APPLICATION FOR PARDON NOW IN: PLEASE SUPPORT URGENTLY!
Meaning that it’s even more important to sign the White House petition – which, remember, CAN be signed by non US residents (despite the appearance) – and to further support the application by contacting the White House by post, by email, or by phoning the comments line (all details here – no.3). The petition needs 100,000 signatures by 20th September and is the top priority for support at the moment. It’s thought that the application for a pardon will carry less weight without the full complement of signatures so please pull out all the stops for this – ask everyone you know! And btw – you only have to be 13 or over to sign!
Supporting the application are three letters; from Pvt Manning, David Coombs, and Amnesty International, and they are well worth reading in full, although excerpts appear below in this article.
ORIGINAL LETTER TO OBAMA FROM PRIVATE MANNING
Anyone expecting this application for clemency to take the form of a plea for mercy, should probably have been forewarned by the original statement in Private Manning’s own words, released in advance of the formal application, on 21st August, but to be included with it. Because, while it is never disrespectful, and even acknowledges faults (as did the carefully phrased but humble apology of 14th August) the tone itself is in general far from apologetic, instead throwing down the gauntlet once more on the self same issues as provoked the original whistleblowing.
Taking the opportunity to bring the original concerns which lead to the whistleblowing directly to the president, Private Manning now lays it on the line:
in our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity.
We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians.
Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.
After clarifying that the release of the information was
out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others,
Private Manning contrasts this with the false patriotism that obeys at any cost and disregards moral sense.
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Subtly reminding Obama not to be on the wrong side of history, she says:
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy – the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps – to mention a few.
I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.
LAYING DOWN THE CHALLENGE OF TRUTH
The formal application of 3rd Sept is also accompanied by a letter from David Coombs, the defence lawyer, which sets out the reasons the defence believes that President Obama should grant this application, and is further supported by a letter from Amnesty International, which details their objections to the sentence (especially when contrasted with the end results for those guilty of human rights abuses), the ‘due process shortcomings’ of the trial, and the abusive pretrial treatment.
Taken together the three letters comprehensively lay down the challenge to a president who not only promised the most transparent administration ever – and one which would protect whistleblowers at that – but who professed explicitly to stand against the abuses, injustices and corruption of the previous administration.
And this challenge continues the keynote of the past three plus years. Chelsea (who was then known to us as Bradley and for the purposes of this application will be referred to by that, her legal name), working together with David Coombs and the legal team, has succeeded in keeping paramount through this process the critical and urgent issues facing us in our world, despite the seriousness of the threat against her.
The defence has been extremely thorough, managed a very effective advocacy against overwhelming odds, but also continued to be wholehearted in maintaining the centrality of truth rather than expedience and spin, throughout the proceedings. Not an inch has been yielded without a fight in what often seemed to be Bradley Manning v USG, not the other way round.
We, the public, have been the beneficiaries of this pivotal case being in the ‘safe hands’ of those who who have proved trustworthy not to renege on their tasking.
And while we’re on the subject, it can’t be left unsaid that those ‘safe hands’ also include the key journalists whose extraordinary commitment brought us the court record every single day of each hearing – Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gosztola and Nathan Fuller, with Clark Stoeckley’s on the spot drawn (and verbal!) illustrations, and often Adam Klasfield. Without them there would be NO public record; with them what we have by way of record is way over and above what ordinary courtroom transparency usually yields. This for instance. And this gem from Clark:
And others who became gripped further down the line by the ‘history as it was happening’ then formed a ‘second tier’ of those who (undergirded by the breadth of knowledge of the primary group) were spreading the important news of how the Obama administration was being laid bare (despite its obsession with secrecy) in the meticulous exposure by the defence of its disgraceful treatment of a young whistleblower. David Dishneau of Associated Press, Julie Tate of the Washington Post, Matt Sledge of Huffington Post were among those who took the case seriously, and we got some excellent and comprehensive coverage, since the end of 2012 in particular, from Ed Pilkington of the Guardian.
