Thursday, March 03, 2011

New charges against Bradley Manning

Late yesterday, new charges were lodged against Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reports that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and provides a walk through on Article 104. Like many, Sophie Elmhirst (New Statesman) emphasizes the possibility of the death penalty. Elmhirst notes:

Last week, I met David House, the only person allowed to visit Manning at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia apart from his lawyer, David Coombs (the full article is in this week's magazine). Manning has been held there since 29 July 2010, and House has been visiting him since September, and has noticed his rapid deterioration. Manning, who is held under a Prevention Of Injury (POI) order, spends 23 hours a day alone in his cell, and is now unable to speak at any length or with coherence. He is allowed out for an hour to walk in circles around an empty room. For three days in January he was put on suicide watch, his glasses were removed and he was kept in his cell for 24 hours a day, although his psychological evaluations have stated that he is not a risk to himself. He has also gained weight and appears exhausted.

Most recently, House told me, he has appeared almost catatonic, barely able to communicate at all. "I can't really describe how bizarre it is to see a 110-pound, five-foot-three individual done up in chains from his hands to his feet, connected at the waist, so he can't really move," he said. Pentagon officials maintain that Manning receives the same treatment and privileges as all other prisoners held in what the military calls 'maximum custody' ". But House points out that Manning is the only maximum-custody detainee at Quantico, "so he is being treated like himself".

Could he face the death penalty? He could. If found guilty, he could even be put to death. How likely is that? It was less likely in 2005 because we had a movement against the Iraq War. But the reality is that it's an illegal war and that the 2002 authorization doesn't say go to war. That wouldn't be hard to establish in court -- you have various Democrats who voted for it in 2002 -- including some who ran for the party's presidential nomination -- and insisted after that this was not a vote for war, it was a vote for inspections and on and on. Meaning, if it is on record by the very people who voted for the authorization that the measure did not declare war, it would be very hard to establish that this was a legal war. (It's an illegal war by every international law. We're sticking to national issues due to the fact that this case, if prosecuted, would be in military courts at the start. On appeal, it would leave the confines of the military.)

Does the military want to be arguing -- with US soldiers still on the ground in Iraq -- that Bradley allegedly aided the enemy? No, they don't.

They don't want to because that opens up two defense avenues. The first is, where is the proof that anyone was aided -- burden of proof, even in the military court, would be on the prosecution to prove their charge. The second is the legality issue.

Reality: US troops aren't leaving Iraq at the end of 2011. You can accept that reality or not. But it's not happening. The US military cannot continue to hold Bradley as they have been doing. The outcry is building. So a trial of some form (or an agreement) had to start (or be reached) in the near future. The military does not want a legality issue on the war. We've seen that in case after case. Think of Camilo Mejia's case or anyone else's. The military doesn't want that.

This charge invites that. You cannot claim -- at risk of being put to death -- that someone's actions have aided the enemy and not give them the right to respond as to "what legally defined enemy?" which is the issue of the (domestic) legality of the Iraq War.

It's a stupid charge on their part because it actually expands the case the defense could make -- even if they insist "We won't go for the death penalty," making that charge expands the scope. During Vietnam, case after case had to be dropped because of the legality issue -- I'm referring to cases which did include charges of 'aiding the enemy.' One of the reasons Jane Fonda was never charged with any crime was that the Justice Dept did not want to get into a court battle over the legality of what the US was doing in Vietnam. Charging her -- as some reactionary members of Congress wanted at the time -- with "aiding the enemy" or "treason" would require the Justice Dept explaining that the US was at war with what Congressional proclamation? (Only Congress can declare war legally in the US.) Putting the war on trial, especially when it is ongoing, is not something that any branch of the government seeks.

What may be happening is that this may be an effort to scare Bradley. The military may have reached a dead end or a wall and, with little to no additional options on ways to attempt to force something out of him, they may have decided to drop a number of new charges on him all at once in the hope that they can intimidate or scare him or his attorney.

Anything can happen, the future is not foretold. But based on past experiences in the US, this plays more like an intimidation tactic by the government -- and an incredibly desperate one at that.

Yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the VA's refusal to implement the caregivers law Congress passed. Kat covers it in "Burr promises VA 'one hell of a fight'" and Ava covers it at Trina's site with "The VA still can't get it together." Also Wally covered yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at Rebecca's site with "No one gives a damn about your money (Wally)." The only major report on the hearing that I'm finding this morning is Kimberly Hefling's report for AP. We'll note that in today's snapshot and, hopefully, some others as well. Yesterday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee released the following:

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Chairman Patty Murray, pointedly questioned Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki over the VA's decision to limit a benefit for the caregivers of severely injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The VA's decision, which cuts back stipends for those who have left careers behind to care for their injured loved ones, ignores the will of Congress in passing the caregivers law last year.

"I have already discussed the caregivers issue with you, with Jack Lew, with senior staff at the White House, and I have spoken directly with the President," Senator Murray said at today's hearing. "VA's plan was overdue and once submitted it hardly resembled the bill that unanimously cleared this Congress.
"Rather than following the law, the Administration set forth some overly stringent rules -- bureaucratic hurdles that would deny help to caregivers. We are hearing from veterans and caregivers from all across the country who fall outside of this new line in the sand that the VA has drawn or who have been left in limbo – and now don't know if the benefit they have been advocating for will support them."

After questioning Shinseki about why the VA is not complying with the law, Murray also pointed out that the VA has only set aside a fraction of the funding authorized for the caregiver program. Secretary Shinseki acknowledged that all of the funding is not being used because of the narrowing eligibility requirements. Secretary Shinseki also acknowledged that the benefit has taken too long to implement.

The caregivers question appears at the 77 minute mark.

The following community websites -- plus Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, Jane Fonda, War News Radio, Military Families Speak Out, and SDS -- updated last night and this morning:

And we'll close with this from the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs (also on yesterday's hearing):

(Washington, D.C.)Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, heard testimony from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and representatives from veterans groups and the American Federation of Government Employees on next year's budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

On balance, and given that other agencies are facing budget cuts, this VA budget is a very good starting place from which to work,” said Senator Murray. “The President has requested an overall increase for VA funding during a very difficult budget year, but we must ensure that the cuts he also proposed do not hurt the veterans who have sacrificed so much for this nation. Going forward, I will work to add funding that is necessary for programs vital to veterans, such as for research and the operation of VA’s Inspector General which helps root out fraud and other problems with existing programs.”

The President’s budget request includes an overall increase of $1.8 billion in discretionary spending over Fiscal Year 2011 levels. It also includes various proposed funding cuts, however, including a reduction in spending for construction and non-recurring maintenance, and a proposed $72 million cut for VA research funding.

Following today’s hearing, Members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee will provide the Senate Budget Committee with their views and estimates for VA’s budget. Views and estimates are a formal part of the federal budget process, in which Congressional Committees recommend funding levels for programs and activities under their legislative jurisdiction. (For the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s jurisdiction, click here.) The House and Senate Budget Committees review these recommendations when formulating the proposed Budget Resolution for the coming fiscal year.

The Chairman’s opening statement is available in audio form here. For the full witness list and the witnesses’ written testimony, please visit

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends