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USA v PRIVATE MANNING August 23, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy, Human Rights, The Political Internet.
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Clearly, Private Manning is a remarkable and good person. In addition the evidence implies a very intelligent person.

One reason,and by testimony not only one, for joining the Army was to be a pathway for going to university. An army boot camp mentality was not an environment in which Private Manning was going to thrive, although that ability was recognized.

Now Private Manning, following conviction and sentencing, but prior to appeals, has declared that henceforth adopting the female gender, to express truth at a deep level, and adopted the name Chelsea to replace Bradley. I am expecting that those who will be detaining him, if not freed before then, will have trouble getting their heads around this transition in Private Manning’s identity.

For the past three years, the trial was denied, and in addition Private Manning was subject to what the UN Rapporteur defined as torture. In addition, he has been denied access ( I am guessing to a computer), and y this deprivation, along with the denial of his educational ambitions, is likely to continue throughout the course of his incarceration. This is the theory of incarceration as punishment, not restoration. It is a theory of deterrence. And this raises the separate question this treatment has in a democracy, which may arguably conceived of as going beyond the structures and processes of civil society to the fulfillment of each person’s potential. (These assumptions might be of a social democracy as distinct from a capitalist democracy.)

The ABC report, which is not sympathetic to Private Manning ,notes:

“I am Chelsea Manning, I am a female,” Manning, 25, said in a statement given to NBC’s Today show.

He said he has felt this way since childhood and wants to begin hormone therapy “as soon as possible”.

“I want everyone to know the real me,” the statement said and asked that he be referred to by his new name, Chelsea.

. . . The Defence Department referred a call seeking comment to the US Army, which did not respond immediately.

Mr Coombs said Manning was seeking hormone therapy and not a sex-change operation.

“I’m hoping that Fort Leavenworth will do the right thing and provide that,” he said.

“I think the ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she’s never had an opportunity to be.”

Manning had not wanted his sexual identity issues to become public, but they did after his arrest in 2010, Mr Coombs said.

We won’t be holding our breath for a positive reply from the US Defence Department. Prior to that Mr Coombes had read a statement from Private Manning that deserves to be quoted:

Obviously, many new t-shirts insignia will have to be produced.

Sandra Coliver had some decided opinions of the Manning Case which were published in Open Society Foundations. She makes reference to the Tshwane Principles. There are issues of proportionality of relative to harm caused, which might equally be extended to an assessment of the good that resulted from the release of information, possibly beyond the compass of the US Government and justice system.

She is of the opinion:

High criminal penalties might deter a person motivated by financial gain, and accordingly high penalties for the sale of information could well make sense. But experience suggests that high penalties have little impact in deterring actors who believe they are right, let alone are also troubled, feel betrayed by their employer or colleagues, and/or have nowhere to turn. Certainly, the Obama administration’s aggressive, albeit selective, prosecution of leakers has been far from effective: of the 10 post-World War II prosecutions of people who disclosed information publicly, seven have been initiated or maintained by this administration. Yet, significant leaks continue. Indeed, Edward Snowden said that Manning’s courage was one of the considerations he weighed in reaching his own decision to disclose.

The most effective response in a democracy to unauthorized, damaging disclosures is not high criminal penalties but a combination of measures: effective internal disclosure procedures, employment policies that promote loyalty, concentration of access to classified information in the hands of trusted employees, and administrative penalties that are applied consistently regardless of the status or politics of the leaker.

There is possibly more to criticize than to applaud in these statements, even if the central point is accepted that the deterrence effect of cruelty is ineffective. Of course, taken to its logical conclusion that principle would undermine the execution military solutions and threat power, if not military training. The institutions of war and their accouterments are premised on violence and dehumanization.

The Center for Constitutional Rights released the following statement in relation to the sentencing of Private Manning:

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 she 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 Chelsea Manning, and if he refuses, a presidential pardon must be an election issue in 2016.

David Coombs is interviewed by Alexia O’Brien (abbreviated version):

The full interview and transcript.

The trial did not quite work as intended. There is that internet, which we must control, and chill, otherwise it will be used for social and democratic purposes that implicitly challenge the status quo and the creation of political movements,information sharing and activity.

POSTSCRIPT:

Protesters continue to make the case for Private Manning.

Popular Resistance reports. “On August 22, Ursula Rozum and Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre interrupted President Obama’s speech at Henninger High School to bring attention to the imprisonment of US Army whistleblower Private Manning”.

The the two activists issued the following statement:

With all due respect to the President and his supporters, we interrupted the President’s speech at Henninger High School because President Obama has the power to pardon US Army whistleblower Private Manning – a young, conscience driven whistleblower who exposed US war crimes. It is unjust that Manning has been sentence to 35 years in prison, while those who are guilty of torture and murdering civilians walk free.

All Americans who value the truth and government accountability should be supporting Private Manning and calling on the President to pardon her.

The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many whistleblowers under the Espionage Act as every other administration combined since the law was passed in 1917. Why does the President want to hide the criminal actions of the US government?

Instead of prosecuting whistleblowers, we need to go after the real criminals: those who started the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan; those who authorized the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo; and those responsible for the illegal drone wars against the people of Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The US public needs to know what the government is doing in our name so that we can have can informed debate about public policy. All people of conscience need to support Manning and insist that President Obama use his authority to pardon this courageous whistleblower.

Both women were escorted out of the hall by security and not charged. The President commented on how polite they were. Many in the crowd booed.

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