The Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS) and The Center for Constitutional Rights have joined forces to provide a handbook for Palestinian rights activists entitled “Palestinian human rights advocacy in the US“. The handbook, published this month, provides activists with a guide to more efficient campaigning as well as creates awareness about the legal implications of activism and the institutions that exist to keep activists safe.
Activists are reminded that each state’s legislation may vary, which is why an adequate understanding of laws and regulations is so important. Especially because the legislation may be interpreted differently across multiple forms of activism, leading to possible legal charges against activists. Taking into account the various methods of free expression, the guidelines detail the difference between accepted means of protest and others that may give rise to criminal accountability. While the specific protest behaviour might not infringe regulations, its practice may infringe other regulations, so activists are reminded that charges under other law statuses may be brought against them, blurring the lines between forms of acceptable protest and any possible liabilities for such actions – one example being the infringement on other people’s right to free speech and, in the case of universities, academic freedom.
The material support laws are also discussed in detail, reminding activists that any form of help given to a “designated foreign terrorist organisation (FTO)” may subject activists to prosecution. The guidelines differentiate between collaboration with an FTO and solidarity activities, clarifying that: “The ‘material support laws’ do not restrict independent advocacy.” So as long as such advocacy is carried out independently, it does not carry the same degree of responsibility. However activists are urged to consult with legal experts in order to determine if their activities are in violation of any legislation, particularly as various Palestinian organisations have been described as “terrorist” by government departments in the US.
An equally important section deals with Palestinian rights activism on university campuses, because it may be interpreted as a form of discrimination against Jewish students under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which “prohibits discrimination by federally funded programs on the basis of race, color and national origin.” If a university fails to address complaints against protected groups, the university may be penalised by losing its federal funding. The law has been actively promoted by pro-Israel organisations, which counter criticism of Israel by accusing Palestinian rights activists of creating a hostile, anti-Semitic environment detrimental to Jewish students. The handbook stresses the importance of media advocacy to counter claims of anti-Semitism in relation to Palestinian rights activism.
The handbook recommends that activists maintain an engagement with university administrators in order to avoid possible conflict. Communication with administrators regarding activism on campus is encouraged, with activists also advised to take precautions through written statements regarding the agreements of planned protest events.
The handbook also covers the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activism, reminding activists that while federal anti-boycott laws exist, these do not apply to human rights boycotts, such as the boycott of Israel and companies which maintain the illegal occupation of Palestine. Readers are also encouraged to pursue further resources regarding the discussed topics through various listed websites, including Palestine Legal Support.
“We’ll get Bush in the US” the world’s top war crimes prosecutor tells The Truthseeker after Dubya’s deputies warn him against travel, lawyers file for Obama’s arrest tomorrow when he hits South Africa, huge secret wars in America’s name being masked from the folks funding them.
On May 15, military officials at the Guantanamo Baydetention facility escorted visiting media to maximum security Camp 5, where non compliant prisoners are held, for a rare opportunity to observe the prisoners’ morning prayer. Aliya Hussain, who works with the Center for Constitutional Rights‘ Global Justice Initiative, tweeted after she watched the video, “Despite all that’s cruel and unjust at Guantanamo, humanity perseveres.”
The visit to Camp 5 took place amid a mass hunger strike that is now entering its fourth month and counts 103 prisoners as taking part in the protest and 32 who are being force-fed. Media arrived at the camp at 4:30 am and were instructed to remain silent as the officer in charge of the camp did not want prisoners to know we were present. The prisoners did not leave their cells for prayer so we were unable to see them. What you are hearing (at 3:00 into the video) is the leader’s call to prayer being done from inside of his prison cell. The closest we in the media came to a seeing a prisoner on the cell block is when one man stuck his arms through a bean hole to hand the guard an unknown object. The guards walking the block are checking the prisoners cells every one to three minutes in accordance with their standard operating procedures. They are wearing “splash shields” over their faces to protect from being splashed with urine and feces, the military said.
