Friday, August 16, 2013

Ed Snowden is a patriot

Stephanie Condon (CBS News -- link is text and video) reports:

Since the public learned in June about sweeping National Security Agency programs, government officials from President Obama on down have insisted the nation's surveillance programs are subject to layers of oversight.

"I am comfortable that the program currently is not being abused," Mr. Obama said in a press conference last week, when he announced new efforts at increasing transparency. "Part of the reason they're not abused is because these checks are in place."

However, the latest revelation that the NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times, as documented in an internal report -- an internal report withheld from at least one leader in Congress responsible for oversight -- proves the president and several others in Washington were wrong. The NSA broke privacy rules more than 2,700 times within just one year, according to a May 2012 internal NSA report that was leaked to the Washington Post, along with other secret documents.

Can you believe that President Barack Obama was not forced, on Friday, to respond to these revelations that emerged Thursday night?

I cannot either.  During Watergate, we were outraged by this sort of thing.  We should be outraged now.

The editorial board of Bloomberg News notes:

The president announced last week a number of measures intended to mollify the public. There will be a full-time privacy officer at the NSA, he said. A panel of outside experts will review intelligence collection. There will even be a lively new website “that will serve as a hub for further transparency.”
Increasingly, all this looks like a fool’s game. The system of supervision simply isn’t working. As the Post report notes, the NSA’s oversight staff has quadrupled in recent years, yet the rate of infractions keeps increasing. Even the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- the secret body putatively in charge of making sure the NSA follows the law -- has admitted that the court can’t verify what the agency says and thus can’t provide full oversight over it.

Yes, it does appear to be a fool's game.

I think we need answers and we need accountability.  I also believe N.S.A. whistle-blower Ed Snowden has done the country a huge favor and should be granted immunity from prosecution as a result.

Mr. Snowden is a patriot.  Sadly, the same cannot be said of many in government.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Friday, August 18, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Hoshyar Zebari speaks in DC, he ignores the Hawaija massacre and the Sunnis, Barack Obama is caught lying about his illegal spying on the American people, Colonel Denise Lind issues a report on Bradley Manning, Heidi Boghosian discusses government spying, and more.

"Ten years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the better future that we seek is still a goal, not a given," Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari declared today.  He arrived in DC to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday.  Today, he delivered a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  It was not a good speech.  It was often not a factual speech.  It was a speech that showed Zebari at his worst.  

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is a Kurd as is Zebari.  Too often, both men are seen as refusing to stand up and lacking spine.  In small ways, Talabani has been able to deliver for the Kurds which is what has redeemed him with many in the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Last year,  Talabani suffered a stroke.  The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

Zebari attempted a move for the presidency in early 2013, angering not just just the Talabani family but many officials of both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Talabani's party) and of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (led by KRG President Massoud Barzani).  It was thought that Zebari was once again putting himself ahead of the Kurdish interests.  It was made clear to Zebari that should he attempt to grab the office, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed would announce she was filling the post and that she would have backing from leadership in the PUK as well as the blessing from the KDP.  Zebari's  work has too often been seen to benefit Nouri al-Maliki and not the Kurds.  His statements have too often seem to leave out Sunnis which especially became an issue when the Kurds began attempting to improve relations in 2011.  Most of all, an attempt to seize the post could remove the presidency from Kurdish control.  That is why the First Lady of Iraq reluctantly agreed with the leadership of the two major political parties in the KRG that if anyone should attempt to grab the post, she would announce she was assuming the role while her husband recovered.  Such a move would be popular with many Kurds but would also play well across Iraq due to the sympathies over Jalal's stroke.

Zebari's speech did nothing to redeem his image.

Minister Hoshyar Zebari: As Iraqis rebuild our own country, Iraq and the United States will benefit by building a longterm partnership. Together, we can and must develop what President Obama has described as "a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect."  With our political progress, our economic progress, and our diplomatic progress, Iraq is taking its place as a partner for the United States, for our neighbors, and for the family of nations. On the political front, we are building a multi-ethnic, multi-party democracy, with respect for the rule of law. Our democratic process is moving forward at a strong and steady pace. Our local elections took place in April of this year. In Iraqi Kurdistan, there would be regional elections in September this year.  

