Category Archives: Background

Two important developments, one conclusion: #FreeChelseaManning

This important announcement was delivered by lawyer David Coombs on prime-time US television the morning after his client, Pvt. Manning, was sentenced to 35 years detention in a military prison.

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

Thank you, Chelsea E. Manning

As Amy Davidson of The New Yorker put it, “In becoming Chelsea, Manning seems to say that life doesn’t end with a long prison sentence–which in itself is brave.”

Allowing for time served and deducted, David Coombs predicts that his client will be able to apply for parole in seven years’ time.  (This interview, conducted by Alexa O’Brien yesterday, is well worth watching in full). In the meantime, Coombs has pledged to fight for his client’s right to receive hormone therapy at Fort Leavenworth.

Yesterday, the Private Manning Support Network and Amnesty International launched a campaign for a Presidential Pardon for Chelsea – or, at the very least that her sentence be commuted to time served. I encourage all those reading this blog to sign that petition.

A note on names

It is important that all supporters of Chelsea Manning recognise her wishes and I wanted to say a few words about how this blog intends to do that. From now on, this website will have a home at www.ukfriendsofchelseamanning.org. Its masthead has also been changed.

The blog now called UK Friends of Chelsea Manning was set up in January 2011 to campaign for Chelsea Manning’s release from the inhuman conditions of solitary confinement imposed on her in the Quantico marine brig. It sought to do this primarily by involving the UK Government in her case. This was achieved in early April 2011.

As such, this is largely an archival site. Within its archives are an almost day-by-day account of what happened during that busy period. The blog also details early developments in the Manning support campaign, especially as they happened in the UK. External links to this site dating from that period redirect to either blog.ukfriendsofbradleymanning.org or the underlying wordpress.com address ukfriendsofbradleymanning.wordpress.com.

For reasons of continuity and preserving that historical record, I have decided to maintain both these addresses and mentions of Chelsea’s historical name as they appeared before today’s announcement. References to Chelsea from this point on will always use her preferred name and the female pronoun.

Update (26/8)

The Private Manning Support Network have made a formal announcement about their change of name here. Note that PVT Manning will remain correct style until her sentence has been served and she is formally discharged from the military.

US Ambassador confronted with calls to “Free Bradley Manning”

OccupyLSX to host solidarity rally on 17th December

A beefed up City of London police presence greeted Occupy London activists demanding the freedom of Bradley Manning on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London yesterday (Thursday). US Ambassador Louis Susman was attending the annual Thanksgiving service at the cathedral along with a sizable number of US ex-pats.

US citizens living in this country were also among those demanding the freedom of Bradley Manning. Anthony Timmons, a member of the OccupyLSX tranquility team said: “The weight of public opinion is with us as we stand up for Bradley Manning.  Not only that, fifty of the US’ top congressional scholars – including Laurence Tribe, the top Harvard academic who trained Barack Obama-  agree that Bradley Manning must face a fair public trial, not a military tribunal.”

Bradley Manning, raised in Wales and a UK citizen by virtue of his mother’s nationality, has been imprisoned for the last 18 months in Baghdad, Kuwait, Quantico and Leavenworth. The treatment meted out to Bradley in Quantico prompted the official interest of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the British and German governments and sparked off demonstrations across the world. That international solidarity campaign contributed to Bradley’s move to improved prison conditions this April. [1]

Bradley has been charged with 23 offences in relation to the release of video footage of a US war crime in Baghdad and US embassy cables, including one of “aiding the enemy,” which potentially carries the death penalty. This week, the US Department of Defense announced that Bradley’s courts-martial process will begin with a preliminary hearing at at Fort Meade, Maryland on 16th December – the day before Bradley’s 24th birthday. [2]

A day of international solidarity has been called for 17th December and Occupy LSX at St Paul’s is proud to be hosting the London action. [3] Natalia James, a supporter of Occupy London said: “We do not know if Bradley is guilty of what he is accused of but, if he is, he is a true hero. Holding public institutions and governments responsible for their actions is a vital part of the fight for real democracy and few figures exemplify that more than Bradley Manning, who has managed to achieve that even while being in prison. That is why Bradley’s cause is so important to us here at Occupy London.”

Notes

[1] Bradley Manning’s family welcomes news of his move to prison in Kansas
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/20/bradley-manning-family-move-kansas

Unmonitored access to detainees is essential to any credible enquiry into torture or cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, says UN torture expert –
http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11231&LangID=E

[2] Law Office of David E. Coombs – Article 32 hearing
http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/2011/11/article-32-hearing.html

[3] Occupy LSX solidarity rally for Bradley Manning – http://events.bradleymanning.org/occupylsx/occupy_lsx_solidarity_rally_for_bradley_manning

“I Am Bradley Manning”



A photo petition is now online and ready to take your submission. Contributions to date include Daniel Ellsberg, Peter Tatchell (whose wonderful piece on Bradley appeared in the New Statesman earlier this week) and former US servicemen.

