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Quantico Brig Staff Mostly Ignored Recommendations Medical Staff Made on Bradley Manning

3:33 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A Freedom of Information Act request for documents on accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks Pfc. Bradley Manning’s treatment at Quantico Marine brig, filed by POLITICO, reveals on multiple occasions Manning was recommended for removal from “prevention of injury” (POI) status by psychiatrists and psychologists but was not removed.

Chief Warrant Officer-5 Abel Galaviz’s inquiry, launched as a result of Manning’s Article 138 complaint found “brig personnel ignored the Navy Corrections Manual when they kept Manning on suicide watch in August 2010 and January 2011 for several days after doctors said it was inappropriate. (Article 138 is a right soldiers have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that any soldier can use to request redress if a soldier believes his or herself has been wronged.)

Galaviz also found, in regards to suicide risk status that “on two occasions, 6 August 2010 and 18 January 2011, a medical officer determined that suicide risk status was no longer warranted and the brig staff did not immediately take PFC Manning off the suicide risk status.” He recommended, “Brig staff remove confinees from suicide risk immediately upon receiving a medical officer’s evaluation.”

The February inquiry conducted in February, however, found that “Chief Warrant Officer 4 Averhart did not abuse his discretion when he classified PFC Manning as a maximum custody detainee.”

Col. Daniel Choike issued a memo in March in response to the inquiry findings. As Josh Gerstein notes he “embraced” much of the inquiry findings but rejected the “only critique of Manning’s treatment.

“There is no requirement … that requires an immediate removal from suicide risk after the [brig’s] mental health care provider or medical officer recommends it,” Choike wrote to Manning. The delays in removing Manning from suicide watch were “reasonable in light of all the information available to the [brig] commander and applicable … procedures,” Choike concluded. “I do not concur with [Galaviz] that an ‘immediate move’ is required.”

“The memos revealed today by POLITICO confirm that military officials repeatedly violated their own standards of detainee treatment while PFC Manning was held in abusive pre-trial confinement conditions at the Quantico brig. Commander Averhart should never have been put in a position to reject the military’s investigation into his own unprofessional conduct,” said Kevin Zeese, an attorney with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Justice demands that the charges against PFC Manning be dropped, because the government has acknowledged that they have abused the rights of a soldier in their custody.”

Co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network said, “President Obama can no longer hide behind his subordinates in claiming that the treatment of PFC Manning has met ‘basic standards’ of conduct. Clearly, by the government’s own admission, the treatment of PFC Manning has fallen far short of the standards demanded by the Constitution.”

(photo: Jail cell depicted in Anonymous video message on Manning’s Quantico detention)

Choike’s memo shows an adept ability to play the game of semantics. Choike explains how Manning was not held in solitary confinement:

Maximum custody detainees are held in a specific area in the MCBQ PCF. Because the MCBQ PCF is a pretrial confinement-only facility with limited staff, all detainees are held in single cells within a 30-cell block known as “Special Quarters 1.” This cell block is further broken down into specific areas depending on custody classification or other reasons requiring segregation. Maximum custody detainees are held in cells nearest the guard post to facilitate observation. Additionally, prisoners not classified as maximum custody, but requiring additional supervision and attention may also be moved to cells near the guard post. PFC Manning is being held in Special Quarters 1 with all other detainees; he is not in solitary confinement (MCBQ PCF does not have solitary confinement and reference (b) does not recognize a solitary confinement category.) Consistent with his custody classification, PFC Manning is held in the area in Special Quarters 1 reserved for maximum custody detainees.

Manning may not have been held in what the military considers to be “solitary confinement,” but when he was at Quantico Marine Brig from July 2010 to April  of this year, he was, during his time given a POI status and suicide risk classification, which meant he was required to remain in his cell 24 hours of the day. It required his clothing to be removed except for his underwear and that his prescription eyeglasses be taken away from him. And, this is how his lawyer David Coombs described his detention in January of this year:

For 23 hours per day, he will sit in his cell. The guards will check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning will be required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay. He will receive each of his meals in his cell. He will not be allowed to have a pillow or sheets. He will not be allowed to have any personal items in his cell. He will only be allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read. The book or magazine will be taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep. He will be prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop. He will receive one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily. The guards will take him to an empty room and allow him to walk. He will usually just walk in figure eights around the room until his hour is complete. When he goes to sleep, he will be required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.

The military may not think they were subjecting Manning to solitary confinement or that other soldiers in the brig are subjected to solitary confinement because that is not what they call it or because they specifically have not built a solitary confinement section, but the reality is that Manning (and others) in the prison are held in single cells with little to no contact for 23 hours of the day.

David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network and one of the few people who visited Manning when he was at Quantico, spoke out multiple times, while Manning was held at Quantico. He recently said in an appearance on Democracy Now! this week:

…As time progressed, around December 2010, he had deteriorated to a state where it was very hard to have a conversation with him, where he seemed utterly exhausted, fatigued all the time. And then January 2011 was the point at which he was the worst. It was almost impossible to really talk to him at all, and he looked—he looked like someone who had been held in solitary confinement for some months, you can imagine. It was this odd emotional roller coaster for me, because not only is this my friend, right, who’s being held in confinement, but also you’re actually watching him undergo this deterioration over time, like watching your friend waste away. And I think that seeing him like that and seeing this being an ongoing process was my main motivation in continuing activism for him, going into early this year.

Additionally, this is Choike’s description of how prisoners are given custody statuses:

Custody classification is guided by reference (b) and requires an objective custody classification process. Classification criteria relevant to this case include the seriousness of the offense/potential length of confinement. [REDACTED] Reference (b) makes it clear that the listed factors are not all inclusive and the classification authority may consider other relevant factors in determining the proper custody classification. He was also on suicide risk. These other relevant factors included national security concerns and protection of classified material. [emphasis added]

The commander notes he was facing “serious charges alleging multiple compromises of classified information.” After a redacted portion of text, he says an evaluation of charges and other factors supported a maximum custody classification. It’s noted that serious charges were pending. Yet, Choike also claims that the maximum custody status or suicide risk classifications were not retribution or punishment for his alleged crimes.

This seems semantic too. How could someone alleged to have released classified information to an organization like WikiLeaks need such classification? That doesn’t appear to suggest danger. It seems entirely unnecessary for that to be material to his classification and, when one thinks about it, the classifications seem like a public relations decision. There are people in this country in positions of power that would not have liked it if in his first months in the brig he had not been given these designations.

How does one signal to members of the military not to release information to WikiLeaks or any organization like it? How does one ensure that soldiers do not talk to the press or release photos, videos or documents on their deployment in war zones? Give someone who is accused of releasing information a classification status that is questionable and subject him to a detention regime that could put the fear in soldiers and deter them from taking a similar action.

