Last Wednesday (February 19), I was delighted to travel from London to Oxford to attend the presentation of the Sam Adams Associates Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea Manning — or rather, to Chelsea’s old school friend Aaron Kirkhouse, who received the award on Manning’s behalf. Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was, of course, given a 35-year sentence in August for the largest ever leak of classified documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians and two Reuters reporters in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo files, released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.
I had been invited by Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and prominent peace activist, who I met for the first time in Berkeley, California in October 2010, as part of Berkeley Says No to Torture Week, and by Todd Pierce, a recently retired military defense attorney, who worked on a number of Guantánamo cases involving men facing military commissions trials, and who has been a friend for many years. Also speaking at the event for Chelsea Manning were Ann Wright, former US Army colonel and former State Department official, who was one of only three US officials to resign over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and who I had also met in Berkeley in 2010, and two people I had not met before — the former British ambassador Craig Murray, and MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon.
It was a powerful event, presided over by Ray, who made us all feel at home in the Oxford Union, and introduced the various speakers prior to the presentation of the award to Aaron Kirkhouse on Chelsea’s behalf.
Craig Murray reminded the audience that, in Uzbekistan, he had discovered that information obtained through horrendous torture (including boiling prisoners alive in oil) was used by the UK and the US to exaggerate the threat of al-Qaeda in Central Asia, to keep dictators in power, and to ensure continuing access to much sought-after resources. He also explained that it is “very hard to work for government now and be an honest man,” and stated that “you have to step outside the establishment for truth-telling.”
Annie Machon, an MI5 whistleblower with David Shayler, spoke about the “globalised murder program” initiated by our “notional democracies,” and also mentioned the launch of “The Courage Foundation,” a new initiative designed to provide support and financial assistance of whistleblowers.
Todd Pierce spoke about the slide of the US towards fascism, which he demonstrated through a devastating analysis of the flawed legal logic underpinning the military commissions at Guantánamo, and Ann Wright spoke about how much money has been raised for the support of Private Manning to date — $1,500,000 — and how we owe thanks to him, and to Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, for “giving to us the truth about what our governments doing.”
Aaron Kirkhouse read out the following statement by Chelsea Manning, which I hope you have time to read, and to share if you find it useful, and this is followed by a video shown on the night of Edward Snowden — last year’s recipient of the Sam Adams Award — speaking from Russia, which is also posted below.
The founders of America — fresh from a war of independence from King George lll — were particularly fearful of concentrating power. James Madison wrote that “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” (1)
To address these concerns, the founders of America actively took steps when drafting the Constitution and ratifying a Bill of Rights — including protections echoing the Libertarianism of John Locke — to ensure that no person be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
More recently, though, since the rise of the national security apparatus — after a brief hiatus between the fall of the Soviet Union and the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center — the American government has been pursuing an unprecedented amount of secrecy and power consolidation in the Executive branch, under the President and the Cabinet.
When drafting Article III of the American Constitution, the founders were rather leery of accusations of treason, and accorded special protections for those accused of such a capital offense, providing that “[n]o person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
For those of you familiar with the American Constitution, you may notice that this provision is under the Article concerning the Judiciary, Article III, and not the Legislative or Executive Articles, I and II respectively. And, historically, when the American government accuses an American of such crimes, it has prosecuted them in a federal criminal court.
In a recent Freedom of Information Act case (2) — a seemingly Orwellian “newspeak” name for a statute that actually exempts categories of documents from release to the public — a federal district court judge ruled against the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Times and the ACLU argued that documents regarding the practice of “targeted killing” of American citizens, such as the radical Sunni cleric Anwar Nasser al-Aulaqi were in the public’s interest and were being withheld improperly.
The government first refused to acknowledge the existence of the documents, but later argued that their release could harm national security and were therefore exempt from disclosure. The court, however, felt constrained by the law and “conclud[ed] that the Government [had] not violated the FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and [could not] be compelled … to explain in detail the reasons why [the Government’s] actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
However, the judge also wrote candidly about her frustration with her sense that the request “implicate[d] serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States,” and that the Presidential “Administration ha[d] engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of [American] citizens, but in cryptic and imprecise ways.” In other words, it wasn’t that she didn’t think that the public didn’t have a right to know — it was that she didn’t feel that she had the “legal” authority to compel disclosure.
This case, like too many others, presents a critical problem that can also be seen in several recent cases, including my court-martial. For instance, I was accused by the Executive branch, and particularly the Department of Defense, of aiding the enemy — a treasonable offense covered under Article III of the Constitution.
