London police outside the event that got me questioned
On Guy Fawkes Day, 2005, I was politely approached by three un-uniformed members of the British secret service. One asked me if he could ask questions regarding my two-week-plus stay in London.
My wife and I had checked in, checked our baggage, and were headed on a restaurant hunt in the area close to our gate. We had arrived early, to make sure our public transportation links from Newington Green to Gatwick had cushion.
The young officer was affable, and I accepted his invitation to leave my wife and join them in the empty area of seats we had been getting close to when the encounter began.
They didn’t appear to know what my new friends and I had discussed.
Had the lead man — he didn’t give me a card — been pushy or impolite, I might have felt uncomfortable in this confrontation with authorities from a political system without our Bill of Rights. He seemed to sympathize with the viewpoint my music had been driven by, which got me to think he and his small squad had been sent on their merry mission by someone with an agenda he deemed unimportant or silly. On the other hand, he was a suave pro. On the other other hand, I had run a large correctional facility once, and always am wary for a charismatic con.
One guy took the lead. His partner wrote copiously in a notebook. The third guy kept trying to look around as discreetly as you can do that. He wasn’t very good.
They were all in their late 20s or early 30s. They didn’t ask for my phone, laptop or camera, let alone passwords. The lead cop shook my hand when I offered it at the end of the 42-minute interview.
When they walked away and I found my wife nearby, she asked, “What was that all about – as if I can’t guess?”
“They were nice. They knew about everything that has been published about the concert, and some of what we’ve been doing here, but seemed to be reluctantly doing something someone else made them do.”
“I thought we might miss our plane,” she mused.
I laughed, and told Ms. ET, “It was cool to be questioned by them here on Guy Fawkes Day. Too bad we have to leave before tonight’s fireworks.”
While Greenwald was giving the speech, it was being live streamed. I was hosting an early evening party, and was only able to break away as the party broke up, to try to catch the live stream. The node was swamped, and I couldn’t get anything.
But somebody made a Youtube quite rapidly after the speech’s conclusion. Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss posted a link to the new video 45 minutes ago. After watching half of Greenwald’s talk, I decided to re-post the Youtube here, even though someone – most likely Kevin G – will be posting it early Saturday morning.
The above ad, by Anti-Republican Crusaders, which they are encouraging people to distribute openly and widely, featuring actor George Clooney, is aimed at progressives who feel betrayed by Obama’s policies. As in other pushes to draw people who had once supported Obama back into the fold, it is – to borrow the term Obama has been using on the stump this past week – Sketchy.
We get dozens of solicitations from the Obama campaign every day, based on how generous we were with our time and money for Obama in 2008. Here is an example of the kinds of replies I send back. I doubt they’ll send me a FREE BRADLEY MANNING! bumper sticker, though.
Do you write back to the campaign? I usually get a “Thanks for your reply” reply. I’ve never gotten a reply that didn’t seem to be automated.
Conjuring up the image of President Richard Nixon, who once stated “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal,” Obama recently disclosed secret government information on the Jay Leno Show, and on this past week’s internet forum. Last year, when asked about Army Private Bradley Manning’s status, Obama quipped “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law.” At the time, Manning had not been charged with any crime.
But, by the standards of Obama’s statement on Manning, the president has also broken the law. Glenn Greenwald takes this up in today’s column, titled ACLU sues Obama administration over assassination secrecy. The Obama administration, defending its program of assassination of American citizens, and its illegal drone assassinations, and killing of hundreds of innocent people as collateral damage, has stated repeatedly that these programs are so secret that even discussing them is forbidden. Greenwald:
When they face the rule of law, then the program is so profoundly classified that it cannot be spoken of at all — indeed, the administration cannot even confirm or deny that it exists — and it therefore cannot be scrutinized by courts at all.