The released documents contain multiple redactions that are made under FOIA exemption (b)6, which means “Personal Information Affecting an Individual’s Privacy.” As the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer details, “This exemption permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in ‘personnel and medical files and similar files’ when the disclosure of such information ‘would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’ This exemption cannot be invoked to withhold from a requester information pertaining to the requester.”

Former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley is right. The Marine Corps should have never had custody of Manning. He should have always been in the hands of the Army. Perhaps, what Manning’s defense should work to obtain is a full inquiry on why he was transferred into Marine custody and not Army custody.

That Manning is now at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas is just another reason to be suspicious of how he was handled at Quantico. That he is now able to move among prisoners in Leavenworth, wear normal prison clothing and have access to a communal area means should lead one to continue doubt the Marine brig’s assertion that he was treated like all the other prisoners. The fact that he was such a high-profile prisoner makes it virtually impossible that the guards and staff treated him like all other prisoners.

*

This week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has condemned the US for seeking to impose restrictions on a planned visit with Manning and even prevent him from meeting with Manning. Thus far, he has not met with Manning and now questions whether the US will allow him to visit any of the country’s detainees.

Wired magazine has also finally released what they claim to be the entire chat logs, which they sat on and concealed months after Manning was arrested even though the contents were extremely pertinent to understanding what Manning was thinking when he allegedly chose to release material to WikiLeaks.

With those two news items in mind, along with revelations from this psych evaluation, I give Lt. Dan Choi the last word:

…The chat logs of his conversations are reminiscent of some of the same feelings that go unvoiced by the vast majority of soldiers: questioning the purpose of our mission when politics has mired us in prisons of moral turpitude. That Bradley voiced his concerns proves he was the least unstable and most moral of all the members of his team. That he happens to be gay or transgender gives our community a new hero who brings great credit to the moral force of our people in this world….

…Bradley Manning is a soldier of great honor and we must stand with him in his journey to bring an abiding justice for our world. Those who fear the controversy of truth do not know the responsibility of moral living. Their moral silence is a moral disorder…

 

Sen. John McCain Renews Push for Senate Committee to Halt WikiLeaks’ Undermining of America

11:05 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

On Wednesday, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona renewed his push for the creation of a temporary Senate committee to investigate WikiLeaks and the hacktivist group Anonymous that would be called the Committee on Cyber Security and Electronic Intelligence Leaks.

In a letter to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, he urges the creation of a committee to get around the issue of “competing committees of jurisdiction.” (Essentially, establishing the committee means no discussion over who has the right to develop legislation to take down WikiLeaks or Anonymous once and for all. Every senator will have an opportunity for glory now, however, only a few will be chosen.)

McCain opens by suggesting a committee must be developed to address “the continuing risk of insider threats that caused thousands of documents to be posted on the website WikiLeaks.”  The alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning may have been on the inside, however, as far as one can tell, he does not fit the classic definition of an insider. His story is different from Aldrich Ames, an insider who did commit real espionage against the United States, at all. Manning did not do what he is alleged to have done for money. He did not allegedly give secrets to another country like Russia, China or Iran but WikiLeaks.

The White House and several committees in Congress have been deliberating over the development of national cybersecurity proposals that can be implemented. As McCain notes, “The White House put forward a legislative proposal in May and the Department of Energy put forth requirements and responsibilities for a cyber security program that same month.  Earlier this month, the Department of Commerce sought comment on its proposal to establish voluntary codes of behavior to improve cyber security and the Department of Defense issued its strategy for operating in cyberspace.”

McCain argues the development of cybersecurity policy and legislation would benefit from using a model recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report for the organization of a committee that a small group of members could be a part of to conduct oversight of the intelligence establishment. He says it would help the creation of “adequate safeguards to detect and defeat any insider threat of disclosure of classified documents such as we experienced with the Wikileaks fiasco that endangered the security of many of our nation’s diplomats and soldiers serving abroad.”

That diplomats or soldiers serving abroad have been endangered is phony and speculative in the same way that former Vice President Dick Cheney or Karl Rove’s suggestion voting John Kerry in 2004 could’ve meant US had another 9/11 was phony and speculative.

There is significant doubt as to whether soldiers or diplomats have been harmed.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on October 17, 2010 “the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure.” A senior NATO official on that same day said, “There has not been a single case of Afghans needing protection.” The Associated Press has reported, “There is no evidence that any Afghans named in the leaked documents as defectors or informants from the Taliban insurgency have been harmed in retaliation.” And Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said on August 11, 2010, “We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents.”

There is no concrete conclusion that people have suffered or died as a result of the releases.

McCain closes his letter saying:

Just this month former CIA Chief and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and said, “The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber attack …”  We must act now and quickly develop and pass comprehensive legislation to protect our electric grid, air traffic control system, water supply, financial networks and defense systems and much more from a cyber attack.

When it comes to WikiLeaks, McCain has raised the issue of WikiLeaks in Senate Armed Services hearings. In a hearing to consider the nomination of General Martin E. Dempsey for appointment to chief of staff of the US Army in March, McCain said, “I’m very concerned about WikiLeaks. Almost daily, we see some additional revelation of the WikiLeaks situation. First of all, how did this happen? And second of all, who has been held responsible for this greatest disclosures, frankly, of classified information in the history of this country?”

During a hearing on defense budget requests for 2012 and future years, McCain asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “Mr. Chairman, just briefly, anything more on the WikiLeaks investigation?” Gates said:

Well, sir, after our last hearing, I went back and — and I had been told that I had to keep my hands off of it because of the criminal investigation, but I have been able to narrow an area of where I have asked the secretary of the army to investigate in terms of procedures and — and the command climate and — and so on that has nothing to do with the individual, the accused individual. But — but to see what lapses there were where somebody perhaps should be held accountable.

McCain considers the release of WikiLeaks cables to be “America’s worst security breach in the history of the country.” That’s quite reactionary when you consider the fact that, in 1942, in the aftermath of the Battle of Midway, the Chicago Tribune published a story strongly suggesting that the decisive American naval victory at Midway owed to the fact that the United States had been successfully reading Japanese codes.” No information has been revealed like that at all. Nothing has been published that could give any “enemies” information on the location of US troops, which could help them launch successful attacks.

In November 2010, McCain told the National Review, the WikiLeaks “scandal” will have consequences “far beyond the cables. ” He predicted it would have a “devastating and chilling effect on our ability to carry on relationships with foreign leaders, harming our ability to fight this war against radical Islamic extremism.”

Yes, it would have profound implications on Sen. McCain’s ability to meet Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and discuss terms of for providing US military aid again. It would limit the chances of him ever having another “interesting meeting with an interesting man” at his “ranch” in Libya. It would put limits on all leaders meeting with despots of the world, as there is now a trove of information to question the US’ diplomatic relationships with countries all over the world.