Granted, I received due process. I received charges, was arraigned before a military judge for trial, and eventually acquitted. But, the al-Aulaqi case raises a fundamental question: did the American government, and particularly the same President and Department, have the power to unilaterally determine my guilt of such an offense, and execute me at the will of the pilot of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle?
Until documents held by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel were released after significant political pressure in mid-2013, I could not tell you. And, very likely, I do not believe I could speak intelligently of the Administration’s policy on “targeted killing” today either.
There is a problem with this level of secrecy, obfuscation, and classification or protective marking, in that they supposedly protect citizens of their nation; yet, it also breeds a unilateralism that the founders feared, and deliberately tried to prevent when drafting the American Constitution. Now, we have a “disposition matrix,” classified military commissions, and foreign intelligence and surveillance courts — modern Star Chamber equivalents.
I am now accepting this award, through my friend, former school peer, and former small business partner, Aaron, for the release of a video and documents that “sparked a worldwide dialogue about the importance of government accountability for human rights abuses,” [and] it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the dangers of withholding documents, legal interpretations, and court jurisprudence from the public that pertain to the right to “life, liberty, and property” of a state’s citizens is as fundamental and important to protecting against such human rights abuses.
When the public lacks the ability to access what its government is doing, it ceases to be involved in the governing process. There is a distinct difference between citizens, in which people are entitled to rights and privileges protected by and from the state, and subjects, in which people are placed under the absolute authority and control of the state. In essence, this is the difference between tyranny and freedom. To echo a maxim from [Benjamin Franklin]: a society that puts secrecy — in the sense of state secrecy — ahead of transparency and accountability will end up neither secure nor free.
CHELSEA E. MANNING
(1) Federalist Papers, No. 47 (1788).
(2) New York Times v. United States Department of Justice, 915 F. Supp.2d 5O8, (S.D.N.Y.,2013.01.03).
Below is Edward Snowden’s video:
In it, following up on Chelsea Manning’s comments about government secrecy, he stated, “Over-classification, where the government uses the state’s secrets privilege to withhold information from the public that’s not related to national security and is otherwise unjustified, has been a serious problem.”
He added, “In the last year the White House told us that 95 million records have been created classified and withheld from the public in the year 2012. That’s more than any other year on record and shows a trend where the government is withholding more secrets than ever.”
As the Independent described it, he “paid tribute to Manning for releasing documents that revealed the type of information that the US government tried to prevent the public knowing,” and asked, “How can we vote without evidence of the true costs of the wars in which we are involved? Instances of public corruption, official corruption, in nations that we support and ally ourselves with, or even national participation in torture programmes, rendition programmes and unambiguous war crimes. All of these were represented in the Manning brief.”
He also stated, “The foundation of democracy is the consent of the governed. After all, we cannot consent to programmes and policies about which we are never informed. The decline of democracy begins when the domain of government expands beyond the borders of its public’s knowledge.”
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
[…] 25th Feb. Andy Worthington (@GuantanamoAndy), a historian and journalist whose crucial work on Guantanamo you can see on his website, worked as a media partner on the release of the Guantanamo Files (DABs or detainee assessment briefs) that Chelsea made available to the public through WikiLeaks. He was also at the presentation and has posted some photos and a report here. […]
It seems to me that whomever thought that giving Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize was a good idea can make amends for that outrage by giving the Peace Prize to Manning, Assange and/or Snowden, or perhaps to all three… or better yet, to that trio plus Shaker Aamer.
That way, Barack Obama would become the first Peace Prize winner ever responsible for preventing other Peace Prize winners from coming to pick up their award and giving their acceptance speeches. This, of course, is only my fantasy, as surely the old dynamite merchant’s estate administrators would never stoop to do something that so might shake the Establishment. And so, in the absence of the Establishment being so shaken, it’s nice to see fringe groups like the Oxford Student Union stepping up to do what’s right. Kudos to all involved.
Great to hear from you TD, and yes, what a great idea! Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Shaker Aamer all get the prize, and all get to make videoed speeches explaining how they can’t attend the ceremony because of the unpeacelike actions of the 2009 winner! Nice fantasy.
And yes, that bastion of liberalism – oh, hang on! – the Oxford Union allowed a whole load of dissidents through the door without so much as a murmur!
