Monday, July 22, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 22, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, prison attacks and breaks dominate the news out of Iraq, this despite a Basra assassination, Moqtada al-Sadr calls out the violence, Barack's war on the press and whistle-blowers Ed Snowden and Bradley Manning continues, Helen Thomas passes away, and more.

How bad are things in Iraq today?  So bad that the issue was actually raised to State Dept press spokesperson Jen Psaki in today's briefing:


QUESTION: You don’t think that you’re trying to avoid anything here?

MS. PSAKI: I think this has become a game, so I’m moving on to the next question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Insurgents in Iraq attacked two prisons during the weekend and freed more than 1,000 prisoners, most of them from al-Qaida. Are you aware of that? And to what extent you are concerned?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I haven’t seen this report that you’re referring to, but I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Well, still on Iraq.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. This morning, I saw Mr. Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Iraq. It’s his last day. He paints a very bad picture of what’s going on in Iraq. And the feeling – not from him, but from others – I’m getting that the United States actually is not involved. It’s looking sort of neutrally at all this violence that’s going on.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, I would refute that, Said. We are deeply concerned by the levels of violence. We’re encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence, which is very important, and that they’ve continued to explore ways to address ongoing political and security issues. We welcome recent political developments, including the reciprocal visits in Erbil and Baghdad between Prime Minister Maliki and Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Barzani, discussions by Iraqi leaders to address issues arising from recent protests in western Iraq, and legislative initiatives in the Iraqi parliament.
In terms of our involvement, U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington remain intensely engaged with senior Iraqi leaders to support their efforts to resolve differences through direct dialogue and the political process. The level of our engagement is reflected even recently by calls placed last week by Vice President Biden to Iraqi leaders, and we’ll continue to work with leaders to overcome the threat of terrorism and their efforts to bring justice to those who continue to perpetrate* such despicable crimes.

We should all be very disturbed that the State Dept spokesperson had no idea on Monday afternoon about the prison attacks Sunday evening.  Iraq has seen many prison breaks in the last year.  But yesterday saw two attacks which were rather spectacular:

Meanwhile in Iraq, NINA notes that unidentified gunmen began "simultaneously attacking the Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons" with gun fire, "improvised explosive devices and RPG launchers."  They also report that the military and the police ("supported with helicopters") were surrounding the prisons.  Jack Phillips (Epoch Times) adds:

Al Jazeera reported on its front page that the attack was taking place on Sunday night, and involved assailants with rocket-propelled grenades, but it did not offer more details.
The Associated Press also confirmed there were clashes at the prison on Sunday.
Charles Lister, with IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Centre–an intelligence organization, wrote that a “senior ISIS commander claims Abu Ghraib & Taji prison attacks have been a success. Convoys of escaped prisoners now en route to ‘safety.’” At around 6 p.m., Lister added that “several jihadi sources claim fighting is over at Abu Ghraib.”

Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera -- report is text and video) notes of the attacks, "[Abu Ghraib prison] is now home to several high-ranking al-Qaeda prisoners, as is the prison in Taji.  It appears to be an attempt to free those prisoners."  All Iraq News reports that the prison attacks have been stopped.  Alsumaria adds that, during the attack, prisoners in Abu Ghraib rioted and burned portions of the prison.

Again, how does the US State Dept, spending billions in Iraq, not know of the events from Sunday.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "Security forces battled militants outside two major penitentiaries near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and thwarted prison breaks, the Justice Ministry said Monday."  Press TV notes, "Initial reports said the attacks on prisons had been foiled, and no casualties had been reported."  But today, AFP reports, "Militants attacked two Iraqi prisons including the notorious Abu Ghraib in a bid to free inmates, sparking all-night clashes in which at least 41 people, officials said on Monday."  France 24 adds, "Commentors on micro-blogging website Twitter, including some accounts apparently operated by jihadists, claimed thousands of prisoners had escaped." National Iraqi News Agency reports on a press conference in Baghdad today in which MP Hakim al-Zamili declaring "that between 500 to one thousand prisoners escaped from Abu Ghraib prison."

What prompted the attacks?  No one knows at this point.  But Saturday, as NINA reported, Nouri had the army raid Badush Prison at dawn in Nineveh Province and that a prison source "explained that the inspections included all sections including the women's and events' prison, noting that those forces warned prisoners from the use of any of these arms and machines and mobile devices inside the compound. The source did not mention if these things had been confiscated or not."  It is possible that the raid on Badush Prison prompted the raids (out of concern for those in the two prisons -- out of concern that future plans would be foiled, whatever). 

