I couldn’t think of a better excuse to start over for the new year. We had a decent offer on the domain, “theintercept.com”, so this will be the opportunity to roll out another blog exploring the hypocrisy and origins of the war on terror. Receive updates for the upcoming movie of the same name. The new domain will be www.americanterrorist.com. Join us or die!
Amnesty International and other groups asked Swiss authorities to investigate the former president for torture
Will George W. Bush set foot in Europe again in his lifetime?
A planned trip by Bush to speak at the Switzerland-based United Israel Appeal later this week has been canceled after several human rights groups called for Swiss authorities to arrest Bush and investigate him for authorizing torture. Bush has traveled widely since leaving office, but not to Europe, where there is a strong tradition of international prosecutions.
The Swiss group and Bush’s spokesman claim that it was threats of protest, not of legal action, that prompted the cancellation. But facing protests is nothing new for Bush. What was different about this trip was that groups including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights argued that Switzerland, as a party to the UN Convention against Torture, is obligated to investigate Bush for potential prosecution.
Amnesty’s memo to Swiss authorities cites, among other things, Bush’s admission in his own memoir that he approved the use of waterboarding. From Amnesty’s press release:
“To date, we’ve seen a handful of military investigations into detentions and interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo. But none of these has had the independence and reach necessary to investigate high-level officials such as President Bush,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Meanwhile, there has been virtually zero accountability for crimes committed in the CIA’s secret detention program, which was authorized by then-President Bush.”
Anywhere in the world that he travels, President Bush could face investigation and potential prosecution for his responsibility for torture and other crimes in international law, particularly in any of the 147 countries that are party to the UN Convention against Torture.
“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring President Bush to justice, the international community must step in,” said Salil Shetty.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, meanwhile, intended to file a 2,500-page complaint against Bush in Swiss court on behalf of two Guantanamo detainees. The group will release that complaint to the public today.
Here is the Amnesty memo:
After the bombings that killed and maimed so horribly at the Boston Marathon, our country’s politics and mass media are awash in heartfelt compassion — and reflexive “doublethink,” which George Orwell described as willingness “to forget any fact that has become inconvenient.”
In sync with media outlets across the country, the New York Times put a chilling headline on Wednesday’s front page: “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim, Officials Say.” The story reported that nails and ball bearings were stuffed into pressure cookers, “rigged to shoot sharp bits of shrapnel into anyone within reach of their blast.”
Much less crude and weighing in at 1,000 pounds, CBU-87/B warheads were in the category of “combined effects munitions” when put to use 14 years ago by a bomber named Uncle Sam. The U.S. media coverage was brief and fleeting.
One Friday, at noontime, U.S.-led NATO forces dropped cluster bombs on the city of Nis, in the vicinity of a vegetable market. “The bombs struck next to the hospital complex and near the market, bringing death and destruction, peppering the streets of Serbia’s third-largest city with shrapnel,” a dispatch in the San Francisco Chronicle reported on May 8, 1999.
And: “In a street leading from the market, dismembered bodies were strewn among carrots and other vegetables in pools of blood. A dead woman, her body covered with a sheet, was still clutching a shopping bag filled with carrots.”
Pointing out that cluster bombs “explode in the air and hurl shards of shrapnel over a wide radius,” BBC correspondent John Simpson wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “Used against human beings, cluster bombs are some of the most savage weapons of modern warfare.”
Savage did not preclude usage. As a matter of fact, to Commander in Chief Bill Clinton and the prevailing military minds in Washington, savage was bound up in the positive attributes of cluster bombs. Each one could send up to 60,000 pieces of jagged steel shrapnel into what the weapon’s maker described as “soft targets.”
An unusually diligent reporter, Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times, reported from Pristina, Yugoslavia: “During five weeks of airstrikes, witnesses here say, NATO warplanes have dropped cluster bombs that scatter smaller munitions over wide areas. In military jargon, the smaller munitions are bomblets. Dr. Rade Grbic, a surgeon and director of Pristina’s main hospital, sees proof every day that the almost benign term bomblet masks a tragic impact. Grbic, who saved the lives of two ethnic Albanian boys wounded while other boys played with a cluster bomb found Saturday, said he had never done so many amputations.”
