Jerry Jackson

Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Manning’

Bradley Manning: American hero – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

In Activism, Human Rights, Police State, Society, Wikileaks on July 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm

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Bradley Manning: American hero – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.


Bradley Manning: American hero
Four reasons why Pfc Bradley Mannning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom, not a prison cell.

We still don’t know if he did it or not, but if Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old Army private from Oklahoma, actually supplied WikiLeaks with its choicest material – the Iraq War logs, the Afghan War logs, and the State Department cables – which startled and riveted the world, then he deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom instead of a jail cell at Fort Leavenworth.
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President Obama recently gave one of those medals to retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who managed the two bloody, disastrous wars about which the WikiLeaks-released documents revealed so much. Is he really more deserving than the young private who, after almost ten years of mayhem and catastrophe, gave Americans – and the world – a far fuller sense of what the US government is actually doing abroad?

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Bradley Manning, awaiting a court martial in December, faces the prospect of long years in prison. He is chargedwith violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He has put his sanity and his freedom on the line so that Americans might know what their government has done – and is still doing – globally. He has blown the whistle on criminal violationsof US military law. He has exposed the secretive government’s pathological over-classification of important public documents.

Here are four compelling reasons why, if he did what the government accuses him of doing, he deserves that medal, not jail time.

1: At great personal cost, Bradley Manning has given the foreign policy elite the public supervision it so badly needs.

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In the past ten years, US statecraft has moved from calamity to catastrophe, laying waste to other nations while never failing to damage our own national interests. Do we even need to be reminded that our self-defeating response to 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan (and PakistanYemen, and Somalia) has killed roughly 225,000 civilians and 6,000 US soldiers, while costing our country more than $3.2 trillion? We are hemorrhaging blood and money. Few outsideWashington would argue that any of this is making the US safer.

An employee who screwed up this badly would either be fired on the spot or put under heavy supervision.  Downsizing our entire foreign policy establishment is not an option. However, the website WikiLeaks has at least tried to make public scrutiny of our self-destructive statesmen and women a reality by exposing their work to ordinary citizens.

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Consider our invasion of Iraq, a war based on distortions, government secrecy, and the complaisant failure of our major media to ask the important questions. But what if someone like Bradley Manning had provided the press with the necessary government documents, which would have made so much self-evident in the months before the war began? Might this not have prevented disaster? We’ll never know, of course, but could additional public scrutiny have been salutary under the circumstances?

Thanks to Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures, we do have a sense of what did happen afterwards in Iraq and Afghanistan, and just how the US operates in the world. Thanks to those disclosures, we now know just how Washington leaned on the Vatican to quell opposition to the Iraq War and just how it pressured the Germans to prevent them from prosecuting CIA agents who kidnapped an innocent man and shipped him off to be tortured abroad.

As our foreign policy threatens to careen into yet more disasters in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, we can only hope that more whistleblowers will follow the alleged example of Bradley Manning and release vital public documents before it’s too late. A foreign policy based on secrets and spin has manifestly failed us.

In a democracy, the workings of our government should not be shrouded in an opaque cloud of secrecy. For bringing us the truth, for breaking the seal on that self-protective policy of secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

2: Knowledge is powerful. The WikiLeaks disclosures have helped spark democratic revolutions and reforms across the Middle East, accomplishing what Operation Iraqi Freedom never could.

Wasn’t it US policy to spread democracy in the Middle East, to extend our freedom to others, as both recent American presidents have insisted?

No single American has done more to help further this goal than Pfc Bradley Manning. The chain reaction of democratic protests and uprisings that has swept Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and even in a modest way Iraq, all began in Tunisia, where leaked US State Department cables about the staggering corruption of the ruling Ben Ali dynasty helped trigger the rebellion.


In all cases, these societies were smouldering with longstanding grievances against oppressive, incompetent governments and economies stifled by cronyism. The revelations from the WikiLeaks State Department documents played a widely acknowledged role in sparking these pro-democracy uprisings.

In Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Yemen, the people’s revolts under way have occurred despite US support for their autocratic rulers. In each of these nations, in fact, we bankrolled the dictators, while helping to arm and train their militaries. The alliance with Mubarak’s autocratic state cost the US more than $60 billion and did nothing for American security – other than inspire terrorist blowback from radicalised Egyptians such as Mohammed Atta and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Even if US policy was firmly on the wrong side of things, we should be proud that at least one American – Bradley Manning – was on the right side. If indeed he gave those documents to WikiLeaks, then he played a catalytic role in bringing about the Arab Spring, something neither Barack Obama nor former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (that recent surprise recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) could claim.