As we exited the camp and waited outside for the gate to open, I looked up behind me and could see three very narrow prison cell windows. In one stood a prisoner dressed in white. He stared at me and gave me a “thumbs down” sign.
It is so unbelievably poignant that those publicly slandered in the media as the worst of the worst retain such dignity amidst such adversity – if ever an advert championing innocence till proven guilty was needed surely this is it – from the festering US sore called GITMO.
PS. This should be mandatory viewing and reading for all NATO chiefs.
In that statement, Manning details at length what he did and, more important, the reasons he chose to do it. I’m personally unaware of who made the recording and am not aware of how it was made, but its authenticity has been verified. Last week, the superb independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, who has covered the proceedings from start to finish, created the best transcript she could of Manning’s statement, which was published, among other places, in the Guardian. But this audio recording provides the first opportunity to hear Manning, in his own voice, explain his actions; that, presumably, is why whoever recorded Manning’s statement risked violating the court-martial rules to do so.
The US government and its military has carefully ensured that people hearabout Manning from the government, but do not hear from Manning himself. It is way past time for Manning’s voice to be heard:
Manning on the Apache helicopter video
In April, 2010, WikiLeaksmade major news around the world when it published its “Collateral Murder” video, showing US soldiers in Baghdadgleefully celebrating as they gunned down civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and then showered their rescuers with bullets. Here, in Poitras’ video, is Manning, in his own words, explaining his reaction when he first saw that video and the process that led him to leak it to the world:
During this time a blizzard bombarded the mid-atlantic, and I spent a significant period of time essentially stuck in my aunt’s house in Maryland. I began to think about what I knew and the information I still had in my possession. For me, the SigActs represented the on the ground reality of both the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides. I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year. The SigActs documented this in great detail and provide a context of what we were seeing on the ground.
“In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.”
Manning on what caused him to question the Iraq War
In his chats with the government informant who turned him in, Manning – who had been promised confidentiality by the informant who claimed to be a journalist and a pastor – described what first made him disillusioned about the Iraq war in which he was serving. Specifically, he described how he had discovered that many of the Iraqis whom he was helping to detain were not insurgents at all, but simply critics of the Malaki government. But when Manning alerted his superiors to this fact, he was dismissed away, and realized then that using the formal whistleblowing channels would result in nothing other than his own punishment. Here is Manning elaborating on those events and explaining why this led him to leak to WikiLeaks; listen on the player above.
On 27 February 2010, a report was received from a subordinate battalion. The report described an event in which the Federal Police or FP detained 15 individuals for printing anti-Iraqi literature. On 2 March 2010, I received instructions from an S3 section officer in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Tactical Operation Center or TOC to investigate the matter, and figure out who these quote “bad guys” unquote were and how significant this event was for the Federal Police.
“Over the course of my research I found that none of the individuals had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups. A few hours later, I received several reports from the scene – from this subordinate battalion. They were accidentally sent to an officer on a different team on the S2 section and she forwarded them to me.
“These photos included picture of the individuals, pallets of unprinted paper and seized copies of the final printed material or the printed document; and a high resolution photo of the printed material itself. I printed up one copy of a high resolution photo – I laminated it for ease of use and transfer. I then walked to the TOC and delivered the laminated copy to our category two interpreter.
“She reviewed the information and about a half and hour later delivered a rough written transcript in English to the S2 section. I read the transcript and followed up with her, asking her for her take on the content. She said it was easy for her to transcribe verbatim, since I blew up the photograph and laminated it. She said the general nature of the document was benign. The document, as I had sensed as well, was merely a scholarly critique of the then current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“It detailed corruption within the cabinet of al-Maliki’s government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people. After discovering this discrepancy between the Federal Police’s report and the interpreter’s transcript, I forwarded this discovery to the top OIC and the battle NCOIC. The top OIC and the overhearing battle captain informed me that they didn’t need or want to know this information anymore. They told me to quote ‘drop it’ unquote and to just assist them and the Federal Police in finding out, where more of these print shops creating quote “anti-Iraqi literature” unquote.
