ALEXA PRESENTS CHELSEA AT THE CCC
Alexa O’Brien continued her crucial work of opening up the secret trial of Chelsea Manning in a presentation at the Chaos Computer Club thirtieth annual international gathering – Chaos Communication Congress CCC 30c3 (27th – 30th Dec 2013) in Hamburg Germany, yesterday.
A GREAT RESPONSIBILITY TO PUBLICISE THE FACTS
Explaining, with specific instances, the lengths the authorities went to in order to keep the proceedings (which ran to 45,000 pages, thought to be the longest record of trial) from public scrutiny, Alexa said she felt towards Chelsea Manning
a great responsibility to report to the public the facts and circumstances of her unprecedented trial
In this highly informative talk, which she entitled ‘07KINGSTON25 JAMAICA: MALARIA UPDATE – Dispatches from Fort Meade’ to highlight the utter insanity of the prosecution rationale illustrated nicely in the absurdity of charging this particular cable, she laid out the critical information on charging and sentencing that produced the travesty of justice which now sees Chelsea in prison, sentenced to 35 years.
Plainly, this is something Alexa is at pains to inspire us to go on resisting – she clarified the appeals process, and at the end of the talk said:
but we are going to get Manning out of the prison – that is how I feel about it – we are going to get Manning out of the prison because it’s an abomination that Manning’s in the prison….
And she herself is continuing to contribute to that process not least by publicly correcting the lazy (and completely incorrect) characterisation abroad of both Chelsea’s historic leak and Chelsea herself, as well as her motives for releasing the information. And Alexa is uniquely equipped to debunk this false and sloppy narrative by publicising the facts and the context that she has worked with such dedication to record and make sense of over the past three years.
INDISPENSABLE, COMPREHENSIVE & UNIQUE
Alexa spoke for around an hour (including Q and A) on the far-reaching issues surrounding the trial in a presentation illustrated by slides of supporting documents. In a remarkable resource – an indispensable, comprehensive and unique database with reports, analysis, and (her own) transcripts of court hearings - she has been collating such documents throughout the past three years (and more) at her website http://www.alexaobrien.com/
In the presentation she detailed the many ways in which the prosecution was unreasonable in how and for what it prosecuted Chelsea, and showed in turn how slack the court was in accepting this in order to complete the
rubber stamping of the Obama administration’s inquisition of the press and its sources
FACTS & FIGURES TO OPPOSE THE ‘GENERALISATIONS & BUZZWORDS’
Referring to the epidemic proportions of the over-classification problem and how this was instrumental in ensuring a fundamentally unjust trial, Alexa also explained that, notwithstanding this; of the 251,287 documents in Cablegate (the publication of the State Dept cables) 130,000 were unclassified, 100,000 merely confidential and only 15,000 secret, with none at all ‘top secret’, and that Chelsea was, in fact, only charged with 160* [*NOTE: misheard this figure - even less - actually only 116 charged] of these.
And that even these *160 [correction as above *NOTE - should read 116 !] were apparently hard to scrape together, since the prosecutors were originally given a much smaller total number (comprising those considered by the government to warrant charging) and they actually had to ask for more to be selected in order to get an adequate charge sheet.
In a talk which was full of specifics and figures (as opposed to the vague generalisations tossed about by media, and perhaps more disgracefully, by prosecutors, even, according to Coombs, in the closed classified ‘evidence’ sessions) Alexa criticised the all too common use of the word ‘dump’ to describe the carefully chosen documents that Chelsea Manning gave to WikiLeaks; explained again the lower sensitivity as well as the relevance of what Chelsea selected and reminded us of Chelsea’s own clarification of this; and pointed out once more that Julian Assange wrote to the US State Dept specifically offering them the opportunity to privately elect
specific instances, record nos. or names where it considered the publication of information would put individuals/persons at significant risk of harm that has not already been addressed.
She then reminded us that on 8th Dec 2010 the former vice president of Pay Pal attributed the decision to suspend service to WikiLeaks’ (and effectively, along with others, financially blockade WikiLeaks) to the reply declining this offer sent to Julian from legal adviser Harold Coe, which said that the State Dept considered WikiLeaks’ possession of the cables to be in violation of US law.
The talk also dealt thoroughly with the issue of the lack of harm or damage which, though (or to be more accurate, because) favourable to Chelsea, the defence was prevented from using at trial, and showed how even government’s own statements and the official and extensive damage assessments (the conclusion of one of which was reported only recently as being ‘low to moderate’) supported her case. Alexa then described how, at the sentencing hearings, repeated witnesses for the prosecution were alleging possible and probable (as opposed to ‘actual’) harm based on nothing more than their opinions and projections , and that in generalisations which made no attempt to cite specific cables/situations.
Alexa highlighted the ways in which the case was a watershed and would set precedents, and, lest we civilians consider ourselves unaffected by the rulings of the military court, explained that the charge of ‘aiding the enemy’ is one of only two charges under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) not restricted to the military, but is a charge anyone could face.
And she reiterated the deadly seriousness of the still running Grand Jury which documents prove was operational as early as Sept 2010, and which is a coordinated all-agency (or as Assange says a ‘whole of government’) pursuit, being
the largest criminal investigation ever conducted into a publisher and its source, (and it presents a tremendous danger to democracy and the rule of law that it’s been allowed to continue.)
To conclude the talk she read from three texts by way of characterising the time in which we live and into which the prophetic voice (as in the quotes she selected) of Chelsea Manning has spoken. She said Manning’s story was this generation’s greatest war story and she firstly said it was our ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’:
I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.
It was our ‘Thin Red Line’
Maybe all men got one big soul everybody’s a part of, all faces are the same man
And it was our ‘Catch22′
It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honour, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.
NEXT ON: SUING THE GOVT, MANNING FAMILY FUND, ACTIONS TO TAKE
In the Q and A session Alexa revealed in response to Jake Applebaum’s question that she had around 200 FOIA’s outstanding and that next week she was suing the government (and had an attorney on board for that) but would reveal more later. So – Watch this space!
You can support Alexa’s essential work (and thus the freedom of the press!) by donating here.
If you can be in Wales on the w/e of the 10th/11th January, don’t forget the Irish are coming to the west coast with some great gigs in support of Chelsea and her Welsh family. More here. Come and help us raise money for them to visit her in prison – and for more on the Manning Family Fund go to our Pvt Manning Family Fund devoted site.
And finally there are a number of immediate and ongoing actions you can take listed here.