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Land of the free?

Written By: - Date published: 8:24 am, March 17th, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: activism, Media, us politics - Tags: , ,

With so much going on in terms of large scale disasters at the moment, it is easy to lose track of the stories of a mere individuals. But there are two individuals whose stories should not be forgotten. They are facing the full might and anger of the American establishment. Their “crime” was to tell the truth:

Julian Assange has lost the first round in his case to avoid extradition to Sweden. His lawyers have said all along if he were sent to Sweden, he’d soon be on his way to the U.S. If the Obama Administration has anything to say about it, he will.

Assange, who is currently in England, faces charges in Sweden of rape and coercion stemming from sexual relations with two women. But the U.S. Department of Justice has for many months been investigating Assange, the editor of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, in connection with the release of about 250,000 classified cables beginning in November 2010 detailing correspondence between the U.S. State Department and its diplomatic missions around the world.

The Justice Department has set up a grand jury in Virginia to indict him under the Espionage Act. The problem for the Justice Department is that the Espionage Act seemingly does not cover Assange’s acts. It has never been used to criminalize publication of classified information. … Apparently, because the Justice Department couldn’t figure out a way to apply the Espionage Act to publication, it announced on Nov. 29, 2010, it was contemplating an end run a round the act. It would investigate Assange to see if he urged Bradley Manning to leak.

Manning is the U.S. soldier arrested in May 2010 on suspicion of having passed classified information on Iraq to WikiLeaks. This was a clever solution to the Justice Department’s problems. If it couldn’t prove Assange violated the Espionage Act, it would claim Manning had violated the Espionage Act at the urging of Assange.

This was an easier case for the government, since Manning, an employee of the government, in all probability was subject to the Espionage Act, unlike Assange. But if Assange conspired with Manning, Assange could be indicted for conspiracy.

This announcement caused angst in the First Amendment community. If Assange could be indicted for conspiracy, so could every journalist who discussed the leaking of classified information with a source within government. For this reason both the Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch protested to the Obama Administration. They urged that Assange not be indicted. In a little noticed announcement of several weeks ago, the Justice Department said it was giving up on this approach. It said that it could find no evidence that Assange discussed the leaking of classified information with Manning.

This would seemingly leave the Justice Department with no case. But the department is not giving up easily. … The Justice Department is on what lawyers call a “fishing expedition.” They are looking desperately for any evidence to construct a case … what started off as a putative prosecution of Assange, has turned into a persecution.

The plight of Bradley Manning is particularly extreme:

“You can hear Bradley coming from a long way away because of the chains – his feet have chains on them, they go to a leather belt around his waist. His hands go into them and he has no free movement of his hands.” …

The picture became bleaker, however, as the months of imprisonment wore on, House says. After the suicide watch episode, he says, Manning seemed “catatonic” and exhausted. …

Amnesty International in Britain has expressed similar strong concern. International UK campaigns director Tim Hancock said: “We’ve heard that Bradley Manning is made to strip each night and then stand to attention, naked, each morning and wait for his clothes. This is completely degrading and serves no purpose other than to humiliate and punish him, given that he’s already under close supervision.

“Manning is being subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This is particularly disturbing when one considers that he hasn’t even been brought to trial, let alone convicted of a crime.” …

In the latest escalation of his conditions, he has now been charged with 22 new offences, including the potentially capital crime of “aiding the enemy”. To his supporters, it seems that this small figure chained up in Quantico must represent something very terrifying to the US Army.

Home of the brave? Land of the free?

26 comments on “Land of the free? ”

  1. Pete 1

    Both these cases reflect very poorly on the Obama administration.

    I had modest hopes for what Obama might achieve, especially after GWB, but he has been a major disappointment. I don’t know how much is due to Obama’s inability to step up (albeit to the great height of one of the highest leaders in the world), and how much is due to the US political system that promotes the impotence of POTUS.

