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Most in LGBT Community Don’t Even Know of Bradley Manning

6:24 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Chicago “Free Bradley Manning” Contingent (photo: ChicagoGeek)

(update below)

In San Francisco, New York and Chicago, support contingents for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the accused WikiLeaks whistleblower, participated in Sunday’s gay pride parades. Those who marched in contingents aimed to make the LGBT community more aware of Bradley Manning.

Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network and Bradley Manning Support Network Advisory Board member, says he and others in the LGBT community organized a contingent because Manning is a gay man and “we think it is important to stand up for those in our own community who are being victimized.”

The Bradley Manning Support Network finds Manning is “being increasingly hailed by LGBT activists as a hero.” Lieutenant Daniel Choi, an active and well-known gay rights advocate who helped contribute to the movement that ultimately results in the repeal of DADT, recently announced he was “proud to stand by side with Bradley Manning” and on the day of the pride parades tweeted, “I dedicate this Pride to American Hero Private Bradley Manning, our fellow gay freedom fighter currently locked up in Ft. Leavenworth, KS.”

The pride parade in Chicago was one of the first major events for the Chicago chapter of Bradley Manning supporters. Here in Chicago, activists are confronting the fact that many do not know of Manning.

“I thought that we need to do more work in Chicago to make people more aware of Bradley Manning and the fact that he’s been in prison for over a year now and he hasn’t had a trial,” shares Stansfield Smith, an antiwar organizer and someone who has done work to defend twenty-three activists given subpoenas to appear before a grand jury. “He was in solitary confinement and he’s basically being framed up because President Obama’s already said he’s guilty for leaking this information to WikiLeaks. I [feel] some obligation to defend this young guy.”

An organizer in San Francisco, Stephanie Tang, who is with World Can’t Wait and other groups, reports up to a million crowded the city’s Market Street to watch the parade. Around forty to fifty marched in a contingent. Orange and pink Manning stickers were handed out. The contingent was able to get pockets of the crowd to cheer and join chants like “Free Bradley Manning! Stop These Wars!” In some instances, it was clear people didn’t know Manning and the contingent would inform the crowd and then those they were talking to almost always wanted stickers and flyers so they could learn more and perhaps even begin to support him. [Photos of the SF contingent.]

Up to this point, there has been hesitation and division among the LGBT community over whether to support Manning. Thayer suggests this has to do with class and party affiliation.

“[We] have a whole section of leadership of various LGBT organization, which is like leaderships of other minority organizations that try to curry favor with the politicians,” explains Thayer. They are “loathe to do anything controversial.” He believes that can be turned around “once the majority of LGBT people know what Bradley Manning” has allegedly done.

One aspect of the Manning story that carries particular resonance is the abuse he experienced at Quantico. Thayer says what he was subjected to was “very reminiscent of the sexual humiliation that was tinged with homophobia that we saw the US conduct against prisoners in Abu Ghraib and other prisons in that country.” He doesn’t think the sexual humiliation he was subjected to was an accident.

The key for LGBT people (and all other activists) appears to be convincing Americans that what he did was a “signal service.” Thayer recently participated in an illegal pride parade in Moscow, Russia, with LGBT people from the country and Eastern Europe. They all know Bradley Manning’s case unlike many LGBT people in America.

Making Americans aware of how WikiLeaks cables he allegedly released helped contribute to the Arab Spring and communicating to Americans how he has helped to expose the most serious war crimes committed by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan could potentially help grow the community of supporters here in the United States.

*For more, here’s a “This Week in WikiLeaks” podcast I produced that features Stan Smith and Andy Thayer.

Update

Dido Rossi of the Lesbian Bi Trans Queer (LBTQ) in the Global Women’s Strike and Dean Kendall of the Payday Men’s Network have signed on to a letter to the LGBTQ community. The letter calls attention to the silence of LGBT organizations in North America. It declares:

We say “There’s no pride in the slaughter of others!”

We take pride in our LGBTQ sisters and brothers who refuse to be killers, such as gay Filipino/Native-American Stephen Funk, the first US soldier to be convicted and jailed for refusing to fight in Iraq; Mehmet Tarhan, gay Kurdish military refuser in Turkey, whose torture and imprisonment were ended by an international campaign in which grassroots LGBTQ organizations were prominent; and now Bradley Manning.

Similar to Thayer’s comment, the letter points out:

The campaign against the punitive conditions of Bradley’s confinement at Quantico has likewise shone a light on the solitary confinement and other torture endured by many tens of thousands of prisoners, not only but especially in the US. [3] The blueprint for Bradley’s treatment at Quantico, for Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Baghram, is the US gulag of civilian prisons, where most prisoners are people of color, and where especially those perceived as LGBTQ may endure endless sexual violence.

UK Bradley Manning supporters are preparing a contingent for the London Pride parade that will take place on July 2.

Here’s a photo from @payamtorabi of the banner for the upcoming parade:

Lt. Dan Choi: Proud to Stand Shoulder to Shoulder with Bradley Manning

9:52 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

While at Netroots Nation 2011, I had the privilege of speaking to Lieutenant Dan Choi, who served in the US Army infantry, went to war in Iraq and graduated from West Point with a degree in Arabic.

Choi was kicked out of the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) about one year ago. At Netroots Nation, Choi celebrated his one year “anniversary or birthday” as a civilian. He also noted that despite DADT being repealed there are still soldiers getting kicked out of the military for being gay.

The US government is putting Lt. Dan Choi on trial August 29 for “demonstrating in front of the White House in November of last year.” Choi refuses to plead guilty or accept any kind of deal.

“I believe this Administration is making a grave mistake in limiting the areas, times and manners that free speech should be allowed,” declares Choi. And adds nobody should be intimidated into not protesting.

I spoke to Choi the day after he had gone with Hamsher to support Bradley Manning Support Network co-founder David House, as he went before a federal grand jury investigating individuals supportive of alleged military whistleblower Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks. Choi says House is an “American hero” and “our situations are exactly the same.”

Whenever a government tries to stifle the truth by censoring the people, we sometimes take a look at the people. And that’s what’s going on with Bradley Manning. People have been trying to scapegoat him as someone who is crazy or someone who should not have gone to war but I think that Bradley Manning is a great soldier who did something as far as morality.

This was supposedly one of the first times Choi had expressed solidarity with Pfc. Manning so openly on camera.

He continues:

What the true mandate of the American servant of society is he embodied through his act. It’s no different from what Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers. And, I wonder what this president is about to do to this new hero of American patriotism. He is not antiwar. I want to make sure that everybody knows that. From the things that I’ve heard this soldier signed up because he believed in this country and when he saw things that were unbelievable and were being perpetrated by this country, he wasn’t attacking this country. He was trying to teach this country what this mandate of service really was. So, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody who speaks up against injustice, against war crimes, against torture and against the reprobate actions of any kind of reprobate government that tries to tell them that power belongs to the powerful.

Choi recently visited Moscow to participate in the Moscow Pride parade and stand in solidarity with gays in Russia. I ask him the United States has some effect on how countries around the world treat their own people, particularly gay people.

The US is a “horrible role model not only on gay rights but progress,” replies Choi.

He doesn’t fault the government entirely for failing to be a good role model and concludes, “I blame our courage inadequacy. The only ingredient that is missing nowadays [among activists] is the willingness to stick to your guns ’til the very day that you achieve what you set out to accomplish in the first place.”

