Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Media.
Tags: bradley mannin, Criminal Justice, first amendment, freedom of press, glenn greenwald, james rosen, journalism, julian asange, Media, obama doj, Richard Nixon, roger hollander, stephen kim, wikileaks
It is now well known that the Obama justice department has prosecuted more government leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined – in fact, double the number of all such prior prosecutions. But as last week’s controversy over the DOJ’s pursuit of the phone records of AP reporters illustrated, this obsessive fixation in defense of secrecy also targets, and severely damages, journalists specifically and the newsgathering process in general.
Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen had his emails read by the Obama DOJ, which accused him of being a co-conspirator in a criminal leak case. (Photo: screen grab)
New revelations emerged yesterday in the Washington Post that are perhaps the most extreme yet when it comes to the DOJ’s attacks on press freedoms. It involves the prosecution of State Department adviser Stephen Kim, a naturalized citizen from South Korea who was indicted in 2009 for allegedly telling Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen, that US intelligence believed North Korea would respond to additional UN sanctions with more nuclear tests – something Rosen then reported. Kim did not obtain unauthorized access to classified information, nor steal documents, nor sell secrets, nor pass them to an enemy of the US. Instead, the DOJ alleges that he merely communicated this innocuous information to a journalist – something done every day in Washington – and, for that, this arms expert and long-time government employee faces more than a decade in prison for “espionage.”
The focus of the Post’s report yesterday is that the DOJ’s surveillance of Rosen, the reporter, extended far beyond even what they did to AP reporters. The FBI tracked Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department, traced the timing of his calls, and – most amazingly – obtained a search warrant to read two days worth of his emails, as well as all of his emails with Kim. In this case, said the Post, “investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.” It added that “court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist.”
But what makes this revelation particularly disturbing is that the DOJ, in order to get this search warrant, insisted that not only Kim, but also Rosen – the journalist – committed serious crimes. The DOJ specifically argued that by encouraging his source to disclose classified information – something investigative journalists do every day – Rosen himself broke the law. Describing an affidavit from FBI agent Reginald Reyes filed by the DOJ, the Post reports [emphasis added]:
“Reyes wrote that there was evidence Rosen had broken the law, ‘at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.’ That fact distinguishes his case from the probe of the AP, in which the news organization is not the likely target. Using italics for emphasis, Reyes explained how Rosen allegedly used a ‘covert communications plan’ and quoted from an e-mail exchange between Rosen and Kim that seems to describe a secret system for passing along information. . . . However, it remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information. No reporter, including Rosen, has been prosecuted for doing so.”
Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ – that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for “soliciting” the disclosure of classified information – is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself. These latest revelations show that this is not just a theory but one put into practice, as the Obama DOJ submitted court documents accusing a journalist of committing crimes by doing this.
That same “solicitation” theory, as the New York Times reported back in 2011, is the one the Obama DOJ has been using to justify its ongoing criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange: that because Assange solicited or encouraged Manning to leak classified information, the US government can “charge [Assange] as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.” When that theory was first disclosed, I wrote that it would enable the criminalization of investigative journalism generally:
“Very rarely do investigative journalists merely act as passive recipients of classified information; secret government programs aren’t typically reported because leaks just suddenly show up one day in the email box of a passive reporter. Journalists virtually always take affirmative steps to encourage its dissemination. They try to cajole leakers to turn over documents to verify their claims and consent to their publication. They call other sources to obtain confirmation and elaboration in the form of further leaks and documents. Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau described how they granted anonymity to ‘nearly a dozen current and former officials’ to induce them to reveal information about Bush’s NSA eavesdropping program. Dana Priest contacted numerous ‘U.S. and foreign officials’ to reveal the details of the CIA’s ‘black site’ program. Both stories won Pulitzer Prizes and entailed numerous, active steps to cajole sources to reveal classified information for publication.”
“In sum, investigative journalists routinely — really, by definition — do exactly that which the DOJ’s new theory would seek to prove WikiLeaks did. To indict someone as a criminal ‘conspirator’ in a leak on the ground that they took steps to encourage the disclosures would be to criminalize investigative journalism every bit as much as charging Assange with ‘espionage’ for publishing classified information.”
That’s what always made the establishment media’s silence (or even support) in the face of the criminal investigation of WikiLeaks so remarkable: it was so obvious from the start that the theories used there could easily be exploited to criminalize the acts of mainstream journalists. That’s why James Goodale, the New York Times’ general counsel during the paper’s historic press freedom fights with the Nixon administration, has been warning that “the biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening.”
Indeed, as Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler noted recently in the New Republic, when the judge presiding over Manning’s prosecution asked military lawyers if they would “have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to WikiLeaks but directly to the New York Times?”, the prosecutor answered simply: “Yes, ma’am.” It has long been clear that this WikiLeaks-as-criminals theory could and would be used to criminalize establishment media outlets which reported on that which the US government wanted concealed.
Now we know that the DOJ is doing exactly that: applying this theory to criminalize the acts of journalists who report on what the US government does in secret, even though there is no law that makes such reporting illegal and the First Amendment protects such conduct. Essentially accusing James Rosen of being an unindicted co-conspriator in these alleged crimes is a major escalation of the Obama DOJ’s already dangerous attacks on press freedom.
It is virtually impossible at this point to overstate the threat posed by the Obama DOJ to press freedoms. Back in 2006, Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales triggered a major controversy when he said that the New York Times could be prosecuted for having revealed the Top Secret information that the NSA was eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without warrants. That was at the same time that right-wing demagogues such Bill Bennett were calling for the prosecution of the NYT reporters who reported on the NSA program, as well as the Washington Post’s Dana Priest for having exposed the CIA black site network.
But despite those public threats, the Bush DOJ never went so far as to formally accuse journalists in court filings of committing crimes for reporting on classified information. Now the Obama DOJ has.
This week, the New Republic’s Molly Redden describes what I’ve heard many times over the past several years: national security reporters have had their ability to engage in journalism severely impeded by the Obama DOJ’s unprecedented attacks, and are operating in a climate of fear for both their sources and themselves. Redden quotes one of the nation’s best reporters, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, this way:
“It’s a huge impediment to reporting, and so chilling isn’t quite strong enough, it’s more like freezing the whole process into a standstill.”
Redden says that “the DOJ’s seizure of AP records will probably only exacerbate these problems.” That’s certainly true: as surveillance expert Julian Sanchez wrote in Mother Jones this week, there is ample evidence that the Obama DOJ’s seizure of the phone records of journalists extends far beyond the AP case. Recall, as well, that the New York Times’ Jim Risen is currently being pursued by the Obama DOJ, and conceivably faces prison if he refuses to reveal his source for a story he wrote about CIA incompetence in Iran. Said Risen:
“I believe that the efforts to target me have continued under the Obama Administration, which has been aggressively investigating whistleblowers and reporters in a way that will have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press in the United States.”
If even the most protected journalists – those who work for the largest media outlets – are being targeted in this way, and are saying over and over that the Obama DOJ is preventing basic news gathering from taking place without fear, imagine the effect this all has on independent journalists who are much more vulnerable.
There is simply no defense for this behavior. Obama defenders such as Andrew Sullivan claim that this is all more complicated than media outrage suggests because of a necessary “trade-off” between press freedoms and security. So do Obama defenders believe that George Bush and Richard Nixon – who never prosecuted leakers like this or formally accused journalists of being criminals for reporting classified information – were excessively protective of press freedoms and insufficiently devoted to safeguarding secrecy? To ask that question is to mock it. Obama has gone so far beyond what every recent prior president has done in bolstering secrecy and criminalizing whistleblowing and leaks.
