Tag: Wikileaks

Manning to Go Free

I’m actually shocked:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks.

The President also pardoned James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who pleaded guilty in October to a single charge of making false statements to federal investigators in 2012 when he was questioned about leaking top secret information on US efforts to cripple Iran’s nuclear program to two journalists.

A presidential commutation reduces the sentence being served but it does not change the fact of conviction, whereas a pardon forgives a certain criminal offense.

Manning, a transgender woman and former US Army soldier, was serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, an all-male Army prison in eastern Kansas, despite her request to transfer to a civilian prison. A White House statement on Tuesday said her prison sentence is set to expire on May 17.

The material, which WikiLeaks published in 2010, included a classified video of a US helicopter attacking civilians and journalists in Iraq in 2007. Labeled “Collateral Murder,” the film drew criticism from human rights activists for the deaths of innocent people.

Though found guilty on 20 out of 22 possible charges (including violating the US Espionage Act), Manning was not convicted of the most serious one; aiding the enemy, which could have earned the private a life sentence.
Instead, the former intelligence analyst was sentenced to prison, as well as demoted from private first class to private and dishonorably discharged.

Manning was in solitary for no apparent reason and was having problems (e.g., two suicide attempts). But this is honestly surprising. I know the intelligence community was vehemently opposed. Obama has been commuting a lot of sentences for drug dealers and such, which I don’t really have a problem with. But this is the biggest one yet.

I’ll have to think about this one a bit though. Manning’s leaks crossed me as less defensible than Snowden’s. Snowden, at least, was revealing NSA malfeasance and civil liberties violations, even if one disagrees with the manner in which he revealed them. Manning’s leaks seemed more motivated at embarrassing the military and political leadership than anything else (e.g., Cablegate, which revealed diplomatically embarrassing discussions but no actual scandals).

So why has Obama pardoned Manning and not Snowden? I suspect because Manning undermined Bush and Snowden undermined Obama. We’ve seen this kind of partisan bullshit with Wikileaks. Republicans who denounced it when Manning was releasing info praised it when it released the DNC’s e-mails. And Democrats who praised Wikileaks when it was humiliating Bush denounced it when it humiliated Clinton. My stance on Wikileaks evolved a bit in the early days (as you’ll see in the link below) but solidified by the end of the Bush years. While I appreciate the efforts to reveal lawbreaking and civil liberties violations, I do not trust this messenger. Assange does not have our interests at heart and the information he has revealed has generally not benefitted us or the world. Quite the contrary.

As an example, I wrote a long blog many years ago on the “collateral murder” video. I disagreed with Wikileaks editorializing of the video, seeing it more as a tragic accident than the deliberate targeting of civilians. And be sure to click through to letters from Andrew Sullivan’s readers who go into the context of the video.

Anyway, Manning is going free and I’m happy for her, I guess. But I’m very surprised and baffled by this. I really didn’t expect it.

The Media in the Can

I’m shocked, SHOCKED to find out that there is gambling going on in here:

A new email obtained by POLITICO is shedding more light on the mystery of whether and how interim DNC chair Donna Brazile might have obtained the text of a proposed question from a town hall between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in advance, and possibly shared it with the Clinton campaign.

And now CNN, which co-hosted the town hall with cable network TV One, is pointing the finger at its media partner for what appears to be a breach of the traditional secrecy surrounding the questions for such events.

The email obtained by POLITICO was written by town hall co-moderator Roland Martin on the day of the town hall to CNN producers. But it shows him using word for word the language of a question that Brazile appeared to have sent to the Clinton campaign a day earlier. That email, from Brazile to the campaign, was included in yesterday’s release of hacked emails by Wikileaks of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

Here’s what the record shows: On March 12, Brazile, then vice chair of the DNC and a CNN and ABC contributor, allegedly wrote an email with the subject line “From time to time I get the questions in advance.”

The question was a tough one on the death penalty, which Clinton has favored but the Democratic Party (and an increasing segment of the American public) has turned against. Sanders is anti-death penalty so it was going to be a tough and somewhat unexpected question for Clinton. Having that question in advance would definitely have benefited her.

Brazile and Martin are denying the question was provided in advance. But it’s looking very like they did, in fact, pass this question onto the campaign. And I’m sure, as time goes on, we will find out more and more about how the media have helped both campaigns (Cory Lewandowski was still being paid by Trump while he worked for CNN). Clinton because they wanted Clinton elected; Trump because they wanted Clinton elected and Trump was the best candidate to make that happen.

