrooms, crowd overflow, and the security check-in. There was a man near the entrance that had to be in his eighties. I overheard him interrupt a conversation to ask, “What’s an e-reader?” A white haired woman told him it is a thin device that holds loads of books as digital files. He paused, perhaps to consider how the contents of his personal library might be encoded to fit inside something not much bigger than a calculator. I looked around again. Maybe a third of the people attending the trial as spectators could remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor as clearly as 9-11. And quite a number more looked like retired boomers. Has AARP thrown its weight behind hacktivist causes? Were they cypherpunks in elaborate disguise?
I started talking with a retired woman who drove down from Pennsylvania. I asked how she felt about the prosecution’s depiction of WikiLeaks as a terrorist abettor. “Well, I’m not as concerned with that,” she said. “I’m here because they were torturing that kid.”
I was there because they were torturing that kid.
Last winter, I read a tweet from the Guardian‘s Ed Pilkington quoting Manning’s testimony in the pre-trial hearing. I shut my phone off and stared out the window — a tiny privilege that Manning had for so long been denied:
“BRADLEY MANNING: ‘You could see the reflection of the reflection of the skylight if you angled your face on the cell door’ – Quantico” — @Edpilkington
From then on, I found myself often thinking about Manning straining to see a “reflection of the reflection” while locked away at the brig. And for what? For exposing criminality and corruption on a worldwide structural level when no one else dared. But in the courtroom, Manning looks so earnest. He appears confident, not frail. You can see in him a glimmer of the “bradass87″ that once wrote to a friend that he would like to be like his idols, “richard feynman, carl sagan, harvey milk, etc.”
The enormity of his actions sits in contrast with the work-a-day procedure of the court martial. But that is Washington for you, a city where you might meet diplomats with sweat stains under the arms of their dress shirts and stateswomen in fraying stockings. Power appears unexpectedly accessible and deceivingly provincial. The prosecutors — representing the US government — seem guided less by iron fist than egregious technical illiteracy. The people who tortured Bradley Manning do not have horns. And that makes it all much worse.
Earlier that day, I left my phone in a friend’s glove compartment and handed my umbrella to a soldier as another searched my bag in the security trailer. Anyone can walk in and observe the proceedings. It is a short train ride from Union Station and the Bradley Manning Support Network arranges pickups, but too few people are taking advantage of this opportunity. On a panel at Left Forum, Jessalyn Radack, the attorney who represented NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, said that some days there were only six spectators. Nearing a verdict now, the courtroom is typically full, but the overflow trailer still has plenty of room. It makes a difference. They announce court attendance every morning.
How many people even know the trial is happening? Manning was held for three years without a trial. That is plenty of time for the public to mistakenly assume there was already a court decision and sentencing. And why did they try this case at all? Manning already pled guilty to 10 charges and faces up to 20 years. The remaining charges are bizarrely exaggerated. Using flimsy circumstantial evidence, the government is trying to argue that publishing documents on the internet assists terrorists. And for that they could lock him away for life.
The prosecution insists they would have pressed the same charges if Manning had gone to the New York Times instead of WikiLeaks. Daniel Ellsberg did go to the New York Times, which published excerpts of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Before his case was thrown out as a mistrial, he faced a sentence of up to 115 years under the Espionage Act of 1917. “Everything that Richard Nixon did to me, for which he faced impeachment and prosecution, which led to his resignation, is now legal under the Patriot Act, the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] amendment act, the National Defense Authorization Act,” Ellsberg told Chris Hedges in an interview. Now Manning is accused not only of espionage, but “aiding the enemy,” essentially because some WikiLeaks files were on Osama bin Laden’s computer.
The prosecutors are in their early 30s — nominally “digital natives” — and should know better. “Do you know what Wget is?” they interrogate a witness, as if it is malicious spyware and not an everyday command line program. The government is capitalizing on asymmetric tech literacy and the failure of language when old laws are applied to the internet. At the peak of this absurdity: WikiLeaks cables are still formally classified, so despite being readily available to anyone with internet, closed sessions are required to discuss them.
Perhaps you heard the audio of Bradley Manning’s court statement earlier this year. That was leaked. No other recordings or visuals have come out of the trial, with the exception of courtroom sketches. Now imagine if there were a livestream. And imagine if everyone had tuned in to watch Yochai Benkler’s gripping expert witness testimony on July 10th. He argued on behalf of the decentralization of media in the digital age, the blurred lines between activist and journalist, and that WikiLeaks was “providing a discrete but critical component of what in the past was always integrated in a single organization.” He explained in clear language what everyone of a certain generation knows intuitively about the internet. Afterward, in the restroom, I overheard two old ladies say they plan to read his book, The Wealth of Networks.
Why did the prosecution ramp up charges against Manning? “Aiding the enemy” might have resulted in the death penalty. The answer came from Benkler under cross-examination. Summarizing an article he wrote, he explained in court, “it’s very hard to suppress information once it’s on WikiLeaks and that the core target needs to be on trust as the center of gravity. In other words, to undermine the concept that WikiLeaks is a place where a leaker can go and trust that they won’t be revealed. So in order to prevent this distributed leaking, it’s necessary to increase the fear, as it were, or the constraint on potential leakers.”
In Ellsberg’s time, the labor involved was its own risk and deterrent. Over the course of a year, he went out with a suitcase to Xerox page after page of the Pentagon Papers (with a piece of cardboard pressed against the glass to edit out the “Top Secret” stamps.) Manning’s cover was a rewritable CD marked “Lady Gaga.” He downloaded the files while listening to “Telephone.” He was tortured and he risks life imprisonment, because leaking is now so easy.
If you grow up knowing an entire library can fit inside a device in the palm of your hand, those 250,000 diplomatic cables and 500,000 army reports do not seem like an enormous bounty. What looks like “harvesting” to one generation, might seem like the obvious way to gather data to the next.
The witness for the defense who has stayed in my mind is Lauren McNamara. She read from a series of AOL chats with Manning in 2009. She was called in to defend his character and demonstrate he was in good spirits in the months leading up to the cable leaks. McNamara — who goes by Zinnia Jones in online videos and blogs — is transgender. It is possible some people in the courtroom had never met someone who is trans* — or think they haven’t. McNamara would smash any retrograde assumptions. She’s confident and witty. There is nothing strange about her gender identity. She is a woman. Manning might be too. McNamara wrote for the Hufington Post, “when I talked with people who are in close contact with Manning, they all told me he currently identifies as male.” Coombes and the Bradley Manning Support Network also say he prefers to be addressed as Bradley. Manning might be female presenting as male, Manning might be non-binary; that’s for Manning to say.
Manning was tortured in part because he signed a few letters from the brig as “Breanna Elizabeth.” Marine Corps Master Sgt. Craig Blenis defended his cruelty in a December pre-trial hearing. Coombs asked why the marine thought Manning’s gender dysphoria should factor into his “prevention of Injury” status. Blenis answered because “that’s not normal, sir.”
But it is normal. Manning’s gender identity is as normal as his computer use. Using Wget, believing WikiLeaks to be a reputable news source in 2010, listening to Lady Gaga, identifying as a gender different from your assigned sex— this is all normal. It just might take another generation to see this. What is out of the ordinary about Pfc Bradley Manning is his extraordinary courage. If Manning is ever released, he will re-enter a world ready to embrace him, advanced with the understanding to recognize his greatness.
We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be “terracide” from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.
The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.
In the case of the terrarists — and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell — you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.
It wasn’t that complicated. In recent years, the companies they run have been extracting fossil fuels from the Earth in ever more frenetic and ingenious ways. The burning of those fossil fuels, in turn, has put record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Only this month, the CO2 level reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. A consensus of scientists has long concluded that the process was warming the world and that, if the average planetary temperature rose more than two degrees Celsius, all sorts of dangers could ensue, including seas rising high enough to inundate coastal cities, increasingly intense heat waves, droughts, floods, ever more extreme storm systems, and so on.
How to make staggering amounts of money and do in the planet
None of this was exactly a mystery. It’s in the scientific literature. NASA scientist James Hansen first publicized the reality of global warming to Congress in 1988. It took a while — thanks in part to the terrarists — but the news of what was happening increasingly made it into the mainstream. Anybody could learn about it.
Those who run the giant energy corporations knew perfectly well what was going on and could, of course, have read about it in the papers like the rest of us. And what did they do? They put their money into funding think tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing “doubts” about the science (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promoted what came to be known as climate denialism. Then they sent their agents and lobbyists and money into the political system to ensure that their plundering ways would not be interfered with. And in the meantime, they redoubled their efforts to get ever tougher and sometimes “dirtier” energy out of the ground in ever tougher and dirtier ways.
The peak oil people hadn’t been wrong when they suggested years ago that we would soon hit a limit in oil production from which decline would follow. The problem was that they were focused on traditional or “conventional” liquid oil reserves obtained from large reservoirs in easy-to-reach locations on land or near to shore. Since then, the big energy companies have invested a remarkable amount of time, money, and (if I can use that word) energy in the development of techniques that would allow them to recover previously unrecoverable reserves (sometimes by processes that themselves burn striking amounts of fossil fuels): fracking, deep-water drilling, and tar-sands production, among others.
They also began to go after huge deposits of what energy expert Michael Klare calls “extreme” or “tough” energy — oil and natural gas that can only be acquired through the application of extreme force or that requires extensive chemical treatment to be usable as a fuel. In many cases, moreover, the supplies being acquired like heavy oil and tar sands are more carbon-rich than other fuels and emit more greenhouse gases when consumed. These companies have even begun using climate change itself — in the form of a melting Arctic — to exploit enormous and previously unreachable energy supplies. With the imprimatur of the Obama administration, Royal Dutch Shell, for example, has been preparing to test out possible drilling techniques in the treacherous waters off Alaska.
Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity.
Their prior knowledge of the damage they are doing is what should make this a criminal activity. And there are corporate precedents for this, even if on a smaller scale. The lead industry, the asbestos industry, and the tobacco companies all knew the dangers of their products, made efforts to suppress the information or instill doubt about it even as they promoted the glories of what they made, and went right on producing and selling while others suffered and died.
And here’s another similarity: with all three industries, the negative results conveniently arrived years, sometimes decades, after exposure and so were hard to connect to it. Each of these industries knew that the relationship existed. Each used that time-disconnect as protection. One difference: if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos exec, you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it’s also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).
If Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 plane hijackings or the Tsarnaev brothers’ homemade bombs constitute terror attacks, why shouldn’t what the energy companies are doing fall into a similar category (even if on a scale that leaves those events in the dust)? And if so, then where is the national security state when we really need it? Shouldn’t its job be to safeguard us from terrarists and terracide as well as terrorists and their destructive plots?
The alternatives that weren’t
It didn’t have to be this way.
On July 15, 1979, at a time when gas lines, sometimes blocks long, were a disturbing fixture of American life, President Jimmy Carter spoke directly to the American people on television for 32 minutes, calling for a concerted effort to end the country’s oil dependence on the Middle East. “To give us energy security,” he announced,
“I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel — from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun… Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”
It’s true that, at a time when the science of climate change was in its infancy, Carter wouldn’t have known about the possibility of an overheating world, and his vision of “alternative energy” wasn’t exactly a fossil-fuel-free one. Even then, shades of today or possibly tomorrow, he was talking about having “more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias.” Still, it was a remarkably forward-looking speech.
Had we invested massively in alternative energy R&D back then, who knows where we might be today? Instead, the media dubbed it the “malaise speech,” though the president never actually used that word, speaking instead of an American “crisis of confidence.” While the initial public reaction seemed positive, it didn’t last long. In the end, the president’s energy proposals were essentially laughed out of the room and ignored for decades.
As a symbolic gesture, Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the White House. (“A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people: harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”) As it turned out, “a road not taken” was the accurate description. On entering the Oval Office in 1981, Ronald Reagan caught the mood of the era perfectly. One of his first acts was to order the removal of those panels and none were reinstalled for three decades, until Barack Obama was president.
Carter would, in fact, make his mark on U.S. energy policy, just not quite in the way he had imagined. Six months later, on January 23, 1980, in his last State of the Union Address, he would proclaim what came to be known as the Carter Doctrine: “Let our position be absolutely clear,” he said. “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
No one would laugh him out of the room for that. Instead, the Pentagon would fatefully begin organizing itself to protect U.S. (and oil) interests in the Persian Gulf on a new scale and America’s oil wars would follow soon enough. Not long after that address, it would start building up a Rapid Deployment Force in the Gulf that would in the end become U.S. Central Command. More than three decades later, ironies abound: thanks in part to those oil wars, whole swaths of the energy-rich Middle East are in crisis, if not chaos, while the big energy companies have put time and money into a staggeringly fossil-fuel version of Carter’s “alternative” North America. They’ve focused on shale oil, and on shale gas as well, and with new production methods, they are reputedly on the brink of turning the United States into a “new Saudi Arabia.”
If true, this would be the worst, not the best, of news. In a world where what used to pass for good news increasingly guarantees a nightmarish future, energy “independence” of this sort means the extraction of ever more extreme energy, ever more carbon dioxide heading skyward, and ever more planetary damage in our collective future. This was not the only path available to us, or even to Big Oil.
With their staggering profits, they could have decided anywhere along the line that the future they were ensuring was beyond dangerous. They could themselves have led the way with massive investments in genuine alternative energies (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, algal, and who knows what else), instead of the exceedingly small-scale ones they made, often for publicity purposes. They could have backed a widespread effort to search for other ways that might, in the decades to come, have offered something close to the energy levels fossil fuels now give us. They could have worked to keep the extreme-energy reserves that turn out to be surprisingly commonplace deep in the Earth.
And we might have had a different world (from which, by the way, they would undoubtedly have profited handsomely). Instead, what we’ve got is the equivalent of a tobacco company situation, but on a planetary scale. To complete the analogy, imagine for a moment that they were planning to produce even more prodigious quantities not of fossil fuels but of cigarettes, knowing what damage they would do to our health. Then imagine that, without exception, everyone on Earth was forced to smoke several packs of them a day.
If that isn’t a terrorist — or terrarist — attack of an almost unimaginable sort, what is? If the oil execs aren’t terrarists, then who is? And if that doesn’t make the big energy companies criminal enterprises, then how would you define that term?
To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? Isn’t that terracide?
[Note: Thanks go to my colleague and friend Nick Turse for coming up with the word “terracide.”]
At its core, the ongoing military trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the admitted conveyer of three-quarters of a million classified U.S. government documents to Wikileaks, is about the evolution of big data into a relentless and almost certainly unstoppable social force. Pfc. Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst arrested in May 2010 and charged with 22 offenses involving the passing of information to Wikileaks, is seen by many as a whistleblower whose actions revealed mendacious covert actions of the U.S. government in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and elsewhere.