“I couldn’t believe what I heard and I returned to the T-SCIF and complained to the other analysts and my section NCOIC about what happened. Some were sympathetic, but no one wanted to do anything about it.
“I am the type of person who likes to know how things work. And, as an analyst, this means I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts in my section or other sections within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could to correct or mitigate a situation.
“I knew that if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time – if ever.
“Instead of assisting the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police, I decided to take the information and expose it to the [WikiLeaks organization], in the hope that before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election, they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down in political opponents of al-Maliki.”
Manning on the diplomatic cables
Here is Manning explaining his first reaction to reading various US diplomatic cables, and what led him to read more and eventually release them; listen on the player above.
I read more of the diplomatic cables published on the Department of State Net Centric Diplomacy. With my insatiable curiosity and interest in geopolitics I became fascinated with them. I read not only the cables on Iraq, but also about countries and events that I found interesting.
“The more I read, the more I was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world.”
Manning on the due diligence he performed over the cables
To impugn Manning’s conduct, it is often claimed – by people who cannot possibly know this – that he failed to assess the diplomatic cables he was releasing and simply handed them over without having any idea what was in them. Here is Manning explaining the detailed process he undertook to determine their contents and ensure that they would not result in serious harm to innocent individuals; listen on the player above.
Up to this point, during the deployment, I had issues I struggled with and difficulty at work. Of the documents release, the cables were the only one I was not absolutely certain couldn’t harm the United States. I conducted research on the cables published on the Net Centric Diplomacy, as well as how Department of State cables worked in general.
“In particular, I wanted to know how each cable was published on SIRPnet via the Net Centric Diplomacy. As part of my open source research, I found a document published by the Department of State on its official website.
“The document provided guidance on caption markings for individual cables and handling instructions for their distribution. I quickly learned the caption markings clearly detailed the sensitivity of the Department of State cables. For example, NODIS or No Distribution was used for messages at the highest sensitivity and were only distributed to the authorized recipients.
“The SIPDIS or SIPRnet distribution caption was applied only to recording of other information messages that were deemed appropriate for a release for a wide number of individuals. According to the Department of State guidance for a cable to have the SIPDIS caption, it could not include other captions that were intended to limit distribution.
“The SIPDIS caption was only for information that could only be shared with anyone with access to SIPRnet. I was aware that thousands of military personel, DoD, Department of State, and other civilian agencies had easy access to the tables. The fact that the SIPDIS caption was only for wide distribution made sense to me, given that the vast majority of the Net Centric Diplomacy Cables were not classified.
“The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public. I once read and used a quote on open diplomacy written after the First World War and how the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with and against each other.
“I thought these cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy. Given all of the Department of State cables that I read, the fact that most of the cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption.
“I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States, however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations.”
Manning on contacting other media outlets
Here is Manning describing how he first contacted traditional news outlets about what he found; listen on the player above.
At my aunt’s house I debated what I should do with the SigActs – in particular whether I should hold on to them – or expose them through a press agency. At this point I decided that it made sense to try to expose the SigAct tables to an American newspaper. I first called my local news paper, The Washington Post, and spoke with a woman saying that she was a reporter. I asked her if the Washington Post would be interested in receiving information that would have enormous value to the American public.
“Although we spoke for about five minutes concerning the general nature of what I possessed, I do not believe she took me seriously. She informed me that the Washington Post would possibly be interested, but that such decisions were made only after seeing the information I was referring to and after consideration by senior editors.
“I then decided to contact [missed word] the most popular newspaper, The New York Times. I called the public editor number on The New York Times website. The phone rang and was answered by a machine. I went through the menu to the section for news tips. I was routed to an answering machine. I left a message stating I had access to information about Iraq and Afghanistan that I believed was very important. However, despite leaving my Skype phone number and personal email address, I never received a reply from The New York Times.
