By Russell Fuller
The United States cannot win its war on Bradley Manning. Though it sent a somewhat fragile young man off to war in Iraq, it produced instead a committed humanitarian; though it has caged him without trial for three years, one of them in torturous solitary confinement, it produced instead a fine, free spirit; though it brings its full weight to bear on a man who stands but five-foot two and tips the scales at one hundred and five pounds, it simply steeled his spine; though it restricts public access to pre-trial hearings and, in contradistinction to the First Amendment, threatens the meager group of gathered journalists and witnesses by stating today that access is not a right but a privilege, it produces instead a hunger for truth.
This last suppression of our First Amendment rights was the government’s response to the leak of Manning’s clean, clear voice as he read his statement of actions and intentions, his hopes that the documents he released would stir debate about our government’s actions on behalf of we the people. The Commander in Chief for whom I voted does not want citizens to hear this solitary voice for truth and real justice because regardless of the punishment the court eventually imposes on Manning (and anything other than release for time served would be an outrage), the United States fears Bradley Manning.
The Real leak, the Big secret that’s been exposed and cannot be redacted, is that Goliath fears this David. And because that’s been revealed at Fort Meade to the witnesses gathered there and the rest of us who are paying attention, the United States has already lost this war too.
For the last three weeks in Ft. Meade, MD, Bradley Manning has had a pretrial motion hearing to seek accountability for the abusive treatment he endured at the Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, from July 29, 2010, to April 20, 2011. Manning was on Prevention of Injury watch (POI) or Suicide Watch his entire time in the brig, isolated in a 6×8 ft cell for 23 hours a day. For the first six months, he got only 20 minutes of sunshine a day. For the last month and a half, he had to surrender his underwear at night. For his entire time there, he was monitored around the clock, he had to ask for toilet paper and soap, and he had to wear metal shackles any time he left his cell. There weren’t detainees next to his cell, and when he left his cell the brig went in lockdown, so he was effectively barred from speaking to other inmates. And the military used his poor communication to justify his treatment.
About a dozen Quantico officials testified for several hours each to explain that Manning’s conditions were in his own interest: most said they thought he was going to kill himself because he made two nooses in prison in Kuwait — when he was left in a cage and no explained what was happening to him, he broke down. Yet Manning hasn’t hurt himself once at Ft. Leavenworth. Others said that because of the national security implications of Manning’s charges, and the fact that other detainees were “very patriotic,” that Manning was in danger of being attacked — they couldn’t explain, however, why he wasn’t put in protective custody (which has many fewer restrictions), or why he hasn’t been attacked while in medium security for a year and a half in Ft. Leavenworth.
This is painfully counterproductive. As professor Craig Haney — who defense lawyer David Coombs cited in court — told Congress:
Prisoners in long-term solitary confinement suffer psychological breakdowns from the lack of human contact that can lead to psychosis, mutilations, and suicide…
The military wouldn’t concede that Manning was held in solitary confinement. But in the portion Coombs quoted, Haney explains how prison officials use different terms to conceal these conditions:
I should acknowledge that the term “solitary confinement” is a term of art in corrections. Solitary or isolated confinement goes by a variety of names in U.S. prisons—Security Housing, Administrative Segregation, Close Management, High Security, Closed Cell Restriction, and so on. But the units all have in common the fact that the prisoners who are housed inside them are confined on average 23 hours a day in typically windowless or nearly windowless cells that commonly range in dimension from 60 to 80 square feet. The ones on the smaller side of this range are roughly the size of a king-sized bed, one that contains a bunk, a toilet and sink, and all of the prisoner’s worldly possessions. Thus, prisoners in solitary confinement sleep, eat, and defecate in their cells, in spaces that are no more than a few feet apart from one another…
Manning didn’t even get these “worldly possessions.” No matter what the military wants to call it, Manning was in solitary confinement.
The defense is moving to dismiss all charges based on this abusive treatment, based on the Article 13 prohibition against pretrial punishment. As an alternative, if the judge won’t through out the case, the defense requests at least 10-for-1 sentencing credit for the time Manning was in these conditions. Judge Lind is reviewing testimony and will probably rule in a few weeks. We return to court January 8-11, 2013.
There’s much more to unpack in each report, and I’d like to expound on how the chain of command ensured Manning never got out of solitary, but here for now are my summaries from the courtroom:
Playlist: 2 songs from each. Links below go to full albums.