Worse, they not only invoke these secrecy claims to avoid the ACLU and NYT‘s FOIA requests, but they also invoked it when Awlaki’s father sued them and asked a court to prevent President Obama from executing his son without a trial. When forced to justify their assassination program in court, the Obama DOJ insisted that the program was so secretive that it could not even safely confirm that it existed — it’s a state secret – and thus no court could or should review its legality (see p.43 of the DOJ’s brief and Panetta’s Affidavit in the Awlaki lawsuit).
This is a guy who was actively planning a whole range of operations here in the homeland and was focused on the homeland. And so this was probably the most important al Qaeda threat that was out there after Bin Laden was taken out, and it was important that working with the enemies, we were able to remove him from the field.
“I think that we have to be judicious in how we use drones,” Obama said on Monday, adding that they have been used for “very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates.”
Obama went on to say that “obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA,” the acronym for Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, and have been used for “going after Al Qaeda suspects who are in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“This thing is kept on a very tight leash,” Obama said. The U.S. does not use drones “willy nilly” but in a way that avoids more intrusive military actions, he said.
Obama, by divulging classified information to the public, using his own administration’s tortured arguments, in his own words, “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law,” has done just that.
Greenwald is clearly upset about where we’ve gotten:
It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power?
When we voted for Obama, many hoped we’d get another FDR, or at least a JFK. Then we realized we’d gotten something more akin to another Gerald Ford. Now, more and more, it seems what we’ve gotten is a newer version of some of the most uncomfortable aspects of Richard M. Nixon.
How important Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and probable information provided to them through Bradley Manning is to this ongoing, perhaps rapidly growing, global protest and action network are is difficult to assess accurately. But to deny its importance is to not tell the full story of this important year.
Glenn Greenwald, in an op-ed that will appear in tomorrow’s UK Guardian, assesses some of the important domestic fallout from Manning’s and Wikileaks’ uncovering of the truth:
When WikiLeaks was awarded Australia’s most prestigious journalism award last month, the awarding foundation described how these disclosures created “more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime”.
By exposing some of the worst atrocities committed by US forces in Iraq, the documents prevented the Iraqi government from agreeing to ongoing legal immunity for US forces, and thus helped bring about the end of the war. Even Bill Keller, the former New York Times executive editor and a harsh WikiLeaks critic, credits the release of the cables with shedding light on the corruption of Tunisia’s ruling family and thus helping spark the Arab spring.
Despite pledging to usher in “the most transparent administration in history”, President Obama has been obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers; his justice department has prosecuted more of them for “espionage” than all prior administrations combined.
The oppressive treatment of Manning is designed to create a climate of fear, to send a signal to those who in the future discover serious wrongdoing committed in secret by the US: if you’re thinking about exposing what you’ve learned, look at what we did to Manning and think twice. The real crimes exposed by this episode are those committed by the prosecuting parties, not the accused. For what he is alleged to have given the world, Manning deserves gratitude and a medal, not a life in prison.
Manning is THE PROTESTER.
Like many in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Bahrein, Yemen, Palestine and Syria, he is paying a steep price in his genuine commitment to justice:
[T]he leaks Manning allegedly engineered have generated enormous benefits: precisely the benefits Manning, if the allegations against him are true, sought to achieve. According to chat logs purportedly between Manning and the informant who turned him in, the private decided to leak these documents after he became disillusioned with the Iraq war. He described how reading classified documents made him, for the first time, aware of the breadth of the corruption and violence committed by his country and allies.
He explained that 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, Manning replied that he wanted the information to be publicly known in order to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms”.
Unlike most at TIME Magazine, many of us here at firedoglake can be very proud of our open and meaningful support of Manning, and of thousands of others here and around the world, who, as Bradley put it, “want people to see the truth … regardless of who they are … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
David Rovics, one of America’s preeminent balladeers, came out with his Song for Bradley Manningin January. Like a lot of David’s songs, the first version was done as a vocal solo with lone acoustic guitar.