Many consider Manning a hero on the level of Nobel Peace Prize laureates Martin Luther King Jr/ or Polish champion of democracy Lech Walesa. In fact, some 65,000 people already support a petition to award Bradley Manning the Nobel Peace Prize for the way the information he passed to WikiLeaks contributed to withdrawing troops from Iraq. Others see him as a traitor whose leaks have materially aided and abetted enemies of the U.S., noting that among the documents found with Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideaway, were a trove of the documents Manning leaked about U.S. actions against Al-Qaeda.
Manning has pled guilty to ten of the charges against him with a maximum sentence of 16 years. But the Obama administration, clearly alarmed at the ease of such a classified info hemorrhage, is continuing to try Manning on the other 12 charges. Wikipedia (which has no connection to Wikileaks) reports that the most remaining serious charge is “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense, though prosecutors have said they would not seek the death penalty. Still if convicted on that charge Manning could face life imprisonment.
The Financial Times, which has been covering the trial, comments that “The problems of balancing a free press with keeping secrets is bedeviling the Manning trial, with prosecutors estimating about 30% of proceedings will be shut, to protect classified evidence and the identity of witnesses.”
The judge in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning has said that she will close portions of the trial to the public to protect classified material, a ruling that is likely to frustrate civil liberties groups that have alleged that the case is being shrouded in secrecy.
In civilian court such a closed trial would not be permissible, and an attempt to bar disclosure of secrets might result in a dismissal. But Manning’s court-martial is conducted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which grants the military judges the discretion to close trials to protect sensitive information. That means Manning could be imprisoned for life without the public knowing precisely why.
So, big data?
In part, the Manning incident only points out the virtual impossibility of protecting secrets in a social cosmos of instantaneous communication and universal access to information. No matter how harsh a punishment the court visits upon Manning, the documents he leaked are out there everywhere in the cloud, impossible to recall. Anybody who has stupidly posted an embarrassing photo on Facebook knows the futility of trying to rebottle that genie.
The emerging kerfuffle over the National Security Agency’s surveillance and data mining of most internet communications from foreign nationals, looking for traces of information suggesting communications between terrorists or others threating harm to the U.S., is an example of government worry over this phenomenon. (Paranoia? Maybe, but as the old saw goes, even paranoids have enemies). The fact that China apparently has a sophisticated information espionage operation directed against government and corporate IT systems in the U.S. is similarly a big worry. Many other countries are likely doing similar information espionage and making similar efforts to plug information leaks. (Fast systems today can quickly examine and mine usable information from exabytes of data – an exabyte is a million times the storage contained in your home computer’s 1 terabyte hard drive.)
The computing power of the fictional super computer of the TV series Person of Interest — capable of tracking what every human on earth is doing in real time — is probably only a couple of Moore’s generations from reality. With that in mind it is clear that Bradley Manning’s leaks are only a splash in a much large ocean of issues about the control and dissemination of information in this new age of big data. We are rapidly approaching a time when we will be able to instantaneously discover the details of everything occurring in the world. Sadly, what seems still far away is an equally powerful filter to differentiate between what we need to know and what we need to keep private.
An aphorism attributed to Mark Twain (and others) goes that a lie can travel halfway around the world in the time it takes for truth to get its boots on. Apply that to the flow of information and you might say that embarrassing facts can travel everywhere in the world in less time than it takes for the data cops to know those facts have been stolen.
So, whether Pfc. Bradley Manning is a traitor or a hero to you, he is only among the first of a new breed of information Robin Hoods stealing information from the knowledgeable to give to a world hungry to be informed.
In the now-defunct Starz series Boss, there’s a reporter character named “Sam Miller” played by actor Troy Garity who complains about lazy reporters who just blindly eat whatever storylines are fed to them by people in power. He called those sorts of stories Chumpbait. If the story is too easy, if you’re doing a piece on a sensitive topic and factoids are not only reaching you freely, but publishing them is somehow not meeting much opposition from people up on high, then you’re probably eating Chumpbait.
There’s an obvious Chumpbait angle in the Bradley Manning story, and most of the mainstream press reports went with it. You can usually tell if you’re running a Chumpbait piece if you find yourself writing the same article as 10,000 other hacks.
The Trials of Bradley Manning
The CNN headline read as follows: “Hero or Traitor? Bradley Manning’s Trial to Start Monday.” NBC went with “Contrasting Portraits of Bradley Manning as Court-Martial Opens.” Time magazine’s Denver Nicks took this original approach in their “think” piece on Manning, “Bradley Manning and our Real Secrecy Problem”:
Is he a traitor or a hero? This is the question surrounding Bradley Manning, the army private currently being court-martialed at Fort Meade for aiding the enemy by wrongfully causing defense information to published on the Internet.
The Nicks thesis turned out to be one chosen by a lot of editorialists at the Manning trial, who have decided that the “real story” in the Manning case is what this incident showed about our lax security procedures, our lax of good due diligence vetting the folks we put in charge of our vital information.
“With so many poorly protected secrets accessible to so many people, it was only a matter of time,” Nicks wrote. “We can be grateful that Bradley Manning rather than someone less charitably inclined perpetrated this leak.”
Dr. Tim Johnson of the Telegraph took a similar approach, only he was even less generous than Nicks, calling Manning the “weirdo [who] tried to bring down the government,” a man who was “guilty as hell” and “deserves to do time.”
“Private Manning was a self-absorbed geek who should never have enjoyed the level of access that he did,” Johnson wrote. He went on to argue that Manning’s obvious personality defects should have disqualified him for sensitive duty, and the fact that he was even hired in the first place is the real scandal of this trial:
His personality breakdown was there for all to see – criticising US policy on Facebook, telling friends, “Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment”, and even entertaining “a very internal private struggle with his gender”. He told hacker Adrian Lamo that he “listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history.” You go, girl.
All of this shit is disgraceful. It’s Chumpbait.
If I was working for the Pentagon’s PR department as a hired press Svengali, with my salary eating up some of the nearly five billion dollars the armed services spends annually on advertising and public relations, I would be telling my team to pump reporters over and over again with the same angle.
I would beat it into the head of every hack on this beat that the court-martial is about a troubled young man with gender identity problems, that the key issue of law here rests inside the mind of young PFC Manning, that the only important issue of fact for both a jury and the American people to decide is exactly the question in these headlines.
Is Manning a hero, or a traitor? Did he give thousands of files to Wikileaks out of a sense of justice and moral horror, or did he do it because he had interpersonal problems, because he couldn’t keep his job, because he was a woman trapped in a man’s body, because he was a fame-seeker, because he was lonely?
You get the press and the rest of America following that bouncing ball, and the game’s over. Almost no matter what the outcome of the trial is, if you can convince the American people that this case is about mental state of a single troubled kid from Crescent, Oklahoma, then the propaganda war has been won already.
Because in reality, this case does not have anything to do with who Bradley Manning is, or even, really, what his motives were. This case is entirely about the “classified” materials Manning had access to, and whether or not they contained widespread evidence of war crimes.
This whole thing, this trial, it all comes down to one simple equation. If you can be punished for making public a crime, then the government doing the punishing is itself criminal.
Manning, by whatever means, stumbled into a massive archive of evidence of state-sponsored murder and torture, and for whatever reason, he released it. The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names.
Slate was one of the few outlets to approach the Manning trial in a way that made sense. Their story took the opportunity of the court-martial to remind all of us of the list of horrors Manning discovered, including (just to name a very few):
During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to thousands of field reports…
There were 109,032 “violent deaths” recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians. Leaked records from the Afghan War separately revealed coalition troops’ alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers…
In Baghdad in 2007, a U.S. Army helicopter gunned down a group of civilians, including two Reuters news staff…
This last incident was the notorious video in which our helicopter pilots lit up a group of civilians, among other things wounding two children in a van, to which the pilots blithely commented, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”
Except that there had been no battle, none of the people on the street were armed, it was an attack from space for all these people knew – and oh, by the way, we were in their country, thanks to a war that history has revealed to have been a grotesque policy error.
