Chelsea Manning’s legal team have lodged an appeal against their client’s conviction and sentencing. Her attorneys have asked a military court to dismiss her case or reduce her sentence to 10 years. It has taken the team three years to get all the documents together for the appeal and it may be another three years before the appeal is actually heard. Notwithstanding that there is still an ongoing campaign to seek a presidential pardon from Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the FBI has admitted that it will be restricting documents related to Manning’s appeal because to reveal these would jeopardise its investigations (and prosecution?) of Wikileaks.
UPDATE: See excellent article summarising Manning’s appeal case.
A. Persecution of Wikileaks
A few days ago a document released to Manning’s legal team showed that the US authorities – namely the FBI and the Department of Justice – would be limiting the availability of evidence needed for Manning’s appeal, so as not to jeopardise their ongoing investigations into Wikileaks – see extract below (note: “civilian involvement” is code for Wikileaks).
However, in an article published in The Guardian last year, Manning observed:
“…when I was court-martialed for providing government documents and information that I felt were in the public interest to a media organization, the government charged me with “aiding the enemy” – a treason-related offense under the US constitution and military justice system that even civilians may be charged with. During one of my pre-trial hearings in January 2013, the military judge in my case, US Army Colonel Denise Lind, asked the government lawyers: “Does it make any difference – if we substituted Wikileaks for The New York Times: would the government still be charging this case in the manner that it has and proceeding as you’re doing?” An assistant trial counsel for the government answered a straightforward “Yes, Ma’am”…”
The point is that the New York Times was not prosecuted and Manning was. Thus the trial against Manning was a farce.
“The government further argued that there was no distinction to be made between any media organizations that provided information to the public, if the government felt that would “aid” the enemy: whether such information was published by a small-time blog, a controversial website like Wikileaks, a national newspaper like the Washington Post, or an international one like the Guardian, to the government, they can all be “aiding the enemy”.”
In the end Manning was not convicted of the charge of “aiding the enemy”, which, ironically, was probably a relief to the Government as it was not only an absurd charge to make in the first place, but had Manning been found guilty of it then the USG would, logically, have to prosecute those media outlets that published the leaks too. That wasn’t going to happen.
Manning’s legal appeal, however, has seemingly and collaterally drawn out the FBI admission re its ongoing investigation – persecution – of Wikileaks’ staff – that, in itself, is at least official confirmation of what many have known or guessed all along.
B. Manning’s legal appeal
Here are the charges Manning was convicted of..
Part of Manning’s appeal includes support from the EFF (Electronic Fromtier Foundation) who are arguing that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) was wrongly applied against Manning in that it was intended to be used to punish people for breaking into computers systems—which is something Manning didn’t do. In an amicus brief EFF told the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals that violating a written policy, which restricted Manning from using unauthorized software to access a State Department database, is not a crime under the CFAA. “Three federal circuit courts have recognized that violating computer use policies isn’t a crime under the CFAA, and we’re urging the Army court to follow suit,” said EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker. “We have also urged Congress to adopt Aaron’s Law, named after late programmer and activist Aaron Swartz, who faced CFAA charges. The law which would ensure that people won’t face criminal liability for violating terms of service agreements or other solely contractual agreements.”
The ACLU has also filed supporting arguments – namely that Manning should never have been charged under the Espionage Act.
Moreover, it should be recalled that Manning was forbidden from mounting a defense that took into account the public interest in any of her disclosures. That clearly violates the First Amendment.
(The following video was made prior to Chelsea Manning’s name change from Bradley.)
C. What Manning revealed
Let’s remind ourselves about some of the abuses and war crimes Manning exposed…
US journalist Kevin Gosztola summarised some of these war crimes as follows:
“Take the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack, which shows two Reuters journalists being gunned down in Baghdad. The soldiers in the video known as “Collateral Murder” feature soldiers begging superior officers to give them orders to fire on individuals, who are rescuing wounded people. Soldiers also openly hoped a wounded man crawling on the sidewalk would pick up something resembling a weapon so they could finish him off. And, “The most alarming aspect of the video,” as Manning said, is “the seemingly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have.”
Consider the military incident reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, which Manning thought “represented the on the ground reality of both of the conflicts” the US was waging in those countries. In Afghanistan, the reports obtained by WikiLeaks and released as the “Afghan War Logs” showed an assassination squad , Task Force 373, was operating. It kept classified lists of enemies and went on a mission on June 17, 2007, to target “prominent al Qaeda functionary Abu Laith al-Libi.” The squad staked out a “Koran school where he was believed to be located for several days.” An attack was ordered. The squad ended up killing seven children with five American rockets. Al-Libi was not killed.
Reports from Iraq, also obtained by WikiLeaks and released as the “Iraq War Logs,” revealed an order, Frago 242 , which the US and the UK appeared to have adopted as a way of excusing them from having to take responsibility for torture or ill-treatment of Iraqis by Iraqi military or security forces. The reports also showed US interrogators had threatened Iraqi detainees with the prospect of being turned over to the “Wolf Brigade” or “Wolf Battalion,” which would “subject” them “to all the pain and agony that the Wolf Battalion is known to exact upon its detainees.”
If those revelations are not enough to make him a whistleblower, over 250,000 US diplomatic cableswere slowly released (up until 100,000 were rapidly published on to the Internet by WikiLeaks in August 2011), and they revealed: US diplomats spying on United Nations leadership, the Yemen president agreed to secretly allow US cruise missile attacks that he would say were launched by his government, Iceland’s banking crisis had partly been a result of bullying by European countries, US and China joined together to obstruct a major agreement on climate change by European countries, US government was well aware of rampant corruption in the Tunisian ruling family of President Ben Ali, the FBI trained torturers in Egypt’s state security service, both the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama pressured Spain and Germany not to investigate torture authorized by Bush administration officials, and foreign contractors managed by DynCorp hired Afghan boys to dress up as girls and dance for them.
Should that still not be enough, Manning also provided WikiLeaks with more than 700 detainee assessment reports on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. The assessments showed children and elderly men were imprisoned , information from a “small number of detainees” who were tortured was relied upon by US authorities and al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj had been sent to the prison “to provide information” on the “al Jazeera news network’s training program, telecommunications equipment and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview” of bin Laden.”
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.
The recent US Senate report on CIA torture based much of the information it revealed on the information Manning leaked and it could be argued that if it wasn’t for her the report may never have seen the light of day (even in a redacted form). Perhaps it’s no coincidence that with the new legal appeal by Manning and the admission by the FBI that the investigations against Wikileaks are ongoing, the alleged unredacted copy of the report has been destroyed by the CIA.
D. Manning received numerous awards
Manning is a recipient of the Sean MacBride Peace Prize (MacBride was a founder of Amnesty International and Assistant General Secretary of the UN) and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has received support from three Nobel Peace Prize winners (Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire-Corrigan and Adolfo Perez Esquivel) and many prominent ‘celebrities’ around the world. A campaign to free Manning is top of Amnesty International’s agenda.
Prior to Manning’s sentencing the three Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel – issued a statement in support of Manning and many ‘celebrities’ also stated their support via a video campaign. Amnesty International also requested Mr Obama issue a Presidential pardon.
In the days leading up to the sentencing, Chelsea’s aunt, on behalf of Chelsea’s mother, when asked what needed to happen next, she replied: “A miracle” – that miracle is still needed.
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 (archived) 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 earlier 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.
Appendix 3: Archived advertisement published in New York Times prior to Manning’s sentencing