First major screw up.  Anbar and Nineveh were not allowed to vote in April.  The two provinces were penalized by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for their ongoing protests.  He said it was due to violence.  A lie.  Baghdad Province had more violence at that time.  He provided other excuses (such as voter theft), none were believed.  The so-called Independent High Electoral Commission was against the delay and was the only individual or body who could legally authorize it.  Allowing Nouri to get away with postponing elections set a dangerous precedent.  Anbar and Nineveh were finally allowed to vote in July.  To no one's surprise, Nouri's State of Law faired poorly in the elections.

Zebari may have been attempting to smooth over differences but to Sunnis it will appear that 'their' Foreign Minister (Sunnis are Iraqis too) has yet again sleighted them -- and this time on the international stage. 

Hoshyar Zebari:  And our legislative elections, generral elections will take place next year  -- which will determine our national leadership -- a very, very important date to watch. We have a government of national unity. Now all the communities participate in the working of the government and of the Parliament.  

No.  By "the working of the government," he means the Cabinet.  Iraqiya walked out this summer.  Do not point to Saleh al-Mutlaq or any other person.  The leader of Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi.  In June, Sarah Montague (BBC Hardtalk) did one of her hard hitting interviews where she takes an adversarial position.  This interview was with Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya.  He noted Iraqiya walked out of the Cabinet and that any who remained were not Iraqiya members.  Zebari betrays many by refusing to acknowledge The Erbil Agreement or Nouri's failure to honor it.


Hoshyar Zebari:  Yes, we have differences of opinion, as all democracies do, but we are working together and slowly but surely our efforts are achieving results.  We are promoting human rights.  There has been violations, which we admit, but there are constant efforts to improve on that. and to be responsive to all codes and also the freedom of expression and the advancements of women.  There has been demonstrations and sit-ins in Iraq in many provinces, in western part of Iraq and some Sunni provinces in Iraq for the last eight months and they have kept [can't make out the word], they have sit-ins, they have obstructions, but the government have not resorted to the same methods the Egyptians recently used or deployed to disperse the demonstrators.

First off, don't e-mail that Zebari didn't say it.  He did.  It's not in prepared remarks.  I know that.  I was e-mailed the prepared remarks (as were many, I see, by looking at the cc).  Zebari went off script and did so without stumbling which indicates to me he didn't want Nouri to know he was mentioning the protests.

Second, what?

Nouri's thugs have intimidated, harassed and followed protesters.  In single digits, his forces have been responsible for deaths at protests several times in the last eight months.  That's not even allowing for the refusal to allow journalists near to cover the protests or his arrests of journalists who try to cover the protests.  

Third, the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

It is not a minor event.  The International Crisis Group noted this week

 After Hawija, Iraq is on the brink of a relapse into generalised conflict, confronted with a resurgence of Sunni militant operations, the strengthening of al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and waves of attacks fuelling sectarian tensions. The government has tightened security measures even further, exacerbating the divide between Sunni constituents and central authorities.

Zebari lied and let's also remember the attack took place over the objection of the governor of Kirkuk.  Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviewed Governor Najm al-Din Karim back in May:

NIQASH: Let’s talk about the controversial Tigris Operations Command. It’s caused several crises around here. What’s your opinion on this Iraqi military base?

Al-Din Karim: Neither I, as governor, nor the provincial council have changed our opinions on this issue. We don’t want the Tigris Operations Command here and we don’t accept their presence. Although we have agreed to form a committee in Baghdad to try and resolve this impasse.

NIQASH: The incidents in Hawija, where protestors were killed by the Iraqi military, also seems to have seen more Iraqi army forces enter Kirkuk.

Al-Din Karim: Actually those forces did not come through Kirkuk - they entered Hawija by helicopter. They tried to come through Kirkuk but we prevented them from doing so. I know the Prime Minister disapproved of this – he told me so last time we met.

Not exactly the rosy picture Zebari painted.

During the Q and A, Zebari got a little more honest, for a brief second.

Hoshyar Zebari: As I said before, really we have demonstrations, sit-ins, all over the country for the past eight months and the government never resorted to the kind of violence -- except in one or two incidences in Haiwja.  And I'm not here to justify this violations whatsoever.  But really the government has tolerated this so far to go on without any intimidations.

