Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Contextualizing the Bradley Manning pre-trial hearings

with Robert Knight and Jeff Paterson
On Five O'Clock Shadow, WBAI (99.5FM)

RK: A Military Tribunal on Bradley Manning has just come to a close.Today the concluding arguments were held in an Article 32 hearing at Fort Meade for Private Bradley Manning. who is accused of releasing confidential cables and other content to WikiLeaks.  The hearing has been a contentious one and it follows 18 months of imprisonment. We're now joined live by Jeff Patterson, who has been following the case, and works with bradleymanning.org. Jeff. can you bring us up to date on the state of the case against Bradley Manning?

JP: Well for the last week i've been in the court room at Fort Meade Md. right next door to the National Security Agency.  And the prosecution has outlined a pretty thorough case of leaking - of Bradley Manning  downloading this information and transferring it to the WikiLeaks website. That didn't realy come as news to me-- 18 months ago when we started the Bradley Manning  website, we did go on the assumption that Bradley Manning is probably the person who released this information but We're supporting Bradley not because we think he's innocent, but because we actually think he did it, and it was a great thing that he did. The prosecution made no attempt to show that anybody was actually harmed from the information, they made no attempt to claim that Bradley Manning  received any kind of benefit for releasing the information. And the prosecution's own documents lay out a motive of a young man wanting to change the world for the better, who seeing these things in the course of doing his job as an intelligence analysis, made the decision to probably  break certain military guidelines for sharing information, but felt that we as the public needed to see this information,  to paraphrase Bradley Manning  in the chat logs,  to make informed decisions as a real democracy. And if we don't act upon this information and demand reforms, then we're doomed. And that's another paraphrase that's been attributed to Bradley Manning.

RK: What is the legal principal of arguing the greater good in the face of what may or may not be a technical or procedural violation about the release of information? What body of law and rights do we have to refer to in this appeal that has been made by his attorneys that there was no harm?

JP: Well we have to remember that this is a military court under the uniform code of military justice, and it's not exactly the same as a civilian court. I expect the Commanding General will take the recommendations of the investigating officer who runs this investigation and  he'll charge Bradley Manning  with these crimes, but also the question is, will he be charged with aiding the enemy, which prosecutors believe he did, and also various counts  of  the Espionage Act?  And with these  to me are where they're clearly overcharging Bradley. And David Coombs in his closing argument today  pointed out that they're putting the death penalty on the table with Bradley Manning  in the hopes that he simply breaks and cuts a deal and works with them to go after JA and WikiLeaks. The key thing is, does he face the death penalty, does he face  200 years in prison or does he go to jail for x number of years but still retain some portion of his life down the road. These are issues of mitigation. And Bradley's attorney has brought up the  issue that he was a good soldier, that he was clearly troubled by his sexual identity as a young gay man. He took on a female persona online and was clearly troubled, and he let his military supervisors know that he was having issues of this nature. He begged for help and received no help. So again, it's a mitigating issue of what kind of punishment Bradley will eventually get.  Now the other  part of that mitigation is:  : the greater good. Who was harmed? Nobody. Who was helped? Well, the people trying to overthrow the Tunisian government and the Egyption governmentt, the people of Iraq who were fighting to get US troops not to stay beyond the deadline coming up next week; those people were benefited from this information.

RK: I'm taken by the phrase and the argument of the prosecution about
"aiding the enemy". As far as I can recall,  the US is not at war with any particular nation, with the possible exception of North Korea, where there's an armistice, and that war never technically ended -- a police action as it is called as a term of art. So once again, the greater good --  the absence of a declared war enemy seems to mitigate the charges, no?

JP: Well today in the courtroom the prosecution put up a video of I guess a terrorist spokesperson a jihadist of some kind, making a speech where he shows the collateral murder video alongside of him, saying that these are the reasons why the infidels need to be driven out of Iraq. And that seems to be the sole foundation of the "aiding the enemy" charge.

RK: Their point being?

JP: Their point being that if the bad guys knew the truth, then they're also  emboldened to fight the good guys. But they might as well put up an edition of the NY Times and say the NYT is aiding the enemy because it makes America look bad, and makes US troops look bad. That's literally the extent of their argument.

RK: You've been at the head of the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade Md where there is quite a bit of military activity. You've been able to see what we have not been able to see each day, and my first question about what you witnessed inside that trial room is, how does Bradley Manning look? How strong and secure does he appear to be, after a tremendously arduous ordeal during his imprisonment?

JP: Well he's been transferred out of Quantico Green brig since about June of this year. So he's had 6 months now of normal treatment as a pretrial detainee. Physically he looks fine. He chats regularly with his defense attorneys. If you saw him on the street you wouldn't notice anything unique about him, except that he's relatively short and he probably weighs about 130 but that's probably his natural stature.

RK: Jeff, can you let people know about some of the indignities and perhaps psychological tortures Bradley Manning  went through during much of his detention. In particular, I recall his  being forced to sleep naked and being put on suicide watch -- was that a precaution or a suggestion to him? What did Bradley Manning  go through?