It’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle. It’s lines like this, truly horrific stuff that’s evidence of a kind of sociopathic breakdown of our society, that this trial should be about. Not Manning’s personal life.
Unfortunately, the American people would rather make it about Manning, because they know they were complicit in those and other murders, because they loudly brayed for war in Iraq for years, no matter how often and how loudly it was explained to them that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not the same person.
Hacks like Johnson reassure the public that they have the right to have the results of their own moral decisions kept well hidden from them. His kind of propaganda soothes people into believing that Manning was just a freak and a weirdo, a one-off kink in the machinery, who hopefully will be thrown in the hole forever or at least for a very long time, so that we don’t have to hear about any of this awful stuff again. At the very least, according to Johnson, we shouldn’t have to listen to anyone call Manning a hero:
At the centre of the storm is a person who one suspects should never have been in uniform, let along enjoying access to military intelligence, who has blundered into the history books by way of a personality crisis. Incredibly, some people actually want to celebrate him as a gay icon. Who next, the Kray twins?
Wow. We’re the ones machine-gunning children, and yet Manning is the one being compared to the murdering Kray twins? And Jesus, isn’t being charged with the Espionage Act enough? Is Manning also being accused of not representing gay America skillfully enough on the dock?
Here’s my question to Johnson: What would be the correct kind of person to have access to videos of civilian massacres? Who’s the right kind of person to be let in the know about the fact that we systematically turned academics and other “suspects” over to the Iraqi military to be tortured? We want people who will, what, sit on this stuff? Apparently the idea is to hire the kind of person who will cheerfully help us keep this sort of thing hidden from ourselves.
The thing is, when it comes to things like the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, whether it’s Bradley Manning or anyone else, any decent human being would have had an obligation to come forward. Presented with that material, you either become part of a campaign of torture and murder by saying nothing, or you have to make it public. Morally, there’s no option.
Yes, Manning went beyond even that. One can definitely quibble about the volume of the material he released and the manner in which he released it. And I get that military secrets should, in a properly functioning society, be kept secret.
But when military secrets cross the line into atrocities, the act of keeping these secrets secret ceases to have much meaning.
The issues to be debated at this trial are massive in scope. They’re about the character of the society we’ve all created, not the state of mind of one troubled Army private. If anyone tries to tell you anything else, he’s selling you something.
Of all the charges against Bradley Manning, the most pernicious — and revealing — is “aiding the enemy.”
A blogger at The New Yorker, Amy Davidson, raised a pair of big questions that now loom over the courtroom at Fort Meade and over the entire country:
“In that case, who is aiding the enemy — the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?”
When the deceptive operation of the warfare state can’t stand the light of day, truth-tellers are a constant hazard. And culpability must stay turned on its head.
That’s why accountability was upside-down when the U.S. Army prosecutor laid out the government’s case against Bradley Manning in an opening statement: “This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy — material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk.”
If so, those fellow soldiers have all been notably lucky; the Pentagon has admitted that none died as a result of Manning’s leaks in 2010. But many of his fellow soldiers lost their limbs or their lives in U.S. warfare made possible by the kind of lies that the U.S. government is now prosecuting Bradley Manning for exposing.
In the real world, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, prosecution for leaks is extremely slanted. ” Let’s apply the government’s theory in the Manning case to one of the most revered journalists in Washington: Bob Woodward, who has become one of America’s richest reporters, if not the richest, by obtaining and publishing classified information far more sensitive than anything WikiLeaks has ever published,” Greenwald wrote in January.
He noted that “one of Woodward’s most enthusiastic readers was Osama bin Laden,” as a 2011 video from al-Qaeda made clear. And Greenwald added that “the same Bob Woodward book [Obama’s Wars] that Osama bin Laden obviously read and urged everyone else to read disclosed numerous vital national security secrets far more sensitive than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking. Doesn’t that necessarily mean that top-level government officials who served as Woodward’s sources, and the author himself, aided and abetted al-Qaida?”
But the prosecution of Manning is about carefully limiting the information that reaches the governed. Officials who run U.S. foreign policy choose exactly what classified info to dole out to the public. They leak like self-serving sieves to mainline journalists such as Woodward, who has divulged plenty of “Top Secret” information — a category of classification higher than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking.
While pick-and-choose secrecy is serving Washington’s top war-makers, the treatment of U.S. citizens is akin to the classic description of how to propagate mushrooms: keeping them in the dark and feeding them bullshit.
In effect, for top managers of the warfare state, “the enemy” is democracy.
Let’s pursue the inquiry put forward by columnist Amy Davidson early this year. If it is aiding the enemy “to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government,” then in reality “who is aiding the enemy — the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?”
Candid answers to such questions are not only inadmissible in the military courtroom where Bradley Manning is on trial. Candor is also excluded from the national venues where the warfare state preens itself as virtue’s paragon.
Yet ongoing actions of the U.S. government have hugely boosted the propaganda impact and recruiting momentum of forces that Washington publicly describes as “the enemy.” Policies under the Bush and Obama administrations — in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and beyond, with hovering drones, missile strikes and night raids, at prisons such as Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and secret rendition torture sites — have “aided the enemy” on a scale so enormous that it makes the alleged (and fictitious) aid to named enemies from Manning’s leaks infinitesimal in comparison.
Blaming the humanist PFC messenger for “aiding the enemy” is an exercise in self-exculpation by an administration that cannot face up to its own vast war crimes.
While prosecuting Bradley Manning, the prosecution may name al-Qaeda, indigenous Iraqi forces, the Taliban or whoever. But the unnamed “enemy” — the real adversary that the Pentagon and the Obama White House are so eager to quash — is the incessant striving for democracy that requires informed consent of the governed.
The forces that top U.S. officials routinely denounce as “the enemy” will never threaten the power of the USA‘s dominant corporate-military elites. But the unnamed “enemy” aided by Bradley Manning’s courageous actions — the people at the grassroots who can bring democracy to life beyond rhetoric — are a real potential threat to that power.
Accusations of aid and comfort to the enemy were profuse after Martin Luther King Jr. moved forward to expose the Johnson administration’s deceptions and the U.S. military’s atrocities. Most profoundly, with his courageous stand against the war in Vietnam, King earned his Nobel Peace Prize during the years after he won it in 1964.
Bradley Manning may never win the Nobel Peace Prize, but he surely deserves it. Close to 60,000 people have already signed a petition urging the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the prize to Manning. To become a signer, click here.
Also, you can preview a kindred project on the “I Am Bradley Manning” site, where a just-released short video — the first stage of a longer film due out soon — features Daniel Ellsberg, Oliver Stone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Phil Donahue, Alice Walker, Peter Sarsgaard, Wallace Shawn, Russell Brand, Moby, Tom Morello, Michael Ratner, Molly Crabapple, Davey D, Tim DeChristopher, Josh Stieber, Lt. Dan Choi, Hakim Green, Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges, Allan Nairn, Leslie Cagan, Ahdaf Soueif and Jeff Madrick.
From many walks of life, our messages will become louder and clearer as Bradley Manning’s trial continues. He is guilty of “aiding the enemy” only if the enemy is democracy.