Back to his speech:

Hoshyar Zebari:  All the political parties have accepted election as a method of power-sharing and peaceful change. Iraqis want to decide our future with voting, not violence. On the economic front , we are growing and diversifying. We have one of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, expanding by 9.6 percent in 2011 and 10.5 percent in 2012. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, we will grow by 8.2 percent this year -- beating China for the third straight year. On the energy front, our oil production has increased by 50 percent since 2005. Iraq expects to increase oil production to 4.5 million barrels by the end of 2014 and nine million barrels a day by 2020. As the International Energy Agency has reported, Iraq is poised to double our output of oil by the decade of the 2030’s. We will emerge as the world’s second largest energy exporter. And we will ease a strained global oil market. In spite of this progress, we face serious economic problems. Ninety percent of our economy depends on oil. Our unemployment rate is 11 percent. Our poverty rate is 23 percent. Terrorism 3 contributes to the cycle of poverty, and young unemployed men can be ready recruits for terrorist groups. In order to diversify our economy beyond energy, Iraq is investing oil revenues in education and crucial development projects, incl uding restoring electrical power and rebuilding our transportation system. 

Most experts argue Iraq's unemployment rate is actually 21% or higher.  As for diversifying the economy, Nouri's been promising that since 2006.  Too bad for Nouri, the only high ranking official who worked on that was Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  As Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) reminds:

Iraqi Sunnis, for sure, are furious. Al Maliki has blamed them for the deteriorating security. Further, he has systematically purged leading Sunnis from his government, like Vice-President Tareq Al Hashemi, who was sent into exile, and Finance Minister Rafia Al Issawi, who barely escaped an assassination attempt in 2012. The Baathists are still taboo in Iraqi politics. Al Maliki is the man who single-handedly wrote off the execution of every single senior Sunni of the former regime, including Saddam himself.

Lara Jakes (AP) reports Zebari noted today that Iraq needed US "advisers, intellgence analysis and surveillance assets -- including lethal drones."    Jakes (AP) reported this morning on Iraq and how it is being shoved aside in the news cycle by other events.  It wouldn't have opened the snapshot were it not for Zebari's speech.  We would have opened with the illegal spying.  The plan was to include a new report on Iraq and to explore Nouri's 'leadership' and a third term.  That's getting shoved back to next week, hopefully Monday.  We will also likely return to Zebari's speech to note more from the questions and answer section.

There is no security in Iraq.  This is made especially clear by an incident today. NINA reports that Lt Col Wissam Korgi al-Dulaimi's home was invaded today.  The man holds the title of Director of the Division to Combat Terrorism.  Yet his Falluja home was invaded by a man wearing an explosive belt. The suicide bomber detonated his bomb and took his own life while taking the lives of 2 bodyguards and the Lt Col's brother and also injuring two people.  Also today, a police officer was shot dead outside his home near Mosul and his brother was left injured in this shooting.  Alsumaria adds that a Ramadi suicide bombing claimed 1 life and left two police officers injured, a Samarra bombing left six members of the police injured,  and a Mahmudiyah bombing claimed the 2 lives (military officer and a soldier) and left seven soldiers injured. AFP observes, "In Friday's deadliest attack, a roadside bomb exploded in the west Baghdad neighbourhood of Ghazaliyah, killing at least four people and wounding 14 others, while another blast on a commercial street in Saidiyah wounded six, officials said."  They also note a Muqdadiay home invasion in which the police chief was "shot dead in front of his family" and a Buhruz bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured.

Nouri al-Maliki is a failure.  In his second term as prime minister, he has turned out to be even worse than his first term.  He can't lead, he can't protect. He can, and does, blame mythical foreigners for the violence in Iraq.  Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) observes:

The Iraqi government, however, has failed in doing its political duty. Political failure means failure at all levels, including security. But Al Maliki does not want to look at failure from this perspective although many of his allies in the National Alliance disagree with him. He tries to justify his policies through blame and threats.
In a meeting with political and economic experts, Al Maliki hurled accusations at allies in different political blocs, such as the Al Muwatin Bloc headed by Ammar Al Hakim and the Sadrist movement headed by Muqtada Al Sadr. He also accused some of his ministers of being responsible for the deteriorating security situation. He forgot that as the prime minister, he shoulders the most responsibility.
Additionally, when Al Maliki accuses neighbouring countries of sponsoring terrorism in Iraq, he is only embarrassing himself. He ends up in a very awkward position because he becomes obliged to reveal the names of these countries — and bolster his accusations with proof. He also needs to tell his people how his government is dealing with these countries.
Iraqis have a right to know their real enemies and the government has no business hiding the truth.
If what Al Maliki is saying is true and he has evidence against countries sponsoring terrorism in Iraq, then he has a national and moral obligation to challenge these countries in an international court of law and the UN Security Council.
But the truth lies elsewhere. If we were to accuse those who destroyed Iraq, encouraged corruption, sectarianism, forgery, armed militias, and the killing of highly-qualified Iraqis, we will not find any group more liable than the Green Zone group, along with its establishments and institutions.

