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Bradley Manning For President?

June 1st 2011 08:12
[Article originally published in Lot's Wife and Newshit]

NOTE: This article was published in March 2011.

Bradley Manning

“The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.”

Kennedy’s words are true today.

In a historic address to the American Newspapers Publishers Association ANPA in 1961, President Kennedy outlined the contradictory nature of the need for secrecy in matters of national security and the need for greater public access to the machinations of government. The ideals of free speech and a free press are enshrined in the American national consciousness.

The concern expressed by President Kennedy in his 1961 speech is just as valid and relevant today as it was fifty years ago. Two recent chains of events have bought this issue to the forefront of the media spotlight; the actions of Anat Kam and the alleged actions of Bradley Manning.

The current furore over the Wikileaks scandal bears many similarities to the Anat Kam affair. Kam, the young Israeli journalist, was accused of stealing over 2,000 military documents and leaking them to Uri Blau – a reporter for Israel's oldest daily newspaper, Haaretz. Her aim was to expose war crimes committed by the Israel Defense Forces (IFD) in the West Bank.

Manning, a young US soldier, was charged in 2010 with the unauthorised disclosure of classified information; he is currently being detained in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps brig. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing in May 2011, according to The Guardian. His aim was to expose war crimes he encountered during his military service. Manning has been accused of leaking the highly controversial Iraq War video which showed the killing of several Iraqis and two journalists via three air-to-ground strikes carried out by two US Army AH-64 Apache helicopters in Al-Amin al-Thaniyah, in the New Baghdad district in Baghdad.

A major issue of contention raised in both cases is the lax security that allowed junior military personal to access highly classified, and sensitive, military information.

Manning was stationed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq. This posting gave him access to SIPRNet – the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network: used by the US Department of Defense to transmit classified information.

Kam has been accused of stealing the documents during her two-year compulsory military service, between 2005 and 2007, during which she was working in the office of the commander of the Central Command, which is responsible for the West Bank.

Justice Zeev Hammer, who presided over Anat Kam’s court hearings, described the security failures at the GOC Central Command chief's office as “astounding” adding that he was “shocked to learn of these incomprehensible failures and negligent data protection”.

There are many that see the actions of Kam and Manning as treasonous.

Lot’s Wife was fortunate enough to speak with Greer Cashman, an Israeli journalist from the Jerusalem Post, and a board member of the Jerusalem Journalists Association (JJA), who stated: “I’m the only person with a dissenting opinion on the board – whom all support Anat Kam’s actions – and here’s why; at the time she copied the classified information, she was a soldier and not a civilian; therefore her duty was to the military, and to the security of Israel. What she did was tantamount to treason.”

Former US ambassador to the United Nations under the Bush administration, John Bolton, said that if Manning did leak the intelligence he should be charged with treason. “Treason is still punishable by death and if he were found guilty, I would do it”, Bolton said.

Counter to this view there are many who see Bradley Manning and Anat Kam as heroes; as defenders of democracy.

CBS journalist Chase Madar states: “U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning has done his duty. He has witnessed serious violations of the American military's Uniform Code of Military Justice, violations of the rules in U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, and violations of international law. He has brought these wrongdoings to light out of a profound sense of duty to his country, as a citizen and a soldier, and his patriotism has cost him dearly.”

As elucidated by President Kennedy, the need for secrecy in matters of national security needs to be balanced against the need for press freedom. President Kennedy’s address at the ANPA also stated: “No official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.” Are Kennedy’s words not still consistent with the current US ethos? If they are, then it is a serious problem whenever the government and the military cover up information in the public interest. The US military and government, as well as many mainstream media outlets reported that those killed in the Iraq War air-strike video were insurgents. The video released in 2007 by Wikileaks, proved unequivocally that the people killed were Iraqi civilians and journalists.

Bradley Mannings confinement has been shown to be inhumane. A 2006, bi-partisan National Commission on America’s Prisons was established and called for the elimination of prolonged solitary confinement. The report states:“Prisoners end up locked in their cells 23 hours a day, everyday...[the treatment] is so severe that people end up completely isolated, living in what can only be described as torturous conditions.” Bradley Manning has given up his life for something he believes in.

Bradley Manning for president?

Originally published in Green Left Weekly issue 881 [ ]

Two men were taken to hospital and a third treated at the scene after being injured during a confrontation with police at a refugee rights protest at the Maribyrnong detention centre on May 29.
Refugee rights protest
Photo by Emre Ozyetis

The conflict took place during a pre-arranged peaceful protest organised by an alliance of refugee support groups and left-wing political groups.

The protesters converged outside the Maribrynong detention centre armed with placards boasting slogans such as “Free the Refugees” and “Seeking Asylum is not a Crime”, among others.

