Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bradley Manning’s Sentence Cut

Defence lawyers argued that the government had taken single acts of criminality and split them into several separate violations. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Defence lawyers argued that the government had taken single acts of criminality and split them into several separate violations. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Stephen Cook/Golden Age Gaia: Well, he hasn’t been released – yet. But his sentence has been cut by 46 years and at least it’s a move in the right direction.
Rare victory for defence as judge agrees that some of 20 counts soldier was convicted on should be merged to cut sentence
Bradley Manning’s maximum possible sentence for leaking state secrets to WikiLeaks was cut from 136 years to a possible 90 years on Tuesday, marking a rare victory for the defence in a trial that has so far swung almost exclusively in the US government’s direction.
The judge presiding over the court martial, Colonel Denise Lind, granted the most elements of a defence motion calling for some of the 20 counts for which Manning has been found guilty to be merged on grounds that they repeat each other.
In the motion, defence lawyers argued that the government had taken single acts of criminality and split them into several separate violations – thus multiplying the possible sentence.
“By dividing this ongoing act into two separate specifications,” the motion says, referring to the soldier’s transmission of the US embassy cables to WikiLeaks, “the government takes what should be a 10-year offence and makes it a 20-year offence and unfairly increases Pfc Manning’s punitive exposure”.
Lind granted all defence requests to merge counts, except specifications four and six of charge II that relate to stealing and purloining of the Iraq and Afghan warlogs. Reporters present in the court said they were unable to record details of the judge’s ruling because she read her judgment so fast.
In previous hearings, the Guardian has counted that she reads at a rate of 180 words per minute. In one session, even the stenographers employed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation as a way of injecting public accountability in the trial process struggled to keep up with Lind as she read.
“Judge Lind recitation of her ruling on merging of sentencing charges was ridiculously fast. NO respect for the public and press,” tweeted the independent journalist Alexa O’Brien. Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network concurred: “Judge read merger ruling too fast to transcribe.”
The merging of offences is the first glimmer of hope for the army private since he was found guilty of 20 of the 22 counts that he faced as a result of leaking more than 700,000 documents to the anti-secrecy website. He was found not guilty on the most serious charge, “aiding the enemy”, and of another count relating to the transmission of an encrypted video of a US air strike in Garani, Afghanistan.
Lind is presiding over the case alone, in the absence of a jury, at the request of Manning. The sentencing phase, a form of mini-trial, is expected to last at least two more weeks, with the defence planning to call more than 20 witnesses once the prosecution has completed its sentencing testimony.
By Ed Pilkington in New York, The Guardian – August 6, 2013
Thank you Sage, Stephen and your Guides!

Speaking Out For Bradley Manning and Whistleblowers

Julian Assange in London, where he has given his reaction to the conviction of Bradley Manning on espionage charges. Photograph: Juan Passarelli/AP
Julian Assange in London, where he has given his reaction to the conviction of Bradley Manning on espionage charges. Photograph: Juan Passarelli/AP
sage:  It is a sad day when a whistleblower like Bradley Manning comes under such persecution for allowing the public to see the truth of inhumanity and war crimes going on off the mainstream media’s radar; adding insult to injury, is the guilty verdict on 19 counts with a possible 130+ years in jail.  And there seems to be no hue and cry about it, at least not like the overblown Zimmerman trial verdict. 
But at least two people seem to be on the side of journalistic and democratic freedoms:  Julian Assange (Story 1), Senator Chuck Grassley (Story 2)  and Antiwar Editor John Glaser (Story 3) who, in their individual roles, speak out for whistleblowers, and Bradley Manning in particular. 

Story 1 – Julian Assange: Conviction of Bradley Manning a Dangerous Precedent

WikiLeaks founder criticises findings of military court and treatment of ‘heroic’ US soldier
Julian Assange has attacked the conviction of US soldier Bradley Manning on espionage charges, calling him a hero.
Speaking inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, the WikiLeaks founder said the conviction by a military court set a dangerous precedent.
The Australian, who has been inside the embassy for over a year to avoid extradition to Sweden, said he took no solace from Manning’s acquittal on the most dangerous charge of aiding the enemy.
The US solider, who admitted leaking confidential documents to WikiLeaks, was convicted of 19 charges.
Assange said he expected Manning to appeal against the decision.
Assange said the only victim in the case had been the US government’s “wounded pride”, adding that Manning’s Bradley_Manningdisclosures had helped spark the Arab Spring.
“This was never a fair trial,” he said.
He criticised the treatment of the US soldier since his arrest in 2010, saying he had been stripped, kept isolated and in a cage to “break” him.
The sentencing process will begin on Wednesday but Assange said there were two appeals within the US justice system as well as the supreme Court.
“WikiLeaks will not rest until he is free.”
Assange said the aiding an enemy charge was absurd, put forward as a red herring to detract from the other charges.
He described the soldier as the best journalistic source the world had ever seen, uncovering war crimes in Iraq which he maintained had led to the removal of US troops from that country.
Assange said the only just outcome would have been acquittal on all the charges, saying conviction was a “clear abuse” of the first amendment and Espionage Act in the US.
He described the actions of Manning as “unquestionably heroic.”
by The Guardian – July 31, 2013
'Patron saint of whistleblowers' US Senator Chuck Grassley, R-IA (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)
‘Patron saint of whistleblowers’ US Senator Chuck Grassley, R-IA (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

Story 2 – Senator Proposes National Whistleblower Day on Same Date as Manning Verdict