Manning Verdict

The story is still breaking, but it looks like Bradley Manning was just convicted of espionage but not convicted of aiding the enemy.

I know it won’t make me popular with fellow libertarians, but I think the verdict is reasonable and it’s easy to see why when you contrast his behavior against Edward Snowden. Snowden blew the whistle on very specific programs he believed were violating the Constitutional rights of Americans. Manning dumped a whole bunch of documents. Some of these contained embarrassing information or showed lousy behavior; most of it he clearly had not even reviewed. It’s one thing to break secrecy when you think our citizens’s lives are being violated; it’s another to break it just for the sake of breaking it. (You can see my take on some of the more explosive Manning allegations here).

Snowden has been careful about releasing information with compromising national security (so far). Reports that he has turned over classified info to the Chinese and Russians are unverified at this point but would obviously change the equation. But Manning dumped everything to Wikileaks and there is evidence that insufficient vetting has cost the US dearly and cost some our allies their lives.

Whatever evils you may attribute to our government, they do not make Manning’s indiscriminate leaking of classified and secret information justifiable.

However, it does not appear that he was deliberately aiding Al-Qaeda or any of our enemies. So not convicting him of the more serious charge (which would have been the Civil War) seems reasonable.

The DHS Shoe On the Other Foot

Wikileaks latest has indicated that DHS was keeping tabs on the Occupy Movement as a potential danger. Naturally, of course, the Left has freaked about “oppression”, a freak-out which includes this laughable quote:

On Current TV last night, host Cenk Uygur blasted the agency for focusing exclusively on Occupy Wall Street. “The Tea Party… that happens to be pro-corporate America is not anywhere to be found here [but] when Occupy Wall Street is not pro-corporate America, all of a sudden, they need to be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security.”

As the author points out, this is all kinds of stupid. First of all, their “keeping tabs” on Occupy mostly involved trolling Twitter and other public media. The only remotely ominous thing is their concern that the protests could turn violent and threaten infrastructure (which kinda happened). Second, the DHS did keep track of the Tea Party and had a controversial report on the potential for Right Wing violence. Third, comparing the Tea Party to Occupy is a little ridiculous. Whatever else you might say about the Tea Party, they gathered, had their marches and went home, usually leaving the public spaces clean and tidy. They didn’t camp out, they didn’t have problems with women being raped, they didn’t demand free food and trash stores that wouldn’t comply and they didn’t have links to the people who created chaos in Seattle and other places. And finally, describing the Tea Party as “pro-corporate America” is a bit silly given the hatred the Tea Party has for bailouts and subsidies.

Frankly, keeping tabs on the Occupy movement and making sure there was no threat to public safety is the DHS’s job. If we find out it went deeper than that, then we can be concerned. But I find it ironic that the people who either ignored or applauded the DHS’s report on potential right wing violence now have a case of the vapors when it comes to the DHS looking out for potential left wing violence.

Civil liberties are civil liberties, guys. It doesn’t matter who they’re exercised by. We all have a stake in them.

What, No Twinkie Defense?

Private Bradley Manning’s Article 32 hearing, the military’s equivalent of the preliminary hearing, where evidence is presented (not too much, btw, just enough to show cause for a trial) started last week, for a primer:

Next year the military will try both Manning and Major Hasan. Each trial will naturally have different elements since the charges are vastly different, but I am struck at the similarities of the defenses presented, or will be presented.

Much hay was made on the red flags that Hasan’s supervisors neglected or ignored, the loner who shunned normal intimacies and withdrew into his religion, the militant and Islamic Jihad leaning slideshow he used in his presentations and the “Solider of Islam” embossed on his business cards, that any competent supervisor should have connected the dots and concluded that Hasan was a ticking time bomb. That, and a predictable run at an insanity defense, worth a try.

The Manning lawyers are equally complicit at blame throwing:

A military hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army private charged with spilling secrets to WikiLeaks, focused Sunday on why he remained entrusted with highly sensitive information after showing hostile behavior to those around him.

On the third day of the hearing at Fort Meade to determine whether Pfc. Manning will be court-martialed on 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, his defense sought to build on its case that his supervisors in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team should have seen enough red flags to suspend or revoke his access to secret information months before the leaks.

