Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning – the whistleblower who leaked details of US war crimes and, despite massive global support, was sentenced to an outrageous 35 years imprisonment – is lodging an appeal against conviction and jail sentence on several grounds. A campaign for a pardon from US President Obama is also underway. Yesterday, Manning tweeted (@xychelsea) how there is a shortfall of $100,000 to cover the legal expenses for the appeal. The mass media may be pivotal to how that money could be raised, given that leading newspapers around the world benefited from revenue raised as a result of articles based on data Manning released to Wikileaks (and thence to the media partners). Details of the legal appeal, together with specific ideas about what the media – and ‘celebrities’ – might do to help fund the appeal, are given below.
Currently there is a campaign underway to seek a Presidential pardon for Manning (see also Appendix 2, below) and there is also a legal appeal against Manning’s conviction (and sentence). What happens in the coming weeks will be crucial for both the legal appeal and for the presidential pardon campaign.
A. The legal appeal
There are several counts upon which the legal appeal against conviction and sentence are to be based. Re. the charges made against Manning, the main and most serious was that in leaking the material she was in violation of the Espionage act. However, according to Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward (who in December 2014 confirmed their legal representation of Manning): “The Espionage Act—always a poorly written and often-abused law—has now become little more than a trap to ensnare those who embarrass the government. Chelsea’s espionage conviction alone requires that she appeal her case, not only for her sake but for the sake of all Americans. The way the court interpreted the espionage charges in Chelsea’s case completely fails to distinguish between providing information to harm the United States and sharing information in the public interest.”
Hollander and Ward added: “Unless we act to reverse the misuse of this statute in Chelsea’s case, the stage has been set to incriminate any American whistleblower who reveals wrongdoing to the media. We also know Chelsea’s sentence is far, far too long. We know her constitutional rights were violated by her year of torturous and shameful pretrial solitary confinement and the government’s failure to provide her the speedy trial to which she was entitled. We know the military court prevented her from bringing to trial the witnesses she needed; she was denied access to crucial evidence and even the President of the United States declared her guilty before the first day of trial. All of these issues are grounds for overturning charges during appeals. We expect to discover even more grounds for appeals as we finish examining the trial record, which is the longest in military legal history.”
Thus the appeal is likely to cover points in law as well as the sentence imposed. The appeal will also make reference to how for part of the three years Manning was held in custody awaiting trial she was tortured (as attested by UN Special Rapporteur, Juan Mendez).
For more on the appeal process, click here.
B. What the media (and Wikileaks) published
Newspapers such as the Guardian, the Washington Post, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, L’Expresso, The Age, Ta Nea, the New York Times, El Pais – and many others – published articles – many were front page articles, or took up double-page spreads – over months on material provided by Manning via Wikileaks. Manning leaked material that largely proved that the USA had committed war crimes (see below). The leaked information also provided evidence of war crimes and violations of international law perpetrated by US soldiers and Pentagon-contracted corporate militias, such as Blackwater (whose employees were accused of massacring Iraqis and have since been convicted of murder) and KBR.
On October 22, 2010, based partly on material provided by Manning, WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs, a series of nearly 400,000 classified military records, also known as “SIGACTs”. Analyses of the Iraq War Logs for the period up to and including Manning’s revelations can be found here:
Many incidents were highlighted by these logs. These include:
- 24 civilians killed by US Marines in Haditha US Marines involved in a massacres of civilians in Haditha in November 2005. One marine was convicted of a minor offence (for which he served no gaol time) and the rest were quitted or had all charges dropped.
- The infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ incident. ‘ US helicopter pilots gunned down at least ten civilians, including two Reuters journalists and a father of two children who stopped to try to help the wounded.
Here are more examples:
Ala’ Sabr Hamad Hulu Al Batuti, a refinery employee shot dead in Basra in November 2009.
Luai Nadhum Al Karkhi, shot dead by Iraqi soldiers in Khanan in July 2007.
Ahmad Saddam Sharif, killed in his home by US troops during a house raid in Baghdad in June 2009.
Mesh-Han Ibrahim Faris, killed by US troops on a road near Ramadi in September 2005.
Sheik Ali Hadi Khoder and his son and cousin, killed in Tal Afar in August 2005.
Also: Afghan War Diary
C. How the media might assist Manning
Firstly, the newspapers which published articles based directly on the information and data provided by Manning via Wikileaks, should acknowledge the debt they owe Manning, not least in terms of revenue earned.