Tim DeChristopher at NN11: Obama Administration Pursues Activists Like Previous Administrations (VIDEO)

1:40 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

While at Netroots Nation 2011, I had the privilege of speaking to some very inspiring and courageous people, who have no qualms about speaking the truth. One of those videos, an interview with climate activist Tim DeChristopher, is now up at TheNation.com.

DeChristopher placed fake bids in a public land auction to disrupt drilling by energy companies. He has been convicted on two felony charges and now could face a number of years in prison.

In the interview, DeChristopher recounts how he disrupted a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction at the end of 2008 that the Bush Administration was holding as a “parting gift to the oil and gas industry.” DeChristopher registered as a bidder and wound up outbidding most of the companies’ bidders that were present.

He now is set to be sentenced on July 26.

“Before I was ever indicted, the Obama Administration overturned the auction and admitted it was illegal in the first place, not because of my actions but because the BLM had violated its own rules,” DeChristopher explains. He makes clear the Obama Administration has had the option all along to not pursue him but yet has chosen to push a case against him for the maximum four and a half years. And, he claims that it may not be all the popular to press charges especially since he is a nonviolent climate activist who “was standing in the way of something that was admittedly illegal.”
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The “Liberal” Netroots: An Army Beholden to Democrats or an Independent Political Force to Be Reckoned With?

10:31 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Here at Firedoglake, one blogger, one_outer, has struck a chord with his post on Netroots Nation 2011. And, since I attended as a Democracy for America scholar (and thank DFA immensely for their support), I would like to add more to the discussion by republishing what I wrote about a year ago on Netroots Nation 2010.

First off, here is one_outer’s post, “Beyond Netroots Nation: The Progressive Blogosphere vs. the Democratic Establishment.” One_outer suggested the conference was one presented by organizers as a choice to adhere to “deeply cherished principles and our understandable concern in accidentally empowering an insane and openly fascist Republican Party over a corrupt, ideologically conservative, and fully propagandized Democratic Party” or not. As one_outer ticked off the many aspects of the conference that were perturbing, one_outer concluded with a question that could serve as a call to action: “Will progressives now take the chance to jump ship, chart a new course in keeping with our independent spirit, or will be be subsumed by scare tactics and stern talking to’s?”

As mentioned above, reading this post reminds me of the thoughts I had as Netroots Nation began last year. I was particularly concerned about the sponsorship of the conference by the Democratic National Committee. I recognized that the sponsorship may not be a problem if one focused on the individual people coming together and worked to connect and have conversations with them. But, I noted then the Democrats had gradually become more and more the party of “no” to progressives.

Now, after being present at Netroots Nation 2011 and witnessing the reaction of some progressives or liberals to the “What to Do When the President is Just Not That Into You?” and Dan Pfeiffer’s conversation with DailyKos’ Kaili Joy Gray, I think some progressives have become the people of “no” to fellow progressives.

A sizeable segment of the “netroots” is servile to the president and does not find it comfortable to challenge or criticize the president. They see criticism as sabotage and not part of holding his feet to the fire.

They cheer loudly when people like former Sen. Russ Feingold or Howard Dean say we need to hold Obama’s feet to the fire. They stand up on their feet when Van Jones (whom the Obama Administration threw under the bus) declares we need to “liberate our president” from himself but, when they see people who are essentially doing what could be characterized as “holding Obama’s feet to the fire,” they work to shut down those people. And, in some cases, they write blogs and try to turn opinion against individuals or groups in a way that could turn those individuals or groups into pariahs for even daring to offer viewpoints against the Administration.

Where do those who want progressives to be managers of democracy instead of citizens of the United States who have a right to dissent think we are to get momentum or energy if they are working to silence or stifle criticism? Because, it is exactly the criticism and pressure from the far left and left-liberals that counterbalances the most vocal and reactionary conservatives. It is their voices that tugs the center to a place where Obama can have cover to make the type of policy decisions on issues that we would be more likely to support—if Obama and his administration had the guts to make such decisions.

I enjoyed the conference. I walked way with several good video interviews that I will be sharing over the next few fays. But, the conference did lead me to further realize that we do have to decide which side we  are on.

We have to understand that Obama works for the very interests, which destroy and disembowel the social fabric of American communities. We have to realize that on issues of civil liberties, the law & technology there is power being granted to the few who govern to control the many. And, we have to decide whether we want to work with power or to influence power.

Working side by side may be next to impossible anymore. We have to remain a separate entity and not form coalitions with agencies or agents of government if we expect to win real change. Leaders running for political office may be able to offer great assistance but they should not be chief sponsors we rely on to get closer to our goals.

It is stunning but perhaps unsurprising that one year later most of what I wrote on Netroots Nation 2010 could be copied and pasted into an article and titled something that had to do with Netroots Nation 2011. That’s why I invite you to look back, reflect on this post. And then, I encourage you to keep commenting on one_outer’s insights to keep this conversation going on how to continue to build momentum in the face of a Democratic Party content and dead set on undermining advancements for social justice, liberty and equality.

***

Published to OpEdNews on July 19, 2010

Each year, for the past five years, members of what has become known as the “netroots” [a term that almost exclusively means progressives, liberals or Democrats that regularly blog and organize on the Internet] have come together for an annual convention known as Netroots Nation to participate in a forum for progressive activists and candidates to strengthen communities online and grow the progressive movement. It has attempted to inspire action and help those in attendance grow new ideas to affect change.

As the “netroots” prepare to meet in Las Vegas to once again discuss what they could be doing (and have been doing) to “amplify” their “progressive voice” by using “technology to influence the public debate,” one wonders if this convention will have any potential long-term value at all to movements in this country desiring more change from the Obama Administration.

David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers aptly presents the dilemma the “netroots” currently face, “Activists in the liberal blogosphere face a crossroads: They had tremendous success in 2008 helping to turn voter anger into votes for Democrats, but persuading Congress and the White House to adopt their agenda is much harder.”

Lightman adds during the convention “members will quiz House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., among others, about why Washington doesn’t move more quickly to end the Afghanistan war or give more help to the millions who are out of work” and the “netroots” will likely be told ” (a) Washington works in complex, deliberate ways, and one should be happy to achieve 80 percent of one’s goals, and (b) since Democrats took control of Washington 18 months ago, they’ve won the enactment of historic legislation on health care, economic stimulus and financial regulation — no small achievements.”

Lightman’s preview of Netroots Nation indicates the convention will be another Democratic exercise in the lowering of progressives’ expectations of what is possible in terms of change in this country. There’s also indication that the focus will not be on Democrats at all. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), who reassures readers in the McClatchy article that the party is in “no danger of being a captive of the left” believes in unifying “this year’s congressional candidates behind an anti-Republican message: that if the GOP were in charge, things would be much worse.” The DCCC is a sponsor of Netroots Nation.

Rep. Van Hollen appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Here’s a glimpse at the story the Democratic Party will likely be promoting as it seeks to ensure Americans will vote for them in November:

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, what you’re, what you’re hearing is–as, as Bob said, look, we know that we have a long way to go on the economy. People are still hurting, that’s absolutely clear. But we also know what the American people know, which is the day George Bush lost–left office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. And during the full eight years of the Bush administration we lost private sector jobs. We are now beginning to climb out. And what we are saying is yes, let’s focus on the policies, because why in the world would we want to go back to the same economic agenda that created that mess, that, that lost jobs for eight years? And I think the challenge that our colleagues have here, Pete and John, is to say to the American people, how do you expect to do the same thing and get a different result? I mean, that, that’s Einstein’s definition of insanity, right? [emphasis added]

 

Such a message hinges upon whether or not the financial reform legislation can be viewed as shifting the country away from the same economic agenda that created this mess. Robert Reich, who was the Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and is a fairly outspoken progressive voice, asserts, “Congress has labored mightily to produce a mountain of legislation that can be called financial reform, but it has produced a molehill relative to the wreckage Wall Street wreaked upon the nation.”