“I also briefly considered dropping into the office for the Political Commentary blog, Politico, however the weather conditions during my leave hampered my efforts to travel. After these failed efforts I had ultimately decided to submit the materials to the WLO. I was not sure if the WLO would actually publish these SigAct tables – or even if they would publish at all. I was concerned that they might not be noticed by the American media. However, based upon what I read about the WLO through my research described above, this seemed to be the best medium for publishing this information to the world within my reach.”
Yesterday, former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller published a column which, while partially praising Manning’s leaks, insinuated that the claims Manning made in his in-court statement about his motives and actions may be unreliable because they are not found in the logs of the chats in which he engaged with the government informant. That is factually false. As bothNathan Fuller and Greg Mitchell conclusively documented yesterday, Manning’s descriptions match perfectly what he said in those chats when he thought nobody would ever hear what he was saying. That’s what makes Manning’s statements about his motives and thought process so reliable: they not only are consistent with his actions, but with everything he said when he thought he was speaking in private.
Whatever else is true, Bradley Manning is responsible for the most significant and valuable leaks since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. It is a cause for celebration that the US government’s efforts to silence his voice, literally, have now been thwarted. Now, people can and should hear directly from Manning himself and make their own assessment. Whoever made this illicit recording (as well as the FPF in publishing it) acted in the best spirit of Manning himself: defying corrupt, unjust and self-protecting government secrecy rules in order to inform the world about vital matters.
The FPF site appears to be down due to excessive traffic, so here is the file of the full, unedited audio recording of Manning’s statement that was posted earlier this morning by FPF on its site and is thus now in the public domain.
Extreme amounts of traffic has taken down the FPF site and may be causing problems with the embedded players I’ve posted. If you’re having problems listening to them here (or seeing them), just wait a bit and they should be working shortly.
In the meantime, the prior generation’s greatest whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg (who is also an FPF board member), today hails this generation’s greatest, Bradley Manning, in an Op-Ed at the Huffington Post. Writes Ellsberg: “After listening to this recording and reading his testimony, I believe Bradley Manning is the personification of the word whistleblower.” He also makes clear how similar is Manning’s treatment to the treatment to which Ellsberg was subjected. I can’t encourage you strongly enough to read what he has to say.
By the time the 23-year-old soldier’s court martial starts on February 4, 2013, Bradley Manning will have spent 983 days in prison, including nine months in solitary confinement, without having been convicted of a single crime. This week, in pre-trail hearings, a military court is reviewing evidence that the conditions under which he has been held constitute torture. These conditions include the nine-month period spent 23 hours a day in a six-by-eight-foot cell where he was forbidden to lie down or even lean against a wall when he was not sleeping – and when he was allowed to sleep at night, officers woke him every five minutes – and where he was subjected to daily strip searches and forced nudity. The UN Special Rapporteur for Torture has already found this amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and possibly torture.
For almost three years Manning has endured intense physical and mental pressure, all designed to force him to implicate WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange in an alleged conspiracy to commit espionage. It is also a message to would-be whistleblowers: the U.S. government will not be gentle.
“[If] 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, D.C.… what would you do? … It’s important that it gets out…it might actually change something… hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms…”
These are purportedly Manning’s words*, and that is change many of us would like to believe in: that if you give people the truth about their government’s unlawful activities, and the freedom to discuss it, they will hold their elected officials accountable.
But it is one thing to talk about transparency, the lifeblood of democracy, and even to campaign on it – in 2008, candidate Obama said, “Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal” – and another thing to act on it. On a fundamental level, Manning is being punished, without being convicted, for a crime that amounts to having the courage to act on the belief that without an informed public our republic is seriously compromised. Or, as he is quoted saying, for wanting “people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
The U.S. government is intent on creating a portrait of Manning as a traitor who aided and abetted Al Qaeda by releasing classified information into the public domain. But what actually occurred was that documents were sent anonymously to WikiLeaks, which published them in collaboration with The New York Times, The Guardian and other news media for the benefit of the general public, much like the Pentagon Papers were published a generation ago.
