WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning: Andy Worthington Speaks at a London Event with Chase Madar and Ben Griffin, May 8, 2013

UPDATE MAY 7: It has just been confirmed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will now be taking part in this event, via video link from the Ecuadorian Embassy, from 7.30 to 8.15pm.

It’s almost three years since Pfc. Bradley Manning, who had been working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, was arrested by the US military and imprisoned in Kuwait for allegedly making available — to the campaigning organization WikiLeaks — the largest collection of classified documents ever leaked to the public, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the classified military files relating to the Guantánamo prisoners, which were released in April 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner (see here for the first 34 parts of my 70-part, million-word series analyzing the Guantánamo files).

In July 2010, Manning was transferred to the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, where the conditions of his confinement began to cause international concern. I first wrote about his case in December 2010, when he was being held in solitary confinement, in an article entitled, “Is Bradley Manning Being Held as Some Sort of “Enemy Combatant”?” and I followed his story into 2011, and his transfer to less contentious conditions of confinement in Fort Leavenworth on April 20, just five days before WikiLeaks released the Guantánamo files.

In the last two years, I have largely deferred to other writers, researchers and activists, dedicated to Bradley Manning’s story, to cover developments in his case, particularly relating to a series of pre-trial hearings. His trial begins on June 3 (preceded by an international day of action on June 1), and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to revisit his story this Wednesday, May 8, at an event in London organized by Naomi Colvin and Katia Michaels, at which I am honoured to be sharing a stage with Chase Madar, the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning, and Ben Griffin, a former SAS soldier and conscientious objector. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Years Since His Arrest, Bradley Manning’s Lawyers Accuse US Government of Extreme Secrecy, Worse than at Guantánamo

Two years and two days since his arrest in Iraq on May 26, 2010, Pfc. Bradley Manning still awaits the start of his court-martial, as his lawyers and other sympathizers try to take the government to task for its secrecy regarding the 24-year old, who faces 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy,” a charge that, in theory, carries the death penalty, although prosecutors have said that they will not be pressing for his execution, if he is convicted.

Manning, a former US intelligence analyst, is the alleged whistleblower responsible for leaking thousands of classified US government documents to WikiLeaks, dealing with the Afghan and Iraq wars, and the prisoners in Guantánamo, as well as hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. Held in damaging isolation for the first eleven months of his detention — in Kuwait and then at a military brig in Quantico, Virginia, he was then moved — after pressure was exerted by his many supporters, and by legal experts — to the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he remains. His Article 32 hearing, preparing the way for his trial, took place last December, and he was referred to a general court-martial by the judge, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza. He was arraigned on February 23 this year, when he declined to enter a plea.

Now, as the Guardian reported last week, with hearings taking place prior to his court-martial, possibly in August, a coalition of lawyers and media outlets, led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, “has petitioned the Army court of criminal appeals calling for the court-martial against Manning to be opened up to the press and public,” claiming that his military trial “is being conducted amid far more secrecy than even the prosecution of the alleged 9/11 plotters in Guantánamo.” Read the rest of this entry »

UN Torture Rapporteur Accuses US Government of Cruel and Inhuman Treatment of Bradley Manning

Last week, at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Professor Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, spoke about the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, telling the news agency AFP, “I believe Bradley Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the excessive and prolonged isolation he was put in during the eight months he was in Quantico.”

This was a reference to the US military brig near Washington D.C., where Manning was held after his arrest in Kuwait, and before he was moved to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas (on April 20 last year). when his treatment noticeably improved. I wrote about Manning’s ill-treatment at the time, in my articles, Is Bradley Manning Being Held as Some Sort of “Enemy Combatant”?, Psychologists Protest the Torture of Bradley Manning to the Pentagon; Jeff Kaye Reports, and Former Quantico Commander Objects to Treatment of Bradley Manning, the Alleged WikiLeaks Whistleblower. In addition, as I noted in an article last November, after Manning had been charged, and when a date was set for his first hearing:

Among the disturbing details to emerge was information about his chronic isolation, and about the enforced use of nudity to humiliate him, all of which provided uncomfortable echoes of the Bush administration’s torture program, as used in military brigs on the US mainland on two US citizens, Jose Padilla (who lost his mind as the result of his torture) and Yaser Hamdi, and US resident Ali al-Marri. Read the rest of this entry »

The Guantánamo Files: An Archive of Articles — Part Eleven, October to December 2011

The Guantanamo Files

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Since March 2006, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have analyzed the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.

As recent events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo have shown, this remains an intolerable situation, as Guantánamo is as much of an aberration, and a stain on America’s belief in itself as a nation ruled by laws, as it was when it was opened by George W. Bush on January 11, 2002. Closing the prison remains as important now as it did when I began this work nearly six years ago.

Throughout my work, my intention has been to puncture the Bush administration’s propaganda about Guantánamo holding “the worst of the worst” by telling the prisoners’ stories and bringing them to life as human beings, rather than allowing them to remain as dehumanized scapegoats or bogeymen.