Kitabat notes Nouri is refusing to own up to his security failures and is again blaming the unnamed foreigners.  As the fingers point more and more to Nouri and he grows ever less popular.  Iraq Times notes a new poll finds 83% of Iraqis consider Nouri a failure as a prime minister.  Michael Jansen (Gulf News) points out, "Shias have also lost faith in the Maliki government’s ability to deliver safety from the bombers. Maliki’s credibility is plunging and with every bombing, his approval rating drops further."

Last week, US President Barack Obama held a press conference.  See last Friday's snapshot and Ava and my "Media: The weak press, the weak press conference." Today, Margaret Hartmann (New York magazine) reminds Barack insisted, "What you're hearing about is the prospect that these [programs] could be abused.  Now part of the reason they're not abused is because they're -- these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC."

Last night, Barton Gellman (Washington Post) reported:

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

Yet again, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden is demonstrated to have been telling the truth while Barack's caught lying.   Charlie Savage (New York Times) notes, "The National Security Agency violated privacy rules protecting the communications of Americans and others on domestic soil 2,776 times over a one-year period, according to an internal audit leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden and made public on Thursday night."  Savage also notes:

A brief article in an internal N.S.A. newsletter offered hints about a known but little-understood episode in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found in 2011 that the N.S.A. had violated the Fourth Amendment. The newsletter said the court issued an 80-page ruling on Oct. 3, 2011, finding that something the N.S.A. was collecting involving "Multiple Communications Transactions" on data flowing through fiber-optic networks on domestic soil was "deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds."

Andrea Peterson (Washington Post) observes nicely, but he lied, he lied, he lied.

Obama said that wasn’t supposed to happen because it would be “against the orders of the FISC.” So why didn’t the judges on the court catch these abuses?
In another story broken by [Carol D. Leonnig of] The Post today, the chief of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court admits he doesn’t actually have the capability to investigate the compliance record of NSA surveillance programs:

The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court [...] The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.

Today, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now! -- link is text, audio and video) addressed the topic with the ACLU's Alex Abdo:

ALEX ABDO: It’s truly shocking that the NSA is violating these surveillance laws thousands of times every year—effectively, about seven times a day—in part because these laws are extraordinarily permissive. These aren’t laws that impose meaningful constrictions on the NSA. They essentially allow the NSA to collect vast quantities of information about Americans’ communications inside the United States and as we communicate internationally. So the fact that they’re violating these very permissive laws is truly shocking.
But I think, even more fundamentally, the disclosures really undermine the intelligence community’s primary defense of these programs, which is that they are heavily regulated and overseen. We now know that that’s simply not true. Congress has not been able to effectively oversee the NSA’s surveillance machinery. Now we know that the FISA court, the secret court that’s charged with overseeing the NSA, is not able to and, in its own words, doesn’t think it has the capacity to effectively oversee the NSA. So, for all of these years, the government has been claiming this is a regulated surveillance complex, and in fact the fox has been guarding the hen house for far too long, and it needs to stop.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, but even with these revelations, government officials seem to indicate that these are not deliberate violations but inadvertent problems in terms of how they’re gathering and sifting data, and that they’re relatively small compared to the huge volume of what they’re actually doing. Do you buy that argument?

ALEX ABDO: Well, the NSA has, for the past months in defending these programs, used word games when it talks about the consequences of these policies for Americans’ privacy. They use words like "targeted," "incidental" and "inadvertent" to really obscure what’s going on. And the fact of the matter is that these laws allow the government to listen in on Americans’ phone calls and to read Americans’ emails in an extraordinary number of circumstances, and the government has not been forthcoming about that authority, and they’re not being forthcoming now when they suggest that these violations are minimal. These are thousands of violations every year, and each violation could affect hundreds or even thousands of Americans. But we still don’t have the basic facts to have that debate.

Law and Disorder Radio  is a weekly, hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights). National Lawyers Guild executive director Heidi has a new book  Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance which was released last week.  She discusses it on FAIR's CounterSpin which began airing today.

Peter Hart: Now the book was obviously much in the works before Edward Snowden made these issues front page news but I see in the book a connection to his actions and one incident you recount in the book.  A group breaks into an FBI office to gain documents about spying on political groups which leads to policy changes that basically eliminate that spying program.  In so many ways, it seems like, reading through the book, Edward Snowden, his story, recalls lessons from the past.  Talk a little about that.