The defense has emphasized what it regards as a failure by Pfc. Manning’s closest supervisor, Sgt. First Class Paul Adkins, to suspend the intelligence security clearance after at least two fits of rage by the private during which he overturned furniture. Sgt. First Class Adkins refused to testify Sunday when called to do so for the government.

The refusal to testify by this Sgt. Adkins is very curious, more will be made of this during the actual trial. The insanity card will also be played when needed, but a new wrinkle for Manning will be the stress he endured over his sexual confusion. The defense will have two aces to play, one is gender identity:

Ellen Nakashima and Julie Tate of The Washington Post assessed Manning’s defence team’s so-called “gay soldier” defence. They summarized the defence’s portrayal of Manning as “a deeply troubled soldier struggling with issues of gender identity whose alleged leaking of classified material to WikiLeaks could have been prevented by superiors.” “By airing superiors’ failure to address Manning’s personal issues, the defense team is ‘trying to discover all the failures of the chain of command which would help them in setting up the mitigation argument for the sentencing portion of the proceeding,’

And the other ace:

The soldier accused of leaking state secrets to WikiLeaks blames stress of being gay in military’s hostile ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ era

Personally, I find the sexual confusion defense much more credible, the uncertainty of whether sucking another man’s dick sounds good to you, that would tend to cause some sleepless nights.

I’m glad that the military took the death penalty off the table early, this will focus the prosecution and help the jury in considering just the facts and coming to a proper verdict.

There is no doubt that Manning knew what he was doing and that his actions were damaging (and lethal) to a number of countries and people. He needs to do some serious time.

Wikileaks Leaks

God damn it, I just knew something like this was going to happen:

WikiLeaks on Thursday confirmed reports that it has lost control of a cache of U.S. diplomatic cables that it has been publishing in recent months, saying a security breach has led to the public disclosure of hundreds of thousands of the unredacted documents.

The website quickly sought to deflect blame for the leak of the leaked classified cables. It accused the U.K. newspaper the Guardian—which last year was WikiLeaks’ partner in publishing some of the cables—of publishing in a book a password that unlocks an encrypted file containing the unredacted cables.

Unredacted means that the names of informants and allies are out there. At this point, no one know how much damage has been done.

This is precisely what I feared. Wikileaks has been fairly reasonable up to this point in releasing cables, trying to keep people out of danger (modulo their tendency to editorialize and sensationalize). But once you release something onto the internet — as numerous sexters have found out — it never dies. It’s out there.

This is why, despite my enthusiasm for open government and my hatred of secrecy, I’ve never thought that Bradley Manning was a hero and have had trouble working up sympathy for him. The guy didn’t carefully and responsibly expose government corruption (the leaks, with a few exceptions, tend to be more embarrassing than enraging). He just dumped a bunch of documents to someone he hoped — maybe — wouldn’t be reckless.

Now there’s a real possibility that people will die over this. Was it worth it?

Oh, the irony!

Remember WikiLeaks? You have to unless you have been off world. They put out all that embarrassing information that was supposed to make the US look bad, but instead made the Obama team look that way? All that hubbub about the need to keep secrets by the aggrieved and embarrassed governments, and all the pap about the freedom of information and all that from the WikiLeaks people? Well, seems like the universe has a sense of humor, because now these same WikiLeaks tools are threatening some of their own leakers with a $20 million law suit to shut them up. Seriously.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now makes his associates sign a draconian nondisclosure agreement that, among other things, asserts that the organization’s huge trove of leaked material is “solely the property of WikiLeaks,” according to a report Wednesday. “You accept and agree that the information disclosed, or to be disclosed to you pursuant to this agreement is, by its nature, valuable proprietary commercial information,” the agreement reads, “the misuse or unauthorized disclosure of which would be likely to cause us considerable damage.”

The confidentiality agreement (.pdf), revealed by the New Statesman, imposes a penalty of 12 million British pounds– nearly $20 million — on anyone responsible for a significant leak of the organization’s unpublished material. The figure is based on a “typical open-market valuation” of WikiLeaks’ collection, the agreement claims.

WTF? So WikiLeaks, which exists for stealing other people’s information and exposing it doesn’t want the same from their employees? WTF? Assange doesn’t find this whole thing shines a seriously negative light on his whole operation? Or is his point that leaks are awesome as long as they are used to embarrass and hurt others, not him and his efforts? Laughable.

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