The emails the prosecution is using to try to prove Manning was the source of the leaks also depict the side of the story they want to hide, that of a young soldier grappling with the dilemma of a would-be whistleblower who knows he is taking great risks by exposing the state-sponsored crimes and abuses he witnessed, the “almost criminal political back-dealings… the non-PR-versions of world events and crises,”as he is quoted describing them to the confidant who ultimately betrayed him.
“I will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens.” One can’t help wondering what Manning must think now, after so long under such brutal conditions of confinement. Did he expect the government to punish him in such a disproportionate and unlawful manner?
Manning’s abusive pre-trial treatment is a clear violation of the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and even U.S. military law. In fact, Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs is arguing in the pre-trail hearings this week that in view of this blatant disregard for his client’s most fundamental rights, all charges should be dismissed.
The government claims this was all done to prevent Manning from committing suicide, though any rational observer might point out that these conditions are more likely to drive someone to suicide than keep him from it. The more likely explanation is the obvious one: the government wants to break Manning enough to force him to implicate WikiLeaks and Assange, and make enough of a show of it to deter other whistleblowers. At stake is the foundation of our democracy, a robust free press, and the fate of a true American hero.
*Disclaimer: Bradley Manning has not been convicted of any charges, nor has he admitted to any of the allegations against him. Likewise, he has not acknowledged the chat logs that purport to be his words.
Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as well as other journalists and major news organizations seeking to make the documents from the Manning trial public.
One thing brings these four men together. Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz—they are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and numerous prisons and CIA “black sites” around the world. Between them, they have been beaten, hung from walls or ceilings, deprived of sleep, food and water, and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in U.S. custody. None was charged with a crime, two were detained while still minors, and one of them remains at Guantánamo.
This week, in a complaint filed with the United Nations Committee against Torture, they are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes, openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face any legal action?
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) filed the complaint on the men’s behalf.
The country in question is Canada, visited last year by former U.S. President George W. Bush during a paid speaking engagement in Surrey, British Columbia. Bush’s visit drew hundreds in protest, calling for his arrest, and it also provided bin Attash, el-Hajj, Tumani and Kurnaz the opportunity to call on the Canadian government to uphold its legal obligation under the U.N. Convention against Torture, and conduct a criminal investigation against Bush while he was on Canadian soil.
To this end, the four men, submitted a 69-page draft indictment that CCR and CCIJ had presented to Canada’s attorney general ahead of Bush’s arrival in support of their private prosecution. The submission included thousands of pages of evidence against Bush consisting of extensive reports and investigations conducted by multiple U.S. agencies and the U.N. The evidence is overwhelming, not to mention the fact that Bush has admitted, even, boasted of his crimes, saying “damn right” when asked if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee – a recognized act of torture.
Canada should have investigated these crimes. The responsibility to do so is embedded in its domestic criminal code that explicitly authorizes the government to prosecute torture occurring outside Canadian borders. There is no reason it cannot apply to former heads of state, and indeed, the Convention has been found to apply to such figures including Hissène Habré and Augusto Pinochet. A criminal investigation into the allegations was the lawful thing to do. It was also what Canada had agreed to do when it pledged its support to end impunity for torture by ratifying the Convention.
Thanks to the Obama administration’s call to look only “forward” – even in the face of torture that demands a proper reckoning – and a court system in the U.S. that has readily closed its doors to torture survivors, the crimes of the Bush era are effectively beyond the reach of justice in the U.S. But the immunity – the impunity – granted to these criminals here should not follow them into other countries, particularly those that are signatories to international laws and treaties against torture.