Goodale, the New York Times’ former general counsel, was interviewed by Democracy Now last week and said this:
AMY GOODMAN: “You say that President Obama is worse than President Nixon.”
JAMES GOODALE: “Well, more precisely, I say that if in fact he goes ahead and prosecutes Julian Assange, he will pass Nixon. He’s close to Nixon now. The AP example is a good example of something that Obama has done but Nixon never did. So I have him presently in second place, behind Nixon and ahead of Bush II. And he’s moving up fast. . . .”
“Obama has classified, I think, seven million — in one year, classified seven million documents. Everything is classified. So that would give the government the ability to control all its information on the theory that it’s classified. And if anybody asks for it and gets it, they’re complicit, and they’re going to go to jail. So that criminalizes the process, and it means that the dissemination of information, which is inevitable, out of the classified sources of that information will be stopped.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: “What about the—”
JAMES GOODALE: “It’s very dangerous. That’s why I’m — I get excited when I talk about it.”
That was before it was known that the Obama DOJ read James Rosen’s emails by formally labeling him in court an unindicted co-conspirator for the “crime” of reporting on classified information. This all just got a lot more dangerous.
Even journalists who are generally supportive of Obama – such as the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza – are reacting with fury over this latest revelation:
The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake said this:
Any journalist who doesn’t erupt with serious outrage and protest over this ought never again use that title to describe themselves.
© 2013 Guardian News and Media
Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Criminal Justice, Ecuador, Wikileaks.
Tags: craig Brown, Criminal Justice, julian assange, Media, roger hollander, uk intelligence, wikileaks
Screenshot from Spanish TV’s Salados, May 19, 2013.
Speaking during an interview with Spanish television program Salvados, which aired on Sunday, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange said that he has received a series of unclassified instant message exchanges from UK intelligence officials suggesting that he is being framed.
Assange filed a ‘Special Access Request’ under the UK’s Data Protection Act asking the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) for copies of all unclassified documents referencing Assange.
“They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ, it’s definitely a fit-up though. Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate.”Assange has spent the past 11 months in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual assault charges.
Assange told the interviewer: “If I walked out the front door immediately I would be arrested that would either be an arrest for a sealed indictment from the United States for the investigation that is occurring there or it would be an arrest for an extradition to Sweden followed by an extradition from Sweden to the United States.”
“And just recently we used this from GCHQ. We have just received this. It is not public yet. GCHQ which the electonic spying agency in Britain equivalent of the United States National Security Agency. It of course won’t hand over any of the classified information,” he told interviewer Jordi Évole. “But, much to its surprise, it has some unclassified information on us. It had some instant messaging between its spies,” he said.
The first instant message conversation from August 31, 2012 reads:
“You’ve seen Assange’s prediction?”
“He reckons he will stay in the Ecuadorian embassy for six to 12 months then the charges against him will be dropped, but that is not really how it works now is it?
“He’s a fool”
“A highly optimistic fool”
“Another one here from September last year:”
“They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ, it’s definitely a fit-up though. Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate.”
“This is what their spies are discussing among themselves,” Assange added.
(CD Editors note: UsingEnglish.com defines “fit-up” as meaning: “To frame someone – make them look guilty of something they haven’t done.”
“We made a request to the police here, the government has already admitted it cost £4.5m to surround this embassy with police, but they won’t hand over any documents under the Freedom of information Act because it “concerns an investigation.” We know there is no investigation,” he told the interviewer Jordi Évole.
“Everything I say in email or SMS can be used in espionage prosecution. The US is finding ways to make everything classified.”
“Journalists want to hear that I am suffering, but I am fine, I am doing the work of my life so even in quite difficult circumstances it is satisfying,” he said.
“Sometimes I wonder if I have overstepped the mark, but the work I am doing is so satisfying to my principles that I am firm in my convictions that it was worth it.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, LGBT, Civil Liberties, San Francisco.
Tags: bradley manning, corporate sleaze, corporations, daniel ellsberg, democratic party, gay pride, gay pride parade, glenn greenwald, lgbt, liberals, obama supporters, roger hollander, san francisco, sf pride, wikileaks
News reports yesterday indicated that Bradley Manning, widely known to be gay, had been selected to be one of the Grand Marshals of the annual San Francisco gay pride parade, named by the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee. When the predictable backlash instantly ensued, the president of the Board of SF Pride, Lisa L Williams, quickly capitulated, issuing a cowardly, imperious statement that has to be read to be believed.
(Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
Williams proclaimed that “Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration” and termed his selection “a mistake”. She blamed it all on a “staff person” who prematurely made the announcement based on a preliminary vote, and she assures us all that the culprit “has been disciplined”: disciplined. She then accuses Manning of “actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”: a substance-free falsehood originally spread by top US military officials which has since been decisively and extensively debunked, even by some government officials (indeed, it’s the US government itself, not Manning, that is guilty of “actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”). And then, in my favorite part of her statement, Williams decreed to all organization members that “even the hint of support” for Manning’s action – even the hint – “will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride”. Will not be tolerated.
I originally had no intention of writing about this episode, but the more I discovered about it, the more revealing it became. So let’s just consider a few of the points raised by all of this.
First, while even a hint of support for Manning will not be tolerated, there is a long roster of large corporations serving as the event’s sponsors who are welcomed with open arms. The list is here. It includes AT&T and Verizon, the telecom giants that enabled the illegal warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens by the Bush administration and its NSA, only to get retroactively immunized from Congress and thus shielded from all criminal and civil liability (including a lawsuit brought in San Francisco against those corporations by their customers who were illegally spied on). Last month, AT&T was fined by OSHA for failing to protect one of its employees who was attacked, was found by the FCC last year to have overcharged customers by secretly switching them to plans they didn’t want, and is now being sued by the US government for “allegedly bill[ing] the government improperly for services designed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing who place calls by typing messages over the web.”
The list of SF Pride sponsors also includes Bank of America, now being sued for $1 billion by the US government for allegedly engaging in a systematic scheme of mortgage fraud which the US Attorney called “spectacularly brazen in scope”. Just last month, the same SF Pride sponsor received a record fine for ignoring a court order and instead trying to collect mortgage payments from bankrupt homeowners to which it was not entitled. Earlier this month, SF-Pride-sponsoring Bank of America paid $2.4 billion to settle shareholder allegations that Bank executives “failed to disclose information about losses at Merrill Lynch and bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch employees before the brokerage was acquired by Bank of America in January 2009 for $18.5 billion.”
Another beloved SF Pride sponsor, Wells Fargo, is also being “sued by the US for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over claims the bank made reckless mortgage loans that caused losses for a federal insurance program when they defaulted”. Last year, Wells Fargo was fined $3.1 million by a federal judge for engaging in conduct that court called “highly reprehensible” relating to its persecution of a struggling homeowner. In 2011, the bank was fined by the US government “for allegedly pushing borrowers with good credit into expensive mortgages and falsifying loan applications.”