And it’s certainly no thanks to the government that we have any information about one of the most important US trials ever; apart from fighting a despicably dirty fight, they also fought at every point to deny public access to the proceedings.
A PLEA FOR CLEMENCY – ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO EXPOSE ISSUES
So, here we are again – a request for clemency and the approach chosen is not to ask the President to ‘forgive and forget’ but remind him yet again of just how pressing are the issues that this case REALLY has at it’s heart. And it’s such a sight for sore eyes and a sound for ears weary of bankrupt deals to witness again the integrity of those who are giving truth a chance, and the world some hope!
PRIVATE MANNING IS A MILITARY WHISTLEBLOWER – COOMBS
After drawing Obama’s attention to a series of documents, one of which is the White House petition (sign it!!) and others which are related to the Army’s failure of ‘duty of care’ to Pvt. Manning etc and the immense pressure she was under at the time, David Coombs’ letter reminds Obama, that erstwhile defender of whistleblowers, that Private Manning is a whistleblower, and it ends by urging Obama to
take a positive step towards protecting whistleblowers who release information to the media for the public good.
The letter takes issue with the severity of the sentence, quoting a human rights authority as saying that the closest comparable penalty ever previously handed down was only 2 years. Coombs says that there was no intention to harm and no intention to profit from the whistleblowing and the sentence is disproportionate.
The length of Private Manning’s sentence is one that we would expect for someone who disclosed information in order to harm the United States or who disclosed information for monetary gain.
Private Manning did neither.
He hints at over classification, brings out the lack of any evidence at all of harm (clarified during the trial), talks of the ‘unethical practices’ and ‘misconduct’ of USG revealed by the whistleblower and points out that we ‘rely upon whistleblowers to keep government accountable’. He alludes to the need for a public debate on foreign policy, specifically mentioning Iraq, Afghanistan and Guatanamo:
Although the government is entitled to protect sensitive information, the documents in this case did not merit protection.
Many of the documents released by Private Manning
were either unclassified or contained information that the public had a right to know.
None of the disclosed documents caused any real damage to the United States.
Instead, these documents simply embarrassed our country by revealing misconduct by the Department of Defense and unethical practices by the Department of State.
We rely upon whistleblowers, even in those instances that might cause embarrassment, to keep our government accountable to its people.
Private Manning is a military whistleblower.
He disclosed documents that were vital for a healthy public debate about our conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan, our detention policies at Guantanamo, and our diplomatic activities around the world.
The sentence given to him by the military judge
grossly exaggerates the seriousness of his conduct. The sentence was disproportionate to both the offense and the offender.
Furthermore, says Coombs; the sentence will be detrimental to the reputation of military justice.
It will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on future
whistleblowers and damage the public’s perception of military justice.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WEIGH IN
In the accompanying letter from Amnesty International, they say that they are writing to present
strong human rights grounds for mitigating Bradley Manning’s sentence
They then approach this from four different aspects of the case. They firstly give a detailed run down of the abusive treatment meted out to Pvt Manning during pretrial confinement, then they discuss how the leaks themselves revealed human rights abuses and how Pvt Manning was prevented from bringing a public interest defence, then they demonstrate the hypocrisy of the sentence by comparing it with sentences (or the lack of sentences) given to actual perpetrators of human rights abuses.
This comparison really underlines the vindictiveness of the sentence and the information demonstrates a prevailing attitude of inhumanity.
While Bradley Manning faces many years in prison for the public disclosure of documents to WikiLeaks, numerous high level officials have never been held accountable for the grave human rights violations commited during the United States’ “War on Terror”.
Even in cases where low ranking soldiers have been charged or convicted, they have received very light sentences.
High ranking officials avoided investigation for the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq in 2003-2004. Eleven low ranking soldiers were sentenced to prison terms after being convicted in courts martial, but they have all since been released. The Brigadier General in charge of the facility was reprimanded for deriliction of duty and demoted to Colonel.
No criminal charges have ever been made in relation to the US secret detention programme where enforced disappearance and torture were authorised at the highest level of government. Details of the programme remain classified.
Yes. And they wonder why we need whistleblowers….