Also, should we be so certain that the Republican’s are following “Einstein’s definition of insanity”? What they are doing may not be working out for certain sections of the American population, but it is most certainly, politically, paying off. As a tactic, crafting a debate on issues that ranges from what the Tea Party is not willing to accept to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and other private interests fear will infringe on their precious free enterprise system today has effectively defanged every piece of legislation that has come up for debate in Congress.

Representatives like Rep. Van Hollen ignore the tactic that the Obama Administration has practiced, the courting of Republican votes for legislation the party will continue to oppose no matter what concessions the Administration grants them.

The Administration has decided Republican voices are more important than any liberal or progressive voices in the Senate or House that might be making demands.Instead of seeking to silence the conservative echo chamber that effectively skewers any progressive agenda items that could potentially be put on the table, the Administration has gone out of their way to assure and reassure Republicans that they can move the debate in their direction.

Progressives, on the other hand, have learned that they will incur the wrath of those in the Administration like the brawny and rugged Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other Obama advisers if they dare to oppose the Administration’s attempts to sterilize legislation on behalf of the corporations they are attempting to regulate.

Given the record of scorn displayed toward progressives who organize with their own agenda in mind (e.g. Emanuel calling liberals “fucking stupid” as they ran ads against Democrats opposing the public option), it’s no surprise that progressive voices would be reluctant to tug the conversation in their direction. Instead of incurring the fire of the Obama Administration, many probably would rather focus on the reactionary Tea Party faction growing within the Republican Party and simply tackle that instead of the failures of the Democratic Party during Obama’s first two years in office. Unfortunately, this ignores the reality that Democrats have failed to rebuff the growing rancor of anti-government sentiment in the GOP and offer an alternative message; in fact, that Tea Party message is effectively dragging the Democrats toward supporting a political agenda more conducive to a vastly unregulated free market system that Democrats admit has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

Democrats have gradually become more and more the party of “no” to progressives. Their admission of running on a message that is anti-Republican is an indication that their campaign strategy for these elections will also be a strategy of “no.” How is this any different than what Republicans have been doing as they claim Democrats are the party of “no”?

What we have in this country is a political establishment discourse that has devolved into discussions from Democrats on why the population should reject Republicans and a discussion from Republicans on why the population should reject Democrats. It does not allow for real talk on the issues any more than a domestic dispute between a husband and wife allows for real discussion on who was responsible for escalating the situation and why there was yelling and screaming in the first place.

To some extent, both parties are right: neither offer an agenda for a future that will go to the root of the problems this country faces and take on the private and powerful interests that are further entrenching these problems in the fabric of American society.

This failure produces a “trickle-down” effect that has a detrimental impact on the “netroots.” Articles and postings like Eric Alterman’s recent essay are published and proclaim that America cannot have a progressive presidency right now. They debilitate, demoralize and produce comments demonstrating an acquiescence to this meme.

The “netroots” will meet and focus on primaries and electing better Democrats, using blogs, Twitter and other social networking technologies to turn “red states” “blue”, how to improve online organizing, the current state of progressive media, etc. There is no doubt that many will take home some valuable knowledge and insight they did not have before they attended. And most likely they will network with other people who are part of the “netroots” community and gain the opportunity to be more effective at what they do. However, this is an event receiving sponsorship from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which contribute to the maintenance and polishing of the Democratic Party’s image.

There would be nothing wrong with these committees supporting this event if wedding this event to those committees did not automatically limit the scope of debate at a time when the dimensions of discussion in politics need to be expanded.

Only in America do political activists (especially ones who call themselves progressives) limit their visions for change to what can be passed legislatively this year or the next. Only in America do those committed to organizing consistently coach themselves to accept terms for organizing that will not alienate the very politicians who have contributed to the situations organizers seek to address.

An event that organizes those who are the most vocal section of society has great potential. But, the dominance of politically-safe sessions (in the aftermath of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, no abolish corporate personhood now workshop), the absence of any sessions on reforming the broken electoral system, and the lack of discussions around the very few differences between Republicans and Democrats and what to do about that reality warrants skepticism.

If the “netroots” leave ready to do more to defend Obama and Democrats from Republicans, this convention will have massively failed. But, if they leave ready to advance small-d democratic policies and items that often appear on proposed progressive agendas, if they leave committed to creating space in the public sphere for real progressive organizing to take place, there is a chance that this event will not have just been an opportunity for Democrats to revitalize support for their increasingly stale politics in this country.

Obama DOJ’s War on Free Speech and Activism

7:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A few days ago, rallies were held in cities all over the United States in support of veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes, who had his home raided by the FBI on May 17. The rallies coincided with Montes’ arraignment hearing for felony charges, which were filed against him by the LA County Sheriffs and FBI after the raid.

The target of an ever-expanding government investigation into antiwar and international solidarity activists, Montes demanded that his charges be dropped. The District Attorney denied his request. Montes asked to see the search warrant and police report on the raid of his home. The District Attorney initially refused the request but then agreed to release heavily edited versions of the documents. Montes was also told he would not be allowed to show the documents to the press.

Tom Burke, a spokesperson for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and a subpoenaed activist, explains that Montes allegedly was found to be in possession of a weapon that was not properly registered. Burke believes that if Montes hadn’t been a political activist or organizer he would have been contacted about a problem on the gun permit. But, the LA sheriffs chose to make an example of Montes.

Burke also notes, like twenty-three other activists subpoenaed thus far, Montes has a link to the organizing of marches at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The FBI raided the Antiwar Committee office in the Twin Cities in Minnesota in September 2010. On the warrant for the raid there were seventeen names. Burke says Carlos Montes’ name appears on the warrant.

When Montes’ home was raided by the FBI & SWAT team, they smashed Montes’ front door, rushed in with automatic weapons while Montes was sleeping and proceeded to ransack his home, “taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement.” They did this at 5 am in the morning.

“For people who have had their homes raided, it’s worse than being robbed because it’s the government coming in and taking the things that are nearest and dearest to you – your own writing, your own diary,” says Burke.

Rallies in eighteen cities were held in support of Montes and against ongoing FBI repression of activists. And because the judge did not drop the felony charges against Montes, another round of rallies will be held July 7 to again call for the charges to be dropped.

Recent articles in news publications like the Washington Post has given the repression against activists greater attention. At the Netroots Nation 2011 conference, a member of the audience asked at a panel session titled, “What the Government Wants to Know About You,” if he could get more information on what he read on the recently published Post article.

Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake, one of the speakers on the panel, described to the audience how the activists are alleged to be “material supporters of terrorism.” She outlined how the grand jury investigation has been opened and recounted how an informant infiltrated the Antiwar Committee. She noted the activists are alleged to have connections to groups in Palestine and Colombia that perhaps have engaged in terrorist activities but concluded, “Chiquita has far closer ties to terrorism than any peace activists but nobody from Chiquita has gone to jail.”