This committee would likely be building off of procedures that have already begun to be implemented to “create ‘insider threat’ programs to ferret out disgruntled workers who may leak state secrets.” It would likely reinforce plans among agencies to look for “behavioral changes” among employees with access to secret documents.

There is a federal grand jury based in Alexandria, Virginia, empanelled to investigate WikiLeaks for crimes of espionage that is currently issuing subpoenas to those the government thinks are connected to or have information on WikiLeaks. David House, Bradley Manning Support Network co-founder, has gone before the grand jury already and pled the fifth.

Would this committee be something that could complement the grand jury’s fishing expedition by developing law that can turn what was done into a crime that could lead to indictments?

The pursuit of mechanisms to clampdown on who the government presumes is responsible for the release of material to WikiLeaks and the increased regulation of access to secret documents within government agencies will not address the problem. It won’t because the problem is overclassification, something the Department of Defense, with a new rule to safeguard unclassified information, simply are making worse.

The government has told a court that there should be no such thing as “good leaks.” This virtually ensures that individuals, instead of going through proper channels to blow the whistle on government waste or criminal wrongdoing in government, will turn to organizations like WikiLeaks and create further problems for the government in the future.

The public is growing to understand that overclassification is rampant. Nick Davies of The Guardian illuminates the situation:

…If you look for example at the Afghan war logs what you see is a military which routinely classified every single instance in which they were involved as secret. Why should we respect that kind of mechanical routine classification. Just pull back and look at what’s going on here and ask yourself, is the attempt to prosecute Bradley Manning something to do with the judicious application of the law or a really rather vile piece of political persecution?…

If a committee is established, it won’t prevent future acts of whistleblowing by individuals and guarantee information doesn’t get released to WikiLeaks. A press that tolerates overclassification of information and only asks for selective leaking of materials on secret government operations every now and then, a press that does not ask more questions about the operations of power domestically and internationally will inevitably lead to, in this age of widespread corruption, individuals in government, who have not lost their conscience, finding a way to share the truth.

If a committee is established, it won’t ensure that the world never learns what is really going on behind closed doors in America again because the people of this country are living in a very broken democracy. Many of its citizens know government officials are outright lying when they stand before them and speak. They suspect government officials and whole entire agencies are serving powerful corporate and special interests instead of them. They know coverups of mass misconduct and criminal wrongdoing are being carried out. And so, information will continue to be released to WikiLeaks and there’s nothing Sen. John McCain or any senator can do to stop it so long as they defend the system that created the symptom that is the release of information to WikiLeaks.

Glenn Greenwald: Two Obama Policies That Expand the Assault on Civil Liberties [VIDEO]

4:30 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Throughout the past couple of days, I have been posting video of  Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald’s speech at the Socialism Conference held in Chicago, IL. last weekend. Instead of posting the speech in full, I have been posting the speech in segments to draw attention and encourage discussion on key aspects of Greenwald’s speech.

My post on Part 1 of the speech is here. My post on Part 2 of the speech is here. And now, here’s part 3.

Greenwald describes two areas where President Obama has embraced two policies that former President George W. Bush never employed. The first is asserting the right to target and assassinate US citizens.

…The Washington Post in January 2010 reported there were four Americans on Obama’s list of individuals, who he has declared without any due process to be terrorists, who the CIA is now not just permitted but instructed to hunt down and murder. One of who is Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born American citizen in Yemen who the US government hates because he speaks effectively to the Muslim world about the violence that the US commits in that part of the world and the responsibility of Muslims and the need of Muslims to stand up to this violence. The US hates him because this message is resonating and so the solution is not to charge him with crimes, because he’s not committing any crimes because you have the First Amendment right to say the things you say. It’s not even to detain him without process. They’re not bothering with that. They’re trying to kill him. They’ve shot cruise missiles and used drones at at least two occasions in the last year to try and kill this US citizen without due process, not on a battlefield but in his home, in his car, with his children, wherever they find him. And, this power is one that the Obama Administration has asserted for itself in a way that George Bush and Dick Cheney never did. [emphasis added]

As Maria Lahood pointed out on Democracy Now! in May, after the Obama Administration attempted to assassinate al-Awlaki but did not succeed, he has not been charged with anything.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU brought a case against the US government charging that al-Awlaki had a right to due process. They weren’t arguing that he could not be killed. They were arguing that if he is guilty of a crime he had the right under international law and the Constitution to be granted due process, a right that most in the American political class appear to have utter contempt for when it is granted to those suspected of engaging or promoting terrorism.

The case, brought on behalf of Al-Awlaki’s father but ultimately thrown out because the court found his father didn’t have the standing to seek relief for his son and the questions raised were “political.” The decision to label him a terrorist and decide to kill him overseas was determined to be not reviewable by a court of law.

The second area Greenwald outlines is the war on whistleblowing, which the Obama Administration is waging, which he argues is important ”because if you combine the extraordinary secrecy powers of the US government…with the unbelievable subservient establishment media that won’t disclose any facts or truths without getting permission from the US government,” you see that “whistleblowing is one of the very few avenues left that we even have to learn about what our government does.” And, according to Greenwald, that is why the US government sees whistleblowing as such a threat.

He talks about WikiLeaks in the context of this war on whistleblowing:

Not only is the Obama Administration trying to criminalize what WikiLeaks is doing; there’s a very aggressive grand jury in northern Virginia to try to turn what they’re doing into a crime, even though all it is is the core of investigative journalism—revealing the secrets of the world’s most powerful corporate and government factions. If that’s turned into a crime, then meaningful transparency and journalism are dead, but they’re also doing a whole other variety of things like trying to invade the social networking communications who anyone who is even suspected of supporting WikiLeaks. And they’ve even gone so far as to execute a policy of detaining anyone they suspect of being associated with WikiLeaks at airports when they try to reenter the country, American citizens. And they’ve not only detained them but they’ve seized their laptops and other electronic devices like thumb drives and the like, memory drives. And then they just seize them and copy their contents, sometimes don’t return them, sometimes return them after a couple months—All without any form of judicial oversight or search warrant. They literally go through and do it routinely. It’s a form of pure harassment. [emphasis added]

David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, and Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer, have faced this harassment. Not only have they been harassed at airports, but House has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Virginia and Appelbaum has had his Twitter user data subpoenaed. You can read more about the government’s repression of Appelbaum and House here.

Also, in the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, the government is arguing there is no such thing as “good leaks,” effectively laying the groundwork for criminalizing whistleblowing in most if not all instances.