Perhaps once the Egyptians consolidate their democracy, they, too, will award Manning their equivalent of such a medal.

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3: Bradley Manning has exposed the pathological over-classification of America’s public documents.

“Secrecy is for losers”, as the late Senator and United Nations Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say. If this is indeed the case, it would be hard to find a bigger loser than the US government.

How pathological is the government’s addiction to secrecy?

In June, the National Security Agency declassified documents from 1809, while the Department of Defense only last month declassified the Pentagon Papers, publicly available in book form these past four decades. Our government is only just now finishing its declassification of documents relating to World War I.

This would be ridiculous if it weren’t tragic. Ask the historians. Barton J Bernstein, professor emeritus of history at Stanford University and a founder of its international relations program, describes the government’s classification of foreign-policy documents as “bizarre, arbitrary, and nonsensical”.

George Herring, professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky and author of the encyclopedic From Colony to Superpower: A History of US Foreign Policy, has chronicled how his delight at being appointed to a CIA advisory panel on declassification turned to disgust once he realised that he was being used as window dressing by an agency with no intention of opening its records, no matter how important or how old, to public scrutiny.

Any historian worth his salt would warn us that such over-classification is a leading cause of national amnesia and repetitive war disorder. If a society like ours doesn’t know its own history, it becomes the great power equivalent of a itinerant amnesiac, not knowing what it did yesterday or where it will end up tomorrow. Right now, classification is the disease of Washington, secrecy its mania, and dementia its end point. As an ostensibly democratic nation, we, its citizens, risk such ignorance at our national peril.

President Obama came into office promising a “sunshine” policy for his administration while singing the praises of whistleblowers. He has since launched the fiercest campaign against whistleblowers the republic has ever seen, and further plunged our foreign policy into the shadows.

Challenging the classification of each tightly guarded document is, however, impossible. No organisation has the resources to fight this fight, nor would they be likely to win right now. Absent a radical change in our government’s diplomatic and military bureaucracies, massive over-classification will only continue.

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If we hope to know what our government is actually doing in our name globally, we need massive leaks from insider whistleblowers to journalists who can then sort out what we need to know, given that the government won’t. This, in fact, has been the modus operandi of WikiLeaks.

Our whistleblower protection laws urgently need to catch up with this state of affairs, and though we are hardly there yet, Bradley Manning helped take us part of the way. He did what Barack Obama swore he would do on coming into office. For striking a blow against our government’s fanatical insistence on covering its mistakes and errors with blanket secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves not punishment, but the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

4. At immense personal cost, Bradley Manning has upheld a great American tradition of transparency in statecraft and for that he should be an American hero, not an American felon.

Bradley Manning is only the latest in a long line of whistleblowers in and out of uniform who have risked everything to put our country back on the right path.

Take Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, a Pentagon-commissioned secret history of the Vietnam War and the official lies and distortions that the government used to sell it. Many of the documents it included were classed at a much higher security clearance than anything Bradley Manning is accused of releasing – and yet Ellsberg was not convicted of a single crime and became a national hero.

Given the era when all this went down, it’s forgivable to assume that Ellsberg must have been a hippie who somehow sneaked into the Pentagon archives, beads and patchouli trailing behind him. What many no longer realise is that Ellsberg had been a model US Marine. First in his class at officer training school at Quantico, he deferred graduate school at Harvard to remain on active duty in the Marine Corps. Ellsberg saw his high-risk exposure of the disastrous and deceitful nature of the Vietnam War as fully consonant with his long career of patriotic service in and out of uniform.

And Ellsberg is hardly alone. Ask Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Darrel Vandeveld. Or Tom Drake, formerly of the National Security Agency.

Transparency in statecraft was not invented last week by WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange. It is a longstanding American tradition. James Madison put the matter succinctly: “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”

A 1960 Congressional Committee on Government Operations report caught the same spirit: “Secrecy – the first refuge of incompetents – must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society … Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognise that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people.”

John F Kennedy made the same point in 1961: “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.” Hugo Black, great Alabaman justice of the twentieth-century Supreme Court had this to say: “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.”