Essentially, the FBI now has all this data and is able to use it to start investigations. The FBI can turn over any rock that they want to turn over and they can seek out whatever they want to find and piece together a case.

With the FBI moving to expand surveillance powers, it is cases like this investigation into activists that the new powers will effectively make legitimate.

Burke reacts to the news that the FBI is claiming new powers, “The FBI has been violating their own guidelines and their own standard operating procedures and instead of saying we violated what we set out ourselves, they decided to expand what they were allowed to do.

Why does the government want these new powers? Why does the Justice Department under Obama support a growing investigation into activists?

Burke suggests with the economy getting worse the American people are getting more frustrated, with the Congress’ approval rating getting lower and lower, the war in Afghanistan failing, stability in Iraq not being maintained and troops not being sent home, the Colombia war stagnating with no defeat of the insurgency—This “cumulation” is leading to more state repression against those fighting for change in the system.

The war on free speech and activism is apparent here at Netroots Nation as people like Lt. Dan Choi and Tim DeChristopher speak on panels and as individuals like David House are discussed during panel sessions.

Lt. Dan Choi, a soldier and gay rights advocate who engaged in an act of civil disobedience at the White House fence last year to push the Obama Administration to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is facing federal charges for exercising his right to demonstrate. While most people receive misdemeanors for protesting, for the first time since 1917, the Department of Justice under Obama is taking him to trial this August for speaking out.

Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist who placed fake bids in a public land auction to disrupt drilling by energy companies, has been convicted of a crime. Although the land auction was ultimately declared illegal, the Obama Administration has gone ahead and pursued a case against DeChristopher. The prosecution pushed the jury in his trial to not consider his conscience but rather that he broke a law. They nudged the jury to obfuscate facts and, in fact, many key details on the auction were kept from the jury. And so, DeChristopher now faces up to ten years in prison.

And, David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, has been embroiled in a grand jury investigation that seeks to embroil him in espionage charges for being linked to WikiLeaks. House has been targeted consistently by the government for the past months. His lawful association with the Bradley Manning Support Network, which was created to raise funds for the legal defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks now being held at Ft. Leavenworth, has led the Department of Homeland Security stop him at airports and seize his laptop, camera and USB drive.

What is at stake with the targeting of activists is an American’s right to protest against the government and sometimes take bold action that could be regarded as adversarial. Those who believe in free speech and support a person’s right to protest must not ignore the cases the Department of Justice is pursuing against individuals in this country, who are being made examples to send a message to others that if they draw inspiration and display courage in the face of power they too might face the same punishment or harassment as these people.

*For video of Montes speaking at the rally on June 16, go here.

Grand Jury Meets to Question WikiLeaks Supporters: ‘Do You or Have You Ever Worked for WikiLeaks?’

7:13 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(update below)

A federal grand jury empaneled to investigate WikiLeaks meets again in Alexandria, Virginia today. David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, is expected to appear before the grand jury. He and others in the Greater Boston area have been subjected to this process, which seeks to embroil them in espionage charges for being linked to WikiLeaks.

It is a tired cliché, perhaps, but, with each new development in the investigation of WikiLeaks—in a process that might be considered a part of a larger war on WikiLeaks—more and more individuals are being made to answer the question, “Do you or have you ever worked for WikiLeaks?” (Soon they will be asked, “Are you or have you ever been supportive or sympathetic toward WikiLeaks?”)

House has been targeted consistently by the government for the past months. His lawful association with the Bradley Manning Support Network, which was created to raise funds for the legal defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks now being held at Ft. Leavenworth, has transformed him into a marked man. In November 2010, Department of Homeland Security agents stopped House at O’Hare International airport as he was returning from Mexico.

The agents asked House about his political activities and beliefs. His laptop computer, camera, and a USB drive were all seized. The questioning and seizure of personal property does not appear to have been carried out because House posed a threat to border security. But, House was made to face intrusive and intimidating tactics because he joined a lawful group.

“The search and seizure of my laptop has had a chilling effect on the activities of the Bradley Manning Support Network, by silencing once-outspoken supporters and causing donors to retreat. Our government should not be treating lawful activists like suspects,” explains House.

The ACLU has come to his defense and filed a lawsuit against the DHS. The ACLU has called for the “return or destruction of any of House’s personal data still in the custody of the government and disclosure of whether and to whom the data has been disseminated.” And, if not for the ACLU sending a letter to DHS, House would likely have not been able to get his seized laptop, camera and USB drive back after seven weeks.
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Grand Jury Investigation Into WikiLeaks Just Another Government ‘Fishing Expedition’

7:28 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A federal grand jury was scheduled to meet at 11 am EST in Alexandria, Virginia. The grand jury is being employed to “build” a case against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who just won a gold medal for peace and justice from the Sydney Peace Foundation.

“The WikiLeaks case is part of a much broader campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers,” writes Carrie Johnson of NPR. Johnson is one of a few reporters in the US press who has published a report today on this stirring development in the United States. She finds “national security experts” cannot “remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets.”

The number of people subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury is unclear (and not in any of the few news articles published on the grand jury so far). What is known is that at least one individual from Cambridge was issued a subpoena seeking to compel him to testify before a Grand Jury. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com reported the individual served had a public link to the WikiLeaks case and it was “highly likely” the subpoena was connected to the WikiLeaks Grand Jury investigation.

There are two other federal Grand Juries that are ongoing in the country. In San Jose, California, a Grand Jury has been empanelled to investigate the “hacktivist” group, Anonymous. Another Grand Jury in Chicago has been empanelled to target antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists for their political action.

The last news reports on the Grand Jury investigating Anonymous came in the beginning of February. Then the Grand Jury began to review “evidence” in multistate raids that took place on January 27. The “evidence” includes “computers and mobile phones seized from suspected leaders” and was to be used to investigate the “denial-of-service attacks” the group launched in December against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and the UK-based Moneybookers.com.

There are not many details known. What is evident is those who are serving on the Grand Jury are working to piece together all the information that they have on Anonymous so the government might have a case, which could then lead to indictments.

Much further along in the grand jury process is the Grand Jury in Chicago. In fact, just days ago one of the activists, Hatem Abudayyeh, had his and his wife’s bank accounts frozen by the US Treasury Department. He and twenty-three activists from Chicago, Minneapolis and the greater Midwest have been subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury on suspicions of providing material support to foreign terrorist groups, Abudayyeh and thirteen other activists had their homes raided by the FBI back in September of last year. The activists were called to appear before a Grand Jury in October. More activists were raided and subpoenaed, bringing the total number of activists facing investigation to twenty-three by the end of the year. The activists were called to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago on January 25 of this year. They all refused to testify.

The activists subpoenaed consider the Grand Jury investigation to be a “fishing expedition.” That, in fact, may be how Julian Assange and staff members of Wikileaks view the WikiLeaks Grand Jury investigation.

A statement on “Grand Juries” posted on the Coalition to Stop FBI Repression website explains the nature and processes of a federal grand jury.

A grand jury is a panel of jurors who hear evidence from a prosecutor and decide whether or not to charge someone with a crime. The grand jury can subpoena pretty much anyone they want and ask about anything, and people can be jailed for contempt if they do not answer questions. The jurors are hand-picked by prosecutors with no screen for bias. All evidence is presented by a prosecutor in a cloak of secrecy. The prosecutor has no responsibility to present evidence that favors those being investigated. Grand jury witnesses have no right to have a lawyer in the room to object to how the prosecutor is conducting the proceedings.