 The Press Trust of India notes, "Iraq is witnessing its worst eruption of violence in five years." BBC News observes, "United Nations figures released earlier in July showed that more than 2,500 Iraqis were killed in violent attacks in the three months from April to June."  Through Saturday, Iraq Body Count counts 584 violent deaths for the month of July thus far.  Sunday on Al Jazeera, Jane Arraf offers observations on the violence.

Jane Arraf: And really, it's the scope of the targets, the widening of the targets, and the coordinated nature of the attacks such as the eleven car bombs that hit the capital last night that really have people worried.  When you think of the amount of coordination that would have to go into that, these security checks they bypassed, the sheer amount of money and then the suicide bombers who have been blowing themselves up lately, it all really points, according to most Iraqis, to an alarming rise in violence here that security forces can't handle.

Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports, "The main causes of terrorism in Iraq and other regional nations are not ignorant or jobless people, but the Global Arrogance, headed by the US and Israeli regime that have extremism under their control and use it in their own favors, Sheikh Khalid al-Mala told al-Alam on Monday."

Yesterday, we noted:

  All Iraq News notes cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for the people to protest the government's lack of response to the violence and sttes, "The silence of the people concerning the terrorist bombings, the people of other countries would revolt and call for toppling the government if their countries witnessed such bombings.  We witness strange silence over these bombings and we cannot grant the government another chance to improve the situation."

World Bulletin interprets Moqtada's statements as calling for the overthrow of Nouri al-Maliki.

Today saw the Mosul bombings, National Iraqi News Agency notes 3 homes were bombed in Falluja claiming the lives of 2 police members and 1 civilian, an attack targeting swimmers in Shirqat has left 1 Iraqi soldier and 2 civilians dead (and another civilian injured), a Falluja bombing injured 1 person, a Basra car bombing injured Sheikah Adnan al-Ghanim, a Falluja attack left 2 civilians dead, a Tikrit bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four people injured, an armed clash with the military in Anbar left 2 people dead and two injured,  the corpses of 4 police officers were found in Mosul, a Ramadi roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa,  an armed attack on a Ramadi police station resulted in 1 person dead and another injured, Sheikh Abdullah Sami Assi was assassinated in Kirkuk today during an armed attack on his convoy, and  1 police officer was shot dead in FallujaAlsumaria reports that a Ramadi police station was attacked today and one assailant was killed and another injured.

Turning to England,  Richard Dearlove is the former head of the UK's MI6.  RT reports that he has documented "new details behind the 'dodgy dossier'" used in England to make the case for war on Iraq and, while he had intended his writing to be published after his death, he's now considering publishing it sooner "depending on what Chilcot publishes."  Chilcot refers to John Chilcot who heads the Iraq Inquiry which is supposed to publish a report at some point (the report should have been published some time ago).   Andrew Mason (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "As can be seen here and here, much of Dearlove’s evidence given in private to the Iraq Inquiry was heavily redacted before being published on their website."  Press TV adds, "According to the Daily Mail, sources close to Sir Richard say he accepts the inaccuracy of some MI6’s information on Iraq WMDs and that he believes the inquiry’s chairman Sir John Chilcot should investigate misleading statements by former British PM Tony Blair and his chief spokesperson and strategist Alastair Campbell about WMDs."

Turning to Barack Obama's war on the press.  Friday brought the news the Fourth Circuit of Appeals was bowing to the administration's insistence that New York Times reporter James Risen must reveal his source.  Confidentiality is important to reporting.  Sources may have many reasons for not going public.  Recognizing that, most news outlets have policies regarding confidential sources.  For example, this is the New York Times' policy:

