Chelsea Manning, free at last

This video from the USA says about itself:

Chelsea Manning Finally Free! Whistleblower’s Prison Sentence Commuted

18 January 2017

Barack Obama commutes Chelsea Manning‘s 35 year prison sentence for whistleblowing.

Jimmy Dore breaks it down.

Glenn Greenwald: Ever since Chelsea Manning was revealed as the whistleblower responsible for one of the most important journalistic archives in history, her heroism has been manifest. She was the classic leaker of conscience, someone who went at the age of 20 to fight in the Iraq War believing it was noble, only to discover the dark reality not only of that war but of the U.S. government’s actions in the world generally: war crimes, indiscriminate slaughter, complicity with high-level official corruption, and systematic deceit of the public: here.

By Kate Allen in Britain:

Chelsea Manning is free at last

Wednesday 17th May 2017

The release of this honourable whistleblower closes a disturbing chapter, writes KATE ALLEN

CHELSEA MANNING has said that when she’s released today she’s looking forward to “breathing the warm spring air again.”

In fact, the weather in Leavenworth County in Kansas is topping 30 degrees celsius this week, so after seven years in military detention, this now famous whistleblower will finally step out of the disciplinary barracks at the US army’s Fort Leavenworth base on a rather hot and sultry day.

The 29-year-old will be free at last, closing a painful chapter on what has been an extraordinary and thoroughly disturbing saga. This brave, principled — but also vulnerable — person has been put through the wringer.

While Manning is “fortunate” enough to have received a commutation of her crushing 35-year jail sentence, she has still spent seven long years behind bars, with extended periods of solitary confinement so harsh that the UN’s torture expert Juan Mendez considered it tantamount to torture.

Manning has been branded a traitor — not least by current president Donald Trump. There were calls for her to receive the death sentence. As it was, she was charged with numerous serious offences, including the extremely grave “aiding the enemy” (of which she was acquitted).

Yet despite all of the vitriol poured over her by members of the US military and political Establishments, Manning is nothing less than an honourable whistleblower who felt compelled to tell the world about apparent US wrongdoing in its military conduct in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Working as a US intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning began to see documents that convinced her that the US military was committing war crimes overseas and doing nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice. Worse, it may well have been deliberately covering up such conduct.

The best-known example was the attack by two US Apache helicopters on a group of civilians in the al-Amin al-Thaniyah district of Baghdad on July 12 2007.

At least 12 people were killed, including two Reuters reporters, Saeed Chmagh and Namir NoorEldeen.

While it was far from the only occasion when US military conduct in Iraq was highly dubious, here was vivid cockpit video and audio laying bare the callous behaviour of the US pilots. Some of their cockpit commentary includes language like: “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards … nice. Nice. Good shootin’.”

Was this disclosure in the public interest? Like the Abu Ghraib torture photos or the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war, it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t be.

Reuters had previously tried — and failed — to obtain the helicopter footage through a freedom of information request. Manning — via WikiLeaks — provided the material.

What happened to Manning as a result of her whistleblowing is well-known.

The revelations over wrongdoing (including the Baghdad helicopter attack) went un-investigated, while Manning herself was court-martialled and given the longest sentence in US history for leaking information.

This low-ranking, twenty-something was punished in such a way as to send an unmistakable message to other would-be whistleblowers.

Ahead of Manning’s court martial in the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden had exposed a previously unknown global apparatus of surveillance being run by the US’s National Security Agency.

If the US authorities couldn’t get Snowden (who was granted asylum in Russia), they could certainly punish Manning.

You might think the US military authorities wouldn’t stoop to vindictiveness when punishing one of their own, but you’d be wrong.

During eight months of pre-trial solitary confinement at the US marine corps base Quantico in Virginia, Manning was kept in a windowless 12-feet-by-six-feet cell containing only a bed, a toilet and a sink.

After putting Manning on suicide watch, the Quantico authorities subjected her to a regime of draconian and demeaning rules: clothing and glasses confiscated, required to observe strict verbal commands and replies, even at one point having to sleep and stand to attention completely naked.

In an Amnesty podcast from last year, Manning recounts how: “The conditions in my cell were far beyond what is normally associated with solitary confinement. I needed permission to do anything in my cell. I was not allowed to move around the cell to exercise. I was not allowed to sit down with my back against the wall.”

It was all clearly designed to break Manning down ahead of her court martial, and the UN believed it was part of “an effort to coerce her into ‘co-operation’ with the authorities,” possibly to pressure her into implicating others.