Greenwald goes on to further contextualize these two policies the Obama Administration has adopted. And, he concludes after demonstrating the Administration’s utter disregard for the Constitution (call it the “audacity of hope”):

You really do wonder, if we allow these sorts of things, these kinds of breaches of basic constitutional freedom without much backlash or objection, what is it that we would object to? Or what would trigger real backlash? That I think is an important question to answer.

There have been small attempts to preserve American civil liberties. A number of people condemned the recent extensions of provisions of the PATRIOT Act. And, after Bush left office, a number of people pushed for accountability for Bush Administration officials, only to abandon their campaigns for justice because they did not think there was any realistic chance of holding officials accountable.

Many have accepted defeat. Some are just realizing that Obama has been continuing Bush policies that continue and expand attacks on civil liberties (see Part 1 of Greenwald’s speech). Either way, it should be considered stunning and abysmal that the public tolerates what the government is doing. But, unfortunately, those who are most capable of fighting tolerate the apathy or melancholiness of the public and do very little to challenge the Obama Administration.

Obama’s Latest Speech on Afghanistan: Bridging the Say/Do Gap to Finally End the War

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Those who read President Barack Obama’s speech will likely be reading to find hints of when the conflict might finally come to an end. Support for a pullout from Afghanistan is at an all-time high, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. But, there is little reason to put much stock in the fact that ten thousand troops will be leaving Afghanistan this summer. Withdrawing a number of troops around July of 2011 was always part of a plan, a way of deftly managing public opinion.

When Obama went ahead and added thirty thousand troops, he knew, as shown in Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars he had two years with the public. He understood the perils of escalating a war, as retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry,  retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute all offered a level of dissent against Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. And, Obama allegedly told Vice President Joe Biden in private to oppose a big troop buildup but could not stand up to military brass. In the end, though, he was able to set a withdrawal timetable of ending the war by 2014.

Like any speech on war by US presidents these days, it began by re-opening the wounds of 9/11, by forcing all Americans to recall the fear or pain they experienced that day. It transitioned into a history of how America had gotten to this point—why America invaded Afghanistan, how it got “sidetracked” in Iraq (sorry for  your luck Iraqis) and why America committed to a surge in Afghanistan about a year and a half ago. It proceeded to outline the plans and goals for the next stage of the mission and then concluded with pure, pathological American exceptionalist fallacies.

A key difference between this speech and the surge speech is during the speech there weren’t any US State Embassy cables or war logs from WikiLeaks to reference and call “bullshit” when something was said with an err of confidence that seemed preposterous. Fast forward to June 2011, with plenty of information on US diplomacy and US military operations in Afghanistan, there is ample reason to doubt the assertions President Obama makes in his speech.

When Obama announced the surge, he committed the US to refocusing on al Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan security forces to defend their own country. According to Obama, the US is meeting these goals or objectives and so the country will be able to “recover” the surge and be back around the level of troops that were in Afghanistan when President George W. Bush left office.

One week ago, Jonathan Owen for The Independent reported, “Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces.” Owen cited a US Department of Defense report on Afghanistan from February showing “out of more than 400 army and police units in Afghanistan” none are capable of operation without assistance from coalition forces. And, Owen also highlighted the fact that twenty-five billion US dollars have been used to train and equip Afghan forces thus far and Lieutenant-General William B. Caldwell does not think the “training mission” can be complete until 2017.

A cable from December 2009 titled, “Karzai Looks Forward,” features this exchange on the Afghan army and police:

Turning his attention to the Afghan National Army (ANA), Karzai announced that the ANA leadership should lead simpler, more spartan lives. He criticized widespread reports of ANA generals driving expensive cars and NDS reports that only no officers had died in battles with insurgents, only ANA soldiers died (the latter account was disputed by Minister of Defense Wardak). Reflecting on ANA recruitment, Karzai asked why so few Afghans from the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, and Farah enlist in the ANA. He bemoaned the fact that only drug users join the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Khandahar and Helmand Provinces. Upon hearing the latter, Minister of Interior Affairs Atmar interjected that a partially completed personnel asset inventory conducted in Khandahar and Helmand turned up the surprisingly good news that only 20 percent of ANP personnel were drug users. [emphasis added]

These days, what percentage of Afghan police are drug users or addicts? How is that impacting operations? More importantly, do private contractors like DynCorp leaders still “pimp little boys to stoned Afghan cops”?

A June 2009 cable shows the DynCorp leaders pimping Afghani children to the police. At bacha bazis or “boy-play” parties eight to fifteen-year-old boys are “made to put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women’s clothing.” The boys dance seductively to older men. Their “services” are auctioned and men will sometimes purchase them outright. And, the State Department understands that bacha bazis are a “widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape.”

Purchasing services from a child is illegal under Sharia law and the civil code in Afghanistan. The party mentioned in the cable led to the arrest of two Afghan National Police. Are “dancing boys” still a problem for law enforcement in the country?

What about this story from the cables on Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd saying the situation “scares the hell out of me”? Or the fact that he found France and Germany’s contribution to fighting the Taliban to be “organizing folk dancing festivals” and the comment from Australian Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Ric Smith that the mission was like a “wobbly three-legged stool”?

Obama’s speech singled out the Afghan national police, but what about the unconventional forces the United States has been using? A November 2009 cable indicates the Afghan government and local communities were using “unconventional security forces. These “local and private bodies” were proliferating because of the lack of “public confidence in the police.”

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar had a plan to use a “traditional militia concept.”

Locals who are loyal to the government and register their existing arms could serve as police auxiliaries, receiving food and even some pay from MOI in return for helping the police. Atmar’s longest-serving advisor, Habib Wayand, explained that the Minister prefers to encourage small groups linked to local shuras, rather than large militias that might bite back or prove loyal to commanders with their own agendas.

Exactly, how are these militias impacting operations now? And, also, a prime proposal from Atmar in February 2010 involved sending twelve to fifteen thousand police to train in Jordan at a facility constructed for training Iraqi police. There is little indication this proposal has been accepted by US forces tasked with training Afghanis to keep their country “secure.” Atmar also reported a “need to train 50,000 per year to meet expansion targets and offset attrition” but the maximum training capacity was around 30,000 trainees.

Less than 100 al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. It seems true that the goal of refocusing on al Qaeda has been achieved but why did US forces ever have to “refocus” on al Qaeda? Was there ever a point when they weren’t going after al Qaeda?

The Afghan War Logs released by WikiLeaks almost one year ago revealed the Pakistan spy service was meeting directly with Taliban for “secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.” To what extent do these operations persist?

The released war logs also showed the US military covered up “a reported surface-to-air missile strike by the Taliban that shot down a Chinook helicopter over Helmand in 2007 and killed seven soldiers, including a British military photographer.” There may be political leaders affiliated with the Taliban who are willing to talk, but how does the US intend to halt the fighters who are committed to fighting US forces?