I cannot forecast to you the actions of America. It’s a psyop, wrapped in a fraud, the backbone of which is a hoax… and it’s taking center stage… in a kangaroo court. Thus is the state of the nation in a nutshell. But perhaps there is a key and if so, reason is it. Too bad they’re destroying the education system and our time of reason is short.
“Lind ruled later in the hearing that “John Doe” must testify in civilian clothing and “light disguise” in a closed session at an alternate, secure location to prevent disclosure of his identity or details of the mission. The disguise cannot obscure his demeanor, body movements and facial reactions.” AP
I read the news today, oh boy. And though the news was rather sad, I just had to laugh, cus we never saw the photograph…
Lind said the trial also would be closed during the entire testimony of three other unidentified “special” prosecution witnesses who will discuss classified information. It might be closed during part of the testimony of 24 other government witnesses to prevent release of classified information, she said.” AP
Bradley Manning is on trial if you can call it that while keeping a straight face.
He’s on trial for “leaking” all those Wikileaks State Department files that said things like the Muslim people in the Middle East don’t like Iran. Silly stuff like that. We’re supposed to forget that Bradley wanted to be a double agent and that Wikileaks was created by the NSA to be a whistle-blower honey-pot. We’re supposed to forget that Assange is a roving international playboy millionaire housed in one castle after one embassy after another all the while running from legal action for having unprotected sneak-in sex with a young woman while she was asleep. Of course, all the “year of the WOMAN!” liberals still love him and call him hero which is an amazing bit of cognitive dissonance when you think about it.
What happened to Aaron Swartz? Oh yeah, they tried to try him after offering him a deal, but he didn’t take the deal, so they killed him. His thoughtcrime was thinking that educational material and knowledge should be available to everyone and that the internet should remain free to all and open. And Assange is cashing checks where? Running for office in Australia? After living in a castle with an oligarch? And he’s an “outsider”? That’s a laugh
Today the news is rather sad. See if you can keep up:
The court in the Manning trial has ruled that “John Doe”, an “operator” for the military in the bin Laden assassination hoax, can testify in Manning’s court martial hearing on whether or not the dead bin Laden had some of the Wikileaks files on his computer at the shanty he was living in before they whacked him.
You may think that’s silly, but in fact it is not. This is the “why” of it: we are entering an era where clowns in disguise can testify against you, providing secret evidence about how you inadvertently aided the imaginary boogieman and you will be held accountable in a court of “law”.
This is the nation, this is the state of our world, then one we let them construct and keep constructing everyday we choose not to take to the streets en masse.
“The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intelligence is given to and received by the enemy,” Lind said.
You see, there is always a method to their ridiculous madness. I told you years ago that Obama would attack Social Security. I told you before he was “elected” in 2008 that he wouldn’t prosecute parties from the Bush administration and in fact the only “CHANGE” we would see is things getting worse on all fronts. I told you this then, so you should listen when I tell you the importance of this new development.
Yes, it’s ridiculous – the kangaroo court proceeding of Bradley Manning is a farce. It’s beyond farcical to the point of almost slap-stick.
To bring in a secret “witness” to testify to what a man who had been dead for 10 years had on his laptop, before he was criminally murdered in a public relations production where they lied about how he was killed, why he was killed, produced phony pictures of him killed, rushed out to sea with his body and quietly dumped it in the drink where it could never be found with no photos taken of him to prove they got him and no videos of the tactical insertion, though they claimed they watched it live at the White House and even staged a nifty little photo-op with Hillary Clinton holding her hand over her mouth for dramatic effect….
… all to get the guy they said was responsible for 9/11 because they tortured a couple of other guys for up to 180 days before they “confessed” and gave up that information… before the CIA had to burn all those tapes of those “confessions” in spite of congressional orders and federal laws telling them not too…
… that is to say nothing of the fact that al Qaeda was and is the creation of the CIA as a means to destabilize nations through terrorism (Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria…) …
Hell, they had to get the CIA to work with a Mockingbird agent to make a feature film to finalize the propaganda and even that backfired on them…
Oh what a tangled web we weave…
But here is the point, you knew I would get around to it eventually:
They’re basically saying that by leaking this stuff to Wikileaks (which was carefully vetted by State Department heads and psyop experts to present the illusion of “insider” information but which actually supported their agenda in the Middle East and elsewhere) so that it could be made public, they aided the enemy… not by making the U.S. look bad, but instead by the more direct charge of actually using the random internet publishing as a means by which intelligence was “given to and received by the enemy“
That’s a mighty important distinction in the case. No one is saying Bradley Manning gave the stuff to Assange so he could give it to the ghost of the dead bin Laden personally. What they are saying is that if something is published in an open forum and ends up on a phony terrorist’s laptop, even years after his death, and a secret witness who will remain unnamed in perpetuity, comes forward and makes a claim that he found said publication on said non-existent laptop, well then… you have committed treason basically for publishing something online…
Now remember, none of the “leaks” from Manning have had ANY effect on the all important Global Free Market Wars.
None of them.
And none of them exposed the real nature of it.
In fact, the recent study which showed that our drone strikes are not killing “al Qaeda” like President Peace Prize claims, but rather people the Pakistani military want to kill basically making the drone program nothing more than an updated death squad practice, that study did VASTLY more damage to the free-marketeers of globalization than anything Manning ever did, excluding all the breathless over-hyping from the “foundation” activists to the contrary.
bin Laden certainly didn’t do ANYTHING with that useless trove of Hillary Clinton approved drivel. But that doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter that the story itself is completely bullshit and that so many of the SEALS who supposedly were on that raid are now dead keeping them silent forever.
It doesn’t matter that bin Laden, even by the official record, didn’t do jack shit since 9/11 (since we all know the AmeriThrax attacks came from us) and was holed up in a shitty little run-down ghetto in Pakistan like a broken-down boogieman who’s done way too many sequels.
It doesn’t matter that the last verified videos on bin Laden recorded in Nov. of 2001 are of hims saying he had nothing to do with 9/11 and all the faked ones after those have been proven faked and are not certified by our intelligence agencies.
It doesn’t matter that most informed experts agree that bin Laden died from his illnesses in Dec. of 2001 and even President Bush mentioned several times in the aftermath of 9/11 that they weren’t all that interesting in bin Laden because “he’s just one guy”… one dead guy and they needed one live boogieman.
It doesn’t matter that the deeply flawed 9/11 Commission Report ultimately came to the conclusion that it’s not important to figure out who paid for 9/11 because it was ultimately “of little significance” anyway.
None of that matters.
All they have to do with this psyop is claim that the files were there on the mysterious super-secret bin Laden laptop and provide a super-secret witness to make the claim that he will never be held accountable for and legal precedent is set.
Anything you publish on the net, if it ends up on some “terrorists” laptop, you are responsible for it… even if no one can prove it’s actually on a laptop and even if no one can actually prove the terrorist is a terrorist.
They can provide a “military operator” to come in, in secret, in the dark, with no accountability, to make that claim, and you have to sit back and accept it as the rule of law.
NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!
Why don’t we just do this: toss Manning into a pond, if he floats he’s guilty, if he sinks he’s less guilty. And afterwards we can hand onto his computers in super-secret places and for the next 40 or 60 years we can have it available to use to “find” files on it that implicate other people in the future that we don’t like. And for that matter, we can “find” files on the computer that don’t even exist at this point, but of course that won’t matter because the examination of the files and the system is off limits for purposes of national security.
It’s like watching a badly written movie trying to right itself in a tempest of poorly conceived plot-lines or an improve between two comedians that just goes from ridiculous to absurd with no end in sight.