The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy. When we use such sources, we accept an obligation not only to convince a reader of their reliability but also to convey what we can learn of their motivation – as much as we can supply to let a reader know whether the sources have a clear point of view on the issue under discussion.
In routine interviewing – that is, most of the interviewing we do – anonymity must not be automatic or an assumed condition. In that kind of reporting, anonymity should not be offered to a source. Exceptions will occur in the reporting of highly sensitive stories, when it is we who have sought out a source who may face legal jeopardy or loss of livelihood for speaking with us. Similarly they will occur in approaches to authoritative officials in government who, as a matter of policy, do not speak for attribution. On those occasions, we may use an offer of anonymity as a wedge to make telephone contact, get an interview or learn a fact. In such a case, the reporter should press the source, after the conversation, to go on the record with the newsworthy information that has emerged.
Whenever anonymity is granted, it should be the subject of energetic negotiation to arrive at phrasing that will tell the reader as much as possible about the placement and motivation of the source – in particular, whether the source has firsthand knowledge of the facts.
In any situation when we cite anonymous sources, at least some readers may suspect that the newspaper is being used to convey tainted information or special pleading. If the impetus for anonymity has originated with the source, further reporting is essential to satisfy the reporter and the reader that the paper has sought the whole story.
We will not use anonymous sourcing when sources we can name are readily available.
Confidential sources must have direct knowledge of the information they are giving us — or they must be the authorized representatives of an authority, known to us, who has such knowledge.
We do not grant anonymity to people who are engaged in speculation, unless the very act of speculating is newsworthy and can be clearly labeled for what it is.
We do not grant anonymity to people who use it as cover for a personal or partisan attack. If pejorative opinions are worth reporting and cannot be specifically attributed, they may be paraphrased or described after thorough discussion between writer and editor. The vivid language of direct quotation confers an unfair advantage on a speaker or writer who hides behind the newspaper, and turns of phrase are valueless to a reader who cannot assess the source.
Anonymity should not be invoked for a trivial comment, or to make an unremarkable comment appear portentous.

Let's be clear that it's not just journalists that use and endorse confidential sources.  Despite all their whining, Barack's Justice Dept also uses confidential sources.  From the DoJ's Office of the Inspector General's July 2005 report entitled "The Drug Enforcement Administration's Payments to Confidential Sources:"

The Confidential Source program is an important tool used by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).1 DEA officials state that without confidential sources, the DEA could not effectively enforce the controlled substances laws of the United States. Confidential sources come from all walks of life and are significant to initiating investigations and providing information or services to facilitate arrests and seizures of drugs and cash. According to the DEA, it has approximately 4,000 active confidential sources at any one time.
Although confidential sources can be critical to an investigation, special care must be taken to carefully evaluate and closely supervise their use. Confidential sources can be motivated by many factors, including fear, financial gain, avoidance of punishment, competition, and revenge; therefore, the credibility of a source must be balanced against the information they provide. 
In a clear case of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, confidential sources are a-okay with the White House . . . when it's the Justice Dept's confidential sources.  Remember that.  Of the ruling compelling Risen to reveal his source,  Norman Solomon (ZNet) explains:

The part of the First Amendment that prohibits “abridging the freedom … of the press” is now up against the wall, as the Obama administration continues to assault the kind of journalism that can expose government secrets. 
Last Friday the administration got what it wanted -- an ice-cold chilling effect -- from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen. The court “delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial,” the Guardian reported. 
The Executive Branch fought for that ruling -- and is now celebrating. “We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings.” 
At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating. Press freedom is at stake.

Journalism can't be done with only approved leaks from an administration.  To be informed and inform the people, the press requires a variety of sources including whistle-blowers.  Attempts to strip whistle-blowing out of the process are attempts to destroy an informed public and, without that, then you have no democracy.  RT adds:

Next Risen will be expected to testify in the Espionage Act-case against Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official accused of disclosing details about a Clinton administration plan to put faulty nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in an effort to slow down their race to acquiring a nuke. He previously said he’d refuse to speak of his source, however, which would now open up the possibility of being held in contempt of court.
Sterling is one of seven persons accused by President Barack Obama of spying under the Espionage Act, a World War One-era legislation that has previously been used only three times before this administration began targeting leakers.
Judge Roger Gregory, the only justice to vote in the minority, said compelling Risen to testify was a “sad” decision that posed a serious threat to investigative journalism, the Times reported.

The Espionage Act is one of the most ridiculous on the books.  It largely exists to try to frighten people from speaking out against conscription.  As notes, the legislation "essentially made it a crime for any person to convey information intended to interfere with the US armed forces prosectuion of the war effort [. . .]."  PBS' American Experience explains, "It authorized stiff fines and prison terms of up to 20 years for anyone who obstructed the military draft of encouraged 'disloyalty'. [. . .] The Espionage Act was evidently effective in prosecuting the I.W.W. and any others opposing conscription.  In 1918, it was used to send labor leader and former presidential candidate Eugene Debs to jail for a decade, because of a speech he delivered."  How telling that it would become the go-to law for Barack's lousy administration.  'B-b-but, Barack cares about the press! Why, just last month, he was proposing a shield law!'  As the editorial board of the San Jose Mercury News reminds today:

The Obama administration's born-again belief in a free press was in response to a public backlash. Revelations that the FBI had secretly seized phone records and emails from reporters at the Associated Press and Fox News infuriated journalists, Congress and the public, prompting Obama to ask Holder for a policy review. The new policy would revive former practices of notifying media outlets when communications are being sought and would bar the use of search warrants to seize a reporter's records unless the reporter is under investigation for something other than his or her news gathering.