The questions are not raised because this author supports the war effort and wishes to see it continue. Doubts are made evident because President Obama appears to be certain that it will all work out by 2014. It seems quite clear that this speech is part of a ploy to con Americans into believing the mission is ending and will end as the timetable being discussed suggests yet it appears it could take another half decade to train forces or further sort out a political solution. In the meantime, if the US is being consistent, wouldn’t forces have to remain to prevent a vacuum from forming?

Furthermore, the conclusion of Obama’s speech shows that what is at stake for America, as for any war, is its credibility and reputation. Obama, whose weapon of choice in governance is often compromise, lays out two choices, in the same way he laid out two choices when working to pass health reform. The are not necessarily the only two choices America has but they are two choices, which Obama averages to get a solution that will make possible a balancing act between the military and political establishment and the citizens of the United States.

He presents one of the choices as isolationism or retreat. This means no longer being an “anchor for global security,” letting despots and terrorists flood the earth and create anarchy. The other choice he presents is overextension, struggling to confront every evil that can be found in the world. (Absurdly, he does not hint at the reality that the US already tries to go after all evil or at least exploits this as a pretext for many, many operations.)

Upon establishing these poles, he plants a stake in at what he deems “the center.” The solution is not necessarily right or wrong but “pragmatic.” The answer is not to deploy large armies when targeted operations can be used. When innocents are being slaughtered, the US can rally international action (e.g. Libya). Somehow, the final stages of Afghanistan are part of this “centered course.”

The disenthralled approach obfuscates the past and recasts the future. US-assassination squads operating with “kill-and-capture lists,” the use of drones, intelligence agents awash in data they don’t know what to do with, and the killing of civilians going unreported, all revealed in the Afghanistan War Logs, can continue as tools so long as they are employed properly. Brutal night raids, which have led Afghanis in villages to fear US forces more than the Taliban, become legitimized. The brutality of war cast as “pragmatism” suggests what is unfolding is part of a measured approach and whether those who get bombed at weddings care about “pragmatism” versus “realism or “idealism,” that does not matter.

The most fraudulent part is the mythological portrayal of America that Obama presents:

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

The sophistry of these words dares one to ask whether engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition, invoking state secrets to prevent transparency, denying habeas corpus to detainees in prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist), holding detainees in detention indefinitely, asserting the right to target and kill US civilians bypass due process or employing military commissions—“kangaroo courts”—is what nations that adhere to the rule of law and respect the rights of people do.

The portrait of America presented and its underhandedness obscures how America has typically been at war with those in the country who engage in acts of self-determination, who dissent against power.

Search warrants, grand jury subpoenas, indictments, trials, spying, infiltration, entrapment, raids, and severe limits on demonstrations with bystanders, protesters and journalists all subject to arrest at demonstrations are all omitted. Obama cannot sell America as a model country for freedom if that paragraph contains hints at abuses of the state or Executive.

Thus, the next stage of the Afghanistan war, officially launched by this speech, is benign compared to the pathological rot in the military and political establishment, which conditions someone to be able to stand before a world and utter such misrepresentations.

Gareth Porter, investigative journalist, says this morning on Democracy Now!, “There is an effort here to create a narrative that as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding. When in fact, nothing of this sort is happening…Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That is not going to come to an end.” And, about 70,000 US military forces along with thousands of contractors would remain in the country after 2012.

Thanks to transparency, technology and the courage of whistleblowers, citizens in this country can begin to bridge the gap between what leaders say and do in such a way that has never been possible before in this country’s history. Information released by outlets like WikiLeaks can be used to confront speeches like this one head on and work to bridge the say/do gap. It’s relentlessly working to bridge this gap that will force leaders into a corner that will eventually lead to deception being exposed and the war coming to an end.

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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CNN’s ‘WikiWars’ Documentary Exploits Character of Julian Assange to Cast Doubt on WikiLeaks

9:58 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Closely following the character of Julian Assange, founder of the pro-transparency media organization WikiLeaks, the recently aired CNN documentary, “WikiWars,” provides a presentation of the story of the organization with a prime focus on Assange’s character. It is another opportunity, like PBS’ Frontline documentary “WikiSecrets,” for a wide audience in the United States to get a better grasp of the nature of the organization.

That, perhaps, is what makes discussing this documentary important. There is no new information in this documentary, but, packaged together, the documentary uses Assange as a vector for communicating the idiosyncrasies of WikiLeaks to an audience. Whether legitimately done or not, viewers are able to hear Assange in footage obtained by the producers and also hear a handful of people, who have worked with Assange, discuss what he is like.

The documentary can be broken into the following parts: an introduction into the behavior and motivations of Assange, the founding of WikiLeaks (which highlights the work that impacted Kenya and Iceland), the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, the release of the Afghan War Logs that involved collaborating with the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the accusations of sexual assault that now find him under house arrest in the UK and the rise of a secret global force of cyber hacktivists known as Anonymous that have launched DDoS attacks in defense of WikiLeaks.

Larsen frames the story in the opening scene like this:

Over twenty years ago the Berlin Wall came down and it marked the end of a cold war between two superpowers. Now, there’s a battle that’s being waged for control of information. Its frontlines aren’t brick and mortar walls, they’re firewalls. Its weapons are computers, not missiles. And its warriors—hackers, activists, even anarchists. It’s an epic struggle over state secrets between institutions and individuals. And at the center of this war is Julian Assange.

Centering the documentary on Assange has a way of reinforcing the notion that WikiLeaks is an autocratic organization that is all a project of Assange, who has little regard for his actions. The enigma of Assange is built up throughout the film. He is made to seem more like a fictional character in a spy movie instead of a human being whom has the ability to discern right from wrong and is committed to transparency because of his conscience belief in what the opening up of governments can do to correct injustices and corruption.

As Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former member of WikiLeaks who defected from the organization, says, Assange is smart and intelligent and doesn’t really care what anybody else thinks about him. He says Assange sees himself as a “hero of a spy novel” and believes he and everyone around him is being constantly tapped and followed (which journalist Mark Davis says later in the documentary is probably true).

The story sets viewers up to doubt the judgment of Assange’s handling of WikiLeaks releases. It asks those watching to consider whether he might be a maniac by showing interviews with journalists like David Leigh of The Guardian, who not only claims Assange has to have it explained to him there are “flesh and blood consequences” to leaking but also says at one point Assange “didn’t behave like earthlings.”

Fmr. Brig. Gen. Used to Discredit the “Collateral Murder” Video

The most disparaging criticism comes from former Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. Kimmitt, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs under George W. Bush from August 2008 to January 2009, is used as a tool to discredit the work of Assange and WikiLeaks. The producers employ his viewpoint to help viewers decide whether Assange and WikiLeaks are correct in their belief that the “Collateral Murder” video, which WikiLeaks released in April 2010, is in fact a war crime.

Here’s the full exchange between Kimmitt and Larsen, who go through some of the video together in the CNN Studios in Washington, DC (note: not once is it noted that Kimmitt served in the Bush Administration and might have a clear bias):

LARSEN: This clip is where they believe they identify an RPG. It turns out as we know now that was a long lens telephoto camera held by a Reuters journalist. You can see him as he peak’s around the corner there.

(voice over) The Reuters photographer, his assistant and the men around him were all gunned down.

KIMMITT: This photographer shouldn’t have been walking around with an instrument that looks very much like a weapon.

LARSEN: Is the blame on the photographer or is it a causal series of mistakes made by the crew there that led to the ultimate negative consequences?

KIMMITT: Warfare is not perfect. There are mistakes that are sometimes made. He shares much of the blame for what happened here.

LARSEN: I want to move to the van video. And what you see is the van that’s coming to help grab some of the wounded people on the ground. The Apache helicopter asks for permission to engage.

KIMMITT: Again, this is an active battlefield. That van could have other fighters inside of it with weapons. Those fighters could put soldiers at risk and kill other soldiers that they’re fighting.

ASSANGE: We can see in this video that the young pilots in the Apache helicopters have become debased in their charcacter. They are playing video games with real human lives and looking for excuses to kill people.

(voice over) LARSEN: It turned out there were children inside the van.

LARSEN: I have a decade in naval special warfare. You’re obviously thirty years in the army. Soldier to sailor, ground pounder to ground pounder, should these men have exercised more restraint?

KIMMITT: I don’t think so. What we have here from everything I’ve seen is that they followed the proper procedures.

LARSEN: If they did everything by the book, is there something wrong with the book?

KIMMITT: I don’t think so. The book doesn’t have every scenario. It doesn’t have every possible outcome.

Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber might agree with Kimmitt. Both are soldiers who were part of Bravo Company 2-16, the company of soldiers in the video. McCord and Stieber, however, did not accept that nothing morally reprehensible happened that day. They wrote an open letter of reconciliation and responsibility to all who were injured or lost during the shootings in the released video.

The Iraq War veterans wrote the “Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.”

Larsen could have easily contacted McCord and Stieber and had them talk about their opinion on the “Collateral Murder” video release. Since Larsen and others involved in the making of the film specifically wanted people who were active in the WikiLeaks story, McCord and Stieber would have made good characters to feature especially since “Collateral Murder” and the Afghan and Iraq War Logs were a major part of the film. Both could have spoke to “rules of engagement” and what they were asked to do as soldiers during the Iraq War.

But, they are not included. The documentary instead presents us with Kimmitt, a character who defies the criteria Larsen and others set for including people.

Kimmitt is not an active player in the WikiLeaks story; he has only read the military’s report on the “Collateral Murder” video. Essentially, Kimmitt does for the documentary what “military analysts” planted on news shows by the Pentagon did throughout the Iraq War: he appears to be objective because he read the report and is calling it like he sees it and this supposedly gives him the authority to minimize the significance of a video that depicts the horror of war.

Is it even worth it to explain why blaming the Reuters photojournalist for being killed is reactionary? The remark is like blaming a hot blond woman for a sexual deviant’s decision to rape her.

Assange Thought Afghani Civilians Deserved to Die

After discrediting the “Collateral Murder” video release and presenting Assange as an adversary of the United States, journalists whom Assange worked with on the release of the Afghan War Logs appear to discuss the relationship between them and how the release of classified information occurred. Nick Davies, a journalist with The Guardian, describes tracking Assange down and speaking to him in Brussels, Belgium. It is here that Davies convinced Assange partnering up with media organizations could maximize the impact of his war logs releases.

The key tension in this part of the documentary stems from discussions over what names to redact and not redact. Davies explains, “All of us came across material which was clearly likely to lead to the death of innocent civilians if we published it. All of us had the experience of bringing this to his attention and being told in effect, ‘If an Afghan civilian helps coalition forces, then they deserve to die.’”

It is a “high crime” for a pro-transparency organization to release material it knows will endanger the people it most wants to help. Therefore, there should be some kind of skepticism raised as to whether this is true or not. But, Leigh and Davies are not pressed on their description of the dispute that was had.

From PBS Frontline’s full interview with Assange for the documentary “WikiSecrets,” there is a reasonable motivation for the release of names, as Assange explains:

We, as all good investigative journalists do, name names. We name names of those people that are involved in corrupt or abusive activities, and that includes in Afghanistan. And then there are people that are incidental characters, that are not themselves threatened in any way. They should also be named as part of just the context of the situation.

We have a harm-minimization procedure. A harm-minimization procedure is that we don’t want innocent people who have a decent chance of being hurt to be hurt. Now, no one has been hurt. There is no allegation by the Pentagon or any other official source that anyone has been physically harmed as a result of our publication of the Afghan war logs, the Iraq war diaries or the State Department records, or the “Collateral Murder” video, or in fact anything we have done over the past four years in over 120 countries.

Here, “WikiWars” fails. It had the potential to really get into specifics of allegations that WikiLeaks “has blood on its hands.” It could have gone to official sources in the Pentagon and State Department. It could have talked with people in Europe and in the Middle East. There could have been a segment that got to the bottom of this consistent claim that WikiLeaks has led to the deaths of innocent people. For example, former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley alleged during an Index on Censorship panel discussion that hundreds of people are known to have suffered because of the release of material by WikiLeaks. CNN’s “WikiWars” crew could have involved Crowley and worked to find out what evidence Crowley has for such allegations.

The Government is Not Going to Stop WikiLeaks

In the final part of the documentary, viewers are introduced to Anonymous, which is described as a “secretive global force of cyber hacktivists.” Two members of Anonymous – sometimes referred to as “Anons” – speak with Larsen.

An Anon explains that Anonymous is part of an Internet subculture that believes in anonymity, freedom of thought freedom of speech and freedom of expression all taken to a logical extreme. The Anon explains the government is after Anonymous and that is why members must have anonymity. And, WikiLeaks is worth supporting because they believe in many of Anonymous’ ideals especially the idea of exposing secrets.

“They’re not going to stop WikiLeaks. Even if the government were to take down WikiLeaks, they’d essentially be martyring WikiLeaks and a hundred other sites would spring up. The only thing they can do is turn the Internet off and even that didn’t stop the people in Egypt,” explains an Anon.

Larsen understands this reality. As the documentary concludes, he laments, “In some sense, the WikiLeaks phenomenon is unstoppable—part of a new reality where whistleblowers go global and make governments quake, where a leak can add fuel to a revolution. But, governments will fight back.”