JP: Well we know for a fact that the suicide watch that Bradley was subjected to was designed simply as a rationale to enforce a unique treatment on Bradley, that no other prisoner at no other time had ever been subjected to at Quantico. Two mental health professionals at Quantico were willing and ready to testify that that was the case. The investigating officer in this case deemed that that was irrelevant and that he would not hear about the illegal pretrial punishment that Bradley was subjected to. The investigating officer also ruled out any discussion  of President Obama's declaration that Bradley Manning  was guilty, prior to even the re-trial hearings, And this is what's called unlawful command influence, in the uniform code of military justice, in that no superior in the chain of command is to influence a court martial that's underway. These are two clear violations of military laws the military has violated and yet has faced no consequence for doing so. And it's also important to point out that the investigating officer in this case who is supposed to be an impartial army officer literally worked for the Justice Dept up to 9 days ago as an employee. When I'm sitting in the court room, on my right are  representatives of various government agencies helping the prosecution of Bradley Manning , one of them in the Justice Dept. So you have an employee of the Justice Dept being an allegedly impartial arbiter, while his employers are sitting there prosecuting the defendant!
It's just bizarre if you actually believe there was some sort of fairness going on here.

RK: That brings us to some disturbing developments outside of this proceding
There are two things that are troubling: one is that the Obama Administration has moved ahead with more reclassification of mundaine data in federal government and federal archives -- more than ever before in United States history. In addition, President Barack Obama himself, the White House, insisted on legislation that would codify his ability to arbitrarily arrest and detain indefinitely American citizens, plus pretty much whoever else he decided to detain. Is there any relationship between that creeping secrecy and militarization of American society and an emblem or a bellweather that may be represented by the case of Bradley Manning? Is Bradley Manning about more than his own case and sort of a precursor for a possible fate for the rest of us?

JP: Well one thing I can say is that overclassification is at the heart of the matter here. Bradley Manning  allegedly released possibly 700,000 classified documents. The release of 700,000 documents, and neither the State Dept or any other  agency of the government has been unable to show that anything causing harm came out of 700,000 documents, Each one of them allegedly was supposed to cause likely harm! So what does it mean for our classification system if we're literally classifying nearly a million documents, when in fact there really was no basis for the classification in the first place? It's not about protecting us, but rather protecting people from embarassment - the people to which we pay our tax dollars to represent us, to keep us safe, to protect us from bad guys, and fight our wars and whatnot.  But the government istrying to punish Bradley Manning , make an example out of him. Anybody in the future who thinks about releasing classified information, even if there are possible war crimes in those documents, don't do it or we'll destroy you, even before you get your day in court. And for people like us and probably the listeners of Pacifica, it's about  trying to provide that extra courage to people in the government when they see wrongdoings, when they see illegal acts, when they see corporations colluding with our government to the detriment of the public good, that hopefully they'll stand up and say something and be a whistle blower. So for Bradley Manning's case that's what's at stake the way I look at it

RK: Well Jeff Patterson, one other question remains: is this the first gambit of redacting the world - of going after WikiLeaks and kindred institutions and spirits? How much of a squeeze is on Bradley Manning   and how effective do you think that could  be in what one might presume to be the Obama administration's real goal, to get Julian Assange?

JP: Well I sat in the courtrooom next to the  attorneys for Julian Assange, who are very interested in seeing what evidence the government lays out against Bradley Manning, because their assumption is that Julian Assange  will be somehow dragged before a US court at some point and faced with that same evidence. What I could say is that the government is making a case that Bradley had some chats with people  representing WikiLeaks. But nothing that I saw was any different than any confidential source contacting a member of the media and saying: hey, I got some evidence of some wrongdoing, and them saying: well show me more, is this a real story or not? And every journalist since the beginning of newspapers has done that, so why is Julian Assange any different in that regard? I dont think he is, I simply think  he's playing the role that newspapers used to play.

RK: Daniel Ellsberg, who had a watershed moment with the Pentagon Papers and the release of those, recently said: my trial was ended because of gross governmental  misconduct under President Nixon. The court martial should be ended now for Bradley Manning  for exactly the same reason. There's been gross illegal misconduct against Bradley Manning  in the form of the incarceration without trial and many other reasons for this travesty. With the support of someone like Daniel Ellsberg and many others, can you tell us about the work that is being done by bradleymanning.org or by the Bradley Manning support group?

JP: We've been working on giving Bradley Manning  every fighting chance both inside and outside the courtroom. We hired Bradley Manning's selected attorney, we paid 100,000 odd dollars and will probably have to pay another 75,000 by the end of the court martial. We are dedicated to raising every penny they need. And outside we're In trying to change public opinion. We purchased billboards in the Wash DC area, We had 100 people stand out in pretty freezing wind on Friday the first day for a 9 houir vigil. And we had 300 people march and rally on military property at Fort Meade on Saturday. We had 40 different places around the world who held rallies for Bradley last weekend. We're looking at this as a trial run of much larger protests coming up,  leading up to his court martial in either the spring or summer, also probably to be held at Fort Mead in the same courtroom.

RK How can people join you in the work of  spreading the word for whistle blowers like Bradley Manning?

JP: I encourage people to check out our web site where we have every detail of the court martial and we post daily updates. We're literally going to do everything we possibly can, and I think we've created a grass roots movement that already spans many continents, but we realize we're going to do  whole heck of a  lot more to save this young man's life.

RK: Jeff Patterson, thank you so much for your assiduousness and persistance in monitoring this trial, and I leave you the last word as to what comes next.

JP: We fully expect a general court martial to be called, for Bradley's life literally to be on the line, and I guess I'm at a loss for words as the day approaches. Sitting in this trial I'm watching a case  just as important as Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers unfolding. If there's a way that I can convey that to other people, I'm going to keep trying to do that.

RK: Well thank you for doing that today on Five O'Clock Shadow.

Jeff Paterson of http://www.bradleymanning.org/
Robert Knight on Five O'Clock Shadow can be heard at 5pm Monday-Thursday on WBAI 99.5FM or streamed at

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