Also in Good Standing with the SF Pride board: Clear Channel, the media outlet owned by Bain Capital that broadcasts the radio programs of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck; a pension fund is suing this SF Pride sponsor for making cheap, below-market loans to its struggling parent company. The health care giant Kaiser Permanente, another proud SF Pride sponsor, is currently under investigation by California officials for alleged massive privacy violations in the form of recklessly disclosing 300,000 patient records.
So apparently, the very high-minded ethical standards of Lisa L Williams and the SF Pride Board apply only to young and powerless Army Privates who engage in an act of conscience against the US war machine, but instantly disappear for large corporations and banks that hand over cash. What we really see here is how the largest and most corrupt corporations own not just the government but also the culture. Even at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, once an iconic symbol of cultural dissent and disregard for stifling peities, nothing can happen that might offend AT&T and the Bank of America. The minute something even a bit deviant takes place (as defined by standards imposed by America’s political and corporate class), even the SF Gay Pride Parade must scamper, capitulate, apologize, and take an oath of fealty to their orthodoxies (we adore the military, the state, and your laws). And, as usual, the largest corporate factions are completely exempt from the strictures and standards applied to the marginalized and powerless. Thus, while Bradley Manning is persona non grata at SF Pride, illegal eavesdropping telecoms, scheming banks, and hedge-fund purveryors of the nation’s worst right-wing agitprop are more than welcome.
Second, the authoritarian, state-and-military-revering mentality pervading Williams’ statement is striking. It isn’t just the imperious decree that “even a hint of support” for Manning “will not be tolerated”, though that is certainly creepy. Nor is it the weird announcement that the wrongdoer “has been disciplined”. Even worse is the mindless embrace of the baseless claims of US military officials (that Manning “placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”) along with the supremely authoritarian view that any actions barred by the state are, ipso facto, ignoble and wrong. Conduct can be illegal and yet still be noble and commendable: see, for instance, Daniel Ellsberg, or most of the leaders of the civil rights movement in the US. Indeed, acts of civil disobedience and conscience by people who risk their own interests to battle injustices are often the most commendable acts. Equating illegal behavior with ignominious behavior is the defining mentality of an authoritarian – and is particularly notable coming from what was once viewed as a bastion of liberal dissent.
But the more one learns about the parties involved here, the less surprising it becomes. According to her biography, Williams “organized satellite offices for the Obama campaign” and also works for various Democratic politicians. It was President Obama, of course, who so notoriously decreed Bradley Manning guilty in public before his trial by military officers serving under Obama even began, and whose administration was found by the UN’s top torture investigator to have abused him and is now so harshly prosecuting him. It’s anything but surprising that a person who was a loyal Obama campaign aide finds Bradley Manning anathema while adoring big corporations and banks (which funded the Obama campaign and who, in the case of telecoms, Obama voted to immunize).
What we see here is how even many of the most liberal precincts in America are now the leading spokespeople for and loyalists to state power as a result of their loyalty to President Obama. Thus do we have the President of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade sounding exactly like the Chairman of the Joints Chief, or Sarah Palin, or gay war-loving neocons, in depicting any meaningful opposition to the National Security State as the supreme sin. I’d be willing to bet large amounts of money that Williams has never condemned the Obama administration’s abuse of Manning in detention or its dangerously radical prosecution of him for “aiding the enemy”. I have no doubt that the people who did all of that would be showered with gratitude by Parade officials if they attended. In so many liberal precincts in the Age of Obama – even now including the SF Gay Pride parade – the federal government, its military, and its federal prosecutors are to be revered and celebrated but not criticized; only those who oppose them are villains.
Third, when I wrote several weeks ago about the remarkable shift in public opinion on gay equality, I noted that this development is less significant than it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed. If anything, it bolsters those power structures because it completely and harmlessly assimilates a previously excluded group into existing institutions and thus incentivizes them to accommodate those institutions and adopt their mindset. This event illustrates exactly what I meant.
While some of the nation’s most corrupt corporations are welcome to fly their flag over the parade, consider what Manning – for whom “even a hint of support will not be tolerated” – actually did. His leak revealed all sorts of corruption, deceit and illegality on the part of the world’s most powerful corporations. They led to numerous journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Even Bill Keller, the former Executive Editor of the New York Times who is a harsh WikiLeaks critic, credited those leaks with helping to spark the Arab Spring, the greatest democratic revolution the world has seen in decades. Multiple media accounts describe how the cables documenting atrocities committed by US troops in Iraq prevented the Malaki government from allowing US troops to stay beyond the agreed-to deadline: i.e., helped end the Iraq war by thwarting Obama’s attempts to prolong it. For all of that, Manning was selected by Guardian readers as the 2012 Person of the Year, while former Army Lt. Dan Choi said yesterday:
As we move forward as a country, we need truth in order to gain justice, you can’t have justice without the whole truth . . . So what [Manning did as a gay American, as a gay soldier, he stood for integrity, I am proud of him.”
But none of those vital benefits matter to authoritarians. That’s because authoritarians, by definition, believe in the overarching Goodness of institutions of power, and believe the only bad acts come from those who challenge or subvert that power. Bad acts aren’t committed by the National Security State or Surveillance State; they are only committed by those who oppose them. If a person’s actions threaten power factions or are deemed prohibited by them, then Good Authoritarians will reflexively view the person as evil and will be eager to publicly disassociate themselves from such individuals. Or, as Williams put it, “even the hint of support” for Manning “will not be tolerated”, and those who deviate from this decree will be “disciplined”.
Even the SF Gay Pride Parade is now owned by and beholden to the nation’s largest corporations, subject to their dictates. Those who run the event are functionaries of, loyalists to, the nation’s most powerful political officials. That’s how this parade was so seamlessly transformed from orthodoxy-challenging, individualistic and creative cultural icon into yet another pile of obedient apparatchiks that spout banal slogans doled out by the state while viciously scorning those who challenge them. Yes, there will undoubtedly still be exotically-dressed drag queens, lesbian motorcycle clubs, and groups proudly defined by their unusual sexual proclivities participating in the parade, but they’ll be marching under a Bank of America banner and behind flag-waving fans of the National Security State, the US President, and the political party that dominates American politics and its political and military institutions. Yet another edgy, interesting, creative, independent event has been degraded and neutered into a meek and subservient ritual that must pay homage to the nation’s most powerful entities and at all costs avoid offending them in any way.
It’s hardly surprising that someone who so boldly and courageously opposes the US war machine is demonized and scorned this way. Daniel Ellsberg was subjected to the same attacks before he was transformed many years later into a liberal hero (though Ellsberg had the good fortune to be persecuted by a Republican rather than Democratic President and thus, even back then, had some substantial support; come to think of it, Ellsberg lives in San Francisco: would expressions of support for him be tolerated?). But the fact that such lock-step, heel-clicking, military-mimicking behavior is now coming from the SF Gay Pride Parade of all places is indeed noteworthy: it reflects just how pervasive this authoritarian rot has become.
Corporate corruption and sleaze
For a bit more on the dominance of corporate sleaze and corruption in our political culture, see the first few paragraphs of this extraordinary Politico article on a new book about DC culture, and this Washington Post article detailing the supreme annual convergence of political, media and corporate sleaze called “the White House Correspondents’ Dinner”, to be held this weekend.
© 2013 The Guardian
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, History, Wikileaks.