The grand jury process “dates back to the Nixon administration’s attack on the social movements of the 1970s.” One can surmise from the statement that Anonymous, WikiLeaks and antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists have become ensnared in a grand jury process that is “neither fair nor even handed, no matter who is in charge.”

A more detailed explanation of the grand jury process can be found in the archives of Firedoglake.com. User Masoninblue explains typically 17 to 23 citizens serve on the grand jury and meet once per week for about 18 months to hear witness testimony, review evidence and vote on the issuing of indictments. The Fifth Amendment requires all federal felony prosecutions to be by grand jury indictment “unless a defendant waives his right to be prosecuted by indictment and agrees to be prosecuted by information.”

A grand jury’s chief task is to vote on whether the government has “presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that the defendant(s) have committed crime(s) charged. Twelve members vote to approve the indictment. A “foreperson” of the grand jury hands down the indictment to a District Court Clerk’s Office.

Grand juries do not typically decline to issue indictments. All twenty-three of the subpoenaed activists are currently bracing themselves for indictments and have launched a “Pledge of Resistance” campaign to organize support for when they are indicted.

It is likely those subpoenaed in investigations of WikiLeaks and Anonymous will in the end be indicted too.

In case the process does not yet sound unfair or unjust, like something that can be used as “a tool for political repression,” consider the following:

Grand juries meet in secret and its members take an oath never to discuss what happens inside the grand jury room. The only other people present in the room when the grand jury is in session are a court reporter who transcribes the proceedings, a federal prosecutor who presents the government’s case, the case agent who is the law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation, and the witness who is testifying. Witnesses may appear with counsel, but their attorney must wait outside the grand jury room while the witness is testifying. The witness must answer all questions truthfully under penalty of perjury. The witness can request a recess in response to a question in order to consult with counsel outside the grand jury room. The witness may refuse to answer any question on the ground that a truthful answer might tend to incriminate the witness, or lead to the discovery of evidence that might tend to incriminate the witness. Since the Fifth Amendment protects this privilege to refuse to answer, no witness can be punished for refusing to answer a question on the basis of asserting the Fifth Amendment. Properly subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to appear before the grand jury, or who appear but refuse to answer questions without asserting the Fifth Amendment, may be held in contempt of the grand jury and jailed until such time as they agree to answer the question, or the grand jury term expires, whichever happens first.

These details can all be confirmed by Tom Burke, one of the twenty-three activists subpoenaed to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago:

As an activist or any citizen, you’re called to face a grand jury where there’s no judge in the proceedings. There’s only the US prosecutor. It’s like a preemptive trial. So the US prosecutor gets to pick the 23 jurors. There’s no one from your side in the room. The US prosecutor guides the 23 through the process. They tend to want to help and identify with the prosecutor. They just hear one side of the story. When you enter the room, your lawyer is not allowed to be with you. You have to excuse yourself and go to the hallway to talk. Media is not allowed to watch it and you can’t have your family or friends support you in the room either.

The shady nature of the grand jury process has led all twenty-three activists being investigated to refuse to testify. They stand in solidarity and may face jail time. They know there may be consequences for not providing testimony, but they are convinced the Grand Jury they are being called to appear before is part of a new McCarthyism in America.

This is a choice those subpoenaed to testify in Alexandria can make. Those asked to speak on WikiLeaks’ operations can refuse to give testimony. If individuals subponeaed know the others who are being called before the grand jury, they can stand together united against a “fishing expedition” that seeks to conjure up a case.

It is not obvious or clear that any crime has been committed, but the government feels a burden, perhaps because of the political climate soured by Republican politicians, to prosecute and hold responsible at least someone they can claim was involved in recent WikiLeaks releases.

The government is likely to use information obtained through an order for Twitter user data from the accounts of three individuals linked to WikiLeaks: member of Icelandic Parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Rop Gonggrijp, founder of Internet service provider XS4ALL, and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer programmer. Legal questions surrounding the obtaining of this data for investigating WikiLeaks may be all the more reason for those subpoenaed to testify to refuse to appear before the grand jury.

WikiLeaks has urged those seeking protection to contact the Center for Constitutional Rights.

US Dept of Treasury Freezes Activist’s Bank Accounts

10:15 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

*Scroll down for audio interview

Update – 3:10 PM New York Time

Here is the press release just out. It indicates that this is actually much more sinister than was thought initially. The Department of Treasury is actually behind the freezing of funds.

On Friday, May 6, the U.S. government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife, Naima. It appears that this is being done by the Department of Treasury (Office of Foreign Assets Control).

Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists from Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago, and his home was raided by the FBI in September of last year. Neither Hatem Abudayyeh nor Naima Abudayyeh have been charged with any crime. One of the bank accounts frozen was exclusively in Naima Abudayyeh’s name.

Joe Iosbaker of the National Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “We are appalled at the government’s attempt to restrict the family’s access to its finances. Not only does the government’s action seriously disrupt the lives of the Abudayyehs and their five-year-old daughter, but it represents an attack on Chicago’s Arab community and activist community and the fundamental rights of Americans to freedom of speech.”

Joe added, “Apparently OFAC can block your assets pending an investigation on charges of “material support for a foreign terrorist organization” without a hearing. It’s a bit like a chapter out of George Orwell, they don’t need any evidence to freeze your assets and thus far they won’t even acknowledge that they are the source of the freeze. In the case of these activists, assets means money for food and rent.”

Bill Chambers, of the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression said “The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. The government’s attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.”

The National Committee to Stop FBI repression is urging activists around the country to take action by calling, The Office of Foreign Assets Control a division of the U.S. Dept of Treasury, Phone numbers 202-622-1649 or 202-622-2420. Demand that they unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family and stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.”

***Original Story including audio interview with Joe Iosbaker appears below.***

Right before Mother’s Day weekend, the US government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh, a long-time Palestinian solidarity activist and organizer, and his wife, Naima. Abudayyeh is one of twenty-three activists from the Midwest in the US, who has been the subject of an FBI Grand Jury investigation since September of last year.

Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh have both been charged with no crimes. Naima Abudayyeh has not been subpoenaed and is not the subject of an investigation.
Read the rest of this entry →

Standing Up for Bradley Manning, Opposing FBI Witch-Hunts of Activists

11:21 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Coleen Rowley being interviewed at an action at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. by Bill Hughes

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, nearly one week ago, a few hundred activists participated in two protest actions, one at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the other at Quantico Brig, where Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower who leaked the “Collateral Murder” video and possibly other information like the U.S. Embassy Cables to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement. The two actions had a profound connection: Martin Luther King. Jr, who if alive today would be standing up for Bradley Manning and against the FBI witch-hunt being carried out on activists in Chicago and the Twin Cities area.

Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent and whistleblower, who was awarded TIME’s “Person of the Year” Award in 2002 (along with two other whistleblowers who received the award as well), explains in an interview, “To the extent that Manning seems to be a victim of this much greater official repression, it does hearken back to the days when a civil rights leader could be targeted by the FBI.”

An organizer with the Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF), Sue Udry, reported on the two actions explaining that more than one hundred gathered at the FBI headquarters at noon. About thirty people with Witness Against Torture, who were Washington, D.C., for their twelve days of fasting action to call attention to the Obama Administration’s failure to close Guantanamo, were there in orange jumpsuits. CODEPINK, people with DDF, and others from a local civil liberties organization showed up to call attention to the injustice going on in the Midwest.