The protesters marched from the detention centre to the Highpoint shopping centre, where they gave speeches on Australian immigration policy and shared somber accounts of their experiences visiting Australian detention centres.

One man was injured when a mounted police officer charged at him: “I was standing there protesting, non-violently; then a mounted police officer bolted forward towards me hitting me in the head, it was completely unprovoked,” Mark Leaman, a refugee rights activist, said.

“I had a concussion and a large bandage was applied to my head at the scene.”

Another two protesters were taken to hospital after being severely injured when mounted police trampled them.

Refugee activist and member of the Monash Refugee Action Collective (MRAC) Rebecca Winter said: “The police were pushing people off the road with their horses; four people with arms locked were pushed sideways and trampled.

“The mounted officer accused of trampling the protests, leading senior constable K. Knowles, was described by many protesters as overly aggressive.”

Winter also said the police informed her that an ambulance would not be allowed in to treat the injured protesters until the gathering had dispersed.

Daniella Olea, one of the protest organisers, said: “The police provocation and violence was completely uncalled for. They were aware of the route of the march as I myself liaised with the Sergeant in charge.

“We were on the side of the road suggested by police and we had marshals on site directing people on the agreed route to Highpoint Shopping Centre. The police were fully aware of our intentions to march.

“The excessive intimidating presence of police on horseback, police dogs and riot police shows unnecessary force on people expressing their concerns and their right to protest.”

A senior constable also received some minor injuries and sought medical attention after the incident.

MRAC activist Eric Maher said: “There were at least eight mounted police and another 50 regular officers as well as four attack dogs.”

Maher also stated that the Victorian Police were advised of the protest in advance and that certain conditions regarding which parts of the road could be used became a contentious issue.

The Victorian Police media unit said that a Coburg man, 31, was arrested for assaulting a police horse (the man is purported to have punched the horse). He was released pending a summons in relation to hindering police and assaulting police.

The police media unit said that there were 70 protesters. Many of the protesters Green Left Weekly spoke with said that there was at least 100 protesters and probably closer to 200.

Inspector Tony Long of Victoria Police said that a horse fell as police tried to arrest a protester. “In trying to move forward into the area where the police were arresting one of the protesters, they've come in too close,” he said.

A statement from Victoria Police issued to the protest organisers said: “Police will adopt a pro-prosecution policy for offences against the person or against property."

[Timothy Lawson is the editor of Lot's Wife and a freelance journalist]

Bradley Manning needs our help

May 25th 2011 04:26
Manning's detention conditions have improved: but we must still keep the Free Bradley Manning campaign alive!

If I was Bradley Manning, lying mentally and emotionally eviscerated in some dank prison, one of the thoughts that I would cling to in order to maintain my sanity and keep me going is the knowledge that people are out there working tirelessly for my release. We need to re-invigorate this campaign!

Supporters of press freedom and government transparency have a duty to relentlessly pursue the freedom of Bradley Manning. If I was Bradley Manning – and had given up my life for something I believe in – I would expect my supporters to not rest until my freedom had been secured.
Manning's detention conditions have sparked international concern and condemnation. Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Danile Ellsberg compared the treatment to that inside the Abu Gharaib prison in Iraq. Ellsberg said that it was tantamount to "no-torture" torture, and that it was supposed to demoralise Manning so he would implicate WikiLeaks and its figure-head Julian Assange. A sentiment echoed in an interview I recently conducted with Julian Burnside QC.
On April 20, 2011, Manning was transferred to the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility – a new medium-security compound in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This has been hailed as a small victory for Manning’s supporters, although it is far from ideal.

A Guardian article stated:

" Bradley Manning's new jail conditions were hailed by the Ohio Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich as a victory for Manning's supporters, who claimed his original treatment amounted to torture.
The conditions under which the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning is being detained in military prison have vastly improved in the wake of a sustained campaign against his earlier treatment, which some said amounted to torture.
Since Manning was transferred from the Quantico marine base in Virginia to Fort Leavenworth on 20 April his detention regime has changed dramatically.
He has been switched from maximum security to medium custody, which affords him many more rights and liberties, and he is no longer being held under a prevention of injury watch that imposed harsh conditions.
The new regime has been revealed in a blog post from Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, who is handling the US soldier's forthcoming court martial.
The prisoner, who worked as an army intelligence specialist in Iraq, has been charged with multiple counts relating to the leaking of a huge trove of state secrets to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
Under the old prevention order, Manning was forced to strip naked and wear just a smock at night, he had no bedding and was not permitted any personal items in his cell. He was kept locked up in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a windowless cell, and allowed only to walk in a yard on his own for that final hour.
In Fort Leavenworth, by contrast, he has a large window that lets in natural light. He has a normal mattress and bedding and his clothes are not removed at night.
Manning can have personal objects in his cell, including books and letters from family and friends, as well as legal documents relating to his case. He can write whenever he wants.
His new life of detention is also considerably less lonely. There are five other pretrial prisoners and Manning spends much of the day in their company. His cell is connected to a common area used by four of the detainees with a television and exercise machine, table and shower area.
The improvement in Manning's prison life is testament to the power of a sustained campaign by his supporters and politicians to end what was deemed virtual torture against him.
The Pentagon had been flooded with emails and lobbied by representatives such as Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic congressman from Ohio who took up Manning's cause.
The UK embassy in Washington has also been involved after the Guardian revealed that Manning is a British citizen by dint of his mother being Welsh.
Kucinich said the lawyer's account of Manning's new conditions revealed a dramatic change "that can only be attributed to the public campaign that brought great pressure on the department of defence".
But Manning's more relaxed treatment also raises serious questions about why he was treated so brutally for the nine months in which he was held at Quantico. When Barack Obama was asked about the case in March, he said he had been assured by the Pentagon that Manning's treatment was appropriate.
Kucinich said he would continue to press through Congress for answers to a number of questions: "Why was Manning treated the way he was in Quantico that was similar to torture? Who was responsible for that treatment, and what's going to be done to ensure those individuals are held to account?"

Really Long Link

[Originally published in the Australian Institute of International Affairs' publication Monthly Access]

The Gillard government is foreshadowing new legislation to combat the recent spate of riots and protests that have been occurring recently at Australian detention centres. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has proposed new laws that strengthen the immigration character test to make sure any refugees convicted of a criminal offence while in detention would be denied a protection visa

[ Click here to read more ]

Originally published in Green Left Weekly issue 878

WikiLeaks released a new slew of secret US military documents on April 24 relating to the US off-shore detention facility Guantanamo Bay. The Guantanamo Files were released by WikiLeaks and its media partners as 779 documents that dealt specifically with detainees

[ Click here to read more ]

Originally published in Green Left Weekly issue 877

In the past few weeks, Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd media have attacked Jewish-Australian journalist and author Antony Loewenstein over a March 30 article he wrote for the independent online news service New Matilda

[ Click here to read more ]

China has finally outpaced Japan to take the number No. 2 spot on the list of world economies. The economic milestone was disclosed on Friday by the country’s chief currency regulator Yi Gang, who serves as Director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
“China, in fact, is now already the world’s second largest economy,” Mr Gang said in an interview with China Reform magazine posted on the SAFE website.

[ Click here to read more ]

Ex- Panama dictator Manuel Noriega goes on trial in France. By Timothy Lawson Former Panamanian military dictator Manuel Noriega, 76, went on trial in Paris on Monday following his extradition to France in April this year. Noriega has been accused by France of laundering $3 million of Colombian drug money through French bank accounts during his reign as leader of Panama from 1983 through to 1989.

As General, from 1983 Noriega ran Panama with military control: up until he was deposed by the US armed forces when they invaded Panama in 1989. Noriega was detained as a prisoner of war and taken to the United States to await trial. In April 1992, Noriega was tried and convicted by a US court on a number of charges – including money laundering – relating to his cooperation with the Medellin drug cartel, a prominent criminal organisation which operated primarily throughout the 1980’s. Noriega helped the cartel, letting them ship large amounts of cocaine through Panama to the U S in return for financial compensation. Noriega, whom was contracted by the US Central Intelligence Service (CIA) in the 1950’s and worked with them up until the 1980’s, failed to succeed at arguing his crimes were part of his work for the CIA and was subsequently sentenced to 40 years in prison; this was later reduced to 30, of which Noriega served 17

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Gaza flotilla raid: detailed recap

June 11th 2010 17:26
On May 31st, the Israeli navy conducted a pre-dawn raid on the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’ - a group of six ships carrying over 10 000 tonnes of aid supplies and over 600 pro-Palestinian activists from 37 countries.

At 4:30 am, Israeli Shayetet 13 Special Forces, descended upon the ships while they were in international waters; the operation was dubbed ‘Operation Sea Breeze’ by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). On board the main ship, the MV Mavi Marmara, activists engaged in combat with Israeli commandos who had abseiled onto the deck of the vessel

[ Click here to read more ]

Hamas executions to continue in Gaza

April 28th 2010 06:37
Earlier this month, Hamas authorities executed two Palestinian men in the Gaza Strip for collaborating with Israel. Despite intense international scrutiny and condemnation from both Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups, Hamas authorities have stated that they will not hesitate to impose the death penalty on other collaborators.

Hamas Soldiers

[ Click here to read more ]

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