Tags: amy goodman, Birgitta Jonsdottir, bradley manning, collateral murder, Democracy Now, denis moynihan, foia, julian assange, kissinger, kissinger cables, roger hollander, wikileaks
WikiLeaks has released a new trove of documents, more than 1.7 million U.S. State Department cables dating from 1973-1976, which they have dubbed “The Kissinger Cables,” after Henry Kissinger, who in those years served as secretary of state and assistant to thepresident for national security affairs
.Henry Kissinger. (Flickr/Cliff CC-BY)
One cable includes a transcribed conversation where Kissinger displays remarkable candor: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”
While the illegal and the unconstitutional may be a laughing matter for Kissinger, who turns 90 next month, it is deadly serious for Pvt. Bradley Manning. After close to three years in prison, at least eight months of which in conditions described by U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Mendez as “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” Manning recently addressed the court at Fort Meade: “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … 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.”
These words of Manning’s were released anonymously, in the form of an audio recording made clandestinely, that we broadcast on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. This was Bradley Manning, in his own voice, in his own words, explaining his actions.
He testified about the helicopter gunship video that he released to WikiLeaks, which was later made public under the title “Collateral Murder.” In stark, grainy black-and-white, it shows the gunship kill 12 men in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, with audio of the helicopter crew mocking the victims, celebrating the senseless murder of the people below, two of whom were employees of the Reuters news agency.
Manning said: “The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards,’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”
Reuters had sought the video through a Freedom of Information request, but had been denied. So Manning delivered the video, along with hundreds of thousands of other classified electronic documents, through the anonymous, secure online submission procedure developed by WikiLeaks. Manning made the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, and changed the world.
The WikiLeaks team gathered at a rented house in Reykjavik, Iceland, to prepare the video for public release. Among those working was Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament. She told me: “When I saw the video in February 2010, I was profoundly moved. I was moved to tears, like many people that watch it. But at the same time, I understood its significance and how it might be able to change our world and make it better.”
Jonsdottir co-founded the Icelandic Pirate Party, a genuine political party springing up in many, mostly European countries. A lifelong activist, she calls herself a “pixel pirate.”
The “Collateral Murder” video created a firestorm of press attention when it was first released. One of the soldiers on the ground was Ethan McCord, who rushed to the scene of the slaughter and helped save two children who had been injured in the attack. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He recently penned a letter of support for Bradley Manning, writing: “The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. Covering up this incident is a matter deserving of criminal inquiry. Whoever revealed it is an American hero in my book.”
In the three years since “Collateral Murder” was released in April 2010, WikiLeaks has come under tremendous pressure. Manning faces life in prison or possibly even the death penalty. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spent a year and a half under house arrest in Britain, until he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has remained since June 2012, fighting extradition to Sweden. He fears Sweden could then extradite him to the United States, where a secret grand jury may have already issued a sealed indictment against him. Private details from Jonsdottir’s Twitter and four other online accounts have been handed over to U.S. authorities.
WikiLeaks’ latest release, which includes documents already declassified but very difficult to search and obtain, is a testament to the ongoing need for WikiLeaks and similar groups. The revealed documents have sparked controversies around the world, even though they relate to the 1970s. If we had a uniform standard of justice, Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger would be the one on trial, and Bradley Manning would win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
© 2013 Amy Goodman
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Media, Torture.
Tags: bradley manning, foreign policy, glenn greenwald, heroism, Iraq war, journalism, roger hollander, whistle blower, whistleblower, wikileaks
Roger’s note: Today’s Blogosphere is replete with panegyrics on the heroism of Bradley Manning. Here is just one. What Manning did and the barbaric and vengeful repression, amounting to torture, that he has received at the hands of the United States government and his commander-in-chief, President Obama, must not be forgotten.
Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, Maryland. (Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
In December, 2011, I wrote an Op-Ed in the Guardian arguing that if Bradley Manning did what he is accused of doing, then he is a consummate hero, and deserves a medal and our collective gratitude, not decades in prison. At his court-martial proceeding this afternoon in Fort Meade, Manning, as the Guaridan’s Ed Pilkington reports, pleaded guilty to having been the source of the most significant leaks to WikiLeaks. He also pleaded not guilty to 12 of the 22 counts, including the most serious – the capital offense of “aiding and abetting the enemy”, which could send him to prison for life – on the ground that nothing he did was intended to nor did it result in harm to US national security. The US government will now almost certainly proceed with its attempt to prosecute him on those remaining counts.
Manning’s heroism has long been established in my view, for the reasons I set forth in that Op-Ed. But this was bolstered today as he spoke for an hour in court about what he did and why, reading from a prepared 35-page statement. Wired’s Spencer Ackerman was there and reported:
“Wearing his Army dress uniform, a composed, intense and articulate Pfc. Bradley Manning took ‘full responsibility’ Thursday for providing the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks with a trove of classified and sensitive military, diplomatic and intelligence cables, videos and documents. . . .
“Manning’s motivations in leaking, he said, was to ‘spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general’, he said, and ’cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.’
“Manning explain[ed] his actions that drove him to disclose what he said he ‘believed, and still believe . . . are some of the most significant documents of our time’ . . . .
“He came to view much of what the Army told him — and the public — to be false, such as the suggestion the military had destroyed a graphic video of an aerial assault in Iraq that killed civilians, or that WikiLeaks was a nefarious entity. . . .
“Manning said he often found himself frustrated by attempts to get his chain of command to investigate apparent abuses detailed in the documents Manning accessed. . . .”
Manning also said he “first approached three news outlets: the Washington Post, New York Times and Politico” before approaching WikiLeaks. And he repeatedly denied having been encouraged or pushed in any way by WikiLeaks to obtain and leak the documents, thus denying the US government a key part of its attempted prosecution of the whistleblowing group. Instead, “he said he took ‘full responsibility’ for a decision that will likely land him in prison for the next 20 years — and possibly the rest of his life.”
This is all consistent with what Manning is purported to have said in the chat logs with the government snitch who pretended to be a journalist and a pastor in order to assure him of confidentiality but then instead reported him. In those chats, Manning explained that he was leaking because he wanted the world to know what he had learned: “I want people to see the truth … regardless of who they are … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” When asked by the informant why he did not sell the documents to a foreign government for profit – something he obviously could have done with ease – Manning replied that he wanted the information to be publicly known in order to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms”. He described how he became deeply disillusioned with the Iraq War he had once thought noble, and this caused him to re-examine all of his prior assumptions about the US government. And he extensively narrated how he had learned of serious abuse and illegality while serving in the war – including detaining Iraqi citizens guilty of nothing other than criticizing the Malaki government – but was ignored when he brought those abuses to his superiors.
Manning is absolutely right when he said today that the documents he leaked “are some of the most significant documents of our time”. They revealed a multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by the world’s most powerful factions. Journalists and even some government officials have repeatedly concluded that any actual national security harm from his leaks is minimal if it exists at all. To this day, the documents Manning just admitted having leaked play a prominent role in the ability of journalists around the world to inform their readers about vital events. The leaks led to all sorts of journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.
This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.
Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged today he chose to undertake. The combination of extreme government secrecy, a supine media (see the prior two columns), and a disgracefully subservient judiciary means that the only way we really learn about what our government does is when the Daniel Ellsbergs – and Bradley Mannings – of the world risk their own personal interest and liberty to alert us. Daniel Ellberg is now widely viewed as heroic and noble, and Bradley Manning (as Ellsberg himself has repeatedly said) merits that praise and gratitude every bit as much.