Post-conviction the vindictiveness continued. Having announced immediately after receiving her swingeing sentence an intention to transition to a female identity, Manning has had to fight a long and arduous battle for recognition of her right to do this.

On top of being an embattled military whistleblower, she’s had to become an embattled trans campaigner struggling within a rigid and deeply unsympathetic environment.

Despite bleak periods, Manning has come through. Against the odds, she’s survived. And now she’ll regain her freedom on a warm summer’s day in Kansas.

In so many ways Manning is the epitome of a human rights defender — someone who takes personal risks to stand up for the rights of others. At Amnesty we have a word for people like that.

It’s called being brave.

Kate Allen is Amnesty International UK director.

This video from the USA says about itself:

OBAMA WILL FREE CHELSEA MANNING IN MAY: Big Win for WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Whistleblowers

7 January 2017

My name is H. A. Goodman and I’m an author, columnist, and journalist.

Obama Will Free Chelsea Manning, a Final Ceasefire in His War on Leakers.

By Genevieve Leigh in the USA:

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning to be released from prison today

17 May 2017

Army private Chelsea Manning, the military intelligence analyst who made public evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, is scheduled to be released from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, today after completing more than 7 years of her 35-year prison sentence.

Chelsea Manning was arrested by the Army in 2010 after providing WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of internal Army “incident logs” and about 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world. In August 2013, she pleaded guilty to 20 of 22 charges against her and was sentenced to 35 years in prison, a sentence 10 times longer than any previous punishment imposed on a federal employee, military or civilian, for leaking classified information.

After receiving the sentence, Manning announced that she was transgendered and took the name Chelsea Manning (previously she had identified as a man and was known by the name of Bradley Manning). She later began hormone therapy and requested gender reassignment surgery, which the Army repeatedly denied.

The release of Chelsea Manning is a politically significant event. Manning is rightfully a hero in the eyes of millions of workers and young people around the world who recognize what extraordinary courage it took to inform the American public about the criminal actions being carried out by the US military.

The number of crimes exposed by the material provided by Manning is staggering. Included in the leaked material was the infamous video that went on to be published on the Internet by WikiLeaks under the title “Collateral Murder,” showing an American helicopter attack on civilians in Baghdad that killed 16 people, including two Reuters journalists.

Other documents including “after-action reports” describing US soldiers’ experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, proving that civilian deaths were far higher than officially acknowledged. The cables revealed damning evidence of official US lying, including dossiers on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay proving that most of them had no significant role in terrorist operations.

Despite the massive evidence provided, not a single person was jailed, arrested, or even charged for any of the documented crimes. Instead, the military brass together with the Obama administration ruthlessly persecuted Manning for what is a far greater “crime” in the eyes of the ruling class: exposing the murderous nature of the US war machine. The US political and military establishment, seething with anger, used Chelsea Manning to set an example for any other potential whistleblowers.

The retaliation was merciless. Immediately following the revelations, Manning was forcibly detained in an outdoor cage in an attempt to break her psychologically. From July 2010 to April 2011, she was held under atrocious conditions at Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, much of that time stripped naked as a “security” measure. All told, Chelsea Manning spent nearly a year and a half in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day, a form of detention classified as torture by human rights groups.

After sentencing, conditions would continue to worsen for Manning, leading to two separate attempts to take her own life, for which she was threatened with more severe treatment. Just last year, the Army considered sentencing Manning to indefinite solitary confinement for possessing unauthorized reading material and an expired tube of toothpaste.

President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to just over seven years, in one of his final actions before leaving office January 20. This was no great humanitarian action, as some sought to characterize it at the time, but rather a calculation that the global image of US imperialism would suffer if, as appeared likely, Manning had been driven by her ordeal to carry out a third and successful suicide attempt.

It was Obama and Hillary Clinton, in particular, who spearheaded the persecution of Manning and other whistleblowers. The class hatred of the Democratic Party toward Manning is demonstrated by their silence as she reaches her final day in prison. Moreover, under conditions where the Democratic Party is lining up with the military-intelligence apparatus to indict the Trump administration for handing over “secrets” to Russian envoys, the Democrats wish to distance themselves as much as possible from the example of Chelsea Manning, who offended the CIA and Pentagon by handing over evidence of their crimes to the American people.

Manning has kept in touch with her supporters and the outside world throughout her experience mainly through Twitter. Recently, she wrote of her pending release: “I want that indescribable feeling of connection with people and nature again, without razor wire or a visitation booth. I want to be able to hug my family and friends again. And swimming—I want to go swimming!”