Rovics has been touring Europe lately, and while in Oslo, he worked up a pro performance and video in a studio. Rovics:
A team of professionals in Oslo finished editing the video a few days ago, and it kicks butt. Serious time, skill and money went into making this thing — but the cause is a darn good one, and hopefully the high quality of the video gets gobs of downloads, if people like it enough to share it a lot.
I. Those of us here who have been attempting to get our elected officials to investigate the inhumane, illegal and unconstitutional pre-trial detention abuse of Army PFC Bradley Manning at the Marine Corps Base Quantico brig, should redouble our efforts, now that the New York Review of Books has decided to print a letter by Bruce Ackerman, of Yale Law School and Yochai Benkler, of Harvard Law School, with 295 co-signatories. The letter will be in their April 28th print edition, but is already getting wide notice on the web.
The letter has been around at the blog Balkanization, quietly gathering important signatures, for about four weeks, but it became much more widely discussed after The Guardian carried a short interview Sunday with one of the co-signatories, Laurence Tribe. Tribe has been cited by Obama as a formative influence while the latter was his student at Harvard Law School. There is a lot of material, dating back to mid-2007, when Tribe became one of Obama’s earliest and most ardent advocates, connecting the two together, with the praise going both ways. Here’s Tribe being interviewed by the Harvard Crimson, on election day, 2008:
Tribe also emphasized the challenges that Obama would face should he win today’s election—“problems of such staggering complexity that they dwarf those confronted by any president since FDR in 1932,” which he said included “our economy in meltdown, our military stretched to the breaking point, the power of our example in the world at a nadir, our environment and our politics poisoned, our Constitution threatened, and our trust betrayed.”
Despite his avowed disappointment in the conduct of the American government in recent years—specifically regarding its use of torture—Tribe concluded his remarks with a sentimental evocation of his pride in becoming a naturalized American citizen, and his respect for the Constitution that “guarantees our freedom to challenge the practices that bring us shame—and to vote for a changed government.”
The Guardian interview shows a profoundly disappointed mentor:
He told the Guardian he signed the letter because Manning appeared to have been treated in a way that “is not only shameful but unconstitutional” as he awaits court martial in Quantico marine base in Virginia.
II. The Ackerman/Benkler letter, and its coverage by The Guardian couldn’t have come at a better time for those of us trying to get Alaska Sen. Mark Begich to use his position on the U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee, to look into Manning’s abuse. I’ve gotten co-signators to ask Begich to do this, and just over a month ago, his chief of staff, David Ramseur, wrote back to me, stating:
We got the letter and Senator Begich will have it today, if he doesn’t already. We’ll get you a response shortly.
Thanks – David
I never got a letter, but, apparently, Sen. Begich sent one on March 10th to my physical address, which has never been able to receive U.S. mail. Where it ended up, I have no idea. I’ve never used my physical address in any correspondence with Begich’s U.S. Senate staff, and his Wasilla office (I left my card there when I delivered my open letter there in early March) and campaign staff had oodles of information on my post office box address, much of it from our checks they so gladly cashed in the 2008 campaign.
Julie Hasquet, Begich’s press secretary just sent me a pdf of the March 10th letter, which I’ve transcribed below:
March 10, 2011
Mr. Philip Munger
Dear Mr. Munger:
Thank you for contacting me concerning the conditions of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. As you know, Private Manning was arrested in May 2010 on charges of transferring and communicating classified data and national defense information to an unauthorized source.
Because of the seriousness of these charges and the potential length of sentence, Private Manning is being held as a maximum security detainee with precautionary restrictions to prevent self-injury. While I understand there has been no evidence presented that Private Manning is suicidal, under the circumstances, I believe there may be justifications for what are described by the Marines as non-punitive precautionary restrictions in accordance with brig rules.
Of course, pending a trial and conviction on the allegations made against him, Private Manning has the same presumption of being innocent until proven guilty all Americans in custody enjoy. Even if he were to be convicted, I would expect his jailers to carry out his incarceration with the appropriate level of personal dignity and fair treatment that anyone in an American penal institution should be accorded. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will work to ensure his treatment is properly and regularly reviewed, and that any inappropriate treatment is not tolerated.