Of last week's ruling,  Eric London (WSWS) explains:

The ruling reinforces the US government’s assault on democratic rights. It is part of a wider campaign to intimidate or imprison anyone—journalists included—who attempts to make public information about the secret and illegal actions of the US government.
The Obama administration appealed a federal court ruling in favor of Risen to the Fourth Circuit appeals court, which is based in Virginia, underscoring the ruthlessness of its drive to silence all would-be leakers and whistle-blowers. Friday’s ruling comes in the midst of Washington’s international campaign to capture former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who has exposed details of the US government’s illegal spying operations against the entire US population and much of the rest of the world, and try him for espionage.

The NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden remains in Russia.  Martin Walker (UPI) reports the European Union is "already calling him to testify, along with National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander and two other NSA whistle-blowers, Tom Drake and William Binney, in hearings designed to lead to new data privacy rules and data-sharing agreements between Europe and the United States."  Should he agree to testify, would he be able to make it there safely?  Or would the US government again force a plane down in an attempt to seize him? 

The issue was raised at today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: Okay, that would – so that would be – all right. So anyway, the EU foreign ministers have all come out with a statement calling for his release. Is that – does the United States support that position now that it’s more than just the Germans?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated our position on this and I don’t have anything more on it new for you today.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just ask again my question from, what, 10 days ago?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why is it taboo for you to say from the podium that you would like to see President – former President Morsy released?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more for you on it, Matt.

QUESTION: So how do you define him? Is he deposed, is he former?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s – I think Lesley was jumping in here.

[. . .]

QUESTION: Do you have an update on Snowden’s whereabouts? And also, the Russian Interior Ministry is saying look, you want extradition, we want extradition, we’ve got two guys, terrorists, who are living in the United States and we want them back. And the U.S. doesn’t do anything, therefore this is double standards. Do you have anything on those? I can give you their names if you want.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I’m happy to look into that. I mean, I think our policy on this has been that Mr. Snowden has been convict – or has been accused I should say, sorry – of three felonies. We believe he should be returned to the United States. We – the – my last understanding of this, and I believe this is up to date, is that he remains in the transit lounge of the airport there and that Russia still has the opportunity to do the right thing and return him to the United States, where he can face justice.

QUESTION: Are there continuing talks, or is it just kind of the status quo?

MS. PSAKI: They’re continuing. We remain in contact. I don't have any update for you on the last conversation. But this is obviously an issue that’s a priority and we remain in contact with – at the appropriate level.


QUESTION: Just can I --

QUESTION: -- that’s was a very interesting Freudian slip you just made there. Is it the Administration’s position that Mr. Snowden is, in fact, guilty because he admitted to leaking this material?

MS. PSAKI: I think I corrected myself and said he was accused, which still warrants his return to the United States --

QUESTION: Yeah. But you started out by saying “convicted.”

MS. PSAKI: -- so he can face justice.


MS. PSAKI: I corrected myself midstream.

QUESTION: So it’s not the Administration’s view that he is – right now that he is guilty of any crime?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar with how our justice system works. I don’t think we need to do an education on that here.

QUESTION: No. I just want to make sure --

MS. PSAKI: The status is that he has been accused --


MS. PSAKI: -- of three felonies --


MS. PSAKI: -- and we believe he should be returned to the United States.

QUESTION: And tried for that?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: But you do not assume or you do not believe right now that he is necessarily guilty.

MS. PSAKI: You are familiar with how our justice system works, Matt.