Update

Courage to Resist is close to raising the $15,000 they need to rent a billboard in Washington DC to increase visibility of Bradley’s case when his Article 32 hearing (the military equivalent of a Grand Jury) begins. More on this here.

Billboard image

Coming soon to a prominent site in Washington, DC...

Update II

It took just three days to raise the $15,000 dollars needed to fund that billboard – no small feat.

How the British Government is Failing Bradley Manning

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Guardian reported that Bradley Manning “is a UK citizen by descent from his Welsh mother, Susan.” This was the first time this statement had ever appeared in the British press and the fact of Bradley’s UK citizenship is now firmly on the record.

In that same article, the Guardian also revealed that this country has yet to offer Bradley Manning anything in the way of consular support. An official at the British embassy in Washington was quoted as saying that the case “hasn’t crossed our path.”

This failure to offer consular support should be of great concern to all British friends of Bradley Manning.  In cases of dual nationality, the British Government would normally make informal representations to the state concerned as a matter of course. This has not happened in the case of Bradley Manning.

More than this, a formal representation may be expected in cases where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sees a “special humanitarian reason” to get involved. In 2008 Kim Howells MP, then a Minister of State at the FCO, clarified the UK Government’s position on providing consular assistance to dual nationals where there is an allegation of torture:

“If we become aware of an allegation of torture against a dual UK national held in the country of their other nationality, it is likely we would seek consular access and we would carefully consider raising the allegation with the local authorities.”

We are only a few weeks into 2011, but there have already been three occasions this year when the British Government really should have sought consular access on behalf of Bradley Manning.

On 13th January 2011, the New York Times reported that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez had submitted a formal inquiry to the US State Department. A formal inquiry initiated by the UN’s Special Rapporteur constitutes a clear “allegation of torture.”

On 24th January 2011, Amnesty announced that they had written to US Defence secretary Robert Gates during the previous week. Amnesty’s Americas Programme Director, Susan Lee, spoke of her concern that “the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities. Such repressive conditions breach the US’s obligations to treat detainees with humanity and dignity. We’re also concerned that isolation and prolonged cellular confinement, which evidence shows can cause psychological impairment, may undermine Bradley Manning’s ability to defend himself.”

Finally, on 26th January 2011, the Commander of the Quantico marine brig, James Averhart was dismissed following the revelation that Bradley Manning had been placed under suicide watch for two days for punitive rather than medical reasons. This is evidence of wrongdoing – a senior official exceeding his authority – showing that not only has the US military failed to abide by international human rights standards in this case, it has also failed to abide by the rules it sets for itself.

The three instances above are clear evidence of a ‘special humanitarian reason’ to intervene – in fact, it is hard to imagine how the case could possibly be any clearer. As Clive Stafford Smith rightly said in The Times last week, “If the British were principled, they would intervene.”

In the circumstances, the British Government has an absolute responsibility to seek consular access to Bradley Manning. That no attempt appears to have been made is definitely something worth writing to your MP about – and if you’re stuck for what to write in your letter, the contents of this blog post may provide a good starting point.

Why It Matters That Bradley Manning is a UK Citizen

Now that Bradley Manning’s dual citizenship is well and truly on the record, we want to be absolutely clear about why this is important.

Being a UK citizen does not make Bradley Manning’s case more important than that of any other prisoner of conscience. We would like to see all prisoners in his position, of whatever nationality, treated fairly.

Being a UK citizen does not make Bradley Manning more deserving of our sympathy. There is, unfortunately, no shortage of people who deserve it just as much.

Being a UK citizen does not mean that Bradley Manning should be able expect a different standard of care to any other individual in his position. Bradley is entitled to receive due process. He should not be subjected to “severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental.” This is the bare minimum that any prisoner in pre-trial detention should be able to expect.

There is one reason, and one reason only, why it matters that Bradley Manning is a citizen of the United Kingdom: it matters because it means that the UK Government has an absolute obligation to offer Bradley Manning its consular assistance, to investigate the conditions in which he is held and, if necessary, to help him. On 1st February, The Guardian reported that the British Embassy in Washington “had not received any requests to visit Manning in jail” despite widespread concern about the conditions of his detention. To date, the UK Government has conspicuously failed to fulfil its obligations towards Bradley Manning.

How we know Bradley Manning is a UK citizen – FOR SURE

This is an important blog post. Please distribute it widely.

