We learned while in a strange, airless, windowless trailer-like military court at the infamous Ft. Meade, during the trial of Bradley Manning on Thursday, June 28, that the U.S. military has blocked access, worldwide, for anyone in the military to the website of The Guardian, apparently in reaction to the leaks by Edward Snowden on vast surveillance of whole populations by the National Security Administration. Ironically, or not, Ft. Meade is the home of the NSA.
The criminals, according to the U.S. government, are the leakers such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden and journalists such as Glenn Greenwald who publish the information about U.S. war crimes which we, the public, are supposed to support, or, at least ignore. The “enemy” is us, the public, explicitly, in the case of Bradley, who is charged with “aiding the enemy.”
This is all backwards, to risk understatement. The crime of aggressive war is the supreme war crime. To have waged such a war, destroying a country’s infrastructure, society, displacing millions, displacing and killing uncounted numbers — and all on the basis of lies, as was the U.S. war on Iraq — is the criminal offense we should be trying the leaders of the Bush regime for.
Instead, Bradley Manning, a private who joined to pay for college, sent to a Forward Operating Base outside Baghdad, is facing charges for which the U.S. government wants him in prison for life, and which could potentially lead to the death penalty. Preliminary hearings went on for many months, during which, last February, Bradley made a declaration taking responsibility for sending classified documents to WikiLeaks. The prosecution will finish its case against him this week, charging, most seriously, that he “aided the enemy.”
History is being made in this courtroom, but as is often the case in the proceedings of empire, on the surface, the proceedings are banal. The judge takes pains to point out Bradley’s rights as accused, all the better to not be reversed in an appeal. The large team of prosecutors comes and goes with stacks of files, as if this is business as usual, and as if “justice” will be served. Each morning the lead prosecutor informs the judge of how many members of the media and the public are present. There is a lot of talk about the rights of the public, while the public is searched, told not to talk, and treated as the “enemy” we are.
Bradley is charged with leaking “Cablegate” files, and specifically 117 of them, as allowed by the judge last week. Kevin Gosztola notes that these aren’t the cables that made news when released. He speculates on why these documents, which concerned countries all over the world including Iraq and Afghanistan, were charged:
Peter Van Buren, a former Foreign Service Officer for the State Department who helped lead two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in rural Iraq from 2009-2010, told Firedoglake that none of the cables from the US Embassy in Baghdad that Manning is charged with disclosing to WikiLeaks jump out at him as “anything special or concrete.” He suggested that many of them were reports done by State Department employees as if they were journalists.
The fact that none of the cables appear to be any that received widespread attention in the media when WikiLeaks published them is, to Van Buren, a possible symptom of the State Department’s “schizophrenia about WikiLeaks.” They have wanted to claim the release of cables was an “incredible crime against the US government” while at the same time wanting to “reassure” leaders of countries around the world that the “really important stuff was protected” and not compromised.
The prosecution attempted to get the judge to allow them to submit tweets from WikiLeaks as evidence that Bradley was working with WikiLeaks, providing what they asked for. We learned that the prosecutors hadn’t subpoenaed Twitter for those records, and had someone find them on Google, perhaps because they know they don’t have to work very hard here to get a “guilty” verdict from the military judge. The judge did deny one 2009 WikiLeaks tweet into evidence, but allowed others.
A small defense victory Thursday came when the judge seemed to indicate she’ll allow them to submit evidence arguing that the Collateral Murder video of the July 2007 Apache helicopter attack killing 12 Iraqi civilians was no longer “classified” by 2010 when Manning sent it to Wikileaks. It’s worth noting that this footage was sought by Reuters, (who employed two of the men killed in the attack) for three years, unsuccessfully.
The most interesting testimony Friday was from Col. David Miller, who had commanded Manning’s brigade in Iraq in 2010, which was assigned to “Operation New Dawn,” the U.S. cynical attempt to “teach” Iraqis to provide their own security, as he explained. Miller told how he thought Manning, who had once briefed him at Ft. Drum before deployment was smart, but that the whole unit “took a hit” and that he was “stunned” when he learned of the charges against Manning. “The last thing I anticipated was an internal security breach from one of our own.”
Nathan Fuller, writing for the Bradley Manning Support Network, wrote:
On cross-examination, Col. Miller testified that there were no restrictions on surfing the SIPRNet, the military’s Secret-level internet, where he perused the State Department’s Net-Centric Diplomacy Database. He also said that soldiers were allowed to download files to their computers and to digital media, such as CDs, and there were no restrictions on the ‘manner’ in which a soldier could download. This refutes the claim that by using the download-automating Wget program, Manning exceeded his authorized computer access.
NOW: Take-home message:
The prosecution will rest July 1 or 2. After the holiday weekend, on Monday July 8, the defense will begin. Let this be a day where the prosecutor has to tell the judge that the media trailer is full; the public seats are all taken, and the overflow trailer is also full. If you can’t get to Ft. Meade, join in the conversation online; send donations; talk to everyone you know about this case, and why telling the truth should not be a crime.
And, order a copy of Collateral Murder to show, to project outside, to share. What is so dangerous about this footage that Bradley should spend life in prison for releasing it? It shows war crimes, done in our name.
Finally, consider Julian Assange’s comments on the trial:
This is not justice; never could this be justice… The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.