This afternoon Libertarian Philip Giraldi (Guardian) defended Ed against some of the more outrageous charges circulating:

There are a number of narratives being floated by the usual suspects to attempt to demonstrate that Edward Snowden is a traitor who has betrayed secrets vital to the security of the United States. All the arguments being made are essentially without merit. Snowden has undeniably violated his agreement to protect classified information, which is a crime. But in reality, he has revealed only one actual secret that matters, which is the United States government's serial violation of the fourth amendment to the constitution through its collection of personal information on millions of innocent American citizens without any probable cause or search warrant.
That makes Snowden a whistleblower, as he is exposing illegal activity on the part of the federal government. The damage he has inflicted is not against US national security, but rather on the politicians and senior bureaucrats who ordered, managed, condoned, and concealed the illegal activity.

At Truthout, it's noted just how ridiculous the US government is looking as it continues to try to destroy Ed Snowden, " Secretary of State John Kerry, along with UN nominee Samantha Powers, is threatening acts of war with Venezuela. The US has already violated international law by forcing down the plane of the Bolivian president. And now, President Obama is saying he may derail talks with Russian President Putin over Snowden."  Writing for the Boston Globe, former US Senator John Sununu notes some of the issues involved in Ed Snowden's disclosures:

Completely lost in this sea of ambivalence are the most important issues at stake: In their current form, what do these programs say about our society and our willingness to forgo what only a few years ago would be considered basic principles of personal privacy? Are we, in the momentous words of Franklin, sacrificing “essential liberty to purchase a little temporary security” and therefore deserving of neither? And once the sacrifice is made, can we ever go back?
You don’t have to condone Snowden’s leaks to believe that we are on a disturbing path.

Government power to demand vast troves of business records was at the heart of the filibuster I led to stop proceedings on the Patriot Act in 2005. We argued that the threshold for obtaining so-called “Section 215 subpoenas” — which grant access to a broad variety of business records and other material without judicial approval — was too low, that the gag order preventing business owners from talking to anyone about these subpoenas was too harsh, and that congressional oversight of the entire process was nonexistent.

At CounterPunch, Ray McGovern takes on former NSA Director Michael Hayden:

Writing as “CNN Terrorism Analyst,” Hayden read from the unctuous script previously used by “Meet the Press” host David Gregory on June 23 when he questioned Greenwald’s status as a journalist. Hayden claimed Greenwald deserves “the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator.”
But the principal target of Hayden’s ire was Snowden. After lumping him together with despicable characters like CIA’s Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen of the FBI, and others who spied for the U.S.S.R. – and then disparaging “leakers” like Bradley Manning – Hayden wrote, “Snowden is in a class by himself.”
But it is Michael Hayden who is in a class by himself. He was the first NSA director to betray the country’s trust by ordering wholesale violation of what was once the First Commandment at NSA: “Thou Shalt Not Eavesdrop on Americans Without a Court Warrant.” Not to mention playing fast and loose with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
While Hayden has implicitly offered a second-grader kind of excuse, that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney “made me do it,” that does not let Hayden off the hook.
I have found it helpful lately to read the one-sentence Fourth Amendment during TV and radio interviews in order to provide necessary context and a backdrop against which viewers/listeners can gauge how the recent revelations about NSA operations comport, or do not, with the strictures in the amendment. Thankfully, the language is pretty straightforward and specific:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  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 7, 2010, 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 2010 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." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported 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. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

For truth telling, Brad's being punished by the man who fears truth: Barack Obama.  A fraud, a fake, a 'brand,' anything but genuine, Barack is all marketing, all facade and, for that reason, must attack each and every whistle-blower.  David Delmar (Digital Journal) points out, "President Obama, while ostensibly a liberal advocate of transparency and openness in government, and of the 'courage' and 'patriotism' of whistleblowers who engage in conscientious leaks of classified information, is in reality something very different: a vindictive opponent of the free press willing to target journalists for doing their job and exposing government secrets to the public."

On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an 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) topics addressed include Bradley Manning, attorney Rachel Lederman on Oscar Grant and Alfred McCoy on the long history of US government spying.

Michael Ratner: Sadly and unfortunately and to me shockingly, the judge upheld the charge against Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy.  I thought there was no evidence at all that he had actual knowledge that documents he was giving to WikiLeaks would go to "the enemy." But the judge felt otherwise.  I want to put the judge's decision in quick context.  It was on a motion to dismiss the charges and in that case the judge has a very low standard. She takes all of the evidence put in by the government as true, she doesn't take the defense evidence into consideration and she has inferences favorable to the government that she draws.  So it doesn't mean that she will necessarily convict Bradley Manning at the end of the trial but it doesn't bode well.  In my view, there was simply no evidence to say that Bradley Manning had actual knowledge that al Qaeda or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would read these documents.  In addition, and finally on this point, the judge ruled out that Bradley Manning had to have the specific intent to aid al Qaeda and  al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  I think that's required by the statute.  She said that it wasn't required.  I think she'll be reversed on appeal if she upholds the conviction in this case but that's a long time to wait.  The deleterious effects, already, of a decision like that on both whistle-blowing in the army as well as calling journalists and publishers like WikiLeaks or for that matter the New York Times and others as an indirect way of aiding the enemy tells us about the government's efforts to completely end any kind of transparency in this country -- a serious blow to free speech, democracy and informed citizens.

