The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

I have no way of knowing what will first strike you as wrong. I just know that something will. It might be very specific and close at hand — something amiss you see in the program you’re working on, some outrageous expenditure of money or set of lies about what an agency or outfit is doing, or some act or set of acts that you, in growing up, had been taught were un-American. The possibilities are legion. After all, the national security system that they’ve built and engorged with taxpayer dollars, using fear and the excuse of American ‘safety,’ has dispatched armies, and special ops outfits, and drones all over the world to commit mayhem and increase global instability, to kill civilians, wipe out wedding parties, kidnap and torture the innocent, assassinate by robot, and so on. … Or maybe it all just sneaks up on you, the wrongness of it. Maybe, even if you’re too young to remember the totalitarian states of the previous century, something about the urge of our national security managers to create total systems of control, trump the law, and do as they please in the name of their need for knowledge will simply get under your skin. You’ll know that this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Tom Engelhardt, Letter to an Unknown Whistleblower

The Next Stage of My Life | Chelsea Manning

I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

Thank you,
Chelsea E. Manning

Bradley Manning Sentenced by Military Judge to 35 Years in Prison | Kevin Gosztola

A military judge at Fort Meade in Maryland sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison.

Guards quickly escorted Manning out of the courtroom as supporters in the gallery shouted, “We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,” and also told him he was a hero.

Manning was convicted on July 30th of twenty offenses, including multiple violations of the Espionage Act and embezzlement of government property offenses. He was also convicted of “wrongfully and wantonly causing publication of intelligence belonging to the United States on the Internet knowing the intelligence” that would be “accessible to the enemy to the prejudice of the good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”

“At the time of the charged offense,” Judge Army Col. Denise Lind found, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States. Pfc. Manning knew that al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.” His conduct was “of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.”

With regard to the Espionage Act offenses, she found, “The more than one classified memorandum produced by a United States government intelligence agency was closely held by the United States government. PFC. Manning had reason to believe the information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

Manning has been in confinement for 1,294 days, including 112 days sentencing credit which he was granted when the judge found that he had been subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment during his nine months of confinement at the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico. This time will serve as credit and reduce his sentence to just over thirty-one and a half years.

Manning is unlikely to serve his entire sentence in prison. He will immediately be able to petition for clemency from the court martial Convening Authority Major General Jeffrey Buchanan. A clemency and parole board in the Army can look at his case after a year. After that initial review, he can then ask the board to assess his sentence on a yearly basis for clemency purposes.

Manning has to serve a third of his sentence before he can be eligible for parole. Appeals application to the Army Criminal Court of Appeals will automatically be entered after the sentence is issued. If Manning or his lawyers do find issues to press, they can take the case to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces and then possibly the US Supreme Court.

There is “good behavior” credit, which can be as much as ten days for each month of his confinement.

The government in its sentencing closing argument on August 19 argued, “There is value in deterrence, Your Honor. This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information. National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously. Punish Pfc. Manning’s actions, Your Honor.”

The judge was asked to sentence Manning to sixty years in prison. The government also requested he be forced to forfeit all pay allowances, pay the United States a fine of $100,000, be reduced to the rank of Private E1 and be dishonorably discharged.

“He’s been convicted of serious crimes,” military prosecutor, Cpt. Joe Morrow, declared. He “betrayed the United States and for that betrayal he deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in confinement.”

The defense did not make an exact recommendation to the judge on how long they believed Manning should be sentenced, but generally recommended the judge issue a sentence that would allow Manning to “have a life” after his time in military prison at Fort Leavenworth.

“This is a young man who is capable of being redeemed. We should not throw this man out for 60 years. We should not rob him of his youth,” Manning civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, declared.

Coombs also argued, “The appropriate sentence in this case would be a sentence that takes into account all facts and circumstances that you’re aware of, that it gives Pfc. Manning an opportunity to be restored to a productive place in society.”

An appropriate sentence would also give him “the opportunity, perhaps, to live the life he wants in the way that he would like, perhaps find love, maybe get married, maybe have children, to watch his children grow and perhaps have a relationship with his children’s children.”

The sentence is far greater punishment than individuals in the military, who actually committed war crimes by killing innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, have received. It is also, when considering proportionality, a level of punishment higher than what soldiers or officers involved in torture in the past decade have received.