The idea might not win approval with the rest of the Senate, but Republican lawmaker Chuck Grassley has put in a resolution for a new commemorative holiday for the United States – National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.
“Anything we can do to uphold whistleblowers and their protection is the right thing to keep government responsible,” said Grassley, who is famous for personally aiding whistleblowers in their battles against rule-breaking officials. “If you know laws are being violated and money’s being misspent, you have a patriotic duty to report it.”
The choice of 30 July, the date suggested in the proposal, made jointly with Democratic Senator Carl Levin, is not accidental. It marks the 235th anniversary of what was one of the earliest whistleblowing regulations implemented anywhere – by the Founding Fathers in the Continental Congress in the midst of the Revolutionary War.
“[I]t is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge,” said the bill, resolved on July 30, 1778.
The violations that gave birth to the legislation are eerily reminiscent of those exposed this millennium in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
Continental Navy commander-in-chief Esek Hopkins
Continental Navy commander-in-chief Esek Hopkins
In 1777, the crew of the warship Warren complained that the commander of the entire Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, treated captured British soldiers in “the most inhuman and barbarous manner.” Congress suspended Hopkins, upheld their complaint, and when the disgraced commander-in-chief sued the whistleblowers for libel, it gave internal data to be used in the case. The defendants won a resounding victory.
Although Hopkins’ political unpopularity may have had something to do with the vigor which Congress supported the case against him, the legislation produced as a result was a landmark.
Grassley himself is a towering figure in US whistleblowing history.
In 1986, the Iowa Senator authored a significant strengthening the False Claims Act – which has allowed the government to claw back nearly $30 billion dollars in money it was cheated out of by contractors – increasing rewards for individuals who reported unscrupulous companies.
Grassley also co-authored the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act, which prevented government organizations from retaliating against those who reported misdeeds. This decade, Grassley worked on an amendment to each of these key pieces of legislation.
Already half-jokingly known as the ‘patron saint of whistleblowers’, Grassley could now have his own day in the calendar – providing senators agree with the initiative.
Unlike past times, when much of the whistleblowing concerned private corporations, and indisputable government violations, in the current political climate, considering that Bradley Manning’s verdict also fell on the same day, and Edward Snowden remains at large, the proposal is loaded with political symbolism.
But Stephen M. Kohn, the Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, says that whatever opinions people hold about these specific cases, the practice is essential for a functioning democracy.
“The Senate Resolution calls attention to the fact that our nation’s Founding Fathers strongly supported whistleblowing, even in time of war, and even when the whistleblower allegations threatened to embarrass high-ranking officials.
“The action of our Founding Fathers sets a benchmark for evaluating how our current leaders treat whistleblowers,” said Kohn.
by Russia Today – July 30, 2013
FORT MEADE, MD - JULY 30:  U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (R) is escorted by military police as arrives to hear the verdict in his military trial July 30, 2013 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
FORT MEADE, MD – JULY 30: U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (R) is escorted by military police as arrives to hear the verdict in his military trial July 30, 2013 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Story 3: Bradley Manning Revealed Crimes Far Worse Than the Ones He Supposedly Committed

WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning has been acquitted of the most serious charge against him, that of aiding the enemy. But the 20-something other charges, including espionage, have stuck and could land him a sentence of more than 100 years in prison.
In the media world, even national security hawks like The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake concede that Manning’s leaks had “a lot of public benefit.” But very few have argued Manning should go free.
Did Manning break the law? According to the letter, yes he did. But since when did we presume to hold people in government accountable to the law?
The Bush administration lied to the American people in order to justify the war crime of attacking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. That crime qualified, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal, as “the supreme international crime differing only from other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Trillions of dollars and the death and suffering of millions of people were the consequences of that crime.
The Bush gang also secretly ordered warrantless surveillance of Americans’ domestic communications without involving the courts, a blatant violation of both constitutional and statutory law. And don’t forget the setting up of a worldwide torture regime that directly violated longstanding international law as well as domestic law, specifically a Convention against torture, passed by Congress and signed by Ronald Reagan, which specifies that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever… may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Yet, nobody but the most marginal voices in our politics ever dared to suggest the Bush administration should be prosecuted according to the letter of the law.
Many of these types of crimes have extended into the Obama era as well. The Obama administration’s penchant for secret legal interpretations of when the Bill of Rights applies and when it doesn’t conflicts with basic principles of the rule of law.
James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, recently committed perjury when he lied to Congress about whether the National Security Agency collects information on American citizens, a federal crime as it turns out. He issued an apology, but otherwise faces no consequences.
In the U.S., there are crimes the government approves of and those it doesn’t. Contrast Bradley Manning’s punishment, for example, with that of the commander in charge of the torture at Abu Ghraib. Manning was subjected to abusive detention and faces more than a hundred years in prison. Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who oversaw the brutal torment of hundreds of detainees got an $8,000 fine.
Bradley Manning’s leaks revealed crimes far worse than the ones he has supposedly committed. The Collateral Murder video shows the sickening slaughter of a group of people in Iraq, including journalists and rescuers.
One State Department cable revealed to the world for the first time that U.S. special operations forces raided a house in Iraq in 2006 and summarily executed one man, four women, two children, and three infants — all shot in the head. Although Phillip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, brought the incident to the attention of then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Bush administration failed to respond.
Manning’s leaks also revealed the fact that the Obama administration colluded with the Yemeni dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh to execute a secret war without the consent of Congress and systematically lie about it. Yet Manning, who blew the whistle on this criminality, is the only one facing legal prosecution.
The lopsided nature of our legal system is well-known to any close observer of American politics. The law is for the powerful to defy with impunity, and for the weak to be punished with.
History, at least, will look very kindly on the actions of Bradley Manning and harshly on the crimes of the overlords he challenged. The real task is for Americans to get to the point where the country — and its government — is ruled by law, and not by men.
By John Glaser, Editor at – July 30, 2013

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