Emily Bazelon (Slate via Winnipeg Free Press) explains:

To justify Thursday’s ruling, prosecutors argued that "the evidence will show that the accused knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy." The proof was that some of the documents, once online, reached Osama bin Laden and were found on his computer. In other words, by giving the information to WikiLeaks, Manning was giving it to the terrorists. This is a shockingly broad interpretation of a law that was written too sweepingly. It implicates all kinds of people who publish things that could hurt U.S. interests by tarnishing our image abroad.
Journalists do this routinely; So do plenty of people on social media. It’s called free speech.
Most of the critics have no access to the kinds of damaging goods that Manning had. But now when they do, they will have to fear that publishing it is the legal equivalent of deliberately handing it to terrorists. As Benkler points out, it doesn’t matter if the publishing platform is WikiLeaks or The New York Times or Twitter. And this theory of aiding the enemy "is unprecedented in modern American history." You have to go back to the Civil War, and a case in which a Union officer gave a newspaper in Virginia rosters of Union soldiers, to find a case like Manning’s.

Rem Rieder (USA Today) voices similar sentiments:

Pursuing the "aiding the enemy" charge smacks more of revenge than justice. It's part of the Obama administration's record-breaking, way-too-enthusiastic and totally inappropriate use of the Espionage Act to go after leakers. It has prosecuted seven current or former government employees under the act. That's more than all previous administrations combined.
Mainstream journalists, not to mention all citizens who care about their access to important information, can take no solace in the fact that Manning is being prosecuted for leaking to the renegade outfit WikiLeaks rather than a traditional news outlet.

Lastly, Helen Thomas passed away Saturday at the age of 92.  She was one of the few journalists who questioned the Iraq War before it started and after it began.  (See Third's "Editorial: Helen Thomas and the importance of Iraq.")  Liz DiNovella remembers Helen at The Progressive and reposts an interview she did with Helen.  Those new to Helen Thomas or wanting to remember her can click here for Democracy Now!'s collection of interviews with Helen.]  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today:

The trailblazing journalist Helen Thomas has died at the age of 92. Widely known as "the dean of the White House press corps," Thomas became the first woman assigned to the White House full-time by a news service when she began to cover the Kennedy administration. She went on to cover every president since until controversial comments on the Israel-Palestine conflict forced her to retire in 2010. Throughout the two-term Bush administration, she asked some of the most critical questions in the White House press newsroom. She challenged the administration on issues including the Iraq War and its massive civilian toll, the threat of an attack on Iran, the refusal to sign a cluster bomb treaty, the ongoing killings of Afghanistan civilians, and its critical support for Israel’s attacks on Gaza and Lebanon. In July 2007, President George W. Bush reverted to a presidential press conference tradition he had long ignored: giving Thomas the first question.
President George W. Bush: "Now, I will be glad to answer a few questions, starting with Ms. Thomas."
Helen Thomas: "Mr. President, you started this war, a war of your choosing, and you can end it alone, today, at this point, bring in peacekeepers, U.N. peacekeepers. Two million Iraqis have fled their country as refugees. Two million more are displaced. Thousands and thousands are dead. Don’t you understand? You have brought the al-Qaeda into Iraq."
President George W. Bush: "Actually, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically. That’s why I went to the United Nations and worked with the United Nations Security Council, which unanimously passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. That was the message, a clear message to Saddam Hussein. He chose the course."
Helen Thomas: "Didn’t we go into Iraq..."
President George W. Bush: "It was his decision."
Earlier that year, Democracy Now! interviewed Thomas at the Media Reform Conference in Memphis. I asked her for her take on the consolidation of media control by a small number of corporations.
Helen Thomas: "I’d tell them, forget about all those profits, and help the country, that the media should be a public service. You cannot have a democracy without an informed people. And that should be their role. They can make their money everywhere else."




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