Category Archives: supporters

Jemima Khan – the UK Government has a responsibility to help Bradley Manning

Jemima Khan on Wikileaks from Sharron Ward on Vimeo.

This isn’t a new video – it’s been making a reappearance on social networks due to an anniversary that falls today – but I don’t think it was the subject of a blog post of its own at the time, which was an omission on my part: Jemima Khan’s statment on Bradley Manning’s citizenship status (which appears at 4:40) was one of the very first to appear and we remain extremely grateful for her support.

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“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.

Gareth Peirce on Bradley Manning – “The conditions he is held in are utterly intolerable”

Gareth Peirce is one of Britain’s most eminent human rights lawyers. Her most celebrated cases include that of the Guildford Four – who were the victims of one of the UK’s most notorious miscarriages of justice, involving the police fabrication of evidence – and Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who experienced US extrajudicial detention at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then at Guantánamo Bay. Gareth is currently taking a case through the European Court of Human Rights that may end European extradition of certain categories of prisoners to the United States on the basis that the US Constitution does not offer the same protections as may be expected under the European Convention on Human Rights and that, in particular, these charters differ widely on the subject of solitary confinement.

This speech by Gareth was first screened on April 17th. 2011 as the keynote address at a public meeting entitled “Free Bradley Manning! End the War!” at Giuseppe Conlon House in London. The video puts what has been happening to Bradley in the context of wider issues in the US justice system and is well worth viewing in full; Gareth was also kind enough to say some words about the impact of the UK campaign to date. Selected quotes follow below the video.

“It is important that there is a big a campaign as there can be about Bradley Manning. It is incredibly impressive how many people are coming forward to say that the conditions he is held in are utterly intolerable, as indeed they are. But it would be a tragic waste of a process of a learning on the part of a wider world to not realise that this is how America treats its prisoners.”

“The deprivation of any individual of the company of his fellow man or woman is not simply the grimness of isolation, the grimness of being only with your own thoughts for all time. It actually has severe psychological effects, it causes irreparable damage to the individual and – more surprisingly perhaps – physical damage to the brain. So the infliction of solitary confinement on any individual is certainly on the cusp, if it is prolonged, of torture.

“There is another aspect to this, which is – what is the purpose of this? Is it punishment before the individual has been ever tried and convicted, or is it something else? And this is the other why and wherefore of how America deals with its criminal justice system.

“97% of people facing trial in America plead guilty. That is an extraordinary statistic. Why do it? They do it in large part because, by pleading guilty, you have a chance of negotiation and escaping the worst of the sentences that face you. If you become a cooperating witness you have another chance to escape what might be a pretty brutal fate in terms of the time you might spend serving a sentence.

“Is this what is happening to Bradley Manning? Is he under this kind of duress, this form of punitive isolation in the hope that he might become a cooperating witness against Julian Assange and therefore pave the way for an extradition request that might not otherwise be possible?”

“In this country we find it easy to condemn how others treat their prisoners, to say that we are horrified at how the death penalty still exists in America. We find it easy to say we are horrified by the continuing atrocity that is Guantánamo but, nevertheless, when you dig you find how complicit we have been here in the perpetuation of practices. How our ministers, our civil servants, our intelligence agencies combined and were complicit in the unlawful removal to Guantánamo of British citizens and British residents. Enough has been disclosed to make that process crystal clear.”

“It is a curious irony that in trying to unravel exactly what is happening to Bradley Manning in isolation, under duress, being coerced, one is having to dig deeper into the secrets of the state, of the US and how it treats its prisoners.

“In that there has been so extraordinary a campaign now that has required our Foreign Office, that has required ministers to take up the cause of a man who has a Welsh mother; insofar as that demand has been made and has been pursued, insofar as it has woken up a hundred law professors in the United States to wake up and write an open letter in the New York Times and say they regard the treatemnt of Bradley Manning as violating all of the guarantees of the US Constitution. Insofar as it is provoking that degree of public knowledge, then ironically it is providing a public service in itself.”

Update

I have just heard (16.06.11) that Gareth Peirce is now representing Julian Assange. This is excellent news for all concerned.

Barack Obama on Bradley Manning – “We’re a nation of laws!”

On Thursday morning Pacific Time, a group of Bradley Manning supporters staged a flashmob at a Barack Obama fundraising event in San Francisco. Even more amazingly, one of those supporters, Logan Price, was able to question the US President directly afterwards:

Here’s a close-to-verbatim account of what was said:

So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.

And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

[Q: Didn’t he release evidence of war crimes?]

What he did was he dumped

[Q: Isn’t that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?]

No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.

I suppose it’s reassuring to hear the US President reaffirming the importance of the rule of law (if not, unfortunately, the principle of innocent until proven guilty). Nevertheless, if “we don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate” maybe he should point this out to James Averhart, who decided off his own back that suicide watch could be used as a means of punishment rather than protection.