The section on Anonymous along with the scenes on the release of war logs and the “Collateral Murder” video all serve to present a rising challenge to US government, one that consists of players creating much uncertainty for the future of American superpower. It’s the same uncertainty driving the US government to ramp up its efforts to establish a coherent strategy and policy for cybersecurity that can protect commerce and agencies withing US government. It’s an uncertainty that leads to questions like, for example, should a pro-transparency organization that is accountable to no one (as government officials and those in US media contend) be allowed to release material and make it harder for the US to conduct wars and international diplomacy?

Julian Assange understands it doesn’t matter if the war on WikiLeaks by the US succeeds or not. As he said in a press conference call:

…. Either the mainstream press in the United States collapses as an effective investigative organ holding the government to account and all sources then are forced to only deal with WikiLeaks, or the administration finds that it has to conform to the U.S. First Amendment and other parts of the Constitution and then the United States is a free society that upholds our values…

Don’t underestimate the impact that a presentation like this can have on the public in the United States if what is said is not clarified or reviewed properly.

Many Americans know very little about WikiLeaks. They may know the name Julian Assange and the name Bradley Manning. They might have heard media reports that said Assange was suspected of raping two women or they might know that a soldier was held at Quantico for leaking classified information. Certainly, PBS Frontline’s “WikiSecrets” documentary went a long way to “educate” Americans on the key details in the story of Bradley Manning. And, now with “WikiWars,” Americans get an “education” on the character of Julian Assange.

Larsen and crew properly include Iceland and Kenya in the backstory of WikiLeaks and Assange. How WikiLeaks revealed there were “hundreds of killing at the hands of Kenyan police” during violent disputed elections in 2007 show that WikiLeaks can potentially make the world a better place. The spotlight on WikiLeaks’ posting of a secret loan book in July 2009 that revealed one of the largest bailed out banks, Kaupthing Bank, made risky loans that likely contributed to Iceland’s banking crisis which brought the country to its knees further establishes that WikiLeaks can improve society. In Iceland, viewers learn they were regarded as “local heroes” because of the leak and influenced a push in Iceland to strengthen press protections and make Iceland a “haven for whistleblowers.”

Post Iceland and Kenya, audiences are not treated to this kind of tolerant analysis of WikiLeaks operations. The case might be made that it is far better to be critical and get to the truth. Supposing that is true, it is worth considering the fact that a CNN poll conducted in December 2010 found seventy-seven percent of American disapprove of “the online organization’s release of thousands of confidential US government documents concerning US diplomatic and military policies. Only twenty percent approved of the action.”

Assuming the level of support found here was an accurate representation of the level of support in the United States and assuming that it remains at this level, Larsen and crew would have known going in that most Americans are skeptical and, in fact, irked by the operations of WikiLeaks. So, in that sense, what Larsen presents is “safe” journalism that helps to affirm Americans’ views toward WikiLeaks.

That WikiLeaks has published information the US public should have a right to know (i.e. the overclassification of information by government) is overlooked. That WikiLeaks is a publisher and should be protected by press freedoms that all media organizations enjoy is not discussed. The sheer number of revelations on US corruption and abuse of power by the United States is omitted (an excuse might be that production had to wrap and could not get to this aspect). And, that Assange was awarded a Sydney Peace Prize and WikiLeaks has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is not fully examined.

Here’s two key questions for the producers of “WikiWars”: Why, all over the globe, is WikiLeaks being given credit for being a force for good?  Why is it being nominated for peace prizes and medals when here in the United States most contend it has put lives at risk and exercises reckless authority when deciding what information to publish and not publish?

The answer might help the producers understand where they failed and why Americans will, even after “WikiWars,” still not get what WikiLeaks is all about.

Time for Those Subpoenaed in WikiLeaks Grand Jury Investigation to Setup Support Committee?

7:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks has widened. A subpoena has been issued to David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. Manning’s ex-boyfriend, Tyler Watkins, who recently appeared in PBS Frontline’s “WikiSecrets” documentary, and Nadia Heninger, who has done work with WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum (someone whose Twitter user data has been subpoenaed by the government), have each been served with a subpoena.

The new subpoenas come just over a month after the grand jury began meeting in Alexandria, Virginia on May 11 this year. Then, it was known at least one individual from Cambridge was issued a subpoena seeking to compel him to testify before a Grand Jury. And, Carrie Johnson of NPR, in one of the few articles published on the investigation by a US media organization, suggested “national security experts” could not “remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets.”

Glenn Greenwald, who has been following the Grand Jury investigation since its inception, calls attention to the potential for witnesses to refuse to cooperate in this “pernicious investigation.”

One witness who has appeared before the Grand Jury has already refused to answer any questions beyond the most basic biographical ones (name and address), invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to do so, and other witnesses are highly likely to follow suit.

Greenwald illuminates what could happen in the event that a witness refuse to answer questions and suggests that if this happens the federal prosecutor could offer immunity. The offer would then mean anything said could not be used against the witness. But, then the witness would still be compelled to answer questions and, if the witness refused to answer questions, the witness could be found in contempt of court.

An attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, Jim Fennerty, who is representing anti-war and international solidarity activists subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury empanelled in Chicago, described this on the “This Week in WikiLeaks” podcast weeks ago.

…If you’re called for a grand jury, you’re usually given a subpoena to be there. My advice is if you get a subpoena you should call a lawyer immediately and get some legal advice. But, if you go to the grand jury, you then are called into the grand jury to answer questions. You cannot take a lawyer in there to answer questions with you. Your lawyer waits out in the hallway or adjacent room. What you can do then is, before you answer questions, you can say I am going to go back and consult with my attorney before answering…

You can refuse to answer the questions and invoke the Fifth Amendment. But then a witness called to appear must understand:

…If you go to a grand jury and they do say they are going to offer immunity but it’s not total immunity, it’s called use immunity, which means that if you say something they can’t use that against you to prosecute you if they uncover other evidence around the situation. They [can’t] use that evidence to come back and use it to prosecute you or indict you.

If you’re offered immunity, you have to decide if you will speak to the grand jury or not.

If you are given immunity and refuse to speak, then you will be taken before a judge at some time, that day or maybe couple weeks later, and you’ll be presented these questions again by a judge and the judge will order you to answer those questions. If you then refuse to answer those questions, you can then be held in civil contempt of the grand jury. And you can then be incarcerated for the life of the grand jury. People have spent months and months in jail just on civil contempt.

Greenwald notes that one witness is considering going to jail as an act of “civil disobedience” because the witness views “the attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks as such a profound assault on basic freedoms, including press freedoms.