And the first of World-War-I-era president Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points couldn’t have been more explicit: “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”

We need to know what our government’s commitments are, as our foreign policy elites have clearly demonstrated they cannot be left to their own devices. Based on the past decade of carnage and folly, without public debate – and aggressive media investigations – we have every reason to expect more of the same.

If there’s anything to learn from that decade, it’s that government secrecy and lies come at a very high price in blood and money. Thanks to the whistleblowing revelations attributed to Bradley Manning, we at least have a far clearer picture of the problems we face in trying to supervise our own government.

If he was the one responsible for the WikiLeaks revelations, then, for his gift to the republic, purchased at great price, he deserves not prison, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the heartfelt gratitude of his country.

Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York and a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, theAmerican Conservative magazine, CounterPunch.org, and Le Monde Diplomatique. His next book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, will be published by O/R Books this fall.  He is covering the Bradley Manning case and trial for TomDispatch.com. To listen to Timothy MacBains latest TomCast audio interview in which Madar discusses the Manning case, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

A version of this article was previously published on TomDispatch.

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DOJ defends WikiLeaks probe of Twitter accounts

In Activism, Hacktivist, Human Rights, Internet Censorship, Police State, Society, Wikileaks on April 10, 2011 at 3:33 am


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The U.S. Justice Department today dismissed as “absurd” any privacy and free speech concerns about its request for access to the Twitter accounts of WikiLeaks volunteers.

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In a 32-page brief filed in federal court in Virginia, prosecutors characterized their request for a court order as a “routine compelled disclosure” that raises no constitutional issues.

These types of records “are widely subpoenaed by grand juries without raising ‘chilling effects,’ or occasioning constitutional litigation and delays,” prosecutors wrote. Any claim that Twitter’s logs “are subject to heightened protections under the First Amendment is baseless,” they say, adding that there is no “legitimate expectation of privacy” in Internet addresses provided to a third party.

Today’s brief follows an appeal that attorneys representing the WikiLeaks volunteers filed March 25. A hearing has been set for later this month in Arlington, Va., before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady.

The attorneys’ appeal to O’Grady seeks to throw out a magistrate judge’s ruling on March 11 that granted prosecutors access to the accounts, including information about what Internet and e-mail addresses are associated with them. The government sought the court order as part of a grand jury probe that appears to be investigating whether WikiLeaks principals, including editor Julian Assange, violated American criminal laws.

The accounts at issue include Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament who helped with WikiLeaks’ release of a classified U.S. military video; Seattle-based WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum; and Dutch hacker and XS4ALL Internet provider co-founder Rop Gonggrijp. The order also sought records relating to Assange and suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, who did not contest the request.

The Justice Department’s brief filed this afternoon, which asks O’Grady to “direct Twitter to fully and promptly comply,” also raises a series of other arguments including: criminal procedures instead of civil should apply; the order complied with the Stored Communications Act; and that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply.

In their own brief last month, attorneys for the Twitter account holders said prosecutors’ request violates federal law, “intrudes upon” their clients’ First Amendment right to freedom of association, and “threatens” their right to privacy. (PDF)

The court order approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan would require Twitter to divulge “all” direct messages, even ones unrelated to WikiLeaks, argue the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a host of private attorneys representing the Twitter account holders. It “has a chilling effect not only on the parties’ speech and association rights,” they say, “but on the rights of Twitter users in general.”

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This case came to light in January, when Twitter notified the subscribers that prosecutors had obtained a court order for their “account information.” That led Jónsdóttir, Appelbaum, and Gonggrijp to retain their own attorneys, who filed motions asking the judge to overturn her earlier decision.

The U.S. government began a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Assange last July after the Web site began releasing what would become a deluge of confidential military and State Department files. In November, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the probe was “ongoing,” and a few weeks later an attorney for Assange said he had been told that a grand jury had been empaneled in Alexandria, Va.

Buchanan’s order isn’t a traditional subpoena or search warrant–in fact, if the Justice Department obtained a search warrant, the ACLU and EFF would likely drop the case. Rather, it’s what’s known as a 2703(d) order, which allows police to obtain certain records from a Web site or Internet provider if they are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” In this case, prosecutors are asking for logs and other information about the account but not “content” such as direct messages.