Layers upon layer of already exposed bullshit being heaped one on top of the other. The other day the AP and Fox News were all beside themselves talking about how those Iraqis were celebrating and tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein 10 years ago in Iraq when EVERYONE knows it was a propaganda operation in which a U.S. psyop officer got “Screwball” and his band of ex-pats to run around hooting and hollering while the U.S. troops pulled it down for the PR value of it all. Like the “incubator babies” story before it, it was bullshit yet, there are the articles, plain as day, PRETENDING it wasn’t … PRETENDING we don’t KNOW it was bullshit. And … we… are … supposed… to… believe… it….
more cognitive dissonance.
And now we have this. You almost need a Ph. D to keep up these days. So many contractors running so many psyops and unconventional warfare actions on us here in the states, it makes your head spin. No wonder people just give up and turn away. can’t blame ‘em.
I cannot forecast to you the actions of America or where it will end up. It’s a psyop, wrapped in a fraud, the backbone of which is a hoax… and it’s taking center stage… in a kangaroo court. Thus is the state of the nation in a nutshell. And I think we can all but toss out “reason” as our savior.
This is America. Reason doesn’t live here anymore.
Prosecutors must prove that Pfc. Bradley Manning “had reason to believe” that the classified material he provided to WikiLeaks would harm the nation, a military judge ruled Wednesday — offering the Pentagon and the Obama administration an opportunity to bring an end to a prosecution that has become an exercise in overkill.
Manning, the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst in Iraq, pleaded guilty in February to 10 charges, including possessing classified information and transferring it to an unauthorized person. The plea alone could subject him to 20 years in prison, but the government wasn’t satisfied. It continues to charge him with multiple violations of the Espionage Act and of “aiding the enemy.” Conviction on the more serious charges could put him in prison for life.
To Manning’s supporters, he is a valiant whistle-blower; they often cite the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack that killed 12 civilians in Baghdad that Manning provided to WikiLeaks. His detractors argue that his actions sprang as much from personal problems as from altruism and that his indiscriminate document dump went way beyond identifying war crimes, undermining national security and the conduct of diplomacy.
Even if Manning was engaged in principled civil disobedience, he must face the consequences that await anyone who violates the law in a supposedly higher cause. But the current charges against him go too far.
In arguing that Manning aided the enemy, the government’s case apparently will rest on the assertion that some WikiLeaks material made its way to a digital device found in the possession of Osama bin Laden. This is an ominously broad interpretation. By the government’s logic, the New York Times could be accused of aiding the enemy if Bin Laden possessed a copy of the newspaper that included the WikiLeaks material it published.
As for the Espionage Act charges, the judge, Col. Denise Lind, ruled that the prosecution must prove that Manning had “reason to believe” that providing computer files to WikiLeaks would harm the nation; it wouldn’t be enough simply to show that he knew he was disclosing classified information. Whether this ruling would make conviction of Manning significantly harder isn’t clear. But it could make it easier for the government to announce that pursuing the additional charges wouldn’t be productive — a graceful exit that would still leave Manning facing considerable time in prison.
In one of the case’s most disturbing pre-trial hearings, Judge Col. Denise Lind ruled last week that prosecutors can offer as evidence files seized from Osama Bin Laden‘s computer as well as the testimony of a Navy Seal, part of the Bin Laden assasination team, who found them. His identity will not be revealed and the defense can cross-examine him only from a very specific and limited list of court-approved questions.
The ruling is important not only because it shows the almost unimaginable absurdity of the Manning case but because it reveals the true intent of the Obama Administration in pursuing it.
Bradley Manning and the Video — fragment of a leaflet from the Georgia Green Party
The hearing was about the “standard of proof” necessary to prove two charges: espionage and aiding the enemy. It also took up what kinds of evidence would be permitted in the trial to support those charges.
According to the prosecutors, Manning committed espionage and aided the enemy by giving them important intelligence and he did that by putting it on the Internet. That’s it; that’s the crime. His real intent is irrelevant. The government is arguing that, if you put something on the Internet that some nefarious rascal downloads, you are effectively aiding that person materially in any “relevant” crime he or she might commit. It doesn’t matter if there’s no evidence that the person read it and no need to prove that you intended for him or her to retrieve it. Effectively, it makes the use of the Internet a potential crime.
Judge Lind ruled that to prove “espionage” you have to show that the defendent actually intended for this material to be read by the enemy; that was a defeat for the prosecution. But, she ruled, the government can pursue its theory to support the “aiding the enemy” charge.
One up and one down for Pvt. Manning. Two down for the rest of us. The Judge’s decision is important for the trial but what’s most important for all of us is what the Obama Admininstration is thinking and doing. It’s not clear that the Administration believes that these very same acts and standards apply to both crimes. While the “aiding the enemy” charge only relates to military personnel, the “espionage” charge can be levelled at everyone and, while it failed to win the ruling in this case, it’s clear that President Obama believes he can charge any of us with “espionage” for using the Internet as it’s currently used.
For those who aren’t familiar with this case or need an update, Pvt. Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower. Sometime in 2010, when he was working as an information technologist with the Army, Manning sent about 750,000 computer files to Wikileaks.
These included a shocking video of a U.S. Air Force helicopter firing at a wedding party in Bagdad, killing several people, and then firing at an ambulance there to evacuate the injured. All the while, ground support and helicopter personnel laughed and encouraged the pilot to “kill” and “shoot” the people, as if playing a video game with real humans as targets. The video became a major embarassment to Washington and, while there was a lot about the Wikileaks revelations that made Washington very unhappy, this video provoked the final pull on the trigger. The U.S. government determined to go after Wikileaks and the source of this classified material.
A short while after turning over the material, Manning began corresponding and chatting on-line with Adrian Lamo, a technologist who had built a reputation for hacking into corporate servers, telling the company about it through an intermediary and then offering to fix the vulnerability for money. Lamo befriended Manning, spending hours with him in on-line chat rooms and email talking about the difficulties Manning was having. Manning is gay, he told his new friend, and he found the often homophobic military culture punishing. But, he also told Lamo, he had all these documents that made clear how wrong the war in Iraq was and holding that truth from the world was eating at him so he finally published them.
Upon reading that, Lamo turned Manning in and the torturous case began.
Manning doesn’t deny he leaked the files and, in fact, he has already pleaded guilty to that charge, a plea the judge is still considering. He’s explained his actions in an audio tape smuggled out of jail and published by Democracy Now. The tape is stunning for what it says about the information and about Bradley Manning.
This is a case, after all, in which homophobia has already played a major role. It’s hard to think of any public figure who has been as “preference-maligned” as Manning by both the government and the media. Almost every article published about the case pictures him as a confused, frightened gay man, an emotional cripple and weakling who was pushed to the point of near-suicide by a military system he couldn’t adjust to. That condition, the mainstream media tells us, was exascerbated by the tortourous treatment Manning received during his time in jail, much of it spent in solitary confinement.
This largely unchallenged gay-bashing, sketching an image that meshes just about every homophobic bias plaguing our culture, took an uglier step when pundits started asking an over-loaded question: why was a kid who was on the verge of a crack-up allowed access to such sensitive information?
This attack campaign encountered a devastating challenge when Manning finally spoke to us in that tape, emerging as a completely controlled, thoughtful, highly principled and courageous hero. Despite the brutal treatment he had endured, he sounded confident and strong as iron.
“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information,” he explained, “this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.” Sounds like a real jelly-bean, huh?
Bradley Manning knew exactly what he was doing, had a good reason for doing it and appears ready to do his time (up to 20 years if the plea is accepted) as an act of conscience and civil disobedience. Such actions form a critical component of the history of this country — the kind of actions that drove the civil rights movement that, among other things, made Barack Obama’s election possible. But that’s a chapter of our history the President apparently hasn’t read.
