Editor’s note. This article was written in 2012 when Chelsea Manning was called “Bradley”. It has been updated to use her correct name and pronouns.
July 5, 2012 – Chelsea Manning is the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking thousands of State Department cables and the video “Collateral Murder,” which shows a U.S. Apache helicopter gunning down 11 unarmed civilians, including children. The leaked information exposes war crimes and human rights abuses that admittedly do make the United States look less than honorable, but in order to hold criminals accountable, you have to expose the crime. Sadly, it isn’t the soldiers who fired on unarmed children who are being held accountable and, it isn’t the State Department officials who engaged in bribery or otherwise bent the rules who are on trial. It’s Manning. She’s already spent two years in jail, including 10 months in solitary confinement (against military protocol).
She faces life in prison. Manning sought to expose the truth and is paying a steep price. She isn’t the only whistleblower suffering the consequences of telling the truth to the American people, or even trying to alert Congress and following what are considered the “proper channels.” surveillance, but the members of Congress and others with whom they communicated. Unfortunately, that rarely works. Consider the case of six scientists at the Food and Drug Administration who were fired for raising concerns to their supervisors and to Congress about FDA approval of medical devices that exposed patients to excessive radiation. Although they raised those concerns through proper channels, the FDA targeted not only the scientists for surveillance, but the members of Congress and others with whom they communicated. President Obama came into office promising to protect whistleblowers, but instead he has investigated and prosecuted more than any other administration.
The scope of government wrongdoing exposed by whistleblowers over the last several years is mind-blowing: warrantless wiretaps, massive surveillance and data retention, threats to public health, war crimes… not to mention torture, extrajudicial killings and more. But rather than investigate these egregious crimes, Congress has decided to go after whistleblowers. Last month, upon learning that President Obama personally checks off on the list of people to assassinate in drone strikes, members of Senate expressed their outrage and sprung into action with uncharacteristic speed… to ban leaks, not assassinations. The Senate Intelligence Committee has included anti-leak provisions in the 2013 Intelligence Authorization Bill that will both punish whistleblowers and cut off the flow of information from the government to the media. It would revoke a government employee’s pension benefits if the head of their agency determines they have leaked classified information, allowing for no exception for disclosures that reveal illegal conduct or waste, and providing no avenue for recourse for the employee. The bill also prohibits all but the highest-level officials from speaking with the press about “classified intelligence activities,” and puts other restrictions on disclosing information to the media. In short, the bill is both anti-Free Press and anti-whistleblower. Defending Dissent Foundation joined over a dozen other open government groups on a letter asking the Senate to oppose the bill.
2011 Quantico Protest — January 16, 2011
Scores of activists marched to the gates of Quantico Marine Base on MLK Day to support accused whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and protest the conditions of her detention. Defending Rights and Dissent (previously known as Defending Dissent Foundation) took the lead in organizing the protest. Officials have put Manning under special detention conditions that amount to extreme pre-trial punishment: she is confined to a small cell for 23 hours per day, is allowed only limited exercise, and is not allowed to interact socially with other prisoners. Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Amnesty International have also raised concerns about the conditions of Manning’s confinement. It was the largest protest ever seen at the base, and we were not welcomed with open arms. We sought to deliver a box of “humanitarian aid” (books, a blanket, etc) to Manning, but base officials refused to accept it. The protest garnered significant local news coverage, and may have led to punitive action against Manning by base officials. Bradley Manning Support Network founder Mike Gogulski stated “Immediately following a rally by more than 150 supporters at Quantico last week, Brad was put on suicide watch for two days for reasons his counsel could only conclude were punitive. He was stripped of all of his clothing except his boxer shorts and his glasses were taken away. It seems to me that the Marine command is now reacting in the worst possible way to rising pressure on them.” Less than a week after the protest, David House (a friend of Brad’s and one of his few approved visitors) and Jane Hamsler (Firedoglake.com founder) attempted to visit Manning during visitor hours, and to deliver a petition to base officials. They were both detained, questioned and not allowed to visit. (In our December newsletter, we reported that David House had been detained at O’Hare in November, and his electronics confiscated).
In January, DDF took the lead in organizing a rally outside of Quantico Marine Base, where Bradley Manning had been held in pre-trial solitary confinement for over seven months. The protest highlighted the inhumane conditions of Manning’s confinement and helped propel the issue into the mainstream media. A flurry of incidents kept the issue in the media, including the firing of PJ Crowley, the assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs at the U.S. State Department over his strong public criticism of Manning’s treatment. He declared that “what is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the Department of Defense.” In March, the Bradley Manning Support Network organized another, larger protest at Quantico, which culminated in a sit-in that shut down the highway in front of the base for hours and resulted in the arrest of over 30 activists. Due to the international and domestic pressure campaign, the Department of Defense decided to move Manning out of Quantico to Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas. She was moved on April 20 and her attorney reports that the conditions there are acceptable. Activists in Kansas City are planning a June 4th protest outside the prison. We expect the preliminary trial to be in early June in the D.C. area. Many people think that Manning was treated so harshly in order to compel her to incriminate WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. We do know for sure that a Grand Jury has been impaneled to investigate Assange and WikiLeaks, and the government desperately wants to be able to show that Assange conspired with Manning to liberate the documents. On April 26, the FBI served a subpoena to a target who wishes to remain unnamed to appear before the Grand Jury. It looks like the Grand Jury is focusing on Manning, and is looking to find a way to indict Assange under the Espionage Act.
July 13, 2011: Chelsea Manning Updates: The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, released a statement on July 12 expressing concerns about restrictions the U.S. has placed on his visits to Manning. He wants to be able to talk to Manning “under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid,” about conditions of his confinement at Quantico.
Wired.com releases unredacted chat logs. When the website initially released the redacted version last year, the logs seemed to incriminate Manning. Read the unredacted version here. T
ake Action: Sign a letter to Manning and/or participate in the grassroots video campaign here.