Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison: Short Video Interview and Some Comments from Legal and Human Rights Organizations (UPDATES)

Below you will find a short video interview with David Swanson explaining the implications of Manning’s sentence as well as reaction from three legal and human rights organizations:

David Swanson: Private Manning becomes latest victim of President Obama's war on whistleblowers

Statement from The Center for Constitutional Rights:
“We are outraged that a whistleblower and a patriot has been sentenced on a conviction under the Espionage Act. The government has stretched this archaic and discredited law to send an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information. We can only hope that Manning’s courage will continue to inspire others who witness state crimes to speak up.

“This show trial was a frontal assault on the First Amendment, from the way the prosecution twisted Manning’s actions to blur the distinction between whistleblowing and spying to the government’s tireless efforts to obstruct media coverage of the proceedings. It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes he exposed are not even investigated. Every aspect of this case sets a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions of whistleblowers – who play an essential role in democratic government by telling us the truth about government wrongdoing – and we fear for the future of our country in the wake of this case.

“We must channel our outrage and continue building political pressure for Manning’s freedom. President Obama should pardon Bradley Manning, and if he refuses, a presidential pardon must be an election issue in 2016.”

Statement from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
"When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. A legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate."

News from Amnesty International:
“President Obama should commute US Army Private Bradley Manning’s sentence to time already served to allow his immediate release, Amnesty International said today.

“Military judge Col Denise Lind today sentenced the Wikileaks source to 35 years in military prison – out of a possible 90 – for leaking reams of classified information. He has already served more than three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions described by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as cruel and inhumane.

“‘Bradley Manning acted on the belief that he could spark a meaningful public debate on the costs of war, and specifically on the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. His revelations included reports on battlefield detentions and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed in US helicopter attacks, information which should always have been subject to public scrutiny,’ said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

“‘Instead of ‘sending a message’ by giving him a de facto life sentence the US government should turn its attention to investigating violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the context of the ill-conceived ‘war on terror’.

“Some of the materials Manning leaked, published by Wikileaks, pointed to potential human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law by US troops abroad, by Iraqi and Afghan forces operating alongside US forces, and by military contractors. Yet the judge had ruled before the trial that Private Manning would not be able to defend himself by presenting evidence that he was acting in the public interest.

“‘Manning had already pleaded guilty to leaking information, so for the US to have continued prosecuting him under the Espionage Act, even charging him with ‘aiding the enemy,’ can only be seen as a harsh warning to anyone else tempted to expose government wrongdoing.’ said Brown.

“‘More than anything else, the case shows the urgent need to reform the USA’s antiquated Espionage Act and strengthen protections for those who reveal information that the public has a need and a right to know.’

“Manning’s defence counsel is expected to file a petition for clemency shortly with the U.S. Department of Justice office that reviews requests for pardons and other acts of clemency before passing them on to the President for a final decision. Such requests are normally made after all appeals are exhausted, but the President may grant clemency at any time.

“‘Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial. The President doesn’t need to wait for this sentence to be appealed to commute it; he can and should do so right now,’ said Brown.”

Statement from Julian Assange:
"Today the well-known whistleblower Bradley Manning has been ordered by a military court in Maryland to spend a minimum of 5.2 years in prison with a 32 year maximum (including time already spent in detention), for revealing information about US government behaviour to the public.

"This hard-won minimum term represents a significant tactical victory for Bradley Manning’s defense, campaign team and supporters. At the start of these proceedings, the United States government had charged Bradley Manning with a capital offence and other charges carrying over 135 years of incarceration. His defense team is now appealing to the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals in relation to this sentence and also for due process violations during the trial.

"While the defense should be proud of their tactical victory, it should be remembered that Mr Manning’s trial and conviction is an affront to basic concepts of Western justice. On Mr Manning’s arrest in May 2010, he was immediately subjected to punitive incarceration by the US government, which was found to be "cruel, inhumane and degrading" by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, and even found to be unlawful by US military courts.

"The period Mr Manning has already spent in prison will be subtracted from the sentence, and dispensations for good behaviour, parole and other factors mean that it is likely he will now spend less than ten years in confinement. Mr Manning’s defense team are now seeking to reduce this sentence further on appeal. US military law stipulates that the sentence can only be reduced. It is important that support for Bradley Manning continues during this time.

"The only just outcome in Mr Manning’s case is his unconditional release, compensation for the unlawful treatment he has undergone, and a serious commitment to investigating the wrongdoing his alleged disclosures have brought to light.

"Mr Manning’s treatment has been intended to send a signal to people of conscience in the US government who might seek to bring wrongdoing to light. This strategy has spectacularly backfired, as recent months have proven. Instead, the Obama administration is demonstrating that there is no place in its system for people of conscience and principle. As a result, there will be a thousand more Bradley Mannings."