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, bradley manning, davide coombs, denise lind, foreign policy, Iraq war, journalism, Media, military commission, roger hollander, war, whistle blower, whistleblower, wikileaks
Roger’s note: it is impossible not to compare Bradley Manning’s heroic act with that of Daniel Ellsberg’s Vietnam era release of the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg was acquitted of the charges the government laid against him, and was vindicated both morally and legally. Unfortunately, we live in and era that is even more repressive than it was in the 1960s, and era where torture and extra-judicial murder are normalized (or should I say sanctified?). Bradley Manning has already and will continue to suffer for his brave and patriotic action. Big Brother wants us all to know that he is watching and will show no mercy.
Published on Thursday, February 28, 2013 by Common Dreams
Whistleblower reads prepared statement: Wanted documents to reveal “true costs of war”
- Common Dreams staff
(Credit: Reuters)In what The Guardian‘s correspondent Ed Pilkington describes as a “bombshell” revelation, Bradley Manning on Thursday revealed that prior to reaching out to Wikileaks with a trove of government and military documents, the whistleblower first contacted more established media outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post, but was brushed off by editors.
As Pilkington, present in the courtroom for the reading of Manning’s statement, reports:
While he was on leave from Iraq and staying in the Washington area in January 2010 he contacted the Washington Post and asked would it be interested in receiving information that he said would be “enormously important to the American people”. He spoke to a woman who said she was a reporter but “she didn’t seem to take me seriously”.
The woman said, according to Manning’s account, that the paper would only be interested subject to vetting by senior editors.
Despairing of that route, Manning turned to the New York Times. He called the public editor of the paper but only got voicemail.
He then tried other numbers on the paper but also got put through to voicemail, and though he left a message with his Skype contact details, nobody called him back. Manning added he had also contemplated going to the website Politico, but harsh weather prevented him.
Such testimony belies the US government’s ongoing insinuation that Wikileaks—which specifically describes itself as a “not-for-profit media organization”—somehow played a role in compelling Manning to leak the documents. It further provides evidence that Manning was acting in the capacity of a true government or military whistleblower by proactively seeking out the media in hopes of bringing to light what he considered information vital to the public interest.
“I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. It might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.” –Bradley Manning
Manning also explained his deeper motivations, which included hopes that the leaks documents would expose the “true costs of war”. According to Pilkington’s account, Manning stated:
“I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed to be unwilling to cooperate with us leading to frustration and hostility on both sides. I began to get depressed about he situation we were mired in year after year.
“We were obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and ignoring goals and missions. I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. It might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.”
Thursday’s courtroom proceedings were covered best on Twitter:
Thursday’s revelations came as Manning read a prepared statement—reportedly handwritten over 35 pages—before a packed military courtroom. The statement is Manning’s first complete account of what government and military information he leaked to Wikileaks, and an explanation of why he chose to do so.
Manning pled guilty to a series of charges, including providing Wikileaks with confidential military information, but denied the most serious charge against him, that of “aiding the enemy.”
According to FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola, reporting live from the courtroom, Manning’s plea makes possible two rulings by the presiding judge: “guilty to lesser-included offenses pursuant to the plea” or “guilty of the greater offenses in the original charges.” The court cannot find him “not guilty” based on his plea.
Pilkington also reported that Manning “confirmed he wants to be tried by military judge [Colonel Denise Lind] alone,” with no military equivalent of a jury.
In addition to revealign his attempts to contact other outlets first, Manning also told the courtroom that once he’d established communication with Wikileaks, “No one associated with [the outlet] pressured me into sending more information.”
In regards to his leak of the collateral murder video, Manning said, “I was disturbed by the response to injured children” and that the soldiers captured in the video “seemed to not value human life by referring to [their targets] as ‘dead bastards.’”
He also said that he released the intelligence because he wanted to “spark a domestic public debate about our foreign policy and the war in general,” and added: “At the time I believed, and I still believe, these are … [among] … the most significant documents of our time.”
Through his lawyer, David Coombs, the soldier pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges that included possessing and wilfully communicating to an unauthorised person all the main elements of the WikiLeaks disclosure. That covered the so-called “collateral murder” video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq; some US diplomatic cables including one of the early WikiLeaks publications the Reykjavik cable; portions of the Iraq and Afghanistan warlogs, some of the files on detainees in Guantanamo; and two intelligence memos.
These lesser charges each carry a two-year maximum sentence, committing Manning to a possible upper limit of 20 years in prison.
Manning also pleaded not guilty to 12 counts, including to the largest charge of “aiding the enemy,” which would have supposed that he knowingly gave help to al-Qaida either by leaking secret intelligence directly or via its publication on the internet. He also denied that at the time he gave the information to Wikileaks, he had “reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation”.
According to Gosztola, Manning pled guilty to “all that was anticipated except he did not plead guilty to releasing the Granai air strike video.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Civil Liberties, Constitution.
Tags: roger hollander, torture, Criminal Justice, constitution, rule of law, commander-in-chief, wikileaks, bradley manning, kevin gosztola, jacob chambderlain, military trial, denise lind, speedy trial
Roger’s note: 1000 days in prison without trial is not considered by military judge Colonel Denise Lind, to be a violation of the accused’s right to a speedy trial. The standard is 120 days. But wait a second, Bradley Manning is a soldier and his commander in chief, the president of the United States has already convicted him, stating not that he is accused of breaking the law but that in fact he did break the law (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53601.html). Talk about justice.
Here is a comment from DarwinsBeagle in response to the judge’s decision:
80,000 American citizens are now held in solitary confinement for years, decades and lifetimes. The depravity of this society is unparalleled in human history. Manning is a prime example of how this vicious and sick society deals with people. This could be any one of us. All the while, they rubberstamp their criminality with court rulings like this one. Truly disgraceful. From www salem-news dot com:
His cell is approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length. The cell has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet. The guards at the confinement facility are professional. At no time have they tried to bully, harass, or embarrass PFC Manning. Given the nature of their job, however, they do not engage in conversation with PFC Manning.
At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up. Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.
He cannot see otherinmates from his cell. He can occasionally hear other inmates talk. Currently, there are no other inmates near his cell.
He is allowed to receive letters from those on his approved list and from his legal counsel. If he receives a letter from someone not on his approved list, he must sign a rejection form. The letter is then either returned to the sender or destroyed.
Due to being held on Prevention of Injury (POI) watch: PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day.
The guards are
required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner.
At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.
He receives each of his meals in his cell.
He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets.
He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.
He is only allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read in his cell.
The book or magazine is taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep.
He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push- ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.
He does receive one hour of “exercise” outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in theroom for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no longer feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.
When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.
In March 2011, they began stripping Manning naked, depriving him of his glasses as well.
BY ANY STANDARD THIS IS TORTURE; VENGEFUL PUNISHMENT AUTHORIZED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA HIMSELF.
WE USED TO SAY JOKINGLY THAT “MILITARY JUSTICE” IS AN OXYMORON; TODAY WE CAN SAY WITH REASON THAT “AMERICAN JUSTICE” IS AN OXYMORON.
Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 by Common Dreams
Manning’s Right to a Speedy Trial Not Violated After 1,000 Days, Judge Rules
Pre-trial hearings move to a full court martial trial in June
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Bradley Manning has not had his rights violated while waiting in a cell for almost three years before being granted a trial, judge Colonel Denise Lind ruled in a pre-trial hearing Tuesday.