If the Convention against Torture is to have any hope of fulfilling its mission of preventing torture, the committee must send countries like Canada a clear message: it is their legal obligation to ensure there is no safe haven for torturers and any action to the contrary makes these states effectively complicit in furthering impunity for some of the worst crimes of the past decade.
These four survivors are asking the U.N. to enforce its own convention, nothing more and nothing less. They call upon the U.N., unlike Canada, to unequivocally reject a worldview in which the powerful are exempt from rules, treaties and prohibitions against senseless acts of barbarity. Will the U.N. hear their call?
A five-person panel of civilian judges heard arguments on Wednesday from journalists and activists determined to have greater access to the records relating to the case against accused Wikileaks source Private First Class Bradley Manning.
The US military‘s Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) spent an hour on Wednesday listening in Washington, DC to why some say the military needs to make public the largely lock-and-key contents of the government’s prosecution of PFC Manning, a 24-year-old Army intelligence analyst who has been behind bars for nearly 900 days. Manning is scheduled to go before a court-martial in early 2013 for a slew of charges relating to accusations that he provided the WikiLeaks whistleblower site with sensitive documents, but arguments from months of the ongoing pretrial motion hearings and the Pentagon’s alleged evidence against the soldier have been shielded from the press and public alike.
The Center for Constitutional Rights began arguments against the government on Wednesday and is among a number of entities petitioning for access to court files that also includes Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“If the public is to have any faith in its government generally and the justice administered by military tribunals specifically, it needs to have confidence that the system is operating in the open, where potential misconduct may be exposed,” the CCR wrote in a brief filed before the court.
Wednesday’s hearing ended with neither a decision from the appeals court nor any confirmation on if, when or how they will pursue the case. The panel did acknowledge, however, that the matter of making public the courtroom documents could be best left to a civil court rather than a military one.
“Counsel, how do we have the jurisdiction over this matter?” Judge Margaret Ryan asked attorney Shayana Kadidal of the CCR during the day’s opening arguments.
“It certainly wasn’t challenged by the government,” Kadidal responded.
Captain Chad Fisher, a counsel representing the US government during this week’s hearing, said that while the judge presiding over the Manning case has no constitutional obligation to releasing court documents, journalists and citizens alike are welcome to seek access to the files by filing Freedom of Information Act requests.
“The First Amendment public trial right is not absolute, and does not extend to all parts of a trial,” Cpt. Fisher acknowledged, adding that the public already has an “unencumbered presence” in the courtroom.
But while FOIA request may indeed allow journalists and civilians eventual access to courtroom documents, the government’s response to those inquiries so far has been largely scant. The Associated Press has been denied FOIA requests for courtroom materia,l and David Coombs, the civilian attorney representing PFC Manning, has relied on posting his personal notes and motions on his own website in an effort to open up the case to those who aren’t allocated a seat in the Fort Meade, Maryland courtroom that has hosted pretrial hearings for the last few months.
“These restrictions not only plainly violate the First Amendment and the common law, they undermine the legitimacy of this important proceeding,” the CCR’s Kadidal wrote in a legal brief before Wednesday’s date. “These violations are particularly egregious in light of the First Amendment’s mandate that even temporary deprivations of the right of public access constitute irreparable harm.”
From court, Kadidal attacked again the chilling effect keeping the case so private has had on the press, arguing that the media would otherwise be able to more accurately report on the Ft. Meade hearings.
“It’s almost impossible to understand what’s happening, even if you have access to the courtroom,” he said.
Reports from Wednesday’s hearing suggests that while the CAAF may not ultimately have a say in the case, they seemed apathetic with the attempts from the CCR and others to open up the case to the public and press.At one point in the day’s arguments, Judge Margaret Ryan asked Cpt. Fisher for an explanation as to why the military is making it so difficult to make the case public.
“Instead of making a constitutional case about this, why not just make it available?” Judge Ryan asked.