Instead of recognizing this act of conscience, the government churlishly continues to charge Manning with two criminal acts that are among the most serious any citizen faces. Manning denies them both and that’s what the trial is about.
In truth, it’s tough to take the “espionage” charge seriously in this case. Nobody has presented one fact that indicates that he’s guilty of any such thing and the Judge rejected the argument that all Manning had to do to be found guilty was put this material on the Internet. But it’s the evidence that U.S. prosecutors say would support both charges that should send a chill up our collective spine. They claim that Manning gave this material to Wikileaks knowing that it could be picked up by terrorists, particulary Bin Laden-led Al Quaida. That, the government argues, is giving the enemy material and informational aid and is also an act of espionage.
What does that mean for the rest of us? We all put information on the Internet. Some of us, seeking to shine light on the truth, publish information the government doesn’t want us to. This can be “whistle-blowing” or it can just be good journalism or fact-finding. Journalists often do that and, in fact, they have often been encouraged to. In the age of the Internet, the number of people doing that has exploded. The Internet makes us all potential journalists.
Now, if a criminal downloads information we publish, we may be considered complicit in that person’s crimes.
How the government will apply this theory remains to be seen and courts, judges and lawyers will be thrashing it out for a long time as the rest of us watch with more than “observer status”. But there is a greater threat that lurks behind the very concept involved here. The Obama Administration seeks to curtail the very functionality that makes the Internet the effective source of communication it currently is. It wants to destroy the Internet as we know it.
Once you put something in a public place on-line everybody has access to it. That isn’t an abuse or weakness of the Internet; it’s the very essence of its power and purpose. It was developed as an unfettered, free and world-accessible system of information gathering and exchange. It’s why you use the Internet the way you do — because you can get information on virtually every topic imaginable.
Think about it. Before the Internet, if you had a question about something or some information you needed, you would plow through books and articles and call people hoping they knew what you needed to know. You might try to remember what television program made mention of the sought-after info and then have to figure out how to retrieve it. Much of the time, you would scratch your head and, if you’re like me, give up. Our access to information was restricted because information was not yet fully collaborative. The world was still informationally divided into naturally restricted cells of competence or access to information.
The Internet changed all that. Where do you start if you need information? You use an on-line search engine and the websites your searches uncover. Then you click links on those sites to others that might deepen your knowledge. You can keep going almost infinitely, deeper and wider, because the knowledge and experience of the world’s entire population is available and accessible to you. We have collectivized knowledge and, because knowledge is the seed of social change, the Internet is a critical tool in the struggle for our future.
President Obama, however, contends that it is effectively dangerous and the position his minions have articulated is rabidly repressive. Anything you put on the Internet, at any time, could be read by a terrorist or criminal and, if the government can prove that information had some potential relationship to that crime and the criminal got access to it, you are an accessory. If the criminal has been designated as an enemy of the United States, even if your information pre-dates that designation, you can be considered a traitor.
Some might argue that there is a limit: Obama lawyers are contending that this material was illegally released and materially helpful to a terrorist. But can you really predict what information will be used in a crime in the future? How do you know, when you publish information, that some nut-case isn’t going to download it later on? And who in the world is going to decide that any information is illegally released? What happens if you’ve published information that some government functionary decides, at some later date, to label “top secret”? Or some University official or a corporate employee stamps “not for public consumption”?
That, by the way, is what they were trying to throw Aaron Swartz in jail for 35 years for.
Who decides? Well, the government does and that is something we can’t abide. Making a government the final arbiter of what should and shouldn’t be seen on the Internet is corrosive of democracy. Claiming that merely publishing information is effectively terrorism is a nightmarish trashing of protected communications. This case demonstrates that, when it comes to world-wide communications. the U.S. government is a very dangerous force.
The secrecy, redactions and delays in release of information mean that the public does not have contemporaneous access to the proceedings, a fundamental component of a public trial. And given that Private Manning is confronting a life sentence, news media coverage and the public interest are one of the core protections provided to him by the First and Sixth Amendments.
I’m glad the New York Times has finally realized what journalists and advocates like Michael Ratner, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, and myself have been saying since Manning’s indictment. I’m glad the Times woke up to the fact that if Manning were to be convicted of “aiding the enemy” simply because he provided information to Wikileaks, and, ultimately, the public, it would erode the First Amendment protections for all media outlets as well as whistleblowers like Manning.
The Manning case has always been about the First Amendment. It is high time the country’s “paper of record” wised up.
The Carr piece has a decent message if you can get past the self-righteous indignation and sanctimonious excuses. NYT complains that it is “rugged going” for reporters to make it to Fort Meade, but makes sure to note that complaint is
not an effort to complain about tough working conditions for reporters.
It would be an ironic complaint for the Times considering its reporters only showed up to the Manning proceedings after being twice publicly shamed by the paper’s public editor. If it’s a “rugged haul” for reporters with the resources of the New York Times, imagine the difficulty for the independent and alternative media reporters who have been present at the Manning proceedings day in and day out. Journalists like Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake, Courthouse News’ Adam Klasfeld, and Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network have covered the court proceedings despite the secrecy and security theater that make the reporting from Ft. Meade “rugged going.”
The NYT also makes the excuse that limited resources prevent the paper from covering the proceedings:
Yet coverage has been limited, partly by the court’s restrictions and partly because an increasingly stretched news media business often does not have the time, or the resources, to cover lengthy trials. After all, Private Manning’s case is still in pretrial phase and the full court-martial will not begin until June 3.
Such an excuse defies credulity, especially considering Ed Pilkington of The Guardian has also showed up, and the Washington Post found the “resources” to send researcher Julie Tate with regularity. With the First Amendment on the line, one would think the New York Times – with the biggest budget of any newspaper on the planet – would find the resources.
While it is true Manning’s trial has yet to begin, pre-trial proceedings have including riveting testimony and constitutionally-significant, precedent-setting hearings about “unlawful pre-trial confinement” (aka torture), the right to a speedy trial, the Espionage Act, and how the government plans to prove “aiding the enemy:” through a really frightening theory that if Osama Bin Laden had the ability to obtain publicly-available documents, then Manning “aided the enemy.” Not to mention Manning himself testifying under oath about his mistreatment – perhaps the only time he will take the stand. You can bet if defendants like O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony had taken the stand pre-trial, the New York Times would have showed up to listen, despite the time and resources constraints and any “rugged going” required.
Carr’s piece seems to finally send the right message that the Manning trial is of critical importance to the free press. The message is great, but the proof will be in the pudding: in whether the NYT decides to finally send its reporters to give the the First Amendment the press coverage it deserves when the court proceedings resume.
Any religion that requires the acceptance of its ideas on faith alone is admitting that its doctrines cannot stand on their own merits nor withstand any critical examination. They require that their adherents accept as truth their authority, and Christianity is a perfect illustration of this point. The belief in a god is irrational, as are those who accepts the belief in a god. Once this leap of faith is made, it only takes short steps to abandon the standards of rationality and lose the ability to distinguish truth from falsehoods. When one examines the doctrines of Christianity, it is revealed not to be the bastion of wonderful moral standards. To the opposite, Christian morals are contrary to our well being and to our society.