The LA Times article quoted Dr. Grbic: “I have been an orthopedist for 15 years now, working in a crisis region where we often have injuries, but neither I nor my colleagues have ever seen such horrific wounds as those caused by cluster bombs.” He added: “They are wounds that lead to disabilities to a great extent. The limbs are so crushed that the only remaining option is amputation. It’s awful, awful.”
The newspaper account went on: “Pristina’s hospital alone has treated 300 to 400 people wounded by cluster bombs since NATO’s air war began March 24, Grbic said. Roughly half of those victims were civilians, he said. Because that number doesn’t include those killed by cluster bombs and doesn’t account for those wounded in other regions of Yugoslavia, the casualty toll probably is much higher, he said. ‘Most people are victims of the time-activated cluster bombs that explode some time after they fall,’ he said.”
Later, during invasions and initial periods of occupation, the U.S. military dropped cluster bombs in Afghanistan and fired cluster munitions in Iraq.
Today, the U.S. State Department remains opposed to outlawing those weapons, declaring on its official website: “Cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility. Their elimination from U.S. stockpiles would put the lives of its soldiers and those of its coalition partners at risk.”
The State Department position statement adds: “Moreover, cluster munitions can often result in much less collateral damage than unitary weapons, such as a larger bomb or larger artillery shell would cause, if used for the same mission.” Perhaps the bomber(s) who stuffed nails and ball bearings into pressure cookers for use in Boston had a similarly twisted rationale.
But don’t expect explorations of such matters from the USA’s daily papers or commercial networks — or from the likes of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” or the PBS “NewsHour.” When the subject is killing and maiming, such news outlets take as a given the presumptive moral high ground of the U.S. government.
In his novel 1984, Orwell wrote about the conditioned reflex of “stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought . . . and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.”
The doublethink — continually reinforced by mass media — remains within an irony-free zone that would amount to mere self-satire if not so damaging to intellectual and moral coherence.
Every news report about the children killed and injured at the finish line in Boston, every account of the horrific loss of limbs, makes me think of a little girl named Guljumma. She was seven years old when I met her at an Afghan refugee camp one day in the summer of 2009.
At the time, I wrote: “Guljumma talked about what happened one morning last year when she was sleeping at home in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Valley. At about 5 a.m., bombs exploded. Some people in her family died. She lost an arm.”
In the refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, where several hundred families were living in squalid conditions, the U.S. government was providing no help. The last time Guljumma and her father had meaningful contact with the U.S. government was when it bombed them.
War thrives on abstractions, but Guljumma was no abstraction. She was no more or less of an abstraction than the children whose lives have been forever wrecked by the bombing at the Boston finish line.
But the same U.S. news media that are conveying the preciousness of children so terribly harmed in Boston are scarcely interested in children like Guljumma.
I thought of her again when seeing news reports and a chilling photo on April 7, soon after 11 children in eastern Afghanistan were even more unlucky than she was. Those children died from a U.S./NATO air strike. For mainline American journalists, it wasn’t much of a story; for American officials, it was no big deal.
“Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip,” Orwell observed, “but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.”
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.
A trove of leaked classified reports has confirmed what many had suspected – US drone kills in Pakistan are not the precision strikes against top-level al-Qaeda terrorists they are portrayed as by the Obama administration.
Instead, many of the attacks are aimed at suspected low-level tribal militants, who may pose no direct danger to the United States – and for many there appears to be little evidence to justify the assassinations.
Top secret documents obtained by McClatchy newspapers in the US show the locations, identities and numbers of those attacked and killed in Pakistan in 2006-8 and 2010-11, as well as explanations for why the targets were picked.