Thanks to everyone who has liked and shared this. My apologies for posting it so late yesterday – nearly midnight GMT. I had a long day. At lunchtime (12.30 GMT) I was on BBC World News discussing Guantanamo as part of a season they’re conducting called “Freedom,” looking at various aspects of what “Freedom” means. All of which made me wonder sadly why the domestic BBC does nothing like this. Unfortunately the show isn’t available in the UK at all, as BBC World News is BBC News’ international, commercial channel, but it is available almost everywhere else in the world, so perhaps, if you’re not in the UK, you can find it online: https://www.facebook.com/bbcworldnews
After the BBC interview, I stayed in town cycling around and taking photos, and later in my long day I met up with my friend Todd Pierce, the former US military defense attorney who worked on the cases of some of the Guantanamo prisoners put forward for trial by military commission, including one men – Ibrahim al-Qosi – who was freed after a plea deal.
Thanks Andy! I am going to mention one more whistleblower, in addition to Manning and Snowden — Commander Matthew Diaz. He was a JAG lawyer assigned to JTF-GTMO, or OARDEC, or otherwise at Guantanamo, who had access to the list of captives. He leaked that list to a lawyer at the CCR (Center for Constitutional Rights), in the fall of 2005.
To forgo the risk that she was being set-up, entrapped, in a plot to catch her violating the draconian rules imposed on lawyers who want to be given access to Guantanamo captives she immediately contacted the counter-security official she was supposed to contact, and Diaz was arrested, charged, court-martialed.
Ironically, a Federal judge would issue an order to the DoD, under FOIA, just a couple of months later, that forced it to publicize the very similar first official list of all captives, of May 15, 2006. So, by the time Diaz was court-martialed, the secret information he leaked was no longer a secret.
As I recall, Diaz’s sentence was very short, compared with Manning’s — a year and a half. But, when a naval officer has seen ten, fifteen or twenty years of service a dishonourable discharge is very serious punishment all by itself. Those who received a dishonorable discharge don’t receive a pension, and they aren’t entitled to any of the ongoing medical benefits veterans are normally entitled to — compelling in a country without universal medical health care like Canada or the UK.
I think he may have been disbarred, as well. I hope he is coping OK.
If WikiLeaks had been functioning in 2005, he should have sent the list to WikiLeaks, not the CCR, or maybe a brave and principled journalist, like Carol Rosenberg or Michelle Shephard.
Maybe someone should publish “Safely leaking secret document for dummies”.
My interpretation of the list leaked by Diaz is that it differed from the first official list — having approximately the same number of fields, but with some fields having different purposes than on the later list.
I’d really like to compare how the captives’ names were spelled on this earlier list.
I’d be curious as to whether this earlier list contained the same men as on the later list. Did it contain Abu Zubaydah, who we now know was held in Guantanamo, in CIA custody, in 2003 and 2004?
I’d like to see what the alternate fields said.
Here are some other reports – a very detailed report on the Pvt. Manning Family Fund website, and a report for Vice’s Motherboard by Silkie Carlo, who I met at the dinner (in Oxford’s famous Chutney’s restaurant) following the award ceremony: http://manningfamilyfund.org/2014/02/21/sam-adams/
Scott Horton wrote about Diaz here. I got his rank wrong, he was just a Lieutenant Commander.
I am so very happy that Chesea Manning received this award, in addition with an official statement from Edward Snowden, whose revelations unintentionally somehow overshadowed Chelsea’s courage and plight.
I am particularly sensitive to Chelsea’s self-sacrifice for the sake of truth and accountability on behalf not of ourselves -who are pretty well off in spite of being infuriated by governmental eavesdropping- but of the most downtrodden and voiceless of our governments’ victims: the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the prisoners in Guantanamo. On a personal level, she had absolutely nothing to gain by sticking out her neck for them.
However, she thus confirmed that she has unique qualities which are -or should be- most valuable to mankind but are direly lacking: dignity, honesty, compassion, solidarity not in mere words but put into practice, to the extent of personal sacrifice.
Having campaigned in the European Parliament for her to receive the Sacharov price (which equally failed for equally political reasons) I fully agree with talking dog’s Nobel prize suggestion. I am convinced that Chelsea Manning will end up being released and officially recognised for what she is: an exceptionally valuable member of our society and a moral example for all of us.
My heartfelt thanks to the committee which chose Chelsea Manning for this award.
Thanks for the mention of Matt Diaz, who I met on Facebook.
Amazing now to think that the identities of the prisoners led to his punishment and such fear at CCR that he he got turned in, even though it was obviously outrageous that the US was holding men and not letting anyone know who they were holding. I remember when I first seriously started researching Guantanamo, in September 2005, getting the speculative lists put together by Cageprisoners and the Washington Post, and trying to make sense of them. It really is hard now to remember exactly how much the Bush administration tried to make people afraid of speaking out at all.