Senior Judge Walter T. Cox III echoed his colleague’s statement by introducing the fact that the military commission at Guantanamo Bay can put all unclassified documents online yet documents pertaining to the Manning case are kept behind closed doors.
“Do you only do things the Constitution requires and not things good sense condones?” Cox asked.
“If they can do it, why can’t you?” Judge Charles Erdmann chimed in.
Courthouse News adds that Kadilal may now ask for a stay of trial if the CAAF decides it does not have jurisdiction in the case and the matter of making proceedings any or less transparent is left to the military judge assigned to oversee the Manning ordeal, Col. Denise Lind. That would likely only prolong the state of PFC Manning’s court-martial, which at this rate will not wrap up until the soldier has already seen 1,000 days in prison, including a large chunk in solitary confinement being subjected to conditions considered torturous by the United Nations’ rapporteur on such matters.
Mr. Coombs has already tried to dismiss charges against PFC Manning for, among other reasons, the military’s failure to adhere to the 120-speedy trial limit imposed in the military court system.
“The Government’s process of this case makes an absolute mockery of that fundamental right,” Coombs wrote last month.
The military and the CCR and their cohorts now have until later this month to file motions explaining why they think the military court of appeals has the authority to intervene on the fate of the documents in the case. Manning’s trial is currently slated to start February 4, 2013. If convicted on the charge of aiding the enemy — one of nearly two dozen crimes he’s been accused of — he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is escorted in handcuffs, for his motion hearing at the courthouse in Fort Meade in Maryland (Reuters / Jose Luis Magana)
Neither candidate has called for arresting and prosecuting high ranking people on Wall Street for the subprime mortgage catastrophe.
Neither candidate is interested in holding anyone in the Bush administration accountable for the torture committed by US personnel against prisoners in Guantanamo or in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of drones to assassinate people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia.
Neither candidate is against warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, or racial profiling in fighting “terrorism.”
Neither candidate is interested in fighting for a living wage. In fact neither are really committed beyond lip service to raising the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – which, if it kept pace with inflation since the 1960s should be about $10 an hour.
Neither candidate was interested in arresting Osama bin Laden and having him tried in court.
Neither candidate will declare they refuse to bomb Iran.
Neither candidate is refusing to take huge campaign contributions from people and organizations.
Neither candidate proposes any significant specific steps to reverse global warming.
Neither candidate is talking about the over 2 million people in jails and prisons in the US.
Neither candidate proposes to create public jobs so everyone who wants to work can.
Neither candidate opposes the nuclear power industry. In fact both support expansion.
Complaint Filed with U.N. Special Rapporteur Alleges Interference with Spanish Judicial Process
U.S. and Spanish Authorities Attempted to Stop Cases Seeking Accountability of U.S. Officials for Torture and Unlawful Killing
January 19, 2012, Madrid, New York, Berlin – Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), filed a formal complaint to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mrs. Gabriela Knaul. The groups submitted evidence from U.S.-Madrid embassy cables obtained through WikiLeaks that show that senior U.S. and Spanish officials sought to interfere with the Spanish judicial process in order to shield Americans from criminal prosecution for torture and unlawful killing.
“The WikiLeaks cables reveal that the United States will go to extreme measures to ensure that U.S. officials are not called before a court of law to answer the torture allegations against them,” said CCR Senior Attorney Katherine Gallagher. “Unfortunately, in Spain they found Spanish officials willing to work with them to keep justice from being done. We hope the Special Rapporteur will examine the serious breaches of international law detailed in our complaint, and that those who suffered under the U.S. torture program can pursue justice, without interference, in Spain and elsewhere.”The complaint focuses on three criminal cases currently before the Spanish courts in which all potential defendants are U.S. citizens. The first is an investigation into the systematic use of torture at U.S.-run detention centers in Guantánamo and elsewhere initiated by Judge Baltasar Garzón, who oversaw the investigation until he was removed from office in 2010. The second case is the so-called “Bush Six case,” filed against former Bush administration lawyers for elaborating and authorizing a torture policy, and aiding and abetting the torture of detainees. The third case regards the unlawful killing of José Couso Permuy, a Spanish cameraman killed in Baghdad in 2003 as a result of U.S. tank fire at his hotel.