Top Comment from an Article on Vice (direct link):
Instead of giving my opinion about Manning, let me offer a summary of some of the very significant (if over-looked) things his leaks revealed, to help everyone make up their own minds.

He showed a lot more than just the Collateral Murder video and some "embarrassing" diplomatic revelations.


1) Tens of thousands of extra murders of civilians by US forces that the military lied about (claiming they weren't even counting).

2) Systematic use of torture by allied forces, whereby the US would turn over people it had rounded up somewhat arbitrarily to Iraqi (etc) forces for regular and brutal torture.

3) Broad use of bribes and threats by the US against poor countries in the UN, for example to prevent them for pushing for more serious approaches to preventing climate change through international regulation.

4) Most prisoners in Guantanamo are not considered guilty even by US officials.

5) The US supports and helps install brutal and corrupt regimes around the world.

Many people could claim to have "known" all of this before (I didn't), but it's still far different reading the government admit these things officially in their own documents.

Thus the leaks were historic, and helped kick off a new era in the struggle for world peace and progress.


1) The Iraq War ended ONLY because the Iraqi parliament revoked immunity for US forces there. Obama wanted to extend the war far beyond but wouldn't risk scores of US soldiers and officers sent to jail for their routine crimes.

What did several members of Iraqi parliament cite in helping them realize the need to hold US forces accountable for crimes? Manning's leaks to WL.

2) Many leaders of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt have cited info about their country from Manning's leaks as an important catalyst for the overthrow of dictatorships there.

Local media ran in-depth exposes of dictatorship crimes, as recounted in US cables, and groups like Anonymous helped spread the message by rerouting local government websites to descriptions of abuses from the leaks.

The Arab Spring went on to inspire social justice movements around the globe and awaken what even authoritarian thinkers have admitted is a new era of mass protest including Occupy and Los Indignados.

3) While press coverage in the US has been limited and focused on Manning's personality and so-called wrong-doing, global media coverage has exploded with stories based on the leaks, UP TO THIS DAY.

For instance, we can learn (if we choose to read foreign media) how the US has played a large part in the recent wars and famine in the Horn of Africa, something that brought suffering to millions that we wouldn't have known about without the leaks.

So much of the leaked info doesn't even concern the US directly, but gives information about serious wrongdoing by foreign govts and groups that is highly relevant to local people.

Serious shifts in public opinion and even electoral changes can be traced to outrage over information revealed in the leaks, some of which refer all the way back to events of the 1960s.

4) It is now slightly more difficult for our government (or any government or even company) to wage injustice, as all institutional criminals are now aware of the power of whistle-blowers and open-source leaks to shine a light on their crimes.

5) As a side benefit reaction to these leaks has helped us see the "true colors" of politicians and journalists across the board, and forced many previously "non-political" people to confront the unjust nature of their own governments and the complicity of the media like never before.

So is Manning a traitor to the US government? If that's your answer, then consider what the powers he is "betraying" stand for.

Video Statement and Article from Chris Hedges:

"The swift and brutal verdict read out by Army Col. Judge Denise Lind in sentencing Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison means we have become a nation run by gangsters. It signals the inversion of our moral and legal order, the death of an independent media, and the open and flagrant misuse of the law to prevent any oversight or investigation of official abuses of power, including war crimes. The passivity of most of the nation’s citizens—the most spied upon, monitored and controlled population in human history—to the judicial lynching of Manning means they will be next. There are no institutional mechanisms left to halt the shredding of our most fundamental civil liberties, including habeas corpus and due process, or to prevent pre-emptive war, the assassination of U.S. citizens by the government and the complete obliteration of privacy.

"Wednesday’s sentencing marks one of the most important watersheds in U.S. history. It marks the day when the state formally declared that all who name and expose its crimes will become political prisoners or be forced, like Edward Snowden, and perhaps Glenn Greenwald, to spend the rest of their lives in exile. It marks the day when the country dropped all pretense of democracy, obliterated checks and balances under the separation of powers and rejected the rule of law. It marks the removal of the mask of democracy, already a fiction, and its replacement with the ugly, naked visage of corporate totalitarianism. State power is to be, from now on, unchecked, unfettered and unregulated. And those who do not accept unlimited state power, always the road to tyranny, will be ruthlessly persecuted. On Wednesday we became vassals. As I watched the burly guards hustle Manning out of a military courtroom at Fort Meade after the two-minute sentencing, as I listened to half a dozen of his supporters shout to him, “We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley! You’re our hero!” I realized that our nation has become a vast penal colony."

continued at truthdig: "Bradley Manning and the Gangster State"

Statement from Vijay Prashad:

Statement from Manning's attorney, David Coombs:

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