Bradley Manning. (Reuters / Jose Luis Magaua)
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, had argued that the prosecution was guilty of “extreme foot-dragging” and “shameful” lack of diligence, which violated Manning’s right to a speedy trial—in a final bid that could have had the charges against Manning dismissed.
A soldier in the military has had his or her speedy trial rights violated when it takes over 120 days before an arraignment, Kevin Gosztola reports at FireDogLake, which is the case for Manning. However, Lind ruled in favor of the prosecution who said some of those days didn’t actually count in the speedy trial rule, due to “excludable delays” initiated by the prosecution.
The pre-trial hearings will now be certain to move to a full court martial trial in June.
Saturday marked the 1,000th day Manning has been in military custody without trial, and protesters gathered in 70 locations around the world in solidarity with Manning.
The Guardian adds more detail:
The judge, Colonel Denise Lind, spent two hours reading out her judgment to a pre-trial hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland. She went through the procedures in preparing for trial in minute detail, concluding that the exceptional length of the case was almost entirely justified as a result of its uniquely complex and sensitive nature. [...]
Under the Rules of Court Martial 707, any member of the military who is prosecuted must be brought to trial – as measured by the date of his or her arraignment – within a “speedy trial clock” of 120 days of being detained. But there are grounds for excusable delays that set back the clock that include the need for counsel to prepare for trial in a complex case, an inquiry into the mental condition of the accused, and the time taken to obtain security clearance for classified information.
In Manning’s case, the defense and prosecution agreed that there had been 84 days of diligent work between the soldier’s arrest and his arraignment on 23 February 2012. But the two sides were in dispute over 330 days.
Kevin Gosztola is live blogging from the courtroom here.
Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Chile, Latin America, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: 9/11, bagram, cia prisons, counterterrorism, donald rumsfeld, globalizing torture, greg grandin, Guantanamo, Hugo Chavez, Latin America, mahar arar, operation condor, pinochet, rendition, roger hollander, torture, war on terror, wikileaks
Published on Monday, February 18, 2013 by TomDispatch.com
The Latin American Exception
(Max Fisher — The Washington Post)
The map tells the story. To illustrate a damning new report, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detentions and Extraordinary Rendition,” recently published by the Open Society Institute, the Washington Post put together an equally damning graphic: it’s soaked in red, as if with blood, showing that in the years after 9/11, the CIA turned just about the whole world into a gulag archipelago.
Back in the early twentieth century, a similar red-hued map was used to indicate the global reach of the British Empire, on which, it was said, the sun never set. It seems that, between 9/11 and the day George W. Bush left the White House, CIA-brokered torture never saw a sunset either.
All told, of the 190-odd countries on this planet, a staggering 54 participated in various ways in this American torture system, hosting CIA “black site” prisons, allowing their airspace and airports to be used for secret flights, providing intelligence, kidnapping foreign nationals or their own citizens and handing them over to U.S. agents to be “rendered” to third-party countries like Egypt and Syria. The hallmark of this network, Open Society writes, has been torture. Its report documents the names of 136 individuals swept up in what it says is an ongoing operation, though its authors make clear that the total number, implicitly far higher, “will remain unknown” because of the “extraordinary level of government secrecy associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition.”
No region escapes the stain. Not North America, home to the global gulag’s command center. Not Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia. Not even social-democratic Scandinavia. Sweden turned over at least two people to the CIA, who were then rendered to Egypt, where they were subject to electric shocks, among other abuses. No region, that is, except Latin America.
What’s most striking about the Post’s map is that no part of its wine-dark horror touches Latin America; that is, not one country in what used to be called Washington’s “backyard” participated in rendition or Washington-directed or supported torture and abuse of “terror suspects.” Not even Colombia, which throughout the last two decades was as close to a U.S.-client state as existed in the area. It’s true that a fleck of red should show up on Cuba, but that would only underscore the point: Teddy Roosevelt took Guantánamo Bay Naval Base for the U.S. in 1903 “in perpetuity.”
Two, Three, Many CIAs
How did Latin America come to be territorio libre in this new dystopian world of black sites and midnight flights, the Zion of this militarist matrix (as fans of the Wachowskis’ movies might put it)? After all, it was in Latin America that an earlier generation of U.S. and U.S.-backed counterinsurgents put into place a prototype of Washington’s twenty-first century Global War on Terror.
Even before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, before Che Guevara urged revolutionaries to create “two, three, many Vietnams,” Washington had already set about establishing two, three, many centralized intelligence agencies in Latin America. As Michael McClintock shows in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, in late 1954, a few months after the CIA’s infamous coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected government, the National Security Council first recommended strengthening “the internal security forces of friendly foreign countries.”
In the region, this meant three things. First, CIA agents and other U.S. officials set to work “professionalizing” the security forces of individual countries like Guatemala, Colombia, and Uruguay; that is, turning brutal but often clumsy and corrupt local intelligence apparatuses into efficient, “centralized,” still brutal agencies, capable of gathering information, analyzing it, and storing it. Most importantly, they were to coordinate different branches of each country’s security forces — the police, military, and paramilitary squads — to act on that information, often lethally and always ruthlessly.
Second, the U.S. greatly expanded the writ of these far more efficient and effective agencies, making it clear that their portfolio included not just national defense but international offense. They were to be the vanguard of a global war for “freedom” and of an anticommunist reign of terror in the hemisphere. Third, our men in Montevideo, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Asunción, La Paz, Lima, Quito, San Salvador, Guatemala City, and Managua were to help synchronize the workings of individual national security forces.
The result was state terror on a nearly continent-wide scale. In the 1970s and 1980s, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s Operation Condor, which linked together the intelligence services of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile, was the most infamous of Latin America’s transnational terror consortiums, reaching out to commit mayhem as far away as Washington D.C., Paris, and Rome. The U.S. had earlier helped put in place similar operations elsewhere in the Southern hemisphere, especially in Central America in the 1960s.
By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans had been tortured, killed, disappeared, or imprisoned without trial, thanks in significant part to U.S. organizational skills and support. Latin America was, by then, Washington’s backyard gulag. Three of the region’s current presidents — Uruguay’s José Mujica, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega — were victims of this reign of terror.
When the Cold War ended, human rights groups began the herculean task of dismantling the deeply embedded, continent-wide network of intelligence operatives, secret prisons, and torture techniques — and of pushing militaries throughout the region out of governments and back into their barracks. In the 1990s, Washington not only didn’t stand in the way of this process, but actually lent a hand in depoliticizing Latin America’s armed forces. Many believed that, with the Soviet Union dispatched, Washington could now project its power in its own “backyard” through softer means like international trade agreements and other forms of economic leverage. Then 9/11 happened.
“Oh My Goodness”
In late November 2002, just as the basic outlines of the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition programs were coming into shape elsewhere in the world, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flew 5,000 miles to Santiago, Chile, to attend a hemispheric meeting of defense ministers. “Needless to say,” Rumsfeld nonetheless said, “I would not be going all this distance if I did not think this was extremely important.” Indeed.
This was after the invasion of Afghanistan but before the invasion of Iraq and Rumsfeld was riding high, as well as dropping the phrase “September 11th” every chance he got. Maybe he didn’t know of the special significance that date had in Latin America, but 29 years earlier on the first 9/11, a CIA-backed coup by General Pinochet and his military led to the death of Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende. Or did he, in fact, know just what it meant and was that the point? After all, a new global fight for freedom, a proclaimed Global War on Terror, was underway and Rumsfeld had arrived to round up recruits.