On January 25th, twelve anti-war and international solidarity activists will be expected to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. They and eleven others from Chicago and the Twin Cities area in Minnesota in the past months were subpoenaed. Several of the activists had their homes raided. Documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers, and children’s artwork were seized from their home. The subpoenas indicated the FBI was looking for evidence that the activists had provided “material support for terrorism.” And, recently, it was discovered that the FBI had an informant, who went by the name of “Karen Sullivan,” infiltrate an anti-war group in the Twin Cities.

Rowley says of the FBI investigation, “History is repeating itself.” War has produced pressure to find terrorists at home. She said the war that we were told was going to be fought over there so we wouldn’t have to fight it here has now turned inward. She cites as evidence not only the infiltration of antiwar groups by informants but also the Office of Management and Guidance’s plans to looks for “unhappy employees in the government” who might be “disloyal.” Also, she believes the GOP has plans for “McCarthy-like” hearings in the House (perhaps, to be lead by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

The whistleblower, who spent twenty four years in the FBI before unveiling how the FBI had failed to take action on information provided by the Minneapolis, Minnesota Field Office on suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, recounts how the FBI informant “Karen Sullivan” became such a part of the Anti-War Committee:

If you go back to 2008 when this undercover actually came into Minnesota–and I was actually in two groups that she was first spotted at, not the Antiwar Committee, she was first spotted at a CODEPINK meeting where they were discussing that in the march on the [Republican National Convention] they were going to make big pink puppets. I mean, if you think about why would government even be spending its time sitting in a meeting talking about making puppets. That’s how unbelievable this is and I was actually sitting next to her. This was probably late spring of 2008.

Then she came to our banner peace vigils that my group–We had about twenty people and we held a red banner that said “Support the Troops, End the War” over a highway. Totally legal in Minnesota law. When I was sitting next to her, I said come to ours and hold this banner. She came four or five times to our vigil.”

At the US Social Forum in Detroit in June of 2010, she represented the Anti-War Committee. At the School of Americas Watch protest action, she helped lead the protest. At local meetings, she was taking leadership roles. This went on for two and a half years.

Rowley discusses how this happened during Vietnam. Martin Luther King Jr. was a victim of McCarthyism in the late “50s and early “60s. That later turned into COINTELPRO. She recounted how “the COINTELPRO group actually wrote an anonymous letter to MLK”that basically blackmailed him on the eve of his acceptance of his Nobel Peace Prize and suggested that he might want to commit suicide otherwise the FBI might release all this derogatory information they had.” Then the FBI went after feminists, antiwar activists, and advocacy groups like the National Lawyers Guild.

While the Church Committee did work to put strict restrictions on government agencies that would protect civil liberties in the late “70s, 9/11 provided the moment for government agencies to return to the days of COINTELPRO.

According to Rowley, in April of 2008, Attorney General guidelines were “eradicated” reversing the “presumption that you need level of factual justification” or something to show to support infiltrating or closely monitoring an activist group. This to her is largely symptomatic of the world created in the aftermath of 9/11, “Top Secret America,” which William M. Arkin and Dana Priest investigated for the Washington Post.

Part of it is, with 854,000 analysts, agents, consultants, operatives and contractors, 854,000 — Between you and I, the average salary has got to be close to $100,000 for each of these. They have to prove that they’re working. I can talk about the FBI that there are things called “work performance evaluations. And every so often there’s a periodic evaluation where you actually have to show your statistics and these are things like subpoenas served and arrests and convictions. And the emphasis is on “terrorism” because that’s the priority right now. So there’s a strong pressure to categorize many, many things as “terrorism.” And you’ve got to show that you’re doing something. In fact, some of those abuses that the IG were basically a slow work day. So they have to actually keep busy and they have to do things. So you’re going to this create systemic pressure toward opportunistic opening of cases, infiltrating, and even prosecuting.

It’s also quantity of massive data collection over quality, which actually is counterproductive. From the standpoint of law enforcement, what good does it do to collect all of this irrelevant data? All it’s doing is making it hard to focus in on any true terrorist threats.

She highlights how FBI wasting resources on infiltrating antiwar groups just might be why terrorists like Abdulmutallab, Shahzad and Hasan slipped past the FBI. If the FBI wasn’t sending people to infiltrate organizations like the Thomas Merton Center or protecting corporate profits by infiltrating and working to disrupt or stall environmental groups, they would have more of an ability to actually prevent terror attacks.

Following the action, activists traveled thirty miles south to Quantico Brig to support Manning. Udry reported activists were not allowed to hold protest on base property and were asked to hold the protest in a commuter parking lot across a street that led to the gate of the base. About seventy or more began the protest there, but, ultimately, those in this lot decided they had come all this way to deliver a box of humanitarian aid containing blankets, books, candy, etc to Manning and were going to deliver the aid.

Activists marched with banners and signs saying, “Free Bradley Manning,” to the gate of the base and were able to hold the rally there. Udry explained that marine personnel were very respectful and easy to work with. The activists had been told to not protest in this area, but, except for some marines going in and out, who were yelling nasty remarks, the marines operating the gate were “pretty cool about it for marines.”

The marines at the base would not accept the humanitarian aid.


From the action at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on MLK Day. by Bill Hughes

Member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, Kevin Zeese, was one of the leaders of the march to gate of the base. He wrote in an article published on OpEdNews, “On Martin Luther King Day I joined 200 people at the Quantico Marine Base where Bradley Manning, an American citizen not convicted of anything, is being held in solitary confinement, not allowed to exercise in his 6 by 12 foot cell, not given a real pillow or blanket, with no contact with others except guards who make sure he does not sleep during the day after they wake him up at 5 in the morning.”

His treatment is what led Manning’s lawyer, David E. Coombs, to file a formal complaint alleging “the action of holding PFC Manning in Maximum (MAX) custody, under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch for over five months and recently placing him under suicide risk was an abuse of CWO4 James Averhart’s discretion, and a wrong within the meaning of Article 138, UCMJ.” It’s what led former commander of Headquarters Company at Quantico, David C. MacMichael, to object to the treatment of Bradley Manning.

In the letter, MacMichael wrote, “I wonder, in the first place, why an Army enlisted man is being held in a Marine Corps installation. Second, I question the length of confinement prior to conduct of court-martial. The sixth amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing to the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial, extends to those being prosecuted in the military justice system. Third, I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement–solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc.–are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, US or international.”

On Manning and WikiLeaks, Rowley says, being a whistleblower herself, she is sympathetic to the need for releasing information when there is a case of illegal action on the part of the government. If, in fact, Manning leaked materials to WikiLeaks, she believes he did disclose evidence of war crimes so his action would be justified.

Rowley agrees the U.S. military code might provide cover for what Manning did. In the federal government, the government ethics code urges employees to disclose evidence of misconduct or wrongdoing.

Manning was caught “in a rock and a hard place.” The My Lai massacre was very similar. People know they are not supposed to be complicit with a crime but, on the other hand, if crimes are reported, those reporting the crimes will be held responsible. Rowley contends that if photos from Abu Ghraib had not gotten out and members of the military there had just complained to superiors of torture procedures would not have changed. Public disclosure forced the military to refine its operations.