Hot Chip // In Our Heads
Kendrick Lamar // Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
Beach House // Bloom
Pet Shop Boys // Elysium
Grizzly Bear // Shields
The Shins // Port of Morrow
Frank Ocean // channel ORANGE
David Byrne & St. Vincent // Love this Giant
The Magnetic Fields // Love at the Bottom of the Sea
Grimes // Visions
Or, the National Insecurity State
It’s no secret that the powerful in America are frequently immune to prosecution for committing far worse crimes than those by the powerless. Bush administration torturers are on book tours while torture whistleblowers are on trial. Wall Street executives are counting their bonuses while foreclosed homeowners are packing their bags. Life’s not fair.
That’s one reason why it was so startling to see Gen. David Petraeus resign upon learning the FBI had discovered his extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. Surely, the director of the accountability-free, drone-happy CIA could sleep around as he pleased and not fear a fellow government agency would rat him out, right?
Ah, the unexpected pleasures of the ever-growing security state. It turns out the FBI found out that Petraeus shared more than a bed with Broadwell — likely his emails, rife with classified information, too, though he claims that Broadwell got the information from officials in Afghanistan. And this administration hates nothing more than the unintended release of classified information: despite anonymously leaking favorable-but-Top Secret information to The New York Times on a weekly basis, the Obama administration has tried to use the Espionage Act to convict whistleblowers more often than all previous administrations combined.
But not so fast. Gen. Petraeus is still their man, with a reputation to uphold. So when President Obama was asked about the potential security breach, he said, “I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security.”
The statement is crafted to appear interested in the good of national security, to appear to put America’s safety first. But the subtext says much more: There may have been a classified disclosure that didn’t impact national security at all, or that did so positively, but that isn’t a problem.
These comments directly contradict government arguments in a much bigger ongoing investigation: that of WikiLeaks and Pfc. Bradley Manning. Cutting off Manning’s ability to argue that he was a whistleblower, who knew that the information WikiLeaks released wouldn’t bring harm to national security but instead would properly inform the American citizenry, the government prosecution has fully precluded discussion of whether or not WikiLeaks’ releases brought harm to national security from the trial. Even conceding that WikiLeaks’ release of hundreds of thousands of documents may not have harmed national security, the government says the effect is irrelevant to Manning’s guilt or innocence.
But Gen. Petraeus — or any of the other high-ranking officials who leak Top Secret information, a classification level higher than anything Pfc. Manning is accused of releasing — will not be held to this standard.
This is the chilling effect on whistleblowing: share classified information with a biographer selling books by glorifying your war-making, and your president assures the press that you’ve caused no harm; share crimes, uncounted civilian casualties, and corporate backroom dealing with your fellow taxpaying citizens, and you face a potential life sentence in prison, not to mention nine months of confinement abuse, an extensively delayed trial, and your president’s declaring you guilty before trial.
Time and again, Bradley Manning is stepped on so the military can discipline dissent and discourage those he might inspire. Meanwhile, the prurient press is more curious about Petraeus’s sex life than the growing security state and the whistleblowers trying in vain to stop it before it consumes us all. We cannot afford to abide this double standard any longer.
[This post was first published at BradleyManning.org -- view it there.]
The CCR argued its case at the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces today for transparency in Bradley Manning’s court-martial trial. Judges questioned why the government forced the issue to come to court at all, instead of simply making the documents public.
By Nathan Fuller. October 10, 2012.
During oral arguments in the Center for Constitutional Rights’ lawsuit against the government seeking public access to basic court documents in Bradley Manning’s court-martial trial, judges for the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces demanded the government explain why it wouldn’t simply provide these documents in the first place.
When Army lawyer Capt. Chad Fisher said that the court wasn’t constitutionally required to provide public access to documents like prosecution briefs, transcripts, and rulings, Judge Margaret Ryan interrupted him to ask what she called a “common sense” question.
“Why can’t you just give it to them? Instead of making this a constitutional case, why can’t you just be reasonable?”
Fisher was unable to directly answer the question. Instead, he gave an array of responses that circumvented the basic issue: he repeated his belief that the court wasn’t obliged to make these records public, he said the fact that the public could attend the hearings meant they were “open,” he complained that the defense wasn’t asking the proper authority, and he reiterated the government’s position that the availability of FOIA provided sufficient public and press access.
The five judges repeatedly questioned and challenged each of Fisher’s points, particularly the idea that FOIA requests, to which the government frequently takes weeks, months, or even years to respond, provided sufficient and contemporaneous access, especially considering the fact that FOIA requests in this case have already been denied. They also pushed back on Fisher’s claim that “Nothing has been withheld” from the public and the press, based on the idea that attending the hearings amounts to fully accessing the proceedings.
“How is oral argument sufficient if you can’t read the briefs?” one judge asked.
“It’s not as if they’re speaking a foreign language,” Fisher responded.