It has recently been reported that Manning, who is now 29, will remain an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army after today’s release. She will be placed on voluntary excess leave rather than being discharged. While it is technically possible, it is highly unlikely that she will be called to actual military service. Under this status she will be unpaid, but will have access to health care and other benefits that will allow her to complete her gender reassignment surgery. It should be noted that these benefits are not guaranteed. If Manning’s appeal of her court-martial conviction is denied, she could be dishonorably discharged and lose her health benefits.

Manning has not publicly announced any plans for what she will do after today beyond her surgery. Her ACLU attorney, Chase Strangio, told NBC News, “She is waiting to experience life outside of prison before declaring any future plans. … After so many years of government control over her body and gender, I know she is eager to grow her hair, express her gender and negotiate decisions on her own terms.”

While Manning’s release from prison will grant her physical freedom, she will still be restricted in many ways. One important aspect of the voluntary excess leave status is that it makes her vulnerable to new military retribution if she “steps out of line” in the eyes of the military establishment. Manning’s military defense counsel, David Coombs, told NBC News that “Chelsea is still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). … She wouldn’t be charged again for the same offenses, but if she committed a new crime, the military would still have jurisdiction over her.”

An offense warranting military action includes things such as a fistfight, speaking or writing critically of the political or military establishment, or revealing previously unreleased classified information. “You would want to be careful in terms of what you want to write or say if you’re still under military control,” Coombs warned. “Let’s say you write something critical, now you run the real chance of being called on the carpet for that.”

Nonetheless, Manning has voiced some critical political views through Twitter since her commutation. In a guest column in Britain’s Guardian, Manning wrote that “after eight years of attempted compromise and relentless disrespect in return, we are moving into darker times.” Additionally, Manning has said former president Barack Obama left a “vulnerable legacy,” noting that he had achieved “very few permanent accomplishments.”

The persecution of more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined, including Chelsea Manning, will forever be a hallmark of the Obama administration. This policy was embraced by all prominent members of the Democratic party, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in December 2011, while Manning was being tortured and persecuted, defended the campaign against her on the grounds that “some information which is sensitive, which does affect the security of individuals and relationships, deserves to be protected and we will continue to take necessary steps to do so.”

For its part, the Trump administration, determined to outdo the reactionary policies of the Obama administration in every way, has recently escalated the witch-hunt and persecution of other prominent whistleblowers—Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower now in forced exile in Russia.

Snowden, in a recent comment, expressed his solidarity with Manning’s ongoing struggle, saying, “I’m grateful that Chelsea will finally have a chance to enjoy the freedoms she gave so much to defend. Courage to her—and volume to her voice.”

The increasingly vicious crackdown on whistleblowers reveals most openly the immense fear within the ruling establishment of growing opposition within the working class. The true face of US imperialism has again and again been exposed with the help of brave individuals like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. The defense of these individuals, and an end to the crimes that they have risked their lives to expose, can only come from the mobilization of the international working class.

A 25-year-old contractor for the National Security Agency, Reality Leigh Winner, was arrested Monday and charged with leaking a top-secret NSA document to the Intercept. The arrest came barely an hour after the on-line publication posted an account of an NSA report sent in anonymously, summarizing NSA findings about alleged Russian hacking during the 2016 US elections: here.

22 thoughts on “Chelsea Manning, free at last

  1. Thursday 18th
    posted by James Tweedie in World

    WIKILEAKS whistleblower Chelsea Manning and Puerto Rican independence leader Oscar Lopez were freed from US imprisonment yesterday.

    Both political prisoners had their sentences commuted by outgoing president Barack Obama in his final weeks in office.

    Ms Manning, formerly known as Bradley, was released quietly in the early morning from Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas.

    The soldier had served seven years of a 35-year sentence for sending evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks while serving as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

    Meanwhile Mr Lopez, who was moved to house arrest in the colony’s capital San Juan from prison in the United States in February finally enjoyed full liberty.

    Escorted by the city’s mayor and other supporters, he went to a US government office to have his electronic tracking tag removed.

    Mr Lopez was a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) that carried out over 100 bombings, mostly without casualties, in demand of independence for the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island.

    He was jailed for 55 years in 1981. His first words were: “I keep on struggling and working. My spirit and dignity are still intact. I feel enormously happy because I am in my homeland.”

    But he stressed that there were still many political prisoners in the US, among them Black Panther Party members.

    The New York Puerto Rican Day parade on June 11 will honour Mr Lopez. Goya Foods, which has sponsored the event since its inauguration in 1958, pulled out this week.


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