As with FBI activists who are being forced to go before a grand jury in Chicago, a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, has been considering how to pursue criminal charges in the WikiLeaks case. Julian Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, told Al-Jazeera’s David Frost in December of 2010 that they had heard from Swedish authorities that a “secret empaneled grand jury” is investigating how to move forward. Attorneys and lawyers have been developing scenarios for justifying the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S. from Sweden if Sweden successfully forces Britain to turn him over to Swedish authorities.

The top-down repression of people taking individual action against what they perceive as crimes–the activists being subjected to a witch-hunt by the FBI for mobilizing against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for sending individuals to form relationships with people in Palestine and Colombia, and the detention of Bradley Manning and the entrapment of Julian Assange in a seemingly endless cobweb of legal proceedings–can have the broad-based effect of discouraging independent action. But, people need not be discouraged from marching in the streets. They need not be discouraged from organizing lawful antiwar rallies or marches or trips to other countries or afraid of following their conscience when they witness criminal misconduct.

Activists who are exercising their rights are being subjected to a post-9/11 form of McCarthyism. Bradley Manning is being held as a “maximum security detainee.” The government is abusing its power and the only check on this power, especially when political leaders in democracy fail to object, are we the people, standing up to support the right for truth to win out and the rights of all people to be upheld no matter what people think about government and society.

Jane Hamsher is No “Ratfucker” (And She Shouldn’t Be Required to Show Progressive Credentials Either) – with Updates

6:55 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Photo by JD Lasica

(Update below – Update 1 – Update 2 – Update 3)

Matt Osborne of Osborne Ink, a blog that is part of the Banter Wire media group, has taken it upon himself to decide whether Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake, deserves to enjoy the status she enjoys in progressive circles or not. In a recent post, he calls her a “ratfucker” and says there is nothing “‘left’ left of Hamsher.” A case could be made for ignoring the content of his post entirely, but I do not wish to let Osborne turn Hamsher into some sort of pariah.

Osborne writes, “She is first and foremost a self-aggrandizing publicity whore whose Accountability Now PAC has so far given $0 to progressive candidates in the first two years of its existence while spending $285,272.” (In an update, Osborne corrected what he said and mentioned Ryan Bucchianeri, who lost badly to an “establishment” Democrat, received money from the PAC.)

Left out of this diatribe was the fact that Accountability Now PAC was supported by MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Daily Kos, ColorofChange.org, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats, and BlogPAC. These are major liberal entities, which are responsible for the majority of Democratic Party activism. Without them, there would be even less people out there working to counteract Tea Party forces, which have successfully pulled President Obama’s agenda to the right.

Also, as Glenn Greenwald has noted, Accountability Now PAC never intended to donate to progressive candidates. He debunked criticisms with this response posted on Balloon Juice. But, those who thought something was fishy with Accountability Now PAC chose to focus on cosmetic problems with the response instead of the substance of the response (e.g. they preferred to call Greenwald a “dick” for treating readers of Balloon Juice and other blogs like it as “Obama cultists” who get angry when one criticizes “dear leader”).

Osborne calls out Hamsher for appearing on Fox News after calling for a boycott of the network. He doesn’t bother to mention why she made the appearance or what she said on the air.

“In 2000, the Republicans passed Medicare Part D, and it had no negotiation for prescription drug prices.  And then in 2006, when the Democrats took over Congress, the first thing they did was say “hey, we’re going to roll that back, we’re going to allow for [negotiation of] prescription drug prices to be passed.  But now that they actually have the chance, they’re not doing it.  And you’ve got people like Jeff Sessions on the floor of the Senate saying this is criminal, this deal is criminal, but he didn’t vote for it in 2000 or 2006 when he had the chance.  So we’re sort of looking at a situation where people on the right, people on the left, are looking at the Senate, and they’re saying “nobody’s there representing us.  Nobody’s representing the people.”  It’s just a matter of who’s in power and who’s taking PhRMA’s money.”

He constructs a false binary by suggesting that Hamsher cannot be against Democrats appearing on Fox News (which she has called a “partisan opinion factory”) and also go on Fox News to give opinions. But, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. There is no benefit to Democrats appearing on Fox News, as they are a GOP operation whose sole aim is to inundate the public with right wing propaganda that will make it impossible for Democrats to win elections. There is, however, a benefit to someone who has a message for a right wing audience and believes people from the left and right should unite and oppose reform packages that are essentially giveaways to corporations.

He goes after Hamsher for using a web ad company that took money from BP. Fair enough, but this seemed to be something that happened because BP purchased ads as part of their greenwashing campaign. BP effectively tried to intimidate ThinkProgress, Crooks and Liars, AmericaBlog, Eschaton and other liberal blogs relying on ad revenue from Common Sense Media. It threatened to pull ads if they were found to be appearing near posts that were “offensive” or critical of BP. Pulling the ad, of course, would mean loss of ad revenue, which is often the life’s blood for blogs. Those familiar with Firedoglake know they had a BP Oil Disaster campaign that was funded by donations. It is likely that they took a minimal amount of money if any.

It is unclear whether BP ever pulled its ads from Firedoglake because they were appearing near posts criticizing BP. But, Osborne doesn’t ask if this ever happened. His commitment to taking down Hamsher supersedes critical thinking. He just jumps to conclusions without reading between the lines.

Osborne criticizes Hamsher for making common cause with Break the Matrix, which represented the Ron Paul campaign, and singles it out because it promoted a “libertarianism that spawned the Tea Party.” Why did Hamsher do such a thing? She was concerned about the issue of telecom immunity and, as part of the “Strange Bedfellows” campaign, she joined forces with Rick Williams and Trevor Lyman, and civil liberties writer Glenn Greenwald of Salon, and leading liberal bloggers including, Jane Hamsher of firedoglake, Matt Stoller of Open Left, John Amato of Crooks and Liars, Howie Klein of Down with Tyranny, Digby, Josh Nelson of The Seminal and activist Josh Koster to pressure Congress into following the Constitution and ending their complicity toward telecoms, which engaged in warrantless wiretapping under the Bush Administration. And, he criticizes Hamsher for making common cause with Grover Norquist in a campaign for Rahm Emanuel’s resignation for his role in the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Criticism of this nature toward Hamsher is purist and sanctimonious. It appears activists are not to make common cause with people they often disagree with when their views are in sync with one another. It seems forming a broad-based coalition that might frighten those in power because they aren’t facing opposition from the left or right but from the entire American population is to be frowned upon. Bipartisanship between activists is not okay, but the American people should swallow bipartisan health reform bills that force people to buy a defective product from private insurance companies and bipartisan tax cut compromises that raise taxes on those at the bottom while cutting taxes for the top 2%.

Jane Hamsher is to be celebrated for her work as a progressive. She fervently fought for the public option and spoke out when it was clear that President Obama was working behind the scenes with pharmaceutical and private insurance company interests to prevent progressive measures for health reform from making it into the health reform legislation. Through Firedoglake, she has helped produce coverage of the push for new free trade agreements like the Korean Free Trade Agreement, TSA’s invasive security procedures, foreclosure fraud, the Prop 8 Trial, and the BP Oil Disaster. She has contributed to campaigns for the legalization of marijuana and student loan reform. FDL’s weekly Book Salons are invaluable.  And, she was No. 15 on The Nation magazine’s “30 Media Heroes” list.