Thanks, Kabuli, for the heartfelt and eloquent words about Chelsea’s commitment to the victims of America’s “war on terror” – as you say, “the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the prisoners in Guantanamo.”
I think Edward Snowden appeared to overshadow Chelsea, because of the nature of the news, sadly – he’s the man of the moment (still, just), whereas Chelsea is not. A harsh analysis, perhaps, but I think similar to drones and Guantanamo.
Andy, I will mention another person who took a risk — Sergeant Heather Cerveny. I got a note from yahoo groups today, saying the yahoo group heathercerveny was going to be deleted due to long term inactivity.
Sergeant Cerveny was a paralegal working for one of Omar Khadr’s military lawyers. On her first visit to Guantanamo, she visited the enlisted personnel club, where other GIs bragged to her about the various ways they bent or broke the rules to extract their own personal payback from the Guantanamo captives. Some GIs bragged about inventing claims the captives had broken the rules that triggered visits from the brutal riot squad. Some GIs bragged about getting away with hitting captives themselves. And one naval rating, whose only contact with the captives was in processing their mail, bragged about destroying their mail.
I posted the following comment to it, mentioning your NYTimes article on Abdul Razaq Hekmati. I’ll remind your readers that Hekmati had been a Northern Alliance hero, who nevertheless continued to be held in Guantanamo for the rest of his life, in large part because the officers reviewing his case didn’t believe he was a Northern Alliance hero because he could not produce any letters of testimonial from the Norther Alliance leaders he claimed he rescued. I told Sergeant Cerveny her affadavit helped explain why Hekmati never received those letters of testimonial:
Ms Cerveny, I thought your Guantanamo affadavit was courageous, honorable, and helped improve public safety. I know some people criticized you, thought your affadavit helped terrorism, and I believe they were one hundred percent wrong.
I’ve followed the release of documents about Guantanamo into the public sphere closely, and, when read in detail, they all strongly suggest a lack of competence, and a lack of intellectual courage and intellectual honesty on the part of those who wanted to classify those documents, and otherwise draw a veil over the activities of the USA’s
You described how one of the navy ratings you met in the enlisted club on the base had worked in the mail room, and had bragged about how he used his position to interfere with the mail sent to and from the captives. In December of 2008 a captive named Abdul Razaq Hekmati died of cancer in Guantanamo, and in January 2009 the New York Times published an article, by Carlotta Gall and Andy Worthington, documenting the massive failure of Guantanamo analysts to understand who Hekmati was.
I’ll skip over most of the details of his case, except to say the one grain of truth in his file was that he played a role in a prison break in Afghanistan. But Guantanamo analysts got this one grain of truth completely backward. They claimed he had plotted to spring senior Taliban leaders from a prison run by the USA’s Afghan allies, after 2001-9-11. In fact he heroically led a daring prison rescue, freeing senior Northern Alliance leaders from a Taliban prison, back in 1999.
Following this daring prison rescue the Taliban put a one million dollar bounty on his head.
Unlike most captives he continued to attend his annual OARDEC reviews. During each review he told the officers he had led a prison break, but that it was of Northern Alliance leaders, from a Taliban prison. And, during each review, the officers told him they just didn’t believe him. They claimed that if he really had rescued three Northern Alliance generals one of whom Karzai appointed a Provincial Governor, and later the Minister of Energy, these men would surely have submitted letters of recommendation on his behalf.
Hekmati told them he could not explain why he hadn’t received a single reply to any of the letters he tried to mail from Guantanamo.
Well, your affadavit offered a very credible explanation as to why Hekmati didn’t receive the mail that would have triggered his release. Malicious acts of mail clerks, like the naval rating who bragged to you, cost the USA millions of dollars. Hekmati, who Guantanamo analysts never managed to properly identify, had been a well-known Northern Alliance hero, and it would have very severely eroded trust in the USA that they continued to hold him in Guantanamo for the rest of his life.
Ms Cerveny, I really hope you have had superiors and employers in your post Guantanamo career who have recognized and honored your brave choice to submit that affadavit.
Thanks, arcticredriver, for mentioning Sgt. Cerveny. It is some time since I heard her name. Your comment reminds me why her principled stand should be remembered.
And thanks also for mentioning my New York Times article with Carlotta Gall. I’m finding it hard to believe that it was six years ago: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/world/asia/05gitmo.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[…] who has written extensively on Guantanamo, often sourcing WikiLeaks material, wrote on the recent Sam Adams Award ceremony held for Chelsea […]
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: