The entire edifice of “secrecy,” especially with regard to national security, is a vicious lie from start to finish. Put it all out there. If full disclosure endangers those who work for the Death State, the problem — and the responsibility — is with those who choose to directly advance the Death State’s goals. It is decidedly not with the leaker, or with the journalists.
In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic
In this world, murder is not the crime; unmasking and distributing evidence of it is. To insist that Manning’s disclosure put his military colleagues in harm’s way is a bit like a cheating husband claiming that his partner reading his diary, not the infidelity, is what is truly imperilling their marriage. Avoiding responsibility for action, one instead blames the information and informant who makes that action known. … [It’s] not just about Manning. It’s about a government, obsessed with secrecy, that has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. And it’s about wars in which the resistance to, and exposure of, crimes and abuses has been criminalised while the criminals and abusers go free. If Manning is an enemy of the state then so too is truth.
Hypocrisy lies at the heart of the trial of Bradley Manning
[As] Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler noted recently in the New Republic, when the judge presiding over Manning’s prosecution asked military lawyers if they would ‘have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to WikiLeaks but directly to the New York Times?,’ the prosecutor answered simply: ‘Yes, ma’am’. It has long been clear that this WikiLeaks-as-criminals theory could and would be used to criminalize establishment media outlets which reported on that which the US government wanted concealed. Now we know that the DOJ is doing exactly that: applying this theory to criminalize the acts of journalists who report on what the US government does in secret, even though there is no law that makes such reporting illegal and the First Amendment protects such conduct. Essentially accusing James Rosen of being an unindicted co-conspriator in these alleged crimes is a major escalation of the Obama DOJ’s already dangerous attacks on press freedom. … It is virtually impossible at this point to overstate the threat posed by the Obama DOJ to press freedoms.
Obama DOJ formally accuses journalist in leak case of committing crimes | Glenn Greenwald
… Back in 2006, Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales triggered a major controversy when he said that the New York Times could be prosecuted for having revealed the Top Secret information that the NSA was eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without warrants. That was at the same time that right-wing demagogues such Bill Bennett were calling for the prosecution of the NYT reporters who reported on the NSA program, as well as the Washington Post’s Dana Priest for having exposed the CIA black site network.
But despite those public threats, the Bush DOJ never went so far as to formally accuse journalists in court filings of committing crimes for reporting on classified information. Now the Obama DOJ has.
… If even the most protected journalists - those who work for the largest media outlets - are being targeted in this way, and are saying over and over that the Obama DOJ is preventing basic news gathering from taking place without fear, imagine the effect this all has on independent journalists who are much more vulnerable.
There is simply no defense for this behavior. Obama defenders such as Andrew Sullivan claim that this is all more complicated than media outrage suggests because of a necessary “trade-off” between press freedoms and security. So do Obama defenders believe that George Bush and Richard Nixon - who never prosecuted leakers like this or formally accused journalists of being criminals for reporting classified information - were excessively protective of press freedoms and insufficiently devoted to safeguarding secrecy? To ask that question is to mock it. Obama has gone so far beyond what every recent prior president has done in bolstering secrecy and criminalizing whistleblowing and leaks.
Greenwald is writing in response to this report from The Washington Post.
› This Day in WikiLeaks: 8 May 2013
WikiLeaks has been financially blockaded without process for 888 days.
Julian Assange has been detained without charge for 885days.
- 323 days at the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Bradley Manning has been in prison without trial for 1080 days.
Jeremy Hammond has been in prison without trial for 431 days.
A secret Grand Jury on WikiLeaks has been active for 965 days.
› The Death of Truth
LONDON—A tiny tip of the vast subterranean network of governmental and intelligence agencies from around the world dedicated to destroying WikiLeaks and arresting its founder, Julian Assange, appears outside the red-brick building on Hans Crescent Street that houses the Ecuadorean Embassy. Assange, the world’s best-known political refugee, has been in the embassy since he was offered sanctuary there last June. British police in black Kevlar vests are perched night and day on the steps leading up to the building, and others wait in the lobby directly in front of the embassy door. An officer stands on the corner of a side street facing the iconic department store Harrods, half a block away on Brompton Road. Another officer peers out the window of a neighboring building a few feet from Assange’s bedroom at the back of the embassy. Police sit round-the-clock in a communications van topped with an array of antennas that presumably captures all electronic forms of communication from Assange’s ground-floor suite.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), or Scotland Yard, said the estimated cost of surrounding the Ecuadorean Embassy from June 19, 2012, when Assange entered the building, until Jan. 31, 2013, is the equivalent of $4.5 million.
Britain has rejected an Ecuadorean request that Assange be granted safe passage to an airport. He is in limbo. It is, he said, like living in a “space station.”
The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel giddily printed redacted copies of some of the WikiLeaks files and then promptly threw Assange and Manning to the sharks. It was not only morally repugnant, but also stunningly shortsighted. Do these news organizations believe that if the state shuts down organizations such as WikiLeaks and imprisons Manning and Assange, traditional news outlets will be left alone? Can’t they connect the dots between the prosecutions of government whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act, warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of communications and the persecution of Manning and Assange? Don’t they worry that when the state finishes with Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks, these atrophied news outlets will be next? Haven’t they realized that this is a war by a global corporate elite not against an organization or an individual but against the freedom of the press and democracy?
The Death of Truth
› Secrecy shrouds pretrial hearing in WikiLeaks case | MiamiHerald.com
Government secrecy reaches a new level this week in the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst who sent 700,000 classified U.S. documents to the WikiLeaks website.
A military judge, Col. Denise Lind, has ordered what prosecutors say is an unprecedented closed hearing Wednesday at Fort Meade to help her decide how much of Manning’s upcoming trial should be closed to protect national security.
An unidentified prosecution witness will testify during that closed hearing in a “dry run.” Defense attorneys say that could allow the judge to find ways to avoid closing the courtroom to the public during the presentation of classified evidence. Lind and attorneys for both sides have suggested there are a number of options to shield sensitive material, including closing parts of the trial; redacting documents; using written summaries as evidence to omit sensitive details; or even using code words for classified information.
The sensitive evidence includes Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables Manning has acknowledged leaking, along with official communications about those classified documents. The government says the leaks in 2009 and 2010 endangered lives and security. Manning’s lawyers contend there was little to no damage.
Lind’s decision to hold the practice run out of public view has drawn mixed reactions from national security and legal experts. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. David Frakt, who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh law school, called it a “great idea” for minimizing disruptions such as those at U.S. military commissions’ cases involving terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Frakt defended Guantanamo detainees Mohammed Jawad and Ali Hamza al Bahlul in 2008 and 2009.
“The judge wants the trial, when it happens, to go smoothly, and the last thing you want is some inadvertent disclosure,” Frakt said.
“What they don’t want to do is to have a yo-yo effect - let the public in, send the public out, let the press in, send the press out,” he said. “We have had that kind of circus atmosphere at Guantanamo, and it just looks very bad.”
But Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director of the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, said there has already been too much secrecy in the Manning case. Until February, more than 2 1/2 years after his arrest, the military refused to publicly release written court filings and rulings in the case. The military’s highest appeals court last month rejected the Center for Constitutional Rights’ petition seeking timely access to those records, ruling it lacked authority to consider the question.
Radack, who helped defend former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake against federal charges that included illegal possession of classified NSA documents, said the “dry run” sounds like a dress rehearsal for a secret trial. [++]
› Is the Government Going to Claim Bradley Manning “Harmed” the US by Exposing Drone Details? | emptywheel
Last week’s Bradley Manning hearing significantly focused on how much the government could hide about its witnesses. A big part of the discussion pertained to how a Seal Team 6 member would testify to finding WikiLeaks material at Osama bin Laden’s compound. But the government also advanced its case to have a list of other government employees testify, at least partly, in secret, mostly in the “harm” phase of sentencing.
Here’s Alexa O’Brien’s transcription of that list (click through for the list). There are a number of interesting names on this list. But the one that popped out at me is Ambassador Stephen Seche.
You see, while Seche was Chargé d’Affaires in Syria mid-decade and more recently was in charge of Near Eastern affairs at State, he will almost certainly testify about how WikiLeaks disclosures of cables he wrote while Ambassador to Yemen “harmed” relations with that country.
Indeed, … Seche wrote one of the most newsworthy cables ever released by WikiLeaks, the January 4, 2010 cable recounting a January 2 meeting between then CentCom head David Petraeus and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The cable is best known for this statement, laying out the agreement by which Saleh would lie about missile and drone strikes and pretend they were Yemen’s.
“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.
But there are several other inflammatory details in this cable. There’s the nugget of our agreement to shift from using cruise missiles to drones.
Saleh did not have any objection, however, to General Petraeus’ proposal to move away from the use of cruise missiles and instead have U.S. fixed-wing bombers circle outside Yemeni territory, “out of sight,” and engage AQAP targets when actionable intelligence became available.
Potentially more damning still, there’s the passage that suggests Anwar al-Awlaki was an intended target of the December 24, 2009 attack (a day before the US believed he was an operational and at least a month before it had evidence he was). In addition, there’s Petraeus’ absolutely incorrect contention that only three civilians had died at al-Majala instead of the Bedouin clan we know died.
(S/NF) Saleh praised the December 17 and 24 strikes against AQAP but said that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. The General responded that the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site, prompting Saleh to plunge into a lengthy and confusing aside with Deputy Prime Minister Alimi and Minister of Defense Ali regarding the number of terrorists versus civilians killed in the strike. (Comment: Saleh’s conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he has not been well briefed by his advisors on the strike in Abyan, a site that the ROYG has been unable to access to determine with any certainty the level of collateral damage. End Comment.) AQAP leader Nassr al-Wahishi and extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may still be alive, Saleh said, but the December strikes had already caused al-Qaeda operatives to turn themselves in to authorities and residents in affected areas to deny refuge to al-Qaeda. [ew emphasis]
At the very least, this passage demonstrates how shoddy our intelligence was both before and after we killed a bunch of civilians. But it may also support the case that the first time we tried to kill Awlaki, we didn’t believe he met the standards laid out in the memo that would ultimately authorize his killing: being a senior operational leader of AQAP involved in planning attacks against the US.
In other words, this cable, by itself, may include evidence of possible war and domestic crimes.
And yet the government wants to send Seche to a classified hearing to talk about the “harm” Bradley Manning caused.
While I think it possible that release of this particular cable made it harder for Djibouti to partner with us (recall we moved the drones targeting Awlaki to Saudi Arabia in 2011), the government at least maintains that Yemen continues to allow us to shoot drones in the country.
Yet it seems highly likely the government wants to claim disclosures of crimes like this amounted to “harm” of the US. [the punchline]
In arguing that Manning aided the enemy, the government’s case apparently will rest on the assertion that some WikiLeaks material made its way to a digital device found in the possession of Osama bin Laden. This is an ominously broad interpretation. By the government’s logic, the New York Times could be accused of aiding the enemy if Bin Laden possessed a copy of the newspaper that included the WikiLeaks material it published.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board viciously defends PFC Bradley Manning against the government’s charge of “Aiding the enemy” (via auntieimperial)
Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in a 1975 conversation with a U.S. ambassador and two diplomats.
The quote was unearthed by Wikileaks, when they published the world’s largest searchable collection of U.S. diplomatic communications late last night.
› WikiLeaks publishes 1.7m US diplomatic records | guardian.co.uk
WikiLeaks has published more than 1.7m US records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world.
The data, which has not been leaked, comprises diplomatic records from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1976, covering a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.
Julian Assange said WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the US national archives before releasing it in a searchable form.
WikiLeaks has called the collection the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), describing it as the world’s largest searchable collection of US confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.
Assange told Press Association the information showed the vast range and scope of US diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.
Henry Kissinger was US secretary of state and national security adviser during the period covered by the collection, and many of the reports were written by him or were sent to him. Thousands of the documents are marked NODIS (no distribution) or Eyes Only, as well as cables originally classed as secret or confidential.
Assange said WikiLeaks had undertaken a detailed analysis of the communications, adding that the information eclipsed Cablegate, a set of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks from November 2010 and over the following year. He said WikiLeaks had developed sophisticated technical systems to deal with complex and voluminous data.
Top secret documents were not available, while some others were lost or irreversibly corrupted for periods including December 1975 and March and June 1976, said Assange.
› Bradley Manning Tried to Warn Us About the Crisis In Iraq. Will We Listen to Him Now? | Kevin Gosztola
In 2010, while stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Baghdad, Pfc. Bradley Manning decided to approach a superior officer in his chain of command to voice his concern about something he had stumbled upon in his capacity as an intelligence analyst. His unit had been helping Iraqi federal police identify suspects for detention and discovered that fifteen men had been arrested for producing “anti-Iraqi literature.” After having a high-resolution photo of the “literature” translated into English, Manning discovered that the writing was hardly criminal; it was a “scholarly critique” of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But his superior officer did not want to hear about it. Manning knew if he continued to assist the police in identifying political opponents, innocent people would be jailed, likely tortured, and “not seen again for a very long time, if ever,” as he told a military courtroom in Fort Meade, MD on February 28. Hoping to expose what was happening ahead of the Iraq parliamentary election, on March 7, 2010, Manning shared the information with WikiLeaks.
On March 19, as Americans observed the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, Manning remained behind bars, facing the prospect of twenty years in prison—and possibly much more—for taking actions that were motivated by concerns about the effects of the US invasion. The anecdote he shared about the Iraqi federal police was part of a longer explanation in court, detailing, for the first time, his motivation for leaking the historic volume of documents, videos, military logs and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Surreptitiously recorded in the courtroom, Manning’s statement offers, perhaps more than anything that has been written about his case to date, proof that Manning is the classic whistleblower: his concern above all else was for the greater good and he wanted to spark a much-needed public debate. So he took action, at great personal risk, and is paying the price.