Barack Obama might also want to have a quiet word with Denise Barnes about the use of forced nudity as a punitive measure. The President may moreover find it worthwhile to talk to that “senior official” at Quantico who reportedly ruled back in January that Bradley Manning should never have his Prevention of Injury Order lifted, against the repeated recommendations of Quantico psychiatrists. This same official is quoted as saying: “We’ll do whatever we want.”

It seems increasingly evident that at least one civilian and at least one military official at the Pentagon has come to the conclusion that these three individuals and their – how should I put this? Interesting use of initiative? – now have the potential to cause them very serious problems indeed once David Coombs’ writ of habeas corpus receives due consideration. There is ample precedent in case law that members of the US military are entitled to due process in that they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise and that procedures for the relief of their conditions need to work in a fair way and not be subject to the predetermination of military authorities.

Not only do the acts of certain individuals at Quantico risk putting the entire legal process against Bradley Manning in jeopardy, should those inividuals be found to be at fault, there is a mechanism by which they may be found personally responsible. Article 93 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides that “Any person … who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” If the US is indeed a “nation of laws”, then they should have reason to be concerned.

(Many thanks to Marcy Wheeler whose close analysis of who has been saying what to whom provided the impetus for this post.)

Update I

A great piece has just been posted at WLCentral that takes a different – somewhat more pessimistic – slant on Obama’s words, noting that the US President is an individual who very much can “make decisions about how the law operates”:

Ideally, the US is a nation of laws but in reality it is not. The Executive Branch led by the President of the United States can choose what legal restrictions to abide by and what not to and it can choose what violations of the law to prosecute and what not to prosecute.

This being so, the author argues that when a figure with this kind of discretion openly dispenses with any sensitivity to the case being sub judice, the ramifications are very serious indeed:

Displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case. In the same way that criminal and civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz suggested former President George W. Bush was prejudicing the legal process against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he declared [he had] “willfully and repeatedly done great harm” and refused to participate in an event with Assange.

Update II

Michael Whitney at firedoglake clarifies that the writ of habeas corpus David Coombs was considering filing is now “moot” as a result of the move. Shame.

Update III

Barack Obama’s predetermination of the case against Bradley Manning is now being picked up by mainstream media outlets. CBS are now covering the story, the New York Daily News (whose record on reporting this case is not great) concede it “may have run afoul of Presidential protocol” and Politico actually cite a couple of commentators unafraid to take the President to task:

“The comment was not appropriate because it assumes that Manning is guilty,” Steven Aftergood, a classified information expert at the Federation of American Scientists, told POLITICO. “The president got carried away and misspoke. No one should mistake a charge for a conviction – especially the nation’s highest official.”

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice and military law expert, predicted that before the end of the day the White House will have issued a corrective statement.

That “corrective statement” has yet to appear.

Update IV

An updated version of the Politico article includes a not-terribly-convincing response from the White House:

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama was in fact making a general statement that did not go specifically to the charges against Manning. “The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act,” he said Friday night. “He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically.”

This is, to say the least, an interesting interpretation of the sentence “He broke the law.”

Politico then cite Steven Aftergood and Eugene Fidell on the likelihood of Obama’s comments having an influence on Manning’s court martial:

Aftergood and Fidell agreed that Obama’s remarks — while unfortunate — probably will not affect whether Manning will receive a fair trial. “It’s not that hard to ensure that unlawful command influence hasn’t in fact prejudiced the right to a fair trial,” Fidell explained. “If the case goes to a court marshal, the military court will have to make sure that none of the members of the military jury have been influenced by the president’s stated belief that Manning broke the law.”

It is not surprising that the White House is keen to play down this incident. Military case law indicates that “pretrial publicity itself may constitute unlawful command influence” (United States v. Simpson, 58 MJ 368) and, if this is raised at court martial, the US Government will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the case has not been prejudiced. (United States v. Reed, 65 M.J. 487) Should unlawful command influence be proven, incidentally, then dismissal of the case is possible “as a last resort.” (United States v. Douglas, 68 M.J. 349)

Update V

Glenn Greenwald has now written a typically excellent piece on all this, pointing out the hypocrisy of Obama calling the US a “nation of laws”:

…it’s long been clear that this is Obama’s understanding of “a nation of laws”: the most powerful political and financial elites who commit the most egregious crimes are to be shielded from the consequences of their lawbreaking — see his vote in favor of retroactive telecom immunity, his protection of Bush war criminals, and the way in which Wall Street executives were permitted to plunder with impunity — while the most powerless figures (such as a 23-year-old Army Private and a slew of other low-level whistleblowers) who expose the corruption and criminality of those elites are to be mercilessly punished. And, of course, our nation’s lowest persona non grata group — accused Muslim Terrorists — are simply to be encaged for life without any charges. Merciless, due-process-free punishment is for the powerless; full-scale immunity is for the powerful. “Nation of laws” indeed.