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Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20052249-281.html#ixzz1J4FOtUab


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Global police moves against ‘hacktivists’

In Activism, Hacktivist, Human Rights, Society, World News on February 22, 2011 at 4:55 am

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An online “hacktivist” group that brought down the websites of perceived opponents of WikiLeaks has itself become the target of an international police crackdown.

The London Metropolitan Police arrested five men in connection with a recent spate of attacks by Anonymous, behind last month’s revenge assault on the websites of a number of organisations that had severed links with WikiLeaks.

In the US, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it executed “more than 40” search warrants on Thursday to gather evidence likely to lead to arrests.

The FBI said it was working on the case along with the UK, “authorities in the Netherlands, Germany and France”. Spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said no US arrests had been made by late afternoon on Thursday. “Evidence is being gathered and the investigation is ongoing”, she said. “These things do take time”.

The Met’s e-Crime unit said five men aged between 15 and 26 were being held following a swoop on residential addresses in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London on Thursday morning in the UK in relation to offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

The maximum penalty under the UK act is 10 years imprisonment and a £5,000 fine. The FBI said those convicted in the US also could face 10-year sentences.

Anonymous, a disparate group of online activists that has previously carried out campaigns against the Church of Scientology and the record industry, claimed last month’s attacks on companies including MasterCard and PayPal were a response to attempts to hinder WikiLeaks’ freedom of speech campaign.

The internet activists used a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, overloading the targeted websites by bombarding them with requests. “Facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal”, the FBI said. “The victims included major US companies across several industries”.

An FBI spokeswoman told the FT that the US warrants were under seal. Since the attack software distributed by Anonymous members does not disguise the internet addresses of those participating in the electronic assaults, former law enforcement officers have predicted that traffic logs from the companies affected would lead to internet service providers – the likely recipients of at least some of Thursday’s search warrants – and then in short order to the attackers themselves.

In response to the UK arrests, Anonymous issued an open letter to the government via Twitter, the messaging site, explaining that it saw DDoS attacks as the modern digital equivalent of a sit-in demonstration, rather than a criminal action.

“Just as is the case with traditional forms of protest, we block access to our opponents infrastructure to get our message across,” the letter said. “It is clear then, that arresting somebody for taking part in a DDoS attack is exactly like arresting somebody for attending a peaceful demonstration in their hometown.”

The letter accused the arrests of being “politically motivated, and were being carried out under pressure from the US government”, adding that the potential punishments were disproportionate.

Activity in Anonymous chat rooms has been subdued recently. Activists have been fretting about a rumoured international “swoop” by the authorities since mid-December. Dutch police arrested two teenagers last month in connection with the DDoS attacks.

“Most of us have been laying low for a good while now. People were getting arrested and our VPN [virtual private network] got taken down by the feds [police],” one Anon told the FT on Wednesday.

He said that recent arrests had exposed a weakness in the group’s shroud of anonymity. “They logged our IRC [internet relay chat] servers … stupid people. So the feds know about every one of us.”

One of the Dutch people arrested has been released but the other remains in “deep trouble”, the Anon said.

French police launched an investigation in the immediate aftermath of the cyberattack by Anonymous. In December they detained a 15-year-old on suspicion of participating in the hacking, holding her for several hours of questioning, according to a report on the website of Le Parisien newspaper. The girl was later released, but an inquiry is underway to determine her exact involvement, the paper says.

The WikiLeaks website and its controversial founder, Julian Assange, are immersed in a political storm following the leak highly sensitive US government cables.

Earlier this month, it emerged that Twitter had been asked to hand over documents to the US government including internet addresses and phone numbers of Mr Assange and WikiLeaks supporters in multiple countries.

Many lawyers say the US government faces stiff obstacles in its bid to build a case for the extradition of Mr Assange. The Pentagon describes as “premature” reports that the US government had failed to establish a link between Mr Assange and Bradley Manning, a former US intelligence official, facing charges of leaking classified information.

But establishing conspiracy charges against the two, or prosecuting Mr Assange on other grounds, could prove especially demanding.

Meanwhile, Mr Assange will appear in court next month to decide whether he should be extradited to Sweden in connection with alleged sex crimes.

Undeterred by the furore surrounding WikiLeaks, the group’s former spokesman this week launched his own whistleblowing website. Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s OpenLeaks website bills itself as “a non-profit community and service provider for whistleblowers and organisations, media, and individuals who engage in promoting transparency. It makes leaking at a local, grassroot level possible and allows for certain scalability.”

Read @FT.com

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