Hamsher has been an adamant supporter of primary challenge campaigns—finding candidates to run against Democratic incumbents. Her work contributed to Ned Lamont’s victory over Joe Lieberman (and Lamont might have defeated Sen. Lieberman if it weren’t for the fact that then-Senator Obama and “Third Way” forces gave money to Sen. Lieberman to help him defeat Lamont).

Osborne and his readers on Osborne Ink hate the fact that Hamsher pushes candidates to tug the party in a direction that is less corporate and less authoritarian. He and others would like Hamsher and her “firebaggers” to just settle for incremental reform and spend time focusing on the minimal differences between Republicans and Democrats so that Democrats can win elections. He does not want primary challenges to be mounted because they are divisive. (Of course, campaigns against slavery and for women’s rights, workers’ rights and LGBT equality were or have, in the history of America, been divisive. Unity is not going to solve the problems this country faces especially if it means making common cause with interests that are creating the systemic problems this country faces.)

It would be easy to end this lengthy response to Osborne with name-calling. Instead of doing that, I would like to attempt to ignite constructive conversation because I think Osborne’s post demonstrates there are divisions those on the left of the political spectrum must confront. So, in conclusion, Osborne and Osborne’s readers, please answer, if you can:

1)   Why are you and those who follow your blog so repulsed by criticism of Obama, criticism that can often be substantiated with facts or reason?

2)   What do you think Democrats should stand for and, if they fail to stand for those agenda items, values or principles should there be consequences?

3)   How should Democrats counteract the Tea Party? If liberals or progressives shouldn’t pull the Democrats in the opposite direction through primary challenges or third party candidates, what should be done to halt the influence of the Tea Party on the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration?

4)   What about the prospect of making common cause with those whom liberals are often opposed to in single-issue campaigns? What’s wrong with that?

5)   What do you think the liberal or progressive blogosphere’s value is to Americans? Is it supposed to be an arena that produces reporting on subjects? Is it to combat the failure of corporate media? Or is it supposed to be an environment that upholds glib and snarky posts and rarely produces reporting or interviews, which might inform and provide insight on key issues?

Update 1

I normally would not have responded to Osborne. I would have let him do his thing. But, I just finished “The Death of the Liberal Class” by Chris Hedges. The liberal establishment likes to marginalize people who should matter. That is what Osborne’s goal seemed to be with his post on Hamsher. And, I think we need to take on people who try to marginalize fighters we need in the struggle, no matter how irrelevant we think they are (and I think Osborne has enough credibility on his blog to justify responding to him).

Blogs that toe the Democratic Party line and like to stay in the “veal pen” can amplify and create an echo that devastates a person. They can display more interest in “practical aims” and “material advantages” (as Hedges writes) and utterly disregard “unpleasant truths and morality.” They can help those at the top purge liberal institutions of individuals who “challenge the orthodoxy of belief, who question reigning political passions.” They can banish people who refuse to “be practical” and bow down to presidential administrations that engage in “hippie-punching.”

Character assassinations of people who are valuable to advancing social justice should always be challenged. For example, I believe it is and always will be necessary to respond to Democrats who claim Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election with facts and reason; that’s because that version of history is not true. It’s a myth, which happens to be damaging to organizing against corporations and the two-party system in America because it forces liberals to ignore Nader’s history and success as a consumer advocate.

Update 2

Matt Osborne has put up a response to my defense of Jane Hamsher.

Update 3

I’m doing this to promote discussion and debate, which I think FDL is for. Bob Kincaid, West Virginia environmental activist and founder of the Head On Radio Network, responded to my defense of Jane Hamsher and what I call progressive politics, which operate independently and with little regard for the Democratic Party.

1) Why are you and those who follow your blog so repulsed by criticism of Obama, criticism that can often be substantiated with facts or reason?

You missed me with your broad brush. You make unfounded assumptions in your apologium. I am a frequent and vociferous critic of Obama. What I am NOT, however, is a member of the “I-Want-A-Pony” crowd. I am politically savvy enough to recognize that most politics move glacially and not fluidly. The stridency of mercenaries like Hamsher simply rings hollow with me. She sets up unaccomplishable goals and then cogratulates herself when she gets nothing done.

Your first question fails by assuming facts not in evidence.

2) What do you think Democrats should stand for and, if they fail to stand for those agenda items, values or principles should there be consequences?

In the real world, Democrats will stand for what their constituents want, i.e. an Alabama Democrat is a very different critter from a New York Democrat. You might recall, for instance, that some “liberal” Republicans helped carry the day when southern dems defected during the Civil Rights struggle. The overlay of corporate $$$ cannot be overlooked, but that’s a function of our campaign culture, and a separate issue.

To expand, however, let me suggest that politicians don’t change cultures. Cultures change politicians. As such, if you want to make people less blue-doggy, you have to change the minds of the electorate. I see little of that coming from the FireBaggers. More heat than light, as it were.

Me, I’d like for Democrats to uniformly stand for the things I stand for: human rights, as they encompass every aspect of any given “liberal” issue.

3) How should Democrats counteract the Tea Party? If liberals or progressives shouldn’t pull the Democrats in the opposite direction through primary challenges or third party candidates, what should be done to halt the influence of the Tea Party on the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration?

Generally speaking, I am a proponent of primary challenges in legislative races, but not for incumbent presidents. History is on my side in this. The fractiousness of 1968 gave us Nixon; Reagan’s challenge of Ford in ’76 gave us (mercifully) Carter; Kennedy’s challenge of Carter in ’80 gave us Raygun. While not an incumbent, the challenge of Gore by Bradley and Nader certainly helped us get DimSon. There is no empirical data to to suggest that the same would not be the case with a primary challenge to Obama. Perhaps that’s why none other than Howard Dean inveighed against such a short-sighted strategy.

Moreover, one does not help a victim of bullying to stop being bullied by calling in more bullies. That’s what I see Jane and her ilk doing.

Interestingly, Jane’s PAC, while raising significant funds, hasn’t evinced much interest in furthering the goals of those progressive primary challengers.

4) What about the prospect of making common cause with those whom liberals are often opposed to in single-issue campaigns? What’s wrong with that?

The “Strange Bedfellows” defense. I suppose it COULD be a defense if one’s ulikely ally was a negotiator in good faith. If not, it’s merely a self-inflicted mugging. There is NO evidence that TeaBaggers, or Republicans, generally, operate in good faith. Oddly enough, this is a lesson that both the FireBaggers AND Obama need to learn. Assuming neither will, I expect a politically horrifying right-wing pincer movement that will be a veritable Carrhae.

Ultimately, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Ron Paul and his son are both racists of some stripe, as are the majority of the TeaBaggers. One cannot make common cause with them without eing tainted in one’s own right, and that won’t play well with a lot of Obama’s base, regardless of skin tone.

5) What do you think the liberal or progressive blogosphere’s value is to Americans? Is it supposed to be an arena that produces reporting on subjects? Is it to combat the failure of corporate media? Or is it supposed to be an environment that upholds glib and snarky posts and rarely produces reporting or interviews, which might inform and provide insight on key issues?

It seems you have suggested your answer in the false choices you have presented.

Still, in good faith, I’ll suggest that my view of the largely borderless “liberal or progressive blogosphere” is that it should nurture and produce the talent with which to eventually supplant the ForProfitMedia. By supplant, I do not intend a simple overlay, with one group of gatekeepers replaced by another set. That is what I see as Jane’s goal. Here in the South, we’d say she “wants to get her back trotters in the trough along with her fronts.”