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Obama’s War On Whistleblowers

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“If you had free reign over classified networks…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?” read quotes from an online chat attributed to US Army Private Bradley Manning.

“God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms…I want people to see the truth…because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

On December 17, PFC Bradley Manning turned 25. It is his third birthday in prison. By the time his court martial starts in March 2013, he will have spent over three years in prison. One year of his confinement was in Quantico marine brig where the conditions he was held in amounted to torture. Two hundred and fifty of America’s top legal scholars have lambasted the Obama administration for its treatment of Manning as “a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial.”

During December, PFC Manning has been involved in a three-week-long pretrial hearing. The Article 13 hearing was on the defenses motion to dismiss the case against Manning based on unlawful punishment. David Coombs, Bradley’s attorney, has moved that all charges against the WikiLeaks’ whistle-blower be thrown out, arguing that the military has violated the UCMJ’s Article 13, which prohibits pretrial punishment.

Over the course of the pretrial hearing, Coombs has called over a dozen witnesses to the stand, including Manning himself, prison guards, and high-ranking military figures. Government prosecutors have already opposed every single defense witness on the list, citing cost and burden. David Coombs in a memorandum to the court entitled, ”Witness Justification” explained, ”The government does not seem to be interested at all in providing a thorough and impartial investigation…The government claims that it is too costly and troublesome to bring any of the defense requested witnesses. Such a position defies logic and common sense.”

During his 11 months in solitary confinement, Manning was held in six-by-eight-foot cell, allowed only 20 minutes out of his cell per day, not allowed to talk to other prisoners, wore metal shackles on his arms and legs whenever he left it, and had to ask guards to use soap and toilet paper. A fluorescent light was on in his cell 24 hours a day. If Bradley covered his face while sleeping, guards would wake him up again and again.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez has written a report on international torture issues for the Human Rights Council, which condemns the treatment of Manning as cruel and inhumane. Mendez noted that Manning’s 11 months in solitary confinement may amount to torture and that ”imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.” Mendez is still being denied an unmonitored visit with Manning by the US military.
During the recent pretrial hearing, Manning spent two days on the witness stand detailing the abusive treatment, he received from the American military authorities. Following his arrest in Iraq, Bradley spent two months in US military prison in Kuwait where he was isolated in a tiny metal cell. Of his treatment in this early phase of his confinement Bradley said, “I had pretty much given up. I thought I was going to die in this 8×8 animal cage.”

When Obama came to office, he promised greater transparency in the way, government was carried out and a commitment to the rule of US and international law. Manning’s persecution reveals the complete opposite of this. The US government is determined to make an example of Manning to deter others from exposing the illegal activities of American armed forces.

It is not surprising that they have gone after Manning considering the revelations, he allegedly made to the WikiLeaks when he was serving in Iraq as an intelligence specialist. The documents, released by WikiLeaks, have opened a Pandora’s box of highly embarrassing and illegal activities committed by American forces. The ”Iraq War” logs revealed that American armed forces routinely ignored the torture of suspects by the Iraqi security forces. Indeed, they often used torture themselves. They also revealed war crimes committed by American troops. The infamous video of an Apache attack helicopter shooting and killing 11 people in Baghdad in 2007 is probably the most famous revelation.

Besides the war in Iraq the wiki leaks revelations go much further in revealing the illegal nature of much of American foreign policy. These range from American officials in Afghanistan covering up evidence of child abuse by US defence contractors to training torturers for Mubarak’s regime to the secret drone war in Yemen which is still not officially acknowledged by the Obama administration.

The prosecution of Bradley while unprecedented in many ways is part of a systematic campaign to persecute whistle-blowers. Up to Obama taking office the US government had only prosecuted three whistle-blowers in 40 years. Now under Obama six people have/are being prosecuted for their whistle blowing activities.

Ohio Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, an outspoken critic of U.S. detention policy, told TIME magazine last March, “I see this as America lapsing into the very kind of conduct we have condemned in other countries, and this has a painful resonance with Abu Ghraib.”

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney with the Government Accountability Project, America’s leading whistleblower organization, has written extensively about the Orwellian double standards of the Obama administration. In April of this year, she commented, ”If you committed crimes under the guise of national security and the war on terrorism, you will not be held criminally liable, but if you blow the whistle on crimes, you risk criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act.”

As Radack has pointed out, this is one of the the most important trials of the last decade yet it is largely ignored by the mainstream media in the US. Internationally support is growing for Bradley Manning. In the UK he was recently voted The Guardian’s Person of the Year by readers.

In early December three Nobel Peace Prize winners, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel called upon the American people to stand up for the whistle-blower who has done so much to defend their democratic rights. Their letter of support for Bradley Manning concludes, ”We Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemn the persecution Bradley Manning has suffered, including imprisonment in conditions declared “cruel, inhuman and degrading” by the United Nations….In the conflict in Iraq alone, more than 110,000 people have died since 2003, millions have been displaced and nearly 4,500 American soldiers have been killed. If Bradley Manning released the documents, as the prosecution contends, we should express to him our gratitude for his efforts toward accountability in government, informed democracy and peace.”

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