There, in Santiago, the city out of which Pinochet had run Operation Condor, Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials tried to sell what they were now terming the “integration” of “various specialized capabilities into larger regional capabilities” — an insipid way of describing the kidnapping, torturing, and death-dealing already underway elsewhere. “Events around the world before and after September 11th suggest the advantages,” Rumsfeld said, of nations working together to confront the terror threat.
“Oh my goodness,” Rumsfeld told a Chilean reporter, “the kinds of threats we face are global.” Latin America was at peace, he admitted, but he had a warning for its leaders: they shouldn’t lull themselves into believing that the continent was safe from the clouds gathering elsewhere. Dangers exist, “old threats, such as drugs, organized crime, illegal arms trafficking, hostage taking, piracy, and money laundering; new threats, such as cyber-crime; and unknown threats, which can emerge without warning.”
“These new threats,” he added ominously, “must be countered with new capabilities.” Thanks to the Open Society report, we can see exactly what Rumsfeld meant by those “new capabilities.”
A few weeks prior to Rumsfeld’s arrival in Santiago, for example, the U.S., acting on false information supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, detained Maher Arar, who holds dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship, at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and then handed him over to a “Special Removal Unit.” He was flown first to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then to Syria, a country in a time zone five hours ahead of Chile, where he was turned over to local torturers. On November 18th, when Rumsfeld was giving his noon speech in Santiago, it was five in the afternoon in Arar’s “grave-like” cell in a Syrian prison, where he would spend the next year being abused.
Ghairat Baheer was captured in Pakistan about three weeks before Rumsfeld’s Chile trip, and thrown into a CIA-run prison in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit. As the secretary of defense praised Latin America’s return to the rule of law after the dark days of the Cold War, Baheer may well have been in the middle of one of his torture sessions, “hung naked for hours on end.”
Taken a month before Rumsfeld’s visit to Santiago, the Saudi national Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was transported to the Salt Pit, after which he was transferred “to another black site in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was waterboarded.” After that, he was passed on to Poland, Morocco, Guantánamo, Romania, and back to Guantánamo, where he remains. Along the way, he was subjected to a “mock execution with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded,” had U.S. interrogators rack a “semi-automatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them.” His interrogators also “threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him.”
Likewise a month before the Santiago meeting, the Yemini Bashi Nasir Ali Al Marwalah was flown to Camp X-Ray in Cuba, where he remains to this day.
Less than two weeks after Rumsfeld swore that the U.S. and Latin America shared “common values,” Mullah Habibullah, an Afghan national, died “after severe mistreatment” in CIA custody at something called the “Bagram Collection Point.” A U.S. military investigation “concluded that the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment… caused, or were direct contributing factors in, his death.”
Two days after the secretary’s Santiago speech, a CIA case officer in the Salt Pit had Gul Rahma stripped naked and chained to a concrete floor without blankets. Rahma froze to death.
And so the Open Society report goes… on and on and on.
Rumsfeld left Santiago without firm commitments. Some of the region’s militaries were tempted by the supposed opportunities offered by the secretary’s vision of fusing crime fighting into an ideological campaign against radical Islam, a unified war in which all was to be subordinated to U.S. command. As political scientist Brian Loveman has noted, around the time of Rumsfeld’s Santiago visit, the head of the Argentine army picked up Washington’s latest set of themes, insisting that “defense must be treated as an integral matter,” without a false divide separating internal and external security.
But history was not on Rumsfeld’s side. His trip to Santiago coincided with Argentina’s epic financial meltdown, among the worst in recorded history. It signaled a broader collapse of the economic model — think of it as Reaganism on steroids — that Washington had been promoting in Latin America since the late Cold War years. Soon, a new generation of leftists would be in power across much of the continent, committed to the idea of national sovereignty and limiting Washington’s influence in the region in a way that their predecessors hadn’t been.
Hugo Chávez was already president of Venezuela. Just a month before Rumsfeld’s Santiago trip, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidency of Brazil. A few months later, in early 2003, Argentines elected Néstor Kirchner, who shortly thereafter ended his country’s joint military exercises with the U.S. In the years that followed, the U.S. experienced one setback after another. In 2008, for instance, Ecuador evicted the U.S. military from Manta Air Base.
In that same period, the Bush administration’s rush to invade Iraq, an act most Latin American countries opposed, helped squander whatever was left of the post-9/11 goodwill the U.S. had in the region. Iraq seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of the continent’s new leaders: that what Rumsfeld was trying to peddle as an international “peacekeeping” force would be little more than a bid to use Latin American soldiers as Gurkhas in a revived unilateral imperial war.
Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the degree to which Brazil rebuffed efforts to paint the region red on Washington’s new global gulag map.
A May 2005 U.S. State Department cable, for instance, reveals that Lula’s government refused “multiple requests” by Washington to take in released Guantánamo prisoners, particularly a group of about 15 Uighurs the U.S. had been holding since 2002, who could not be sent back to China.
“[Brazil’s] position regarding this issue has not changed since 2003 and will likely not change in the foreseeable future,” the cable said. It went on to report that Lula’s government considered the whole system Washington had set up at Guantánamo (and around the world) to be a mockery of international law. “All attempts to discuss this issue” with Brazilian officials, the cable concluded, “were flatly refused or accepted begrudgingly.”
In addition, Brazil refused to cooperate with the Bush administration’s efforts to create a Western Hemisphere-wide version of the Patriot Act. It stonewalled, for example, about agreeing to revise its legal code in a way that would lower the standard of evidence needed to prove conspiracy, while widening the definition of what criminal conspiracy entailed.
Lula stalled for years on the initiative, but it seems that the State Department didn’t realize he was doing so until April 2008, when one of its diplomats wrote a memo calling Brazil’s supposed interest in reforming its legal code to suit Washington a “smokescreen.” The Brazilian government, another Wikileaked cable complained, was afraid that a more expansive definition of terrorism would be used to target “members of what they consider to be legitimate social movements fighting for a more just society.” Apparently, there was no way to “write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions” of Lula’s left-wing social base.
One U.S. diplomat complained that this “mindset” — that is, a mindset that actually valued civil liberties – “presents serious challenges to our efforts to enhance counterterrorism cooperation or promote passage of anti-terrorism legislation.” In addition, the Brazilian government worried that the legislation would be used to go after Arab-Brazilians, of which there are many. One can imagine that if Brazil and the rest of Latin America had signed up to participate in Washington’s rendition program, Open Society would have a lot more Middle Eastern-sounding names to add to its list.
Finally, cable after Wikileaked cable revealed that Brazil repeatedly brushed off efforts by Washington to isolate Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, which would have been a necessary step if the U.S. was going to marshal South America into its counterterrorism posse.
In February 2008, for example, U.S. ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobell met with Lula’s Minister of Defense Nelson Jobin to complain about Chávez. Jobim told Sobell that Brazil shared his “concern about the possibility of Venezuela exporting instability.” But instead of “isolating Venezuela,” which might only “lead to further posturing,” Jobim instead indicated that his government “supports [the] creation of a ‘South American Defense Council’ to bring Chavez into the mainstream.”
There was only one catch here: that South American Defense Council was Chávez’s idea in the first place! It was part of his effort, in partnership with Lula, to create independent institutions parallel to those controlled by Washington. The memo concluded with the U.S. ambassador noting how curious it was that Brazil would use Chavez’s “idea for defense cooperation” as part of a “supposed containment strategy” of Chávez.
