Daily Archives: 04/03/2011

( Having held Private First Class Bradley Manning prisoner for nine months, under conditions tantamount to torture and beyond doubt intended to break his will, the US Army recombobulated its allegations against him on Wednesday, adding 22 counts to an already lengthy charge sheet.

As a practical matter, these changes probably don’t make a lot of difference to Manning. He’s faced a likely life sentence for nearly a year now. Since the Army’s prosecutors claim they won’t seek the death penalty provided for in one of the new counts, the consequences for him, if convicted, remain pretty much the same.

That new count — “aiding the enemy” per in Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — is really directed not at Manning, but at an assortment of other persons and parties: Wikileaks, Julian Assange, every foreign government and individual on earth … and you. And the act of filing that charge is, oddly enough, tantamount to insurrection against the United States itself.

Let’s unpack this “enemy” thing.

The power to declare war — and thereby to legally categorize a group of persons (historically on, but not necessarily constrained to, the basis of their allegiance to a particular state) as “the enemy” — is exclusively reserved, per the US Constitution, to Congress. Congress hasn’t exercised that power since 1941, and the wars it declared then have long since ended. The United States is not, legally speaking, at war. Thus the US has, legally speaking, no “enemy” to aid.

By charging Manning with “aiding the enemy,” the US Army is, in effect, attempting a coup d’etat. It is usurping Congress’s authority and claiming that authority for itself. Since the President of the United States is also Commander in Chief of the US armed forces, the Army is presumably merely the President’s instrument in this matter.

Not that executive power grabs are anything new, mind you — the Constitution has been broken in that respect for at least 150 years. The difference here is that historically executive usurpations under cover of “war powers” resembled cyclical tides: Flowing in, then receding, over fairly short periods.

The Civil War, Reconstruction and a slow fade back to business as usual. World War One, the first Red Scare, then “return to normalcy.” World War Two, the second Red Scare, and grudging reversion to the malignant but still nominally limited managerial state inaugurated in FDR’s New Deal.

This time, the tide has coursed in on us for most of a decade and shows no signs of ebbing. Not tide: Tsunami. The executive branch, led first by George W. Bush and now by Barack H. Obama, is playing for keeps. We’re long past the point where one can plausibly argue that anything short of full-on dictatorship will satisfy America’s new generation of emperors or their courtiers.

The proof of that lies not only in the fact of insurrection/coup with this charge of “aiding the enemy,” but in the logical conclusions that we can — indeed, must — draw from that charge.

Who is the “enemy?” Certainly not the (now long-deposed) regime of Saddam’s Iraq, nor the Taliban who ran (and mostly still run) Afghanistan. We can exclude these two as the designated “enemies” for two reasons.

First, not only did Congress (to the extent that the executive branch bothers even formally acknowledging that institution’s authority these days) not declare war on either of them, it specifically declared that it was not declaring war on them. If you don’t believe me, look at the “authorizations for use of force” yourself and read the “war powers reservations” sections. Recall that bills were introduced to declare war on both, and rejected.

Secondly, no one has said, with a straight face at least, that Manning intended his alleged releases of information for the eyes and ears of the Taliban, or of al Qaeda, or of whatever ragged remnant of the Ba’ath Party persists in Iraq.

On the contrary: The intended recipients seem to have been an Iceland-hosted web site, an Australian transparency activist, and the world (including the American) media and public. They (You! Me!) are the “enemy” to whom Manning allegedly disclosed the state’s embarrassing secrets.

QED, the US government considers you — whoever you are, wherever you may live, and to whatever extent you aren’t its active agent — its enemy and intends to treat you as such. Your freedom, perhaps even your very survival, depends on you recognizing this fact and acting accordingly.

by Thomas L. Knapp on Mar 3, 2011


( Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler is about to release a comprehensive study on the U.S. government and media’s role in censoring WikiLeaks. The forthcoming report, to appear in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, titled “A Free Irresponsible Press: WikiLeaks and the Batter over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate.” In the report, Benkler dissects the mechanisms that have censored WikiLeaks.

A working draft of the report has been made available online. The draft exposes how the U.S. government, mainstream media, and the emerging corporatocracy have been working together to infringe on the First Amendment Rights of the “networked fourth estate” sites, like WikiLeaks. Essentially, the government has been tripping over its feet to find ways to stop Wikileaks from expressing speech which Benkler argues is clearly protected by the U.S. Constitution and solidly supported by Supreme Court precedent.

In the 66 page document, Benkler suggests the U.S. government has attempted to falsely frame the WikiLeaks revelations in a way to discredit WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The false framing begins with what Benkler calls the “hurt America” argument. The report points to a string of statements made by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Joe Libermann, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. For example, the report quotes Biden’s claim that WikiLeaks is “more like high tech terrorist than the Pentagon Papers.” In addition, Clinton’s comment, “Let’s be clear: This disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community – the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.”

Immediately after top U.S. officials falsely framed WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization engaged in an attack on America, the main stream media picked up on the false framing and ran with it. Benkler shows commentator after commentator, on all the main stream media outlets, began echoing the “WikiLeaks hurts America” theme. On top of the White House’s calls, Senator Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, suggested the possible criminality of WikiLeaks actions, “I call on any other company or organization that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them. WikiLeaks’ illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company – whether American or foreign – should assist WikiLeaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials.”

The problem with all this is that what WikiLeaks has done was nothing different than what The New York Times and The Washington Post has done. And besides that, the U.S. government’s own reviews have found that WikiLeaks has actually done little to nothing to compromise our national security. As Department of Defense Robert Gates has repeatedly said under oath, “Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.” Gates followed up in a separate hearing saying, “The review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this disclosure.”

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(Democracy Now!) Federal law prohibits the military from using propaganda and psychological tactics on U.S. citizens, but that is exactly what may have happened in Afghanistan according to reporter Michael Hastings, who joins us to speak about his recent expose for Rolling Stone magazine is called, “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-ops on U.S. senators.” In the article, Hastings writes that Lt. General William Caldwell, the commander of NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, illegally employed psychological operations to manipulate visiting U.S. senators into providing more troops and funding for the war effort. “It show how far-off the rails the entire operation has gone,” Hasting says. “The most important battlefield isn’t in Afghanistan, it is in Washington.”

Watch report here:

(Democracy Now!) Forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi have launched fresh air strikes on Libyan towns captured by anti-government opposition in a popular uprising over the past two weeks. Gaddafi has lost control of the eastern half of Libya, and thousands of protesters are thought to have been killed by Gaddafi’s forces. We get reports from two journalists on the ground in Libya: McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef in Brega, and The Observer’s Peter Beaumont in Tripoli.
Watch here:


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