But as journalists from the 30 major media outlets who submitted a supportive brief in this case explained, the media (and therefore the public) needs these documents to adequately cover the case:
“Journalists rely heavily on court documents to gain and provide to readers the background of and context surrounding a legal controversy — awareness and understanding of which is often necessary to accurately report on the dispute. Prior access to the materials also allows reporters, the overwhelming majority of whom have no legal background or education, to process the oftentimes complex legal theories at their own pace, or to interview a legal expert who could explain the issues, so they are better equipped to understand what is transpiring in a proceeding they attend.”
Shayana Kadidal, the CCR lawyer arguing in court today, similarly contended earlier this year that providing openness-in-name-only effectively “choked off” coverage of Manning’s hearings.
But the judges, not seemingly satisfied with Fisher’s responses, kept returning to the more elemental point that the government could avoid this litigation and a potential ruling that would affect courts-martial to come by simply turning over the documents requested. The court already has a process in place to redact documents, the judges noted, and parties settle extrajudicial matters with a compromise out of court all the time, so it seems perfectly feasible for the government to comply with the CCR’s reasonable request for access to the documents.
In the midst of this questioning, Fisher did concede what the CCR has long observed: that Guantanamo tribunals – hardly beacons of transparency – were less secretive than Bradley Manning’s court-martial, because the public could access filed briefs and transcripts to those proceedings.
The CCR’s Kadidal fielded a similar though not quite as lengthy barrage of questioning from the appeals court judges. The first issue they raised was whether this court even has jurisdiction to make a ruling on this case, as their jurisdiction has been narrowly limited and it isn’t clear that they have standing to make a ruling that affects the press and public alike. Kadidal responded that the government hadn’t raised this issue in their replies, and so he would need an additional 10 days to file a supplement that addresses the court’s jurisdiction.
Judge Ryan also wanted to know whether there was precedent for this court to compel the production of documents that didn’t yet exist. She was referring to the CCR’s request for transcripts of RCM 802 conferences, the private telephonic meetings Judge Denise Lind holds between Ft. Meade hearings with both the defense and the prosecution. She also wanted Kadidal to account for how exactly the documents would hypothetically be produced: who would transcribe the hearings, or who would pay a stenographer?
Kadidal responded that an audio file would be acceptable, but on the issue more generally, he said he believes the court should make a First Amendment ruling granting the press the right to these documents and let lower courts adjudicate the logistics. Judges replied that it was unclear that the First Amendment affords contemporaneous access to these documents: in other words, it might be wholly constitutional for the court to provide these documents after the fact.
Kadidal will submit his jurisdictional supplement in 10 days, and the government will submit a reply less than a week later. It’s unclear when or if this court will issue a ruling, or when exactly the parties might return to court. We’ll update our coverage of this case as it unfolds.
Bradley Manning’s critics need to be more careful if they want to accuse him of breaking the law. The real outrage is the way prosecutors and the military more broadly have handled his case: the Marines and Army have violated their own code of justice in several ways, for several months, precluding a fair trial and making a mockery of the rule of law.
The complaints of critics reveal the fundamental hypocrisy in Manning’s case — the rule of law is not applied evenly. While war criminals, torturers, and known murderers walk freely, the military is aggressively punishing the messenger who exposed heinous crimes and rampant abuse. Prosecutors go beyond disciplining a soldier for stepping out of line, attempting to associate whistle-blowing with terrorism by charging Manning with “aiding the enemy.”
The most prominent injustice is what drew many to Manning’s plight in 2011: his abusive, brutal, and illegal treatment at the Quantico Marine Brig. Against nine months of recommendations of brig psychiatrists, Bradley saw sunshine only 20 minutes each day, was kept in solitary confinement, was put on prevention of injury watch, and was forced to stand nude nightly. The military says these conditions were in Manning’s best interest, that he was a suicide risk and without this treatment he would’ve harmed himself.
Newly surfaced emails reveal the truth: that three-star Lt. Gen. George Flynn, removed from Quantico and likely taking orders from the Pentagon, ordered Manning’s abusive treatment and ignored psychiatrists to keep Manning in solitary confinement. Such treatment is clearly punitive and therefore a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, is motioning to dismiss charges based on this punitive treatment on 27 November. We’ll see if Judge Lind will hold the Marines accountable.
By the time that motion is argued, Manning will have spent 919 days in prison without a court martial. A speedy trial would’ve started nearly two years ago. Instead, delay after delay pushes litigation back further. Critics note that David Coombs had to ask for several delays, pushing the trial back himself. But in several cases, delays arose because the prosecution explicitly withheld basic documents that were material to the defence. For example, on 26 July, at 7:50 PM, just hours before the defence filed the motion to dismiss based on pretrial punishment, the prosecution handed over 84 emails relating to that punishment and revealed that there were 1290 more, which it later turned over in court. The prosecution sat on those emails for at least six full months before giving them to the defence at the eleventh hour, forcing Coombs to delay litigation of the motion to dismiss.