The belief that there was a divine man who died for the sins of the world is a grievous and immoral notion. It amounts to human sacrifice. If this were even suggested in real life, such as someone offering to become victim of capital punishment for another’s crime, there would be cries from from every corner of society denouncing this action. Given that, then by what possible stretch of the imagination does an immoral idea such as this suddenly become moral when it is the murder of the fictitious Jesus is a substitution for the “crime” of another person or persons? Obviously, the answer is to instill guilty feelings. There can be no other logical purpose. When you look at the base doctrines of evangelism, it is very apparent that fear and guilt are the basic emotions that are used by Christianity to convert its targets. Those who eventually walk away from their faith were probably converted through fear alone, as a fearful person may eventually rebel. However, those who become life long adherents were more than likely converted through both fear and guilt, because a person with deep feelings of guilt is not likely to rebel. The alleged “sacrifice” of Christ has served the church very well over the millennia.
The basic problem with Christian morality comes down to it being little more than a primitive system of reward and punishment. Be good, don’t ask questions and stay in line and you will be rewarded. Be skeptical, ask questions and use your mind in a reasonable and rational manner and you are consigned to eternal punishment in the most horrible place, forever. Although some churches have modified this and a few have even eliminated, this system has remained fundamental to Christianity throughout the history of the church. The whole idea of heaven and hell is a perfect illustration of just how the the core of Christianity is against reason, rationality and even life, itself. The faith elevates ignorance and non-productivity and suppresses creative and innovative thought. One competent scientist is worth more than a thousand evangelists.
Christianity teaches its followers to meek and mild, to accept their lot in life. This might seem like humility at its best, but consider the fate of a country that adopts this attitude and how easy it would be for any despot to seize and keep power. Does this not assure the perpetration of evil and is this doctrine not carte blanche for every injustice imaginable? It is no accident that the bible lacks any story, tale or parable about the oppressed rising up against their oppressors. Hitler and many other dictators over the centuries all looked to the bible for justification of their actions. And they have found it there.
There are many other problems with the alleged “divine ethics” of the Christian faith. Slavery, which was widespread in biblical times and continues to be in many countries, is not only not admonished in the bible, but instructions on how to treat slaves is part of holy scripture. As a general rule, women are treated as second class citizens because Christianity is a male-dominated social hierarchy. The Apostle Paul even tells women to never speak in church, along with a plethora of other misogynist requirements.
Christianity not only brings on feelings of guilt, but its promotion of death over life is morbid. The fact that a cross, a symbol of suffering, torture and death is the icon of the faith illustrates that Christianity is a philosophy of death and has turned real human values into non-values. Suffering has become noble and death has become eternal life. Pictures and illustrations of blood gushing wounds on the fictitious Jesus abound almost everywhere and blood rituals such as communion are core practices in almost every church in the world. The bloody image of a man on a cross desensitizes the faithful and causes them to believe that suffering and misery are expected and death is the only escape. Christianity teaches that all people are evil and destined to a life of pain and suffering and hope only lies in the salvation of Christ and his assurance of a heavenly reward after we die and those who do not believe will be eternally punished. I find it hard to contemplate a more evil system.
The faith purports itself to be non-judgmental, as the notion of “judge not lest ye be judged” is often cited by Christians. Literally, this means that only the Christian god can judge anyone’s actions to be immoral. This is one of the most damaging doctrines of the faith because it assures that the weak will be perpetually doomed to suffering under the strong. However, much like the ecological issue, the Bible makes up for this by assuring the weak that they will eventually inherit this new earth. It is the pinnacle of ignorance not to judge people like Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, but to just turn the other cheek, believing that in the next life everything will be sorted out.
Of course, Christianity, by design, demands ignorance. Both naiveté and willful ignorance is at the core of a faith that is contrary to the development of knowledge through reason and rationality. It clearly teaches people people not to trust in reason, and to only accept – without question – the dogmas of the church. Faith is elevated above reason in every church to one degree or another and there have been countless lives wasted in the world’s convents and monasteries. These lives are spent in poverty, reading the bible and praying for whatever. However, this subservience to Christ only amounts to an staggeringly immense loss of much human potential. The fact that billions of people are convinced that all the answers they need lie in the bible and thus they have no incentive at all to look beyond it. The religious withdraw from the world while the reasoned seek to improve it. This withdrawal from the world, coupled by the teaching that the earth was created solely for the benefit of the believer has contributed to widespread ecological disaster. This belief makes it easy to justify the destruction and wanton depletion of our natural resources because, after all, Jesus is coming soon and will give us a new earth.
If the history of religion has shown us anything, it is the fact that it is inherently evil in its insistence that rational thought is to avoided at all costs. It keeps its believers in line through fear, and is the chief source of a vast majority of crime, either directly, indirectly or psychologically. The fact that atheists and agnostics are a small minority of the prison population shows that Christianity is not only nonessential to morality, but in many cases, the antithesis. Evil has a completely different meaning to an atheist than it does to a Christian. From a Christian point of view, evil is not following orders, thinking independently and questioning doctrines, dogmas and myth.
For those of us who are unbelievers, evil can best be described as the abandonment of our minds to the minds of others. To us, it is a travesty to blindly accept any doctrine on faith. We believe that the ability and willingness to stand alone, when necessary, and tell the majority that they are wrong is the pinnacle of virtue, and thus, atheism is the only honest, rational, and moral position to hold.
– Al Stefanelli, Georgia State Director – American Atheists, Inc.
Yes, America, Al Jazeera is actually related to Osama Bin Laden, and is actually a person. He’s coming over to activate sleeper cells all over Americaland including Detroit where there are known terrorist cells, we know because a woman cunningly called Lisa Daftari told us that she had googled it so it must be true.
We think it’s great that Fox News managed to get someone whose own surname acts as a description of what she is saying. She basically doesn’t like this Al Jazeera thing entering America because, well, it’s anti-American isn’t it. It has a funny name. And it’s run by them Muslamics with BEARDS AND SHIT who blow things up and want to turn Americanland into some kind of Taliban theme-park where you basically cut peoples’ willies off and stone women all the time. Oh, and there’s no drink anywhere.
Here’s what DAFTari said:
The point is they want to differentiate themselves from their sister network, but at the same time, it’s the same thing. They’re having the same type of coverage. They’re apparently expanding to eight cities, including Detroit, Michigan. Detroit, Michigan is a large ex-pat community of Muslim-Americans and sleeper cells have been detected. You can Google this, you can find out all this information. So if you’re trying to set yourself apart the Qatari petro-dollars are backing this, you’re still developing in this area where the sleeper cells have been detected. They’re going to have do do much more to prove to me that they’re different from their sister network.
Mmm, do you see it? Do you see the link? A news network is moving to cities where there are SLEEPER CELLS of Muslamic bombers just waiting to blow America to bits (we know because we Googled it, using our own fingers and a keyboard, and it all came up on the screen), and the Qatari petro-dollars are backing this.
News network in Detroit = Muslims trying to kill America. That’s what they do.
And who is this Daftari woman anyway? Well, judging from her Wikipedia picture, she’s an Iranian woman who likes to show a bit of boob cleavage. No wonder she’s gone to America because if you think about it, you’re free to show tit in America, but not in Iran.
But she’s an opera singer and a pianist, too. She even has a Masters degree in journalism. So what the hey fuckity-fuck is she doing on Fox News spreading Islamophobia and stuff that someone with her brain ought to know are just, basically, lies? Is it Roop’s dollars?
Because this woman appears to have expertise. And some knowledge. An educated woman doesn’t appear on Fox News, and an educated woman doesn’t appear on Fox News saying that a rival news network is basically a front for beardy Muslims bombing America. It must be Roop’s dollars.
As Uncle Roop will remind us all, Qatar is bad, but Saudi Arabia is good.