Again, thank you for contacting me regarding this matter. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
United States Senator
How fatuous is that, eh? I’ve sent his chief of staff and press secretary links to the Ackerman/Benkler letter, and to this Youtube I made Saturday, of former Democratic Party Alaska U.S. senator Mike Gravel, appealing to current Democratic Party U.S. senator Mark Begich, to do his sworn duty, instead of fucking around like he seems to be doing:
How can we get through to these jerks, other than keep on pushing and pushing, before there’s nothing left of our Constitution to protect?
Former U.S. Senator for Alaska, Mike Gravel, is here, appealing to Alaskans to join in his efforts to create citizens groups to revisit the 9/11 Commission’s errors and omissions from their report, and other matters pertaining to that set of tragedies.
Mike has been outspoken about PFC Bradley Manning, considering the young soldier to be a patriot, and comparing these times to those in which Gravel read the Pentagon Papers aloud on the Senate floor.
Here is Gravel, answering a question about Manning:
“My admiration for Bradley Manning knows no bounds. In fact the equivalent of being Bradley Manning would be being me, and [Daniel] Ellsberg being Assange. That’s the comparison.
“And I was 41 years old when I released the Pentagon Papers [to the Senate]. You know, I’d been three days without sleep, and I was just afraid – scared to death – I didn’t know if I was going to go to jail or lose my senate seat, or what have you, and so I wound up, out of fatigue and fear and all of that, sobbing, when I’m putting the papers into the record. I was sobbing. I couldn’t get control of my emotions. So, when Bradley Manning – and I was 41 years old – when Bradley Manning was arrested, they turned around and said, “Well, he’s unstable.”
“Unstable – Hell! – I was unstable!
“He’s not unstable. He has the clearest vision of what his responsibilities [are] – when you go into the military, you swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, not to the captain, not to the generals, not to the president or the White House. You swear allegiance to the Constitution.
“Manning was sitting there, watching all these daily reports coming back, and seeing that what was being said there was different from what was being said by the White House. And so, he had the guts and perspicuity to recognize “Do it, and do it right.”
“And – knows the risk, knows the risk. If we don’t get him out some way…..”
After his talk, I showed Mike the first letter I wrote to current Alaska Senator Mark Begich, requesting Begich look into Manning’s treatment. Although Begich’s chief-of-staff, David Ramseur, promised those of us who signed my letter quick action from Begich, it has now been over a month since we asked for Mark’s help.
Here’s the appeal of a former Alaska Democratic Party Senator to our current one:
And here’s Mike’s shout out to the folks at Firedoglake who have been working so hard for justice in this matter.
By firing PJ Crowley for the offense of protesting against the sadistic military treatment of Bradley Manning, the president has now put his personal weight behind prisoner abuse. The man who once said that forced nudity was a form of torture, now takes the word of those enforcing it over a distinguished public servant.
Some of us have been asking Alaska Sen. Mark Begich to investigate the treatment of PFC Manning. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the welfare of Manning is Begich’s responsibility. His chief-of-staff, David Ramseur assured constituents Tuesday that “We’ll get you a response shortly.”
Friday the president stated Manning’s torture is “appropriate and meeting our basic standards.” This was in response to multiple reports that his chief State Department spokesperson (after the Secretary of State), had characterized Manning’s treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
Crowley has been replaced by the chief spokesperson for the National Security Council, Mike Hammer, whose role in the intentional destabilization of the Bolivian government in 2008 has yet to be fully investigated.
Will Begich, as did Obama, defer to the bland and highly untruthful statements fed him by Defense Department shills like Geoff Morrell?
Please help us keep up the pressure on Mark to do the right thing in what is daily becoming a more hostile environment to those who seek to tell the truth:
Senator Mark Begich
144 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
phone. (202) 224-3004
toll free. (877) 501 – 6275*
fax. (202) 224-2354
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