Heidi Boghosian:  That's true.  And although the context is different, I think the underlying principles are the same.  You're talking about the incident in the early seventies in which a group of concerned citizens broke into a local FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and found a trove of files indicating that the government had been spying on lawful Americans -- notably outspoken activists.  People like Martin Luther King Jr., peace activists, anti-war activists.  But they took these files and mention of it to the media.  Immediately, the American people reacted with outrage.  And what happened was, we had a series of Congressional hearings called the Church Committee, headed by Frank Church, and the FBI ended COINTELPRO and set in place a series of protections that basically curbed the FBI from unlimitless surveillance and it laid out guidelines by  which agents would need probable cause that criminal activity might be afoot in order to open an investigation and put a bar against spying on religious, political, other leaders in social movements unless they could prove that there was something wrong.

Peter Hart:  Now we're talking about government spying and that's been the focus of so much one of the Snowden coverage.  One of the lessons of the book is that private companies are very much involved in this on a number of levels.  They're contractors with the federal government.  They're also hired guns on activist groups -- things that the government probably couldn't do legally but you can hire a private company to do these things.  Talk a little about the role of private companies and how they blur the distinction between government surveillance

Heidi Boghosian:  In many ways, private corporations have become the long arm of the government, doing -- as you say -- things that the government could not legally do because they're bound by the strictures of the US Constitution.  Our officials take an oath to protect the Constitution.  And, as we mentioned, some protections were set in place.  They've eroded over time but I think most Americans would be offended if they knew the level of surveillance and they're getting a hint of that now.  Corporations conduct approximately 70% of the US government's intelligence functions. We've seen a shift so that, in many cases, well trained staff move from the public sector into private jobs because they're much more lucrative.  What happens, however, is that there is no oversight and no accountability in a lot of these actions so that even members of Congress are largely in the dark about how these corporations act.  And, as you mentioned with activists, a large part of what corporations do is guard against any outside criticism of their policies so that, for example, in addition to entering into contracts with the government, they may have their own internal intelligence units that collect data, photographs, they spy on activists who are outspoken -- many times, successful activists who've actually changed policies of, say, Burger King or, you know, work that the group PETA has done to raise awareness about how we treat animals.  So environmental activists, animal rights have been deemed top domestic terrorist threats by the government and really, I think, playing into fears people have about another terrorist attack unfortunately by branding US citizens and other people who are merely exercising in most cases their First Amendment right to free speech and free activities, the right to assemble and take grievances to the government, they're being punished, labeled as terrorists, vilified and this has what we call a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech.

Again, Heidi Boghosian's new book is  Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance -- it is a strong book and makes for a powerful read.  Moving to the US Senate, yesterday  Senator Patty Murray's office issued a joint-statement from Senator Murray and Senator Kelly Ayotte.  Murray, the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, now Chairs the Senate Budget Committee.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, August 15, 2013                                                                                   202-224-2834

Murray, Ayotte Statement on Secretary Hagel Directive on Military Sexual Assault
Hagel memorandum includes directive for immediate implementation of trained military lawyers to help victims of sexual assault take action against attackers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) released the following statement after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed immediate implementation of several measures to “gain greater consistency of effort and enhance oversight, investigative quality, pretrial investigations and victim support” in cases of military sexual assault. Among other measures, the directive includes implementation of trained lawyers to provide victims in all branches with guidance through the legal process, similar to legislation introduced by Senators Murray and Ayotte.
“I applaud the proactive steps Secretary Hagel is taking today to do right by our nation’s heroes and begin the process of tackling this scourge within the ranks,” said Senator Murray. “Our legislation to provide victims with a dedicated legal counsel absolutely gets to the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic of sexual assault in our military and I was pleased to see Secretary Hagel has put priority on its implementation. Providing legal advocates for victims is a major step forward in reversing this awful trend and establishing the necessary means for these men and women to take action against their attackers through what is a deeply personal and painful process. While these measures are by no means a silver bullet, it is inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad Secretary Hagel understands these actions are long overdue.”

“It’s encouraging that the Department of Defense is taking steps to implement these reforms immediately, rather than waiting for them to become law,” said Senator Ayotte.  "The actions announced today will provide greater protections to victims, increase reporting, and result in more prosecutions – and they represent a significant step forward as we continue efforts to stop sexual assault in the military.”