The statistics illustrate the breadth of the US ‘drone doctrine’ – which has never been defined by consecutive US administrations. Between 1,990 and 3,308 people are reported to have been killed in the drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, the vast majority of them during the Obama terms.
In the 12-month period up to 2011, 43 out of 95 drone strikes in the reports (which give an account of the vast majority of US operations in the country) were not aimed at al-Qaeda at all. And 265 out of 482 people killed in those assassinations, were defined internally as “extremists”.
Indeed, only six of the men killed – less than two percent – were senior al-Qaeda leaders.
Some of the groups include the Haqqani network and the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, both militant organizations, but ones the US did not designate as terrorists until 2012 and 2010 respectively. Neither one has ever conducted an attack on US soil.
It also confirms that attacks during the George W. Bush era, were conducted on targets picked by ISI, Pakistan’s security agency, which has no obligations to comply with US legal criteria.
Furthermore, in some cases it is difficult to confirm that the targets were militants at all.
In the strikes above, the internal reports showed that only one civilian had been killed. But the modus operandi revealed behind the strikes, shows that some of the attacks seem to have been based on the certain people or visitors being present as certain locations, or merely associating with those the US believes were terrorists. This chimes with the accusation that the US is carrying out a policy of “signature strikes” – attacks based on behavior, or “signature” that would be expected of a terrorist, rather than any specific illegal activity.
These “signatures” apparently include such suspicious behavior as taking part in a funeral procession or first responding to an initial drone strike. Last year, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said it’s believed that, “since President Obama took office, at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”
The US has previously refused to admit that it operates such a policy.
Some of the assassinations, such as that of, Mohammad, the younger brother of the leader of the Haqqani network, Badruddin, appear to have been simply errors, with the victims branded as terrorists only after the fact.
All this seems to go against the assurance of John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism chief, and new CIA head, who is the mastermind behind the drone policy
“We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing,” Brennan explained a year ago.
Obama’s administration has also said all targets are on a “list of active terrorists,” compiled with “extraordinary care and thoughtfulness”. Obama has also explicitly stated that drones should not carry out “speculative” killings.
But other than when ordering assassinations of US citizens, the President does not have to give full information to the Senate about the basis for any drone attack, much less give it a legal justification.
The latest revelations have unleashed a torrent of protest from experts who believe that the program is extra-judicial, violates Pakistan’s sovereignty, and is counter-productive in the long term.
“I have never seen nor am I aware of any rules of engagement that have been made public that govern the conduct of drone operations in Pakistan, or the identification of individuals and groups other than al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban,” Christopher Swift, a national security law expert from Georgetown University told McClatchy.
“We are doing this on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis, rather than a systematic or strategic basis.”
Micah Zenko, from the Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy think tank, went further, and accused the government of“misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”
He added: “When there is such a disconnect between who the administration says it kills and who it actually kills, that hypocrisy itself is a very dangerous precedent that other countries will emulate.”
Last month Ben Emmerson, after a secret research trip to the country announced that drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Emmerson added that the Pakistani government conveyed to him that it does not consent to the attacks, something that is often challenged in Washington and fuels mass protests in Pakistan.
Drone strikes were first used after the 9/11 attacks from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, in combat missions inside Afghanistan. More than a decade later, Washington has expanded the use of the remotely controlled aircraft into Yemen, Somalia and most of all Pakistan.
The US has carried out countless attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan since 2004 through the CIA’s Special Activities Division. Begun by President George W. Bush, the intensity of the missions has increased under the presidency of Barack Obama.
Islamabad publicly condemns these attacks but is known to have shared intelligence with the US and allowed drones to operate from its territory until April 2011, when NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in the Salala incident. WikiLeaks cables also revealed that Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani sanctioned the flights and in 2008 even asked the CIA for more “Predator coverage.”
Ordinary Pakistanis have also repeatedly protested against these attacks as a violation of its sovereignty and because of immense civilian collateral damage, including the death dozens of women and children.