    • Vicky32 1.1

      I am fortunate, in that I have not become disillusioned with Obama, because I never was illusioned!

  2. ianmac 2

    Terrifying. It is as if all those incredibly implausible action movies where the good guy is pursued and persecuted by crooked State Agents, is true to life! And politicians choose injustice for political ends. All this reflects so badly on the USA Administration and its politicians.

  3. 26-64 4

    “…it seems that this small figure chained up in Quantico must represent something very terrifying to the US Army…”

    The silly part is that war crimes by US forces over time never changed the outcome of anything. History plods along, repeating itself. Even if you agree that he is gulity of negligence, treason or some other military crime, the punishment looks like absurd orchestrated overkill. Like they’re saying…we hate them terroists…we mean it…we really really really mean it… very very very very very much… we mean it so much we’re going to torture this little nobody… see how much we mean it.. we told you to listen …why didn’t you listen… where’s my mommy…why did the other kids tease me… it’s your fault!

    Wouldn’t chucking him out of the military be effective enough?

    • RedLogix 4.1

      Wouldn’t chucking him out of the military be effective enough?

      Not for the intended purpose of ‘making an example of him’.

  4. uke 5

    The American journalist Martha Gellhorn was at the liberation of Dachau in 1945 and concluded her article with words that still seem relevant:

    “We are not entirely guiltless, we the Allies, because it took us twelve years to open the gates of Dachau. We were blind and unbelieving and slow, and that we can never be again. We must know now that there can never be peace if there is cruelty like this in the world. And if ever again we tolerate such cruelty we have no right to peace.”

  5. JonL 6

    The american government, predominantly, is in the pocket of – bought and paid for, by the industrial/military and big business factions. They know only one thing – ultimate profit, and trample any and everyone to get there. The ridiculous “make an example of” revenge tactics they use, are the same as that of a playground bully, who’s been made to look bad…….and about as effective. That doesn’t, however, help people caught up in their corrupt little maelstrom. Land of the Free? – yeah right…….only if you are wealthy and without scruples!

  6. Sorry to be so lazy, but I’m frantically busy today.

    Can anyone shed light on whether, in the case of Manning, has any lawyer simply tried a writ of habeus corpus, given that he’s being held on US soil and they can’t slither out of it as easily as they did the atrocities at Guantanamo?

      • Thanks r0b.

        That request — which is really a formal complaint of mistreatment — will now be forwarded to the Secretary of Navy, and if he also rejects it, then Manning’s lawyer will file a Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

        Strange… habeous corpus doesn’t have to rely on harsh treatment, they could simply argue that, say, seizing his passport and imposing stringent reporting conditions would suffice and that it’s not justified to keep him locked up at all. After all, his likelihood of reoffending is nil, his risk to the community is nil, I don’t see them having much of a case to refuse bail.

        It’s a strange anomaly – by no means confined to the US, of course – that the military can define its own standards of treatment of prisoners (outside of PoWs in a time of war, where there may be some justification for not meeting accepted standards). It’s as though society is saying that your willingness to put your life on the the line protect us entitles you to less consideration than the “common” criminal, rather than mitigating any but the most serious offence.

        • r0b

          Aided and abetted by the fact that almost anything a soldier does can be seen as relating to the most sacred of all sacred cows – “national security”. Invoke national security and you can get away with murder.

  7. Barry 8

    The plight of Manning is indeed dire, but Assange is overegging the pudding.

    He is much more likely to be extradicted to the US from Britain than Sweden. If the charges are as minor as has been made out then instead of fighting extradition he should have made a deal with the Swedish authorities that he be allowed to return to Australia (on a direct flight) after his case is dealt with.

  8. prism 9

    I wonder if an Amnesty International letter writing campaign would succeed in changing the treatment of Bradley Manning by the USA? Sometimes regimes can be embarrassed enough to change behaviour. Has the USA any room in their self-concepts for shame and embarrassment? It isn’t a good look either for them or for the ideal of democracy.

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