Supporters of Bradley Manning, led by the Bradley Manning Support Network, will now officially begin the next chapter of their effort to free Bradley Manning. This includes pushing for a presidential pardon for Bradley Manning and a college trust fund that would allow Manning to go to college once he was released.

Edward Snowden To HuffPost: Media Being Misled

NEW YORK –- National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wants to set the record straight after individuals associated with his father have, in his words, “misled” journalists into “printing false claims about my situation.”

In an emailed statement to The Huffington Post, Snowden said that neither his father Lon Snowden, his father’s lawyer Bruce Fein, nor Fein’s wife and spokeswoman Mattie Fein “represent me in any way.”

“None of them have been or are involved in my current situation, and this will not change in the future,” Snowden said of his father and the Feins. “I ask journalists to understand that they do not possess any special knowledge regarding my situation or future plans, and not to exploit the tragic vacuum of my father’s emotional compromise for the sake of tabloid news.”

Mattie Fein told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Lon Snowden’s legal team doesn’t trust Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, the journalist at the center of the NSA story, or WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization that has advised Snowden in Russia. Fein also claimed Greenwald was trying to shop around an exclusive interview with Snowden for seven figures. Greenwald told the Journal Fein’s claim was “defamatory.”

Snowden said he’d like to correct the record regarding legal advice he’s received.

“I’ve been fortunate to have legal advice from an international team of some of the finest lawyers in the world, and to work with journalists whose integrity and courage are beyond question,” Snowden said. “There is no conflict amongst myself and any of the individuals or organizations with whom I have been involved.”

The American Civil Liberties Union confirmed that the email received by The Huffington Post was from Snowden, who remains a fugitive in Russia after being granted temporary asylum. The Wall Street Journal reported that the ACLU is helping coordinate Snowden’s legal defense in the U.S.

Bradley Manning’s potential maximum sentence reduced to 90 years | WSWS

Bradley Manning’s maximum potential sentence was reduced from 136 years to 90 years on Tuesday. Last week, Manning’s defense team moved that certain charges overlapped, causing Manning to be charged with the same crimes multiple times. Colonel Denise Lind, the presiding military judge at Fort Meade, Maryland, ruled in the defense’s favor on this motion.

The granting of these elements of the defense’s motion has been the largest reprieve given to the defense throughout the duration of the entire trial, which has so far swung almost exclusively in the US government’s direction.

In their motion, the defense lawyers argued that the government had taken single acts of “criminality” and split them into several separate violations, creating a longer potential sentence for Manning.

“By dividing this ongoing act into two separate specifications,” the motion read, “the government takes what should be a 10-year offense and makes it a 20-year offense and unfairly increases Pfc Manning’s punitive exposure.”

Judge Lind granted all of the defense requests to merge accounts, except specifications four and six of charge II that relate to stealing and distributing Iraq and Afghan war logs. The merging of offenses is the only glimmer of hope that Manning has seen since the guilty verdict passed upon him last week, when he was charged on 20 counts, including 6 under the 1917 Espionage Act.

Reporters who were present during the ruling complained that they were unable to record details because Judge Lind read too fast. In previous hearings, the Guardian reported that Lind read rulings at a rate of 180 words per minute. In one session, reportedly, even the stenographers struggled to keep up with the readings.

Independent journalist Alexa O’Brien tweeted in response to Tuesday’s ruling, “Judge Lind recitation of her ruling on merging of sentencing charges was ridiculously fast. NO respect for the public and press.”

Kevin Gosztola and Ed Pilkington, two journalists who have been present throughout the trial, were interviewed last Friday concerning the treatment of the press during this trial and the wider implications for journalism in general. (A portion of the interview has been transcribed on Gosztola’s blog at firedoglake.com.)

Speaking about the debate sparked by Manning’s revelations in 2010, Pilkington explained why the talk surrounding it has died down. “The debate has subsided,” Pilkington said. “It’s kind of calmed down, which isn’t surprising three years later. … It points to what’s important…that you need to keep giving the possibility for journalism to do its work: to hold power accountable.”

“This is why I think the Manning trial is particularly significant and why the lack of media coverage nationally in America has been regrettable,” Pilkington continued. “What the Obama administration is definitely trying to do is to make sure there are no future Bradley Mannings. They are trying to use him to cause such a chill over the media that no people will ever do what he did again.

“That is what the Obama administration wants to happen. … Therefore, there’s a real risk of a chill being put on particularly investigative journalism and particularly in the national security area.”

Gosztola focused on the reporting of the major media outlets concerning the Bradley Manning trial and how they assist the government in their goals of misleading the public.

“What you see is that they [the media] feed off the government’s characterization of these people,” he explained. “They repeat what they are being fed; either by the Pentagon or what they’re being told by the spokesperson from the White House, and this is what becomes part of their narrative to their story.”

“This is an area where they clearly don’t want any individuals, especially at the lower levels, to be able to influence what the public understands about national security, what we know specifically about whether a drone program is going, what we know about the surveillance program, what we know about US foreign policy, and how we’re fighting the war on terrorism,” Gosztola said. “They just don’t want the individuals to challenge it.”

Bradley Manning’s mother has also appeared in the news media recently in the form of a letter sent to her son last week. While grappling with the tragedy that she may never see her son again, she still found the strength to provide encouraging words to Manning.

“I know I may never see you again, but I know you will be free one day. I pray it is soon. I love you, Bradley, and I always will,” she said.

The sentencing phase of Manning’s court martial, which began last Wednesday, is expected to last at least two more weeks. The defense is planning to call 20 more witnesses once the prosecution has completed its sentencing testimony.

It's not always right to keep your word | Charles Davis

"[Senator Dick] Durbin, were he man of greater integrity, could have come out and said the White House was lying to the American public [about the “intelligence" used to justify the Iraq War], just as Senators Wyden and Udall could have done with respect to the NSA’s spying. He could have dared the Bush administration to prosecute him, which would have possibly stopped an invasion (just imagine the headline, ‘US Senator Charged with Leaking Facts that Undermine Case for War’). But Durbin kept his oath. And then hundreds of thousands of people died. … Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning would make terrible senators. For that, we should be grateful."

Edward Snowden was trusted with keeping a secret. When he took a job working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), he voluntarily took an oath pledging to not divulge classified information about the US government’s electronic surveillance programs. He broke that oath. And he’s threatening to break it some more.

Good.

Derided by the political establishment as a mere high-school dropout who came to begrudge the work he had been doing for years, Snowden accepted great personal risk when he decided to leak top-secret documents revealing that the NSA was collecting the communications of pretty much everyone who uses the Internet. He gave up a cushy life working for a defence contractor in favour of a life on the run that’s taken him from his home in Hawaii to a hotel room in Hong Kong to an airport terminal in Russia.

When Snowden broke his oath and leaked evidence of the NSA’s appalling and frightening surveillance capabilities, the evidence wasn’t ignored, which ought to be a lesson. But he didn’t get much thanks for it …

Snowden saw grand criminality and decided to say something about it, which only those he exposed would consider an actual crime. The public, according to polls, supports him. If any figure in the political establishment had Snowden’s courage, we would have known about the NSA’s gobbling up of telephony metadata - the time, date, location and length of every phone call made in America - years ago. We would have known that the US government can tap into a Skype call or email thread with nothing more than a broad authorisation from judges on a secret, rubber-stamping court.

We don’t have people like that in Congress. We put people like that in prison.

There’s nothing virtuous about keeping a powerful liar’s secret. Helping a government mislead the public, even if you’d really rather not, doesn’t make one a tragic hero. It makes you an accessory. Yet, that’s what even the most strident congressional critics of the government’s spying operations did.

must read

… obedience to the law should not be absolute. Technically, we whistleblowers broke the law, but we felt, as many have felt before, that the obligation to our consciences and basic human rights is stronger than our obligation to obey the law. Shamai Leibowitz

The leading whistleblower of all time: Philip Agee | William Blum

Before there was Edward Snowden, William Binney and Thomas Drake … before there was Bradley Manning, Sibel Edmonds and Jesselyn Radack … there was Philip Agee. What Agee revealed is still the most startling and important information about US foreign policy that any American government whistleblower has ever revealed.

Philip Agee spent 12 years (1957-69) as a CIA case officer, most of it in Latin America. His first book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, published in 1974 – a pioneering work on the Agency’s methods and their devastating consequences – appeared in about 30 languages around the world and was a best seller in many countries; it included a 23-page appendix with the names of hundreds of undercover Agency operatives and organizations.

Under CIA manipulation, direction and, usually, their payroll, were past and present presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, and Costa Rica, “our minister of labor”, “our vice-president”, “my police”, journalists, labor leaders, student leaders, diplomats, and many others. If the Agency wished to disseminate anti-communist propaganda, cause dissension in leftist ranks, or have Communist embassy personnel expelled, it need only prepare some phoney documents, present them to the appropriate government ministers and journalists, and – presto! – instant scandal.

Agee’s goal in naming all these individuals, quite simply, was to make it as difficult as he could for the CIA to continue doing its dirty work.

A common Agency tactic was writing editorials and phoney news stories to be knowingly published by Latin American media with no indication of the CIA authorship or CIA payment to the media. The propaganda value of such a “news” item might be multiplied by being picked up by other CIA stations in Latin America who would disseminate it through a CIA-owned news agency or a CIA-owned radio station. Some of these stories made their way back to the United States to be read or heard by unknowing North Americans.

Wooing the working class came in for special treatment. Labor organizations by the dozen, sometimes hardly more than names on stationery, were created, altered, combined, liquidated, and new ones created again, in an almost frenzied attempt to find the right combination to compete with existing left-oriented unions and take national leadership away from them.

In 1975 these revelations were new and shocking; for many readers it was the first hint that American foreign policy was not quite what their high-school textbooks had told them nor what the New York Times had reported.

“As complete an account of spy work as is likely to be published anywhere, an authentic account of how an ordinary American or British ‘case officer’ operates … All of it … presented with deadly accuracy,” wrote Miles Copeland, a former CIA station chief, and ardent foe of Agee. (There’s no former CIA officer more hated by members of the intelligence establishment than Agee; no one’s even close; due in part to his traveling to Cuba and having long-term contact with Cuban intelligence.)

In contrast to Agee, WikiLeaks withheld the names of hundreds of informants from the nearly 400,000 Iraq war documents it released.

In 1969, Agee resigned from the CIA (and colleagues who “long ago ceased to believe in what they are doing”).

While on the run from the CIA as he was writing Inside the Company – at times literally running for his life – Agee was expelled from, or refused admittance to, Italy, Britain, France, West Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. (West Germany eventually gave him asylum because his wife was a leading ballerina in the country.) Agee’s account of his period on the run can be found detailed in his book On the Run (1987). It’s an exciting read.

CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou’s Open Letter to Edward Snowden | The Dissenter

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is serving a thirty-month sentence in prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, has written another letter. It expresses support for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has exposed secret US government surveillance programs and policies, and provided a glimpse of the ever-expanding massive surveillance apparatus the government has built.

Kiriakou was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under the administration of President George W. Bush. He was convicted in October of last year of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) when he provided the name of an officer involved in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program to a reporter and sentenced in January of this year. He reported to prison on February 28 (which was also the day that Pfc. Bradley Manning pled guilty to some offenses and read a statement in military court at Fort Meade).

This is the second letter to be published by Firedoglake since Kiriakou went to prison. He sent it to his attorney, Jesselyn Radack, of the Government Accountability Project. […]

“Letter From Loretto”
An Open Letter to Edward Snowden

Dear Ed:

Thank you for your revelations of government wrong-doing over the past week. You have done the country a great public service. I know that it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders right now, but as Americans begin to realize that we are devolving into a police state, with the loss of civil liberties that entails, they will see your actions for what they are: heroic. Remember the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” That is what’s happening to our country now. Your whistleblowing will help to save us.

I wanted to offer you the benefit of my own whistleblowing experience and aftermath so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I made.

First, find the best national security attorneys money can buy. I was blessed to be represented by legal titans and, although I was forced to take a plea in the end, the shortness of my sentence is a testament to their expertise.

Second, establish a website so that your supporters can follow your case, get your side of the story, and most importantly, make donations to support your defense.

Third, you’re going to need the support of prominent Americans and groups who can explain to the public why what you did is so important. Although most members of Congress are mindless lemmings following our national security leadership over a cliff, there are several clear thinkers on The Hill who could be important sources of support. Cultivate them. Reach out to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Government Accountability Project and others like them who value our individual freedoms and who can advise you.