An important case in Britain, pointed out to me by Abdeen Jabara and Antony Loewenstein, who writes,
“Memo to British Zionists; being anti-Zionist [is] as human as oxygen: Witness the debacle within the British Zionist establishment, via Haaretz, and the increasingly desperate ways that so-called leaders there will do anything to defend Israeli policies without for a minute actually considering what the Jewish state has become; a brutish occupier.”
The case involves a suit brought against an academic union by an Israel-supporting professor who wanted the tribunal to condemn anti-Israel speech as anti-Semitism because, he claimed, an affinity to Israel was an intrinsic part of his and others’ Jewish identity. Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz says the ruling that such speech does not constitute anti-Semitism has produced “turmoil” in the ranks of British Jewry. I particularly like the bit at the end, where the judge told the plaintiff if he doesn’t want to get his feelings hurt, he should avoid political debate:
The case was to have been the culmination of 11 years of pro-Israel activism by [Ronnie] Fraser, a mathematics lecturer who had been fighting against what he saw as a virulently anti-Israel tide, with a distinct tinge of anti-Semitism, rising in the union to which he belongs.
Alongside him was Anthony Julius, one of the most prominent Jewish lawyers in Britain and a tireless opponent of anti-Semitism. Supporting the two were a cast of witnesses including Jewish and sympathetic non-Jewish activists, academics and politicians….
The lawsuit was backed both financially and in terms of considerable research resources by organizations linked to the central British Jewry leadership forums, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.But beyond the factual disputes in the case, the fundamental basis of the Fraser’s accusations was that Jews possess a strong feeling of affinity toward Israel that is an intrinsic part of their Jewish identity. Therefore, he claimed, when an organization to which they belong constantly attacks Israel in a manner they deem unfair, it constitutes a direct attack on their identity…The defendants also had their own Jewish supporters. Fifty Jewish UCU [University and College Union] members signed an open letter praising their union and denying that there was any sort of institutional anti-Semitism within its ranks. Julius responded that it was simply a standard anti-Semitic ploy of dividing Jews into good-Jew/bad-Jew categories.But the well-built and detailed case was shattered by the tribunal’s ruling. The panel, headed by Judge A.M. Snelson, accepted UCU’s version of all the events in question, and found that most of the claims were no longer valid in any case, due to a change in the laws.Beyond that, it fundamentally disagreed with the central claim underpinning the complaints. The tribunal wrote in its judgment that “a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment cannot amount to a protected characteristic. It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness.”And while many Jews would agree with that ruling, the tribunal did not stop there. At the end of its 45-page ruling, it launched into an extraordinarily hostile invective against the very nature of the case brought before it. Though the panel was generally sympathetic to Fraser himself, it stated that as an activist “he must accept his fair share of minor injuries. … A political activist accepts the risk of being offended or hurt on occasions.”
In addition, Ben White reports the case may have been supported by the Israeli government:
Was the Israeli government involved too? A senior official at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently revealed that, “over the last six months Israel has taken on two (court) cases in partnership with UK Jewry” in fighting Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS). This very likely includes Fraser’s case, yet Anthony Julius had previously denied any such links, saying that to assume the case was “being supported by the Israeli government” is a “fantasy”.
Warning, disturbing images!
Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets.
The “unbreakable alliance,” which will be confirmed by the upcoming visit of President Barak Obama to Israel , will disqualify the United States as an honest broker of peace in the Arab – Israeli conflict in Palestine , a Palestinian veteran peace negotiator says.
This “unbreakable alliance” will doom whatever hopes remain during Obama’s visit for the revival of the U.S. – sponsored deadlocked “peace process,” on the resumption of which depends the very survival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership, and explains as well the Palestinian frustration, low expectations, unenthusiastic welcome and the absence of celebrations for their most cherished among world celebrities, in a stark contrast to the euphoria that is sweeping Israel in waiting for what the U.S. and Israeli officials are describing as an “historic” visit.
On February 19, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released the official blue, red and white logo that will be on all documents and signs during Obama’s visit late in March. The logo shows the words “Unbreakable Alliance” written in English and Hebrew under a combined Israeli and U.S. flags.