Manning is not a leaker. He is a whistleblower who disobeyed military codes and US law governing the handling of classified information. He has pled guilty and accepted responsibility for his acts of civil disobedience. But the Obama administration has an interest in casting him as a leaker, having prosecuted a record number of other “leakers” and also fought to keep an increasing amount of information it claims is sensitive to “national security” secret. It has failed to address the problem of over-classification while at the same time clamping down on the free flow of information between government employees and members of the press.
If the Manning case is seen as part of a larger trend toward reestablishing—and even expanding—the ability to protect state secrecy, it becomes clear that his prosecution is not simply about a soldier acting on decisions he did not have the authority to make. It is about whether Americans are going to allow the government to persecute an individual because he or she had the courage and audacity to reveal corruption that government officials wished to keep hidden out of sight. Manning wished to warn Americans of the unseen consequences of a dangerous foreign policy. Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, it is clear that he was right. [++]
› A Salute to Bradley Manning, Whistleblower, As We Hear His Words for the First Time | Daniel Ellsberg
[…] It’s important to remember through all this that Manning has already pled guilty to ten charges of violating military regulations (few of which, if any would be civilian crimes) and faces twenty years in jail. Yet the prosecutors are still going ahead with the absurd charge of “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense, of which the prosecutors are asking for life in prison.
Nixon could have brought that charge against me too. I was revealing wrongdoing by our government in a public way, and that information could have been read by our enemies in Vietnam. Of course, I never had that intent and Manning didn’t either. We both leaked information to provoke a domestic debate about military force and government secrecy. And to say we did so to aid the enemy is absurd.
This charge could have huge effects on the free speech of anyone in the military and journalists across the country. Any op-ed that is critical of military tactics or any news story that exposes misdeeds of the government can potentially lead to a capital offense.
Worse, the charge purports to apply to anyone, not just the military. It’s blatantly unconstitutional. [++]
The audio recording of Manning’s testimony is here.
› Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice | Glenn Greenwald
The court-martial proceeding of Bradley Manning has, rather ironically, been shrouded in extreme secrecy, often exceeding even that which prevails at Guantanamo military commissions. This secrecy prompted the Center for Constitutional Rights to commence formal legal action on behalf of several journalists and activists, including myself, to compel greater transparency. One particularly oppressive rule governing the Manning trial has barred not only all video or audio recordings of the proceedings, but also any photographs being taken of Manning or even transcripts made of what is said in court. Combined with the prohibition on all press interviews with him, this extraordinary secrecy regime has meant that, in the two-and-a-half years since his arrest, the world has been prevented, literally, from hearing Manning’s voice. That changes today.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), the group I recently helped found and on whose board I sit, has received a full, unedited audio recording of the one-hour statement Manning made in court two weeks ago, and this morning has published that recording in full. In that statement, Manning details at length what he did and, more important, the reasons he chose to do it. I’m personally unaware of who made the recording and am not aware of how it was made, but its authenticity has been verified. Last week, the superb independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, who has covered the proceedings from start to finish, created the best transcript she could of Manning’s statement, which was published, among other places, in the Guardian. But this audio recording provides the first opportunity to hear Manning, in his own voice, explain his actions; that, presumably, is why whoever recorded Manning’s statement risked violating the court-martial rules to do so.
Earlier this morning, the FPF, along with the full audio, published a statement of why it chose to publish this along with some brief analysis. I’m posting below some of the most significant excerpts of Manning’s statement. The first excerpt is in the form of a 5-minute video produced by the documentarian and FPF Board Member Laura Poitras, highlighting Manning’s explanation of how he reacted when he first saw the video of the Apache helicopter gunning down Reuters journalists in Baghdad and then those who showed up to rescue the wounded, including a van with children in it.
The US government and its military has carefully ensured that people hear about Manning from the government, but do not hear from Manning himself. It is way past time for Manning’s voice to be heard.
› Chief of Iraq Torture Commandos: “The Americans knew about everything I did” | Jeff Kaye
[…] The Guardian report [on direct U.S. involvement in detainee torture and training of death squads in Iraq] should shake up US denial over torture and the role of top US officials, such as former CIA director Petraeus, Obama’s choice for the position after Panetta left to be Secretary of Defense. But US news media have largely ignored the story (though the New York Times noted it, relegating the story to a brief blog commentary), even though a report by Philip Bump at The Atlantic Wire called the Guardian story and video “staggering… blockbuster.” Yet Bump’s March 6 article only has (to date) about 3,600 views.
In a healthy democracy, there would immediate calls for Congressional investigations and hearings. But instead we have silence, as the US state rushes to maintain its right to project organized violence and terror wherever it wishes. [++]