Finally, and this is the most important advice that I can offer, DO NOT, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI. FBI agents will lie, trick, and deceive you. They will twist your words and play on your patriotism to entrap you. They will pretend to be people they are not – supporters, well-wishers, and friends – all the while wearing wires to record your out-of-context statements to use against you. The FBI is the enemy; it’s a part of the problem, not the solution.

I wish you the very best of luck. I hope you can get to Iceland quickly and safely. There you will find a people and a government who care about the freedoms that we hold dear and for which our forefathers and veterans fought and died.

Sincerely,
John Kiriakou

NSA Whistleblower William Binney Was Right | Business Insider

William Binney — one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in National Security Agency (NSA) history — worked for America’s premier covert intelligence gathering organization for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he “could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.”

Binney claims that the NSA took one of the programs he built, known as ThinThread, and started using the program and members of his team to spy on virtually every U.S. citizen under the code-name Stellar Wind.

Thanks to NSA whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden, documents detailing the top-secret surveillance program have now been published for the first time.

And they corroborate what Binney has said for years.

Whistleblower Mark Klein provided this photo of a secret room in a San Francisco AT&T switching center, which he claimed housed data-mining equipment that forwarded internet traffic to the NSA.
NSA Leak Vindicates AT&T Whistleblower | Threat Level

Today’s revelations that the National Security Agency collected bulk data on the email traffic of millions of Americans provides startling evidence for the first time to support a whistleblower’s longstanding claims that AT&T was forwarding global internet traffic to the government from secret rooms inside its offices.
The collection program, which lasted from 2001 to 2011, involved email metadata — the “enveloped” information for email that reveals the sender’s address and recipient, as well as IP addresses and websites visited, the Guardian newspaper reported today.
Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, revealed in 2006 that his job duties included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to a secret room in AT&T’s San Francisco office. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabins were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said.
The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, Klein said.
That’s how the data was being vacuumed to the government, Klein said today.
“This is a complete vindication,” Klein, a San Francisco Bay area retired man, said in a telephone interview.
Wired was leaked and subsequently published Klein’s documents detailing the spying equipment in 2006, when he said an NSA agent showed up years before to interview a management-level technician for a special job.
Klein’s documents were lodged under seal in an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit accusing the government of siphoning Americans’ communications to the NSA.
“This is exactly what we’ve been arguing in court for years,” Trevor Timm, an EFF digital-rights analyst, said in a telephone interview.
The documents, in part, fueled the lawsuit that so scared Congress that lawmakers passed legislation immunizing AT&T and any other telecommunications companies from being sued for assisting the NSA’s dragnet surveillance program.
“They are collecting everything on everybody,” Klein said.
After Congress killed the litigation, the EFF sued the government instead. That case is pending in a San Francisco federal courtroom.

Whistleblower Mark Klein provided this photo of a secret room in a San Francisco AT&T switching center, which he claimed housed data-mining equipment that forwarded internet traffic to the NSA.

NSA Leak Vindicates AT&T Whistleblower | Threat Level

Today’s revelations that the National Security Agency collected bulk data on the email traffic of millions of Americans provides startling evidence for the first time to support a whistleblower’s longstanding claims that AT&T was forwarding global internet traffic to the government from secret rooms inside its offices.

The collection program, which lasted from 2001 to 2011, involved email metadata — the “enveloped” information for email that reveals the sender’s address and recipient, as well as IP addresses and websites visited, the Guardian newspaper reported today.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, revealed in 2006 that his job duties included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to a secret room in AT&T’s San Francisco office. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabins were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said.

The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, Klein said.

That’s how the data was being vacuumed to the government, Klein said today.

“This is a complete vindication,” Klein, a San Francisco Bay area retired man, said in a telephone interview.

Wired was leaked and subsequently published Klein’s documents detailing the spying equipment in 2006, when he said an NSA agent showed up years before to interview a management-level technician for a special job.

Klein’s documents were lodged under seal in an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit accusing the government of siphoning Americans’ communications to the NSA.

“This is exactly what we’ve been arguing in court for years,” Trevor Timm, an EFF digital-rights analyst, said in a telephone interview.

The documents, in part, fueled the lawsuit that so scared Congress that lawmakers passed legislation immunizing AT&T and any other telecommunications companies from being sued for assisting the NSA’s dragnet surveillance program.

“They are collecting everything on everybody,” Klein said.

After Congress killed the litigation, the EFF sued the government instead. That case is pending in a San Francisco federal courtroom.