During his visit, Obama will become the first ever serving U.S. president to receive Israel’s presidential medal to honor the fact that he has “established the closest working military and intelligence relationship with Israel in the country’s history: Joint exercises and training, increased security assistance every year, unprecedented advanced technology transfers, doubling of funding for Israel’s missile defense system, and assistance in funding for the Iron Dome system,” according to Steven L. Spiegel in Huffington Post late last year.
Speaking exclusively to RFI Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian veteran peace negotiator and member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel’s partner in signing the defunct Oslo peace accords, said the first – term Obama administration “have just managed to buy more time for Israel” to “create facts on the (Israeli – occupied Palestinian) ground.”
“Our experience has been really tragic with this American administration,” which “started with such high hopes and tremendous promises,” but “they backed down so quickly it was incredible,” she added, to conclude: “The U.S. has disqualified itself as a peace broker.”
Therefore, “there are no plans to celebrate” Obama’s visit to Ramallah, because “they haven’t forgotten the part he played” in aborting the PLO’s efforts in 2011 to win the United Nations’ recognition of Palestine statehood as a full member and in opposing its UN recognition as a non – member observer state the next year, according to Shlomi Eldar in Al-Monitor on February 14. Still, to make a bad situation worse, Obama will convey the same message to Abbas during his upcoming visit, because “our position has not changed” neither to Palestinian statehood nor to Palestinian national reconciliation according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Olivia Nuland on February 19.
Obama will visit on the backdrop of a two –year old simmering Palestinian – U.S. political crisis, which potentially could explode in the aftermath of his visit.
The U.S. subscription to the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood would establish irrevocably the prerequisite to make or break the only viable “two – state solution” for the almost century – old conflict, because it would confirm the 1967 borders as the basis for such a solution and, consequently, will for sure defuse the time bomb of the Israeli illegal settlement enterprise in the Palestinian occupied territories and pave the way for the resumption of negotiations. However neither Obama nor the U.S. is forthcoming and they continue to “manage” the conflict instead of seriously seeking to solve it.
That the US is objectively “the greatest country ever to exist” is as irrational as it is destructive, yet it maintains the status of orthodoxy
Last week, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, and the US – the country with the world’s largest stockpile of that weapon and the only one in history to use it – led the condemnation (US allies with large nuclear stockpiles, such as Britain and Israel, vocally joined in). Responding to unnamed commentators who apparently noted this contradiction, National Review’s Charles Cooke voiced these two assertions:
He followed that with this:
Nobody can reasonably dispute that North Korea is governed by a monstrous regime and that it would be better if they lacked a nuclear weapons capability. That isn’t what interests me about this. What interests me here is that highlighted claim: that the US “is the greatest country in world history”, and therefore is entitled to do that which other countries are not.
This declaration always genuinely fascinates me. Note how it’s insufficient to claim the mere mantle of Greatest Country on the Planet. It’s way beyond that: the Greatest Country Ever to Exist in All of Human History (why not The Greatest Ever in All of the Solar Systems?). The very notion that this distinction could be objectively or even meaningfully measured is absurd. But the desire to believe it is so strong, the need to proclaim one’s own unprecedented superiority so compelling, that it’s hardly controversial to say it despite how nonsensical it is. The opposite is true: it has been vested with the status of orthodoxy.
What I’m always so curious about is the thought process behind this formulation. Depending on how you count, there are 179 countries on the planet. The probability that you will happen to be born into The Objectively Greatest One, to the extent there is such a thing, is less than 1%. As the US accounts for roughly 5% of the world’s population, the probability that you will be born into it is 1/20. Those are fairly long odds for the happenstance of being born into the Greatest Country on Earth.