Those newspapers may agree that they have a moral obligation to ‘pay back’ Manning by donating a full-page – on a single day or, even better, over several days – for an appeal to the public for Manning’s legal fund. This appeal – which could also include details of how the general public could request a pardon for Manning – could be written by one of Manning’s support organisations. In addition to publishing the appeal these newspapers may wish to donate money to Manning’s legal fund.
Of course, it’s important that when newspapers are approached about these proposals they are done so with the approval of Chelsea Manning and, if needed, by an official Chelsea Manning support organisation, such as the Chelsea Manning Support Network.
D. The role of ‘celebrities’
In addition to media support, other ways of raising funds and publicity for the appeal (and the presidential pardon campaign) could see those ‘celebrities’ who have already stated their support for Manning to agree to stage a number of events – music or comedy gigs, online video or TV appeals, etc – to coincide with the newspaper publicity. They could also add their signature to the full page newspaper articles requesting funds from the general public for the legal appeal and for support for the presidential pardon.
These ‘celebrities’ could include people like Noam Chomsky (academic and political philosopher), Russell Brand (comedian/actor and political activist), Viggo Mortensen (actor), J P Barlow (Grateful Dead lyricist), Graham Nash (musician), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize laureate, cleric and political campaigner), Ken Loach (award winning TV and film director), Michael Moore (documentary film maker), Daniel Ellsberg (whistleblower and political activist), Julie Christie (actor and political campaigner), Moby (musician), Mairead Maguire-Corrigan (Nobel Peace Prize recipient), Oliver Stone (film director), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Nobel Peace Prize recipient), Roddy Doyle (award-winning author), Susan Sarandon (actor), Terry Gilliam (actor and film director) and many, many others.
To see a statement by these celebrities, go to Appendix 1 (below).
E. Other support
Major international organisations such as Amnesty International, which supports Manning, could also publicise the appeal for funds and the presidential pardon campaign in conjunction with the proposed newspaper campaigns. To see an Amnesty International interview with Manning, click here.
And, of course, there is the role of social media. Alongside the newspaper campaigns and the publicity generated by ‘celebrities’, supporters of Manning can help with additional publicity via Twitter and other social media. Again, one or more of the Manning support organisations could coordinate this aspect.
You can also send donations through the Chelsea Manning Support Network: http://bit.ly/1zHjCZj
Let’s not forget that the objective of these campaigns is, of course, to liberate Manning, whom many believe should never have been prosecuted, let alone jailed, for merely telling the truth about what happens in the course of a war.
Appendix 1: November 2014 statement by ‘celebrities’, intellectuals, writers, artists, film makers etc:
We stand in support of those fearless whistleblowers and publishers who risk their lives and careers to stand up for truth and justice. Thanks to the courage of sources like Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, and Edward Snowden, the public can finally see for themselves the war crimes, corruption, mass surveillance, and abuses of power of the U.S. government and other governments around the world. WikiLeaks is essential for its fearless dedication in defending these sources and publishing their truths. These bold and courageous acts spark accountability, can transform governments, and ultimately make the world a better place.
Udi Aloni, Pamela Anderson, Anthony Arnove, Etienne Balibar, Alexander Bard, John Perry Barlow, Radovan Baros, David Berman, Russell Brand, Victoria Brittain, Susan Buck-Morss, Eduardo L. Cadava, Calle 13, Alex Callinicos, Robbie Charter, Noam Chomsky, Scott Cleverdon, Ben Cohen, Sadie Coles, Alfonso Cuaròn, John Deathridge, Costas Douzinas, Roddy Doyle, Bella Freud, Leopold Froehlich, Terry Gilliam, Charlie Glass, Boris Groys, Michael Hardt, P J Harvey, Wang Hui, Fredric Jameson, Brewster Kahle, Hanif Kureishi, Engin Kurtay, Alex Taek-Gwang Lee, Nadir Lahiji, Kathy Lette, Ken Loach, Maria Dolores Galán López, Sarah Lucas, Mairead Maguire, Tobias Menzies, M.I.A., W. J. T. Mitchell, Moby, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello, Viggo Mortensen, Jean-Luc Nancy, Bob Nastanovich, Antonio Negri, Brett Netson, Rebecca O’Brien, Joshua Oppenheimer, John Pilger, Alexander Roesler,Avital Ronell, Pier Aldo Rovatti, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard, Assumpta Serna, Vaughan Smith, Ahdaf Soueif, Oliver Stone, Cenk Uygur, Yanis Varoufakis, Peter Weibel, Vivienne Westwood, Tracy Worcester, Slavoj Zizek.
Other statements in support of Manning:
(Note: these were issued in the immediate aftermath of sentencing – hence the references to ‘Bradley’ and male pronoun.)
“The news of Bradley Manning’s sentencing is devastating. If our own can’t speak up about injustice who will? How will we ever move forward?” Lady Gaga – Aug 21, 2013
“Lets hope this mans [Bradley] courage and dignity and patriotism is contagious” John Cusack (actor) – Aug 21, 2013
“Manning does not deserve prison time. He is one more casualty of a horrible, wrongful war.” Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers whistleblower) – Aug 21, 2013
“This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.” American Civil Liberties Union – Aug 21, 2013
“Bradley Manning’s sentence today wasn’t about him. The government doesn’t care about him at all. Manning’s sentence today was aimed at thousands of soldiers & government workers who know about terrible crimes & are wondering what to do.” Michael Moore (filmmaker) – Aug 21, 2013
“Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial. The President doesn’t need to wait for this sentence to be appealed to commute it; he can and should do so right now,” Amnesty International Senior Director of International Law and Policy Widney Brown – Aug 21, 2013
“35 years is far too long a sentence by any standard. In more than two weeks of hearings, government lawyers presented vague and largely speculative claims that Private Manning’s leaks had endangered lives and ‘chilled’ diplomatic relations. On the other hand, much of what Private Manning released was of public value” New York Times Editorial Board – Aug 21, 2013
“The aggressive prosecution and harsh sentencing of Manning not only contrasts sharply with the total impunity of former senior US officials for torture and related abuses, but also far exceeds the sentences most democratic countries impose for public leaks of sensitive information.” Human Rights Watch general counsel Dinah PoKempner – Aug 21, 2013
“It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes [s]he exposed are not even investigated.” Center for Constitutional Rights – Aug 21, 2013
“I think he should be released now, that he has done us a great service by letting the people know the truth. [He’s] a whistleblower” Ron Paul (political figure) – Aug 22, 2013
“Clemency is the next call for Bradley Manning by his legions of supporters from all political backgrounds. He has suffered enough.” Ralph Nader (political figure) – Aug 21, 2013
Should President Obama Pardon Bradley Manning? 88% of UK Guardian readers say yes. UK Guardian – Aug 21, 2013
“Bradley Manning is still my hero.” Moby (musician) – Aug 22, 2013
“It is the position of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) that this sentence, though not the 60+ year sentence that the prosecution had requested, is intended to be a message to all whistleblowers, present and future. Further, the sentence is excessive and unjust“ Government Accountability Project – Aug 21, 2013
“There’s a famous statement that military justice is to justice as military music is to music. Manning should be praised for letting citizens know what their government is doing in secret.” Noam Chomsky (philosopher and academic) – Aug 23, 2013
“Manning uncovered torture, abuse, soldiers laughing as they killed innocent civilians. Now he’s headed to prison” Huffington Post Politics – Aug 21, 2013
“In terms of international law, Mr. Manning should be celebrated as a hero. He should spend no time in addition to the three years that he’s spent, including the 112 days that the judge says that he should be spared from because of ill-treatment in Quantico. He should be released forthwith. And he should be celebrated.” Vijay Prashad (historian, journalist and commentator) – Aug 24, 2013
“Bradley Manning got 35 YEARS and Rumsfeld/Cheney still walk free…oh wait, it’s Opposite Day. My bad.” Patton Oswalt (comedian) – Aug 21, 2013
“I look at what happened to today as a kind of process, and a very depressing process, whereby not only civil liberties are shredded, but finally any capacity for the investigation and uncovering of the abuse of power is effectively thwarted. So, yeah, it’s part of a larger picture.” Chris Hedges (former NYT war correspondent) – Aug 21, 2013
“I just think it’s a sad day when a fellow citizen reveals lies and crimes of the U.S. government and he’s the one who ends up being treated like a criminal. And so for me, just one day’s too much for him, and I’m just here to be with him, stand in solidarity with him. We gotta keep fighting.” Cornel West (academic and author) – Aug 21, 2013
Appendix 2: Manning’s letter to President Obama:
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.
I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy–the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps–to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light. As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
I understand that my actions violated the law; I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.