Similarly, the prosecution stalled in handing over thousands of discovery documents regarding the State Department’s reaction to WikiLeaks’ releases, and only did so when Lind finally forced their hands.
But how can Lind fairly adjudicate a trial that has already been ruled on by her superior officers? In April 2011, President Obama, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces whom all inferior officers answer to, decreed that Bradley Manning “broke the law“. Echoing his commanding officer in March 2012, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Manning “did violate the law“.
Dempsey and the President should take note: it is unlawful command influence and a direct violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for either of them to have declared Bradley Manning guilty before trial. Both officials may say their comments were off-hand, but the message has been clearly sent to the judge, Col. Denise Lind — to rule in favor of Bradley Manning is to contradict your commanding officers.
So throughout these lengthy pretrial proceedings, PFC Manning’s due process rights have been deprived or infringed upon in many ways. But even before the process began, we knew that the rule of law was not being applied evenly. Instead, it’s aggressive persecution for the conscientious soldier and leniency or full immunity for officials in power.
Look at the treatment given to the war criminals that Manning exposed.
None of those revealed in the Collateral Murder video to have killed innocent Iraqi civilians and their rescuers have been prosecuted. None of the soldiers who handcuffed and summarily executed an Iraqi family, including women and toddlers, are on trial. Those who have been caught committing mass atrocities have been given light punishment, if any. Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, ringleader of the “Kill Team” in Afghanistan that murdered unarmed civilians and took their body parts as souvenirs is in prison, but is eligible for parole in less than 10 years. Marine Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who ordered the 2005 Haditha massacre that killed 24 innocent Iraqis (including children), got no jail time at all. None of the Marines who carried out the killings were even prosecuted.
Several more WikiLeaks revelations uncovered criminal acts. Hillary Clinton ordered US officials to spy on members of the UN. US officials covered up child abuse by Afghan contractors. The former president of Yemen took credit for attacks in his own country carried out by the United States. None of them face trial.
So much for the rule of law that Bradley Manning’s critics tout so widely. Those who commit war crimes get leniency or a welcome-home golf tournament; those who expose war crimes face life in prison without parole, and solitary confinement before trial to boot.
I’ve neglected this blog due to my increased and still increasing role with the Bradley Manning Support Network, and you can still find all of my recent writing at BradleyManning.org. But I want to collect my Bradley Manning coverage from this summer all in one place. Below are hearing reports, a few articles, and radio interviews. I’ll continue to add pieces to this recap in the coming days.
Reports from Ft. Meade
Incompetence or deception? Two years of evasions by the prosecution: “There is more secrecy surrounding the U.S. military’s ongoing prosecution of PFC Bradley Manning than the much-criticized Guantanamo Bay trials.. The hearings aren’t closed-door sessions, but more insidiously, they include no public records, no transcripts, and no public motions from the government. They provide so little media access that the Center for Constitutional Rights and several media organizations are suing the military for more transparency. The lawsuit follows protests from acoalition of media figures who say that they have been blocked from accessing even basic information about the trial.”
Debates, discussions, and reforms: “WikiLeaks immediately upended journalism as we knew it, filling newspapers with more revelations than editors knew what to do with, more scoops in a year than most journalists get in a lifetime, and more source documents than American journalists had ever had access to before. WikiLeaks blew holes in the wall of U.S. secrecy, and the world is better for it. As Julian Assange turns 41 in political limbo in Europe, and as Bradley Manning nears 800 days in jail without a court martial, we remember how much good WikiLeaks’ releases have done.”
Aiding the public is not “aiding the enemy”: ”The prosecution contends that Manning can be charged with “aiding the enemy” if he merely knew that a third party, and in this case America’s enemies, could access information he released online. But Coombs argues, as the ACLU has argued, that this is wildly overbroad, leaving any information a soldier posted online vulnerable to this type of prosecution.”
Bradley Manning, military resistance, and the left: “While this bodes well for the resistance movement and may help breathe new life into antiwar coalitions, it lacks the urgency required to save Bradley Manning now. Ensign observed, “It’s easy to sit in forums and call for [Bradley’s] freedom, but the reality is there’s lots of work left to be done.” Indeed, we who wish to free Bradley from his unwarranted chains have under five months before his court martial trial, in which prosecutors aim to send him to prison for life without parole. Bradley’s case raises scores of issues in the abstract, but we must remember that Bradley Manning the person faces very real punishment for believing his fellow Americans deserved to know what their government does in secret.”
Radio Interviews, other