During the podcast interview, Fennerty says the grand jury typically “rubberstamps what the government wants.” The prosecutor is part of the grand jury, the grand jurors get to hear one side of the story and they don’t get information from the other side.

If one considers the government’s war on those linked to WikiLeaks as part of the larger war on whistleblowing, which the Obama Administration is waging, then the use of the grand jury should be especially disturbing because grand juries have a history of being used as a tool of political repression. That this new McCarthyism could strike a blow to freedom of the press in America is even more troubling.

In the event that witnesses refuse to testify and participate in what some characterize as a fishing expedition, federal prosecutors involved in grand juries will typically try to peel off one individual by exploiting their fears or weaknesses. So, for example, someone like Manning’s ex-boyfriend could be considered a “weak link” and be exploited by the grand jury to crack and provide information to the grand jury.

In the case of the twenty-three activists Fennerty is representing, the activists have bound together in solidarity. They have held press conferences, rallies and participated in public speaking events describing the work they do to make the case in the court of public opinion that they are being persecuted for their work.

Fennerty finds this to be the right thing to do because those ensnared in grand juries cannot win in the courts. Those subpoenaed have to work to keep their side of the story in the news so the official story the grand jury tries to craft might be considered suspicious or disingenuous by the public.

Therefore, those subpoenaed might want to start a political support committee and take cues from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, which is a group that has formed to support the activists Fennerty is representing.

It will be up to those subpoenaed to decide how public they want to be about the investigation. The attorneys they have represent them will suggest they keep certain details secret but much of the government’s claims about them should be shared because the less mystery, the better chance the activists have of discrediting the government’s decision to issue subpoenas and launch an investigation into their activities in the first place.

Moreover, a support committee could truly open up a conversation about whether it is a crime to be connected to an organization like WikiLeaks and whether American citizens want to live in a society that criminalizes people who organize or work with this pro-transparency organization that, if one examines the evidence in media coverage and statements from US government officials, is not proven to have committed one single crime.

WikiLeaks Through the Looking Glass: A Panel Discussion in a School of Journalism Classroom

7:15 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

ImageA student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago was gracious enough to invite me to speak on a panel on Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks, which he had to put together for his “Media, Ethics and the Law” class. I participated in the panel this morning.

In addition to myself, the student informed me Timothy McNulty, a foreign editor for the Chicago Tribune who covered the Iraq invasion and the Afghanistan War, and Paul Rosenzweig, Carnegie Visiting Fellow and former Department of Homeland Security official, would be participating. A couple of student journalists would speak during the panel as well.

McNulty and Rosenzweig were both present in the classroom where the panel was held. I was in The Nation Magazine office in Manhattan, New York.

The student who organized the panel had me call in and put me on speakerphone. I was able to listen to what McNulty and Rosenzweig were saying.

Rosenzweig began the panel saying with assurance there isn’t any doubt the material WikiLeaks has released has caused risks. He said lists have been created of people who were listed in the documents—lists featuring the names of informants—and the Taliban has been hunting these people down.

Rosenzweig cited a Zimbabwe opposition leader who many believe to be endangered as another example of the risks WikiLeaks’ releases have created. He said there are good laws on secrecy, files released contained information on whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, and he has no problem with Manning being prosecuted.

McNulty agreed. And I was greatly disturbed by the falsehoods that McNulty let stand and made certain that I was able to comment.

I corrected what Rosenzweig said about there being no doubt that there has been harm to people was “pretty false.” There is significant doubt as to whether people have been harmed. I don’t know if there is a concrete conclusion on how many people have suffered or died as a result of the releases.
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We Have the Rest of This Year to Save Bradley Manning

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A little more than a year ago, Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested for allegedly leaking classified information, specifically the “Collateral Murder” video that showed the slaying of two Reuters journalists by the US military forces. He was held in Baghdad, shipped to Kuwait, held in isolation away from any sort of media attention and then transferred to Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, where he suffered inhumane treatment as the military subjected him to harsh conditions hoping he would crack and comply with interrogation.

Ann Clwyd in the UK House of Commons, former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley, David House, Amnesty International, the Bradley Manning Support Network and numerous other supporters from around the world including over 500,000 individuals who signed a virtual Avaaz petition to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates all contributed to the attention that eventually led to Manning being transferred to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where he now is given much better treatment.

To discuss Manning and the one year anniversary of his arrest, I had Kevin Zeese, a Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee member, come on the weekly podcast I independently produce called “This Week in WikiLeaks.” The show looks at stories related to WikiLeaks from the past week and offers people a way to stay informed on the latest news related to all things WikiLeaks especially news that involves Cablegate, Bradley Manning, the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks, transparency, secrecy, whistleblowing, etc.

[*To listen to the show, go here and click play on the embedded player. Or, go to CMN News and click "download" or "listen." It will appear at the top of the page or in the list.]

In the past week, there were two documentaries (or films) that went public, which portrayed Bradley Manning. One was the PBS FRONTLINE documentary (which I had much to say about and even went on RT’s “The Alyona Show” to discuss). Another was an investigative short film put together by The Guardian.
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PBS Chat Raises More Questions on ‘WikiSecrets’ Documentary

7:41 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

ImageProducer Marcela Gaviria and producer/correspondent Martin Smith, who both worked on the FRONTLINE “WikiSecrets” documentary that aired last night, and Brian Manning, Bradley Manning’s father, participated in an online PBS chat that offered people an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about the film.

Gaviria/Smith suggest the prosecution in the Manning case is “quite strong” and investigators have “matched Manning’s computer to [computer hacker Adrian] Lamo’s, verifying the authenticity of the chats.” Gaviria/Smith add, “To be acquitted Manning’s lawyer would somehow have to prove that Manning had been framed and his computer had been tampered with.”

This focus on Lamo overlooks a key legal dilemma that has risen as a result of President Barack Obama declaring at a fundraiser that Manning “broke the law.” That’s the issue of “unlawful command influence.”

Whether Manning could have a fair trial now that the Commander-in-Chief has told his subordinates he thinks Manning is guilty is doubtful. A military officer would be risking his career if he or she handed down a decision that did not meet the approval of the Obama Administration. Gaviria/Smith are seemingly oblivious to this when they type their answer.

Asked why the documentary overplayed Manning’s homosexuality, Gaviria/Smith explain, “Manning’s homosexuality is not relevant. What is relevant was his struggle with the Army’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy. It eroded his respect for Army authority and led to disillusionment with Army life. It’s not that he was gay, it was that he was discriminated for being gay.”

A clarification is necessary. Two points are raised here: one is that he lost respect for authority. That is a point that could very well incriminate Manning during his trial. The other point that he was discriminated is much more benign. It implies his frustration with the military was justified because he was being treated unequally.
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