Monkey-Wrenching the Perfect Machine of Perpetual War
Unable to put in place its post-9/11 counterterrorism framework in all of Latin America, the Bush administration retrenched. It attempted instead to build a “perfect machine of perpetual war” in a corridor running from Colombia through Central America to Mexico. The process of militarizing that more limited region, often under the guise of fighting “the drug wars,” has, if anything, escalated in the Obama years. Central America has, in fact, become the only place Southcom — the Pentagon command that covers Central and South America — can operate more or less at will. A look at this other map, put together by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, makes the region look like one big landing strip for U.S. drones and drug-interdiction flights.
Washington does continue to push and probe further south, trying yet again to establish a firmer military foothold in the region and rope it into what is now a less ideological and more technocratic crusade, but one still global in its aspirations. U.S. military strategists, for instance, would very much like to have an airstrip in French Guyana or the part of Brazil that bulges out into the Atlantic. The Pentagon would use it as a stepping stone to its increasing presence in Africa, coordinating the work of Southcom with the newest global command, Africom.
But for now, South America has thrown a monkey wrench into the machine. Returning to that Washington Post map, it’s worth memorializing the simple fact that, in one part of the world, in this century at least, the sun never rose on US-choreographed torture.
© 2013 Greg Grandin
Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His most recent book, Fordlandia, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights.
Tags: bradley manning, Criminal Justice, first amendment, human rights, julian assange, mairead macguire, political prisoner, roger hollander, swedish government, wikileaks
Roger’s note: there is not that much new in this article that hasn’t been already reported, but I believe it is important not to forget about Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. That this article is posted by a respected Nobel Peace Prize winner (not, by the way, the one who is murdering hundreds of civilians with his drone missiles) does carry some weight. One piece of information I find quite interesting. According to the author, it is costing the British government some eleven thousand pounds per day to keep an eye on Assange (who is wanted for questioning and has been accused of no crime). If that is a correct figure, then I calculate that is will be costing the British taxpayer about over four million pounds per year to in effect keep Assange a prisoner, which at an exchange rate of US$1.57 to the British pound comes to about six million three hundred US dollars.
Last month, on December 13th, 2012, I visited Julian Assange, Australian founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy, in Knightsbridge, London.
It’s been seven months now since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy and was given political asylum. He entered the embassy after the British Courts shamefully refused his appeal against extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning about sexual molestation (no criminal charges have been made against him). Julian Assange has said he is willing to answer questions in the U.K. relating to accusations against him, or alternatively, to go to Sweden, provided that the Swedish government guarantee he will not be extradited to the U.S. where plans are being made to try him for conspiracy to commit espionage. The Swedish Government refuses to give such assurances.
Mr. Assange is right to be concerned about the dangers of extradition to U.S. The American media has reported that the U.S. Justice Department and the Pentagon have been conducting a criminal investigation into “whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group’s release of government documents, and should face charges under the espionage act.”
Mr. Assange’s only crime is that he embarrassed the U.S. and other powerful governments with WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of U.S. state department cables and video footage of the 2007 incident with an apache helicopter in which the U.S. military appear to have deliberately killed civilians, including two Reuters employees. These revelations demonstrate crimes against humanity by the United States.
For this truth-telling, he has inherited the wrath of the U.S. government, and has been targeted in a most vindictive way – as has American soldier, Pt. Bradley Manning, currently undergoing a military Court hearing for allegedly leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. Pt. Bradley Manning has been subjected, according to formal U.N. investigation, to “cruel and inhuman treatment” while being held in solitary confinement in a U.S. prison. In effect, the American government has admitted to the torture of Pt. Bradley Manning, one of their own soldiers.
However, even if the Swedish authorities decide not to charge Julian Assange, the U.S. will probably demand that the British government extradite Assange from Britain to the U.S., to face a Grand Jury indictment. (The U.S. Grand Jury has been sitting for 16 months and it is believed to have reached a verdict to indict Julian Assange and has a sealed indictment ready to unseal at the most beneficial time to the US. The U.S. Grand Jury system is a flawed, unjust legal process, consisting of four prosecutors with defense evidence is allowed. There is no judge and a jury pool is drawn from Alexandria, Virginia, which has the highest percentage of military contractor families in the U.S.)
When I met Julian Assange, I was struck by his bright, intelligent and compassionate mind, and glad to see that in spite of all the persecution and abuse of his human rights, he is in good spirits and good health. For seven months now, he has been confined indoors with no possibility of even five minutes outside in the fresh air, which is a basic right for all political prisoners. If he tried to go outside, he would be immediately arrested by the many British police outside the embassy, and extradited to Sweden or the U.S. (The cost to maintain this police force outside the Embassy is some £11,000 per day).
Unlike most political prisoners, he has no idea how long his virtual imprisonment in the embassy will last–6 more months or 6 years. The diplomatic standoff continues. This is indeed cruel, inhumane and mental torture. His only crime was to tell the truth and bring transparency to the illegal acts of the U.S. Government and its allies around the world.
I believe the U.K., Swedish and U.S. governments are all complicit in the mental torture of Julian Assange, and I appeal to the Australian government, human rights defenders, brave media, and people who love truth and freedom around the world to stand up for Julian Assange and his human rights, and the assurance that he get the chance to answer all accusations against him in the U.K. or Sweden without being extradited to U.S., where he could meet the same “cruel and inhuman treatment” as Pt. Bradley Manning has suffered.
The least we can do is raise our voices to protect Julian Assange–and Bradley Manning–who have made such brave attempts, at the cost of their own freedom, to expose war crimes and defend freedom and democracy.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book, The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Tags: #occupy movement, dhs, fbi, government repression, Homeland Security, naomi wolf, occupy wall street, orwellian, ows, police state, roger hollander, wikileaks
Roger’s note: The Empire Strikes Back. Those of us who oppose the imperial capitalism-on-steroids policies of the United States government are vulnerable to being labeled as terrorists. And targeted for assassination! As long as you behave yourself, as most Americans do, you are safe from government oppression (of course, you may lose your home or your job and go into bankruptcy over health care costs, but that is a horse of a different color). A police state does not attack all its citizens, only those who are uppity.
Published on Sunday, December 30, 2012 by The Guardian
New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent
It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.
Police used teargas to drive back protesters following an attempt by the Occupy supporters to shut down the city of Oakland. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.
The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).
As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a “terrorist threat”:
“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”
Verheyden-Hilliard points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it “police-statism”:
“This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”
The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a “Bank Fraud Working Group” met in November 2011 – during the Occupy protests – to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its “domestic terrorism” unit. The Anchorage, Alaska “terrorism task force” was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan “joint terrorism task force” was issuing a “counterterrorism preparedness alert” about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the “Bank Security Group” – multiple private banks – met to discuss the reaction to “National Bad Bank Sit-in Day” (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state’s Occupy members’ details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its “joint terrorism task force” aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.
Jason Leopold, at Truthout.org, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own FOIA requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: if you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the “longterm plans” of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.
There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society – people’s income streams and financial records – is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.
Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed – because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one’s personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a “terrorist organization” and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing.
Why the huge push for counterterrorism “fusion centers”, the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about “the terrorists”. It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens – it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.
© 2012 The Guardian