My legal information is sourced from the UK Border Agency, specifically their caseworking instructions for all issues arising under The British Nationality Act of 1981. This piece of legislation has formed the basis of British nationality law since coming into force on 1 January 1983 and the caseworking instructions derived from it are the guidelines Border Agency employees refer to on a day-to-day basis when deciding who is entitled to British citizenship. This is an absolutely authoritative source.

Bradley Manning is a UK citizen by virtue of his mother’s nationality. He holds both US and UK citizenship.

Bradley Manning was born in the United States on 17 December 1987, the son of Brian and Susan Manning. As the son of an American father, born on US soil, Bradley Manning has held US citizenship since birth.

Bradley’s parents met in Wales and Susan Manning has been described as ‘Welsh’ or hailing from Wales repeatedly in the mainstream media, including outlets with self-proclaimed fact-checking operations.

Susan Manning is, beyond any reasonable doubt, a UK citizen.  As far as we know she was born in the UK and is therefore not a “UK citizen by descent”. In law she is a UK citizen “otherwise than by descent”.

I would now like to refer you to Chapter 20 of the caseworking instructions for the Nationality Act of 1981. This is, remember, the working reference guide that British civil servants use every day to determine who qualifies for UK citizenship. Chapter 20 explains what rules govern the transmission of UK citizenship to children born abroad and is the crucial reference that resolves the issue of Bradley Manning’s citizenship status. We will take this step-by-step to avoid any possible confusion.

20.1.1 Every person who is a British citizen is so either “by descent” or “otherwise
than by descent”.

20.1.2 The distinction between the two affects a British citizen’s ability to transmit
that citizenship to children born abroad. It does not affect any of the other
rights or duties that go with British citizenship.

20.1.3 British citizens by descent cannot transmit their citizenship to children born
abroad except in the circumstances described in Chapter 4. British citizens
otherwise than by descent automatically transmit their citizenship to children
born abroad.

20.1.4 As a general principle, people are British citizens otherwise than by descent
if they are British citizens:
by birth, adoption, registration or naturalisation in the United Kingdom
or the Falkland Islands before 21 May 2002; or…

My working assumption is that Susan Manning was born in the United Kingdom. Hence she is a British citizen otherwise than by descent (20.1.4) and “British citizens otherwise than by descent automatically transmit their citizenship to children born abroad.” (20.1.3)

20.1.5 People who are British citizens by birth or other means elsewhere are British
citizens by descent.

A child born to a British citizen outside the UK or its overseas territories is a British citizen by descent. Bradley Manning is therefore a British citizen by descent. (20.1.5)

The issue of Bradley Manning’s dual citizenship has been the subject of some controversy and much disinformation but the situation is in fact straightforward: unless Bradley’s mother was born outside the UK, her son has also been a UK citizen automatically since birth. We will confirm that Susan Manning was born in this country as quickly as possible.  At that point, I will seek to update the Bradley Manning wikipedia article, backed up with the proper evidence, and we will be able to put this issue to bed once and for all.

Big thanks to @danhind who was indispensable in putting this together.

Update

It has been brought to my attention that, under Section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981, even the children of those who are British citizens “by descent” may be able to claim citizenship. The relevant clauses are published on the UK Border Agency website:

A child will have an entitlement to be registered under section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 if:
they were born outside the United Kingdom; or
they were born after 21 May 2002 outside any of the British overseas territories; and
they were born to parents, one or both of whom are British citizens by descent; and
the parent who is British by descent was born to a parent (the child’s grandparent) who was a British citizen otherwise than by descent (or would have been but for their death); and
the parent who is British by descent lived in the United Kingdom at any time before the child’s birth for a continuous period of three years*; and
during the period they were living in the United Kingdom the parent was not absent for more than 270 days; and
the application is made before the child’s 18th birthday.

(via@musicbaebe)

The case is very nearly closed.

Update II

It has been confirmed to me that Susan Manning was born in the United Kingdom. Bradley Manning is therefore a citizen “by descent.” Bradley Manning has been a UK citizen since the moment of his birth and remains a UK citizen today. The UK Government now has some very serious questions to answer.

Update III

On 2 February 2011, the Guardian printed the following:

“Manning is a UK citizen by descent from his Welsh mother, Susan. Government databases on births, deaths and marriages show she was born Susan Fox in Haverfordwest in 1953.”

Update IV

On 4th April 2011, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham confirmed on behalf of the UK Government that Bradley Manning is a UK citizen by descent under precisely the reasoning supplied above.

NEXT STOP: Why this matters

Is Bradley Manning a Prisoner of Conscience?

hypothetical question: if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?

(from here)

Answer: Clearly.