Last month, the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee approved $25 million to fully fund the Murray-Ayotte Special Victims Counsels (SVCs) program. The House of Representatives has also approved full funding for this program in their Department of Defense spending legislation. In May, Senators Murray and Ayotte introduced the bipartisan Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, which has been included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act. The SVC program is based on a successful pilot program currently implemented in the Air Force.
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Moving over to commentary on a military court-martial.

And yesterday was another highlight with Bradley Manning giving his statement and essentially reaching the point where he had been advised by his defense team that he had to -- for mercy from the judge -- that he had to convince her, hopefully, that she would see that he wouldn't be in prison for the next 90 years.  Obviously, he would end up dying in prison because he's 25-years-old.

That's Kevin Gosztola. He's speaking of Bradley's apology.  Like Ann, we'll note this from Thursday's Free Speech Radio News:

Pfc Bradley Manning apologizes during sentencing hearing
Private First Class Bradley Manning  addressed the court yesterday, during the sentencing phase of his military trial. Despite his acquittal on the most serious of the charges against him, aiding the enemy, Private Manning faces as much as 90 years in prison for releasing classified military information to the public. Manning spent  more than three years in pretrial detention, much of which he served in solitary confinement. Throughout the trial, he fought the charges against him. Yesterday, he shifted gears and apologized for his actions. David Swanson is Campaign Coordinator at and blogs at Swanson was in the courtroom when Manning made his statement, and described Manning's statement as “an apology for having acted without being able to think clearly.”
“That's not what Bradley Manning did. If you look back at the chat logs, he was thinking very, very clearly and he had clear and honorable intentions. There is a reason he is viewed as a hero around the world, why he is a four time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. And it just wasn't discussed by him or by the therapists or by his sister or his aunts, in all of yesterdays testimony.”
According to Swanson, the strategy to seek the mercy of the court was clear. Further, there was no mention of the mistreatment Manning suffered during his pretrial confinement,  no discussion of the relative merits of any particular sentencing outcome,
“... and no mention whatsoever at any time during the course of the day of the good that he did the world as the most significant whislteblower in U.S. History.”
The Court is expected to return its verdict early next week.

Yesterday on KPFA's Flashpoints, guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Kevin Gosztola about Bradley Manning and the apology he offered Wednesday in the military proceeding.

Kevin Pina:  Well you know the problem of course with taking that position is should they give him the 90 years anyway, then, of course, we will probably hear the truth again which is on behalf of the American people which many people applaud him for.  There's now a movement to award him the Nobel Peace Prize.  We've had Norman Solomon on this program telling us about that, that there's a grassroots movement to get him named Nobel Peace Prize for having done this on behalf of the American people.  But if he gets the 90 years anyway, having apologized for what he did, it's going to make it really difficult for people.  The right-wing is going to have a hey-day attacking his credibility with his second statement, aren't they?

Kevin Gosztola:  Sure.  I place the blame on the defense team for this one.  I don't blame Bradley Manning for doing what his defense team says is appropriate at this stage.   So clearly, David Coombs could have maintained a whistle-blower defense but decided that that was a risk that he was not willing to take.  He's not playing this like Bradley Manning is a political prisoner which, I think, there's a lot to indicate he is a political prisoner.  And, in fact, I would suggest to you that if he does get sentenced to whatever amount of time -- and I kind of think that the judge is probably going to sentence him to 30 or 40 years in prison -- and I say that a lot of people are going to be very upset and they're going to get down and they're going to think  how horrid this is but  I also say that there are a lot of supporters around the world and because he is a political prisoner in many respects, it could be 15 to 20 years and we will see his sentence commuted because of all of the activism around him and all of the support for his actions.  I just don't see him getting punished for that long period of time, being kept in prison.

While Kevin Gosztola can share honestly, Alexa O'Brien continues to insist that something else happened.  Marcia called O'Brien's nonsense out this morningGosztola reports today on findings released by Colonel Denise Lind who is presiding over the military proceeding against Bradley:

Manning was convicted of “wrongfully and wantonly causing publication of intelligence belonging to the United States on the Internet knowing the intelligence” would be “accessible to the enemy to the prejudice of the good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
What she found in relation to this charge was that he had clearly committed this offense when he released the information in the database containing Iraq war logs, information in the database containing Afghanistan war logs, the “Gitmo Files,” the reports on an investigation into the Granai air strike in the Farah province in Afghanistan, the 250,000-plus diplomatic cables, the Reykjavik cable and the report from the Army Counterintelligence Center (ACIC) on WikiLeaks as a “threat.”
The judge concluded, “At the time of the charged offense, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States. Pfc. Manning knew that al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.” His conduct was “of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.”


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