Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bradley Manning court-martial: The good, the bad and the ugly

The good - Bradley Manning was found not guilty of "aiding the enemy." Now, the trial moves to the sentencing phase where he could possibly garner some empathy from the judge.

The bad - Bradley Manning was convicted of 20/22 charges. This is the first time that a whistleblower was successfully convicted of espionage (technically violating the Espionage Act). Manning pretrial treatment was grounds for a mistrial consisting of stress positions and "white torture" including solitary confinement (sensory deprivation), forced to sleep naked without a blanket or pillow and other sensory deprivation and over-stimulation techniques. Bradley Manning was held incognito for three years without a trial. President Obama had declared publicly that Manning broke the law while being held in detention. All pretrial treatment should have been automatic grounds for a mistrial for someone who hadn't been convicted of a crime.

The trial was secret and the physical court was small. A court stenographer was not provided. The mainstream media largely ignored the trial although they were shamed into showing up once in a while. His defense was barred from arguing his motives, that no harm was done to national security, International Law and Nuremberg principles or upholding the Constitutional (the highest law of the land). He now faces up to 136 years in prison. The good news is that he is now able to argue these things in the sentencing phase of the trial.

The ugly - The war on information (whistleblowers, investigative journalists and hackers) continues with the government's assault on non-government approved information. The judge acquitted Bradley Manning on the "aiding the enemy" charge not because it was ridiculous but only because the prosecution didn't effectively prove that the enemy actually read any of the information leaked. So the threat remains: leaking information is equivalent to "aiding and abetting the enemy" —even if the information is not harmful to national interests.

The trivial - July 30th, the day of Bradley Manning's conviction, could become National Whistleblowers Day as the very first whistleblower portection law was enacted on July 30, 1778.


How the US Military Tortured Bradley Manning by Jesselyn Radack

Bradley Manning's treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules by Ed Pilkington

The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning by Chris Hedges

A Salute to Bradley Manning, Whistleblower, As We Hear His Words for the First Time and Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S. by Daniel Ellsberg

Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial

Bradley Manning's family's statement: Bradley Manning acquitted of “Aiding the Enemy” charge, month-long sentencing phase now determines fate

The Bradley Manning Verdict and the Dangerous “Hacker Madness” Prosecution Strategy by Cindy Cohn, EFF

 All available legal filings, court rulings, and transcripts in U.S. v. Pfc. Bradley Manning by Alexa O'Brien

Transcripts from Bradley Manning's Trial by Freedom of the Press Foundation

Irony: Congress May Declare Today 'National Whistleblower Day' As Court Announces Manning Verdict

Democracy Now Manning Verdict Coverage

Friday, July 26, 2013

The new Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander Lecture: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness: THE NEW JIM CROW

Get the book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Friday, July 19, 2013

Times They are a-Changin

The judicial system is not what it used to be in the United States. Any notion that the US judicial system had any independence or neutrality has been eviscerated. The judiciary is clearly a weapon in the hands of the government.

Blowing holes in the Constitution

The government has been making "exceptions" to the Bill of Rights under the guise of keeping us safe from terrorism. The war on terror is a rouse as the government strips the people of their civil liberties, busts up their unions and reins down austerity on the people. It's a modern day witch-hunt as a part of larger neoliberal agenda. On July 17, 2013 the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned an injunction against the 2012 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) Sectiom 1021. Chris Hedges, the lead plantif, had this response:
This is quite distressing. It means there is no recourse now either within the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches of government to halt the steady assault on our civil liberties and most basic Constitutional rights. It means that the state can use the military, overturning over two centuries of domestic law, to use troops on the streets to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers. States that accrue to themselves this kind of power, history has shown, will use it. We will appeal, but the Supreme Court is not required to hear our appeal. It is a black day for those who care about liberty. —Source: Truthdig
The government will go any length to to label someone a terrorist, associated force or someone who committed a belligerent act. With that breadth, it could be anyone. For more, read this. Moving on...