The U.S. cables reveal the intensive efforts undertaken by U.S. officials, through meetings, phone calls and strong statements about the possible negative impact of these cases on U.S.-Spanish relations, in coordination with certain Spanish officials, to influence the outcome of ongoing criminal investigations. As the former U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre, explains in one cable: “While we are careful to show our respect for the tragic death of [José] Couso and for the independence of the Spanish judicial system, behind the scenes we have fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear.”
An April 17, 2009 embassy cable reveals that U.S. officials conducted “intensive outreach” in order to influence Spanish Attorney General Conde Pumpido on the Bush Six case. According to the cable, the day after U.S. officials warned that continued proceedings would have an “enormous impact” on the U.S.-Spain relationship, Conde Pumpido “publicly stated that prosecutors will‘undoubtedly’ not support [the] criminal complaint.” Similarly, after Judge Garzón initiated a criminal investigation into the torture of four former detainees, in a May 5, 2009 cable, Chief Prosecutor Zaragoza tells U.S. embassy officials that “he will also fight [Judge] Garzón’s latest move.”
At this meeting, Zaragoza outlined the way he could “embarrass” Judge Garzón into dropping his investigation into the U.S. torture program and says that he “has a strategy to force [Garzón’s] hand.” Cables related to theCouso case reveal interventions by both Spanish and American officials in an effort to have the criminal investigation closed: the U.S. ambassador’s account of having “fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear” is met with a similar account by the Spanish Vice President de la Vega, who expressed appreciation for the “excellent cooperation” between U.S. officials and the Spanish attorney general “in helping bring the case to a conclusion.”
ECCHR Secretary General Wolfgang Kaleck said, “The attacks on the Spanish judiciary show the urgent need for trials in third countries, since the U.S. is shielding alleged perpetrators and does not prosecute them in domestic courts.”
Invoking the fundamental principle of the right to an independent and impartial judiciary, CCR and ECCHR stress that these actions by the United States require the attention of the Special Rapporteur in part because they are not isolated. “Rather,” reads the complaint, “previous interventions in Belgium, Germany, and Italy suggest that they are demonstrative of a systematic pattern and practice of abuse aimed at protecting U.S. interests from adverse judicial findings abroad at the expense of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in the countries in which they occur… Breaches of judicial independence foster a culture of impunity that is incompatible with international and domestic obligations to prosecute authors of human rights violations.”
CCR and ECCHR request that the U.N. Special Rapporteur investigate the cable revelations, demand that the U.S. and Spanish governments refrain from further obstructing or interfering with these cases, and ensure that the cases are resolved according to Spanish law and binding international law, independent of political considerations. The complaint, with anannex of the relevant cables, is available here.
The filing of the complaint comes on the same day that CCR and ECCHR joined with other international human rights groups in issuing a statement in support of Judge Baltasar Garzón, who will go to trial on January 24 in Madrid for charges stemming from his investigation into alleged crimes against humanity arising from the disappearance, torture and execution of nearly 115,000 people during the Spanish Civil war and the subsequent Franco regime. CCR and ECCHR have previously joined a complaint to the Special Rapporteur, which sought an investigation into the case against Garzón and whether it constitutes an improper interference with the judiciary.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last 10 years – representing clients in two United States Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantánamo. CCR has also filed cases against Donald Rumsfeld in Germany and France, and released a Bush Torture Indictment, ready to be tailored to the specific laws of any of the 147 signatory countries to the Convention Against Torture where he may travel. Visitwww.ccrjustice.org; follow @theCCR.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.