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Update on Bradley Manning from His Lawyer

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: Abode of Chaos)

A couple days ago I did a post on the support contingents for Bradley Manning, the accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks, which participated in the LGBT pride parades that took place in the United States during the weekend. I was asked how Manning was doing but had no update. Now, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs has posted an update on Manning.

From his blog:

It has been a little over two months since PFC Manning was moved from Quantico to the Joint Regional Corrections Facility (JRCF) at Fort Leavenworth.  Since being moved to the JRCF, PFC Manning’s overall mood and demeanor has greatly improved.  PFC Manning is able to maintain regular contact with his defense team.  He receives weekly written updates, phone calls and visits from defense counsel.  In addition, he receives regular visits from family.  Finally, PFC Manning also receives hundreds of letters from supporters every week.  He wishes to extend his sincere appreciation to those who have taken the time to send along their thoughts and well-wishes.

The Bradley Manning Support Network adds, “Let’s keep Bradley’s mood up as he approaches a pre-trial hearing this summer by continuing to send him letters of support. Mr. Coombs’ blog has more information regarding the rules around mail and Bradley’s address.”

*

Additionally, here are a few items worth noting:

-London Pride on July 2nd – Bradley Manning supporters will be out marching.

-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks on Manning from a recent Vanity Fair feature story: Logan Price draws attention to her remarks in a post here at myFDL. (His post is also published on the Bradley Manning Support Network website.)

Clinton said:

“Hillary told staff that she could not fathom how an army private, Bradley Manning, with psychological problems and a drag-queen boyfriend could single-handedly cause the United States unprecedented embarrassment just by labeling massive downloads as Lady Gaga songs.”

Crabby Go Lightly takes down this idea that Manning has “psychological problems.”

For the most part, the American LGBT community has been silent on Manning’s case while LGBT communities throughout the world have taken an interest in his case. It’d be great if these inflammatory comments led more LGBT people to take interest and come to his defense. That’s not because they have an obligation since Manning is gay but because Manning has kind of become this example for the military that can be used to argue gay people shouldn’t be allowed in the military. Plus…

-Lt. Choi Continues to Speak Out for ManningHowever, as this collection of tweets shows, he has been taking flack for it.

Supporters of Bradley Manning have really appreciated the fact that Choi is now an outspoken ally of Manning, who is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

In recent days, he’s said things like, “Bradley Manning is not a hero because he is gay. He is a hero because he rejected war crimes” and “If treason is the exposure of truth to end an unjust war, I could only hope to be such a ‘traitor.’” He’s also debunked the myth that “WikiLeaks did not endanger our troops; cultural illiteracy, false pretenses and war crimes did. They still do.”

Choi has done what people should do on and offline: challenge people on Manning.

There are numerous misconceptions. For example, @ThatGirlRuns tweets, “You might have noticed that nothing has been achieved by his dumb actions. We already knew the war was unjust,” and, “There is no way Manning knew every detail of what was in the documents he leaked.”

First of all, he is alleged to have released information to WikiLeaks. He has not been convicted yet (except in the court of public opinion by Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama).

If Manning did release the information, he helped contribute to the toppling of a dictatorship in Tunisia. Tweeting one’s penis is a “dumb action.” Releasing information that can liberate a country? Is that really dumb?

And, it wasn’t Manning’s duty as a whistleblower to filter the information and decide what to release. That was the job of the media organizations and possibly WikiLeaks. Contrary to the widespread myth, a document dump did not occur. The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel all collaborated and released stories on cables they wanted to cover. Since the beginning of “Cablegate,” WikiLeaks has been using media organizations as filters to provide context and get the maximum impact out of the information contained in the US State Embassy cables. (Plus, if you believe what Manning allegedly said in his now infamous chat with hacker Adrian Lamo, who ultimately turned him into authorities, he likely read more cables than many think he did if he leaked the information to WikiLeaks.

Why make such a fuss about all this? The cumulation of all this misunderstanding and nonsense on Manning has an effect. We who are interested and care should read up on what really happened. We should confront people in public and online who don’t really know what happened. And, we should put into context the war on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning and show Americans what the cost of not standing up for Manning or WikiLeaks might be.

A number of people may have made up their mind that he is a traitor. However, many Americans don’t know the case of Manning all that well and reflexively parrot what they’ve heard on the news or in a PBS or CNN special. We can connect with them and perhaps shift their understanding.

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.”