Greenwald also draws attention to this interesting precedent of a US President pre-judging a criminal case. This example involves Richard Nixon and, as Greenwald points out, what Obama has done is arguably far worse:

Amazingly, this incident … is highly redolent of the time Richard Nixon publicly declared Charles Manson’s guilt before the accused mass murderer had been convicted. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, was at Nixon’s side when he did it and immediately recognized the impropriety of Nixon’s remarks, and the White House quickly issued a statement claiming that Nixon misspoke and meant merely to suggest Manson had been “charged” with these crimes, not that he was guilty of them. Obama’s decree was worse, of course, since (a) Obama has direct command authority over those who will judge Manning (unlike Nixon vis-a-vis Manson’s jurors); (b) Manson’s jurors were sequestered at the time and thus not exposed to Nixon’s proclamation; and (c) Obama is directly responsible for the severe punishment to which Manning has already been subjected (h/t lysias).

Press release from Ann Clwyd MP – Bradley Manning to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth

We have just received the following press release from Ann Clwyd MP, whose action at the Parliamentary level has done much to make US Government action on the conditions of Bradley Manning’s confinement unavoidable:

“I am pleased that the campaign to draw attention to the appalling detention treatment of Bradley Manning appears to be having some results, in that he is to be moved to another prison which the US Department of Defense claims will provide better conditions.

“Campaigners in the US and the UK, however, will continue their support for Bradley, since his imprisonment at the Quantico Marine Base has not, according to his lawyer, been “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects”, as was claimed by the US Department of Defense in their press briefing.

“I am in close contact with Bradley’s mother and family in Wales and they have many concerns about his welfare. I share their concerns.”

Ann Clwyd

Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP
Member of Parliament for the Cynon Valley
Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Right
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Welsh Churches Express Their Concern

This week the international forum of CYTÛN – Churches Together in Wales – wrote to the US ambassador to express their concern about the treatment of Bradley Manning and ask for an assurance that his conditions meet the minimum standards that should be expected in a “civilized country.”

His Excellency The Ambassador of the United States of America

Your Exellency,

The Churches of Wales have received representations concerning the treatment of Bradley Manning,
the young man who is being held on suspicion of leaking information.

We are aware that this young man was brought up in Wales and that his mother is Welsh. We are
concerned that reports of the conditions in which he is being held suggest that they could amount to
mental torture. Naturally, we hope that these reports are exaggerated since we know that he is being
held in a civilised country.

We should be grateful if you could assure us that his conditions are in no ways inhumane or degrading.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Gillham
(Chairman of the International Forum of CYTUN)

CYTÛN represents practically every Christian denomination in Wales and their intervention is a sign of how prominent an issue Bradley’s case is becoming there. We are extremely grateful for CYTÛN’s support.

More on Early Day Motion 1624

We are really pleased that Ann Clwyd’s Early Day Motion on Bradley Manning has now been signed by 36 other Members of Parliament, including all of Plaid Cymru’s MPs and representatives from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is pretty decent progress for an EDM that was tabled just over a couple of weeks ago and we expect to receive further signatures in the coming days.

Individuals writing to their MPs to request that they sign the EDM has been, and continues to be, extremely important. At present, this is by far the best means for those in the UK who are concerned about what is happening to Bradley to register that concern in an effective way. Bradley Manning is a UK citizen and the Government in this country therefore has a special responsibility towards him. At the very least, the UK should be offering Bradley its consular assistance – it is both surprising and alarming that it has not done so to date.

If you haven’t yet written to your MP, we encourage you to do so. This website makes it an easy process. Be assured that any letter you do write really does make an impact: your message will be read, its contents will be noted and any MP who deserves to continue in that post will do you the courtesy of responding. A message sent across the Atlantic will not receive the same consideration.

It is worth noting that the content of EDM 1624 is in no way controversial. Indeed, we would venture that, should your MP feel unable as a point of principle to put their name to the following, then you should carefully consider whether they really deserve to be your MP at all:

That this House expresses great concern at the treatment of Private First Class Bradley Manning, currently detained at the US Quantico Marine Base; notes the increasing level of interest and concern in the case in the UK and in particular in Wales; appeals to the US administration to ensure that his detention conditions are humane; and calls on the UK Government to raise the case with the US administration.

***

We have recently become aware that some MPs have claimed they cannot sign EDM 1624 due to the posts they occupy as either Parliamentary Public Secretaries (a junior Government position) or as members of the Opposition holding a Shadow portfolio. Some background on this issue is provided in this factsheet issued by the House of Commons Information Office. Here’s the relevant extract:

Ministers and whips do not normally sign EDMs. Under the Ministerial Code, Parliamentary Private Secretaries “must not associate themselves with particular groups advocating special policies”, and they do not normally sign EDMs. Neither the Speaker nor Deputy Speakers will sign EDMs. Internal party rules may also affect who can sign early day motions.

What constitutes a “special policy” in this instance is not entirely clear and we will seek to clarify this as soon as possible. What is clear is that there is no Parliamentary rule that prevents Shadow Ministers from signing EDMs; whether there are internal Labour Party rules that may impact on the situation is something our supporters are investigating. Again, we will provide an update here once the situation is clarified.

Thanks to @Gavin_PPUK for the Parliamentary info.