But if you extend the claim to the Greatest Country that Has Ever Existed in All of Human History, then the probability is minute: that you will happen to be born not only into the greatest country on earth, but will be born at the precise historical time when the greatest of all the countries ever to exist is thriving. It’s similar to winning the lottery: something so mathematically improbable that while our intense desire to believe it may lead us on an emotional level wildly to overestimate its likelihood, our rational faculties should tell us that it is unlikely in the extreme and therefore to doubt seriously that it will happen.
Do people who wave the Greatest Country in All of Human History flag engage that thought process at all? I’m asking this genuinely. Given the sheer improbability that it is true, do they search for more likely explanations for why they believe this?
In particular, given that human beings’ perceptions are shaped by the assumptions of their culture and thus have a natural inclination to view their own culture as superior, isn’t it infinitely more likely that people view their society as objectively superior because they’re inculcated from birth in all sorts of overt and subtle ways to believe this rather than because it’s objectively true? It’s akin to those who believe in their own great luck that they just happened to be born into the single religion that is the One True One rather than suspecting that they believe this because they were taught to from birth.
At the very least, the tendency of the human brain to view the world from a self-centered perspective should render suspect any beliefs that affirm the objective superiority of oneself and one’s own group, tribe, nation, etc. The “truths” we’re taught to believe from birth – whether nationalistic, religious, or cultural – should be the ones treated with the greatest skepticism if we continue to embrace them in adulthood, precisely because the probability is so great that we’ve embraced them because we were trained to, or because our subjective influences led us to them, and not because we’ve rationally assessed them to be true (or, as in the case of the British Cooke, what we were taught to believe about western nations closely aligned to our own).
That doesn’t mean that what we’re taught to believe from childhood is wrong or should be presumed erroneous. We may get lucky and be trained from the start to believe what is actually true. That’s possible. But we should at least regard those precepts with great suspicion, to subject them to particularly rigorous scrutiny, especially when it comes to those that teach us to believe in our own objective superiority or that of the group to which we belong. So potent is the subjective prism, especially when it’s implanted in childhood, that I’m always astounded at some people’s certainty of their own objective superiority (“the greatest country in world history”).
It’s certainly true that Americans are justifiably proud of certain nationalistic attributes: class mobility, ethnic diversity, religious freedom, large immigrant populations, life-improving technological discoveries, a commitment to some basic liberties such as free speech and press, historical progress in correcting some of its worst crimes. But all of those virtues are found in equal if not, at this point, greater quantity in numerous other countries. Add to that mix America’s shameful attributes – its historic crimes of land theft, genocide, slavery and racism, its sprawling penal state, the company it keeps on certain human rights abuses, the aggressive attack on Iraq, the creation of a worldwide torture regime, its pervasive support for the world’s worst tyrannies – and it becomes not just untenable, but laughable, to lavish it with that title.
This is more than just an intellectual exercise. This belief in America’s unparalleled greatness has immense impact. It is not hyperbole to say that the sentiment expressed by Cooke is the overarching belief system of the US political and media class, the primary premise shaping political discourse. Politicians of all types routinely recite the same claim, and Cooke’s tweet was quickly re-tweeted by a variety of commentators and self-proclaimed foreign policy experts from across the spectrum.
Note that Cooke did not merely declare America’s superiority, but rather used it to affirm a principle: as a result of its objective superiority, the US has the right to do things that other nations do not. This self-affirming belief – I can do X because I’m Good and you are barred from X because you are Bad – is the universally invoked justification for all aggression. It’s the crux of hypocrisy. And most significantly of all, it is the violent enemy of law: the idea that everyone is bound by the same set of rules and restraints.
February 23 marks the 1000th day in which alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, 24-year-old US Army intelligence officer Bradley Manning, has been jailed by US authorities without trial.
A pre-trial hearing in January in the case of Manning, concluded that his defence would be restricted to arguing motive during his trial, scheduled for June 3.
Manning has been accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, which revealed a wide range of US war crimes, as well as evidence of corruption and lying by a range of governments.