The court marshal of Bradley Manning

It's been a one-sided affair. Of course, it has —it's a court marshal. It's the government versus a whistle-blower and a warning to anyone who challenges government authority.
The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.  —Chris Hedges (The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning)
  • No justice for Bradley Manning: The US government has made an example of Bradley Manning to prevent others from challenging the American empire. —Charles Davis
  • Bradley Manning Court-Martial: Secrecy and Injustice on Trial by Stephen Lendman
  •  Lack of transparency means tainted justice for Bradley Manning: Military obfuscation and compliant media make for an Orwellian trial of managed misinformation against the WikiLeaks source —Alexa O'Brien
  • Journalism On Trial as Bradley Manning Case Nears Moment of Truth Many of the trial’s crucial issues won’t be hashed out until the sentence phase—and the press and public may be shut out, reports Alexa O’Brien.
  • "[T]he military judge in Manning’s trial decided not to drop the most serious—and least supportable—charge against him, “aiding the enemy.” The government shouldn’t have brought this charge in the first place. Whatever you think of Manning, it sets a terrible precedent for whistle-blowers. And the only gain is the possibility of a life sentence for a 25-year-old who has already pled guilty to charges that could put him in prison for 20 years. This is about revenge, not justice." —Emily Bazelon (This Is Vengeance, Not Justice: Allowing the government to charge Bradley Manning with “aiding the enemy” is a dangerous precedent.)
It didn't always used to be this way. Daniel Ellsberg, after being a fugitive running from the law for 12 days, surrendered himself to authorities and was released on a personal recognizance bond. He was allowed to speak to the media and public engagements. Now, whistle-blowers are denied bail, kept in isolation, deprived of clothes and bedding, sleep deprived and other cruel and unusual punishments. Ellsberg's enlightening op-ed in Washington Post regarding Edward Snowden and why he had to leave the US can be read here.

Government lifts propaganda ban
For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts. So what just happened? —U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans
Bob Dylan's Times They are a-Changin 


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Obama vs. pre-election Biden and Obama

Why metadata is so valuable to the government:
Big Brother is Big
Maybe you heard about the tiny story in the media that the U.S. government has been collecting everyone's phone, email, chat, and social media information worldwide? Ugh, but also yay to the daylight shining on these massive spying programs. And remember, just because we don't know about other government's programs, doesn't mean they don't exist. Here at Riseup headquarters we have long lectured you all about how data you give to corporations should be considered data you are also giving to your government/the US government. We assume you annoy all your friends about this frequently. Now that you don't have to anymore, here's something new you can lecture them about: why metadata matters.

Metadata, i.e. all the information about who you communicate with, how frequently, for how long, and from where, can be used to create a social map. One way this social map can be used to determine who the bridge people are within social movements and campaigns, i.e., which people are the connectors.

Say that there is some really excellent, effective anti-coal organizing going on -- effective enough that the powers that be want to stop it. Using the metadata to make a social map shows them who the handful of people are that connect the green anarchists with the labor activists and the climate change organizers. Even in really large campaigns, there are often only a handful of people who are the connectors, and without them communication, coalition, coordination, and solidarity will break down. It's not that it might break down, but it will. Corporations and governments even know how many of these bridge people they need to take out in order to disrupt a campaign. There are algorithms and academic papers written about it. What they haven't always known is who the heck these bridge people are.

Enter the metadata's social map, and they can easily and to an exacting degree see who the bridge people are they need to target. Who to follow and intimidate to stop their organizing. Who to have watched and legally prosecuted via any small legal infraction. Who to illegally entrap. Who to kidnap, torture, and kill. And let's not be naive and imagine that hasn't happened before and will not happen again. The collection of this metadata makes it all the easier.

Sound paranoid? Or are we at a point where nothing sounds paranoid anymore.

So, what can we do about it? For starters, get everyone you know to start using an email provider that uses StartTLS. For email, this is the only thing that can protect against the surveillance of our social networks.

What about phone calls, internet chat, and social networking sites? Riseup birds don't have all the answers, but we are working on it. One thing we know, privacy and security are not solved by personal solutions. If we want security, it will take a collective response and a collective commitment to building alternative communication infrastructure.

Note: Our horizontal, anarchist sensibilities want to add that we don't think bridge-people are the most important people in activism, since we are awfully fond of thinking that there are many crucial niches within any movement's ecosystem that are equally important. But bridge people are necessary, as is the work that you, and you, and you, bring to the table. —From newsletter