BradleyManning.org said Manning is “accused of releasing the Collateral Murder video, that shows the killing of unarmed civilians and two Reuters journalists, by a US Apache helicopter crew in Iraq. He is also accused of sharing the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and a series of embarrassing US diplomatic cables.
“These documents … illuminated such issues as the true number and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq, along with a number of human rights abuses by U.S.-funded contractors and foreign militaries, and the role that spying and bribes play in international diplomacy.
“Given the war crimes exposed, if PFC Bradley Manning was the source for these documents, he should be given a medal of honor.”
The US government, however, responded to the leaked evidence of serious US crimes by charging Manning with several offences, alleging that he “aided the enemy”. Judge Army Colonel Denise Lind’s January 17 ruling, like previous rulings in Manning’s case, remains unavailable to the public. Information can only be gleaned from reporters who were present at the hearings.
Kevin Gosztola, a journalist who has been diligently covering Manning’s case, was present at the hearings. He said the ruling means the defence cannot discuss whether Manning had “good faith” when arguing against charges that he “wrongfully and wantonly cause[d] to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government”.
Nor can the defence use the argument in relation to charges where the government has to prove he had “reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation”.
However, the defence can discuss motive when addressing charges that Manning aided the enemy, to put the case that he did not know passing information to WikiLeaks would constitute “dealing with the enemy”.
It will also be allowed for sentencing, in which case he will have already been found guilty of very serious crimes that carry the potential for life imprisonment, or even potentially the death penalty. The question of motives could, at best, be used only to appeal for leniency in sentencing.
Manning’s defence team hoped to argue that he had the motive to “select information he believed could not be used by the enemy to harm the US”. However, the judge ruled that Manning’s subjective conclusions were “immaterial”.
This means that what Manning believed when carrying out the alleged offences will not be considered, only what is “objective”. As Gosztola points out: “What would an objective person know about classified information that would be kept secret for twenty-five years?”
The ruling also closed off the defence’s attempt at having damage assessment reports allowed in the trial. These are reports conducted by US security agencies that investigated damage caused by the leaked documents.
The reports concluded that there was no or very little harm caused, so the government prosecutors are eager to keep the reports out of the trial. Lind determined that Manning could not have known what measures agencies of government would have taken to mitigate damage so such evidence was not relevant.
These rulings greatly limit the defence’s line of argument. Gosztola described the primary line of defence for Manning as “odd”. Defence will argue that the military let Manning down by not practising good information security and also pointing to Manning’s mental health issues and claiming that the military was derelict in providing care.
This is a “litigious” defence, he says, which isn’t actually aimed at saying Manning is not guilty, but rather trying to get the charges thrown out.
The hearing has also renewed interest in how the final judgement will impact the mainstream press’ publication of the leaks.
Scott Shane in the New York Times quoted an exchange where “Colonel Lind, the judge, asked a prosecutor a hypothetical question: If Private Manning had given the documents to The New York Times rather than to WikiLeaks, would he face the same charges?” The prosecutor answered yes.
The NYT, along with many other mainstream publications, published hundreds of the documents that Manning allegedly leaked to WikiLeaks. The Justice Department continues its investigation into whether WikiLeaks head Julian Assange and his associates can be charged over publishing secret US cables.
Hearings also considered the defence’s charge that Manning’s rights had been violated due to unjustified delay of the trial. If the judge rules in the defence’s favour, there is the potential for the charges to be dropped.
Manning was first jailed on May 27, 2010. The defence put forward examples of when they believed the government had failed to act or acted improperly.
Defence and the judge seemed to agree that there was no case in military justice history that took so long to go to trial. If the defence succeeds in pushing this argument, all the charges against Manning could be dismissed due to the speedy trial violations. Lind is due to make her ruling before the next hearing begins on February 26.
Meanwhile, Manning languishes in solitary confinement in Fort Levenworth, Kansas. The Bradley Manning Support Network reports events are being planned around the world, including the US, Germany, Canada, Britain and Italy on February 23, to mark Manning’s 1000th day of jail.
[For more information, visit www.bradleymanning.org.]