This has involved demonstrating that the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

Hearing Date Set for Bradley Manning, the Alleged Whistleblower Who Exposed the Horrors of America’s Wars and of Guantánamo

Every day, for the last seven months, I have had cause to reflect on the bravery of the whistleblower — Pfc. Bradley Manning, according to the US authorities — who, two years ago, released, to WikiLeaks, a trove of classified US documents — the “Collateral Murder” video, showing US soldiers killing civilians in Iraq in 2007, hundreds of thousands of pages of war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, over 250,000 diplomatic cables, whose selective release, beginning almost exactly a year ago, drove the news agenda globally for many weeks (and also see my reflections on what they revealed about Guantánamo and US torture), and the military files on the Guantánamo prisoners, released last April.

It is, of course, the Guantánamo files that have encouraged me to think every day about the whistleblower responsible for providing them to WikiLeaks, as we all owe a great debt to whoever it was who leaked them. I worked with WikILeaks as a media partner for the release of these documents, liaising with nine media organisations (including McClatchy, the Washington Post,  the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais), and although their impact was overshadowed — rather conveniently, it seems — after just a week, when Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan, I have continued analyzing them ever since, creating a 70-part, million-word series, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” which will be complete by spring 2012.

The documents — Detainee Assessment briefs prepared by the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Guantánamo — profile all but three of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002, and provide details of what was ascertained about the prisoners, and who provided that information. The documents clarify that many prisoners were completely innocent, detained because the Bush administration arrogantly disregarded the Geneva Conventions, and its tried and tested methods for screening prisoners seized in wartime to make sure that civilians had not been swept up with soldiers. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Torture Expert Calls for an End to Solitary Confinement, Discusses Bradley Manning

On Tuesday, Professor Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, “called on all countries to ban the solitary confinement of prisoners except in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, with an absolute prohibition in the case of juveniles and people with mental disabilities,” as a UN news release explained. Presenting his first interim report (PDF) on the practice to the UN General Assembly (which was published in August), Professor Méndez noted that the use of solitary confinement was “global in nature and subject to widespread abuse,” as the news release also explained.

An abhorrence of solitary confinement is central to my work — both for its inherent cruelty and because it is a form of torture — and I was delighted to read Professor Mendez’s comments, as I had the pleasure to meet him in January at an event on the future of Guantánamo and accountabiity for torture at the American University Washington College of Law, where he is a Visiting Professor of Law, when he delivered a powerful critique of the use of torture, and the need for the absolute ban on its use to be upheld.

Professor Mendez’s opinions are important, not just because he is a survivor of torture in Argentina, but because much of the solitary confinement in the world’s prisons is taking place in the United States, where he is currently based. Back in January, I thought how appropriate it was, given US history under the Bush administration, that the UN Rapporteur on Torture was based in America, and I remain convinced that it is appropriate, because, of course, lawyers in the Bush administration cynically and inappropriately attempted to redefine torture, and the use of torture was approved by senior officials, including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld — and also, of course, because President Obama has failed to hold any of his predecessors accountable for their crimes. Read the rest of this entry »

The Guantánamo Files: An Archive of Articles — Part Nine, April to June 2011

The Guantanamo Files

Please support my work!

For over five years, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there over the last nine and a half years, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For nearly three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have turned my attention to the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.

My intention, all along, has been to bring the men to life through their stories, dispelling the Bush administration’s rhetoric about the prison holding “the worst of the worst,” and demonstrating how, instead, the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. As I explained in the introduction to my four-part Definitive Prisoner List (updated on June 1 this year), I remain convinced, through detailed research, through comments from insiders with knowledge of Guantánamo, and, most recently, through an analysis of classified military documents released by WikiLeaks, that “at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total” had no involvement with terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

The Guantánamo Files: An Archive of Articles — Part Eight, January to March 2011

The Guantanamo Files

Please support my work!

For over five years, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there over the last nine and a half years, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For nearly three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have turned my attention to the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.

My intention, all along, has been to bring the men to life through their stories, dispelling the Bush administration’s rhetoric about the prison holding “the worst of the worst,” and demonstrating how, instead, the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. As I explained in the introduction to my four-part Definitive Prisoner List (updated on June 1 this year), I remain convinced, through detailed research, through comments from insiders with knowledge of Guantánamo, and, most recently, through an analysis of classified military documents released by WikiLeaks, that “at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total” had no involvement with terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks and the Lawyers: Justice Department Finally Allows Attorneys to See Leaked Guantánamo Files, But Not to Download, Save or Print Them

In the US government’s farcical world of overclassification, four reporters were banned from Guantánamo last year for reporting the name of a witness in the trial by Military Commission of the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner Omar Khadr, even though his name had been widely reported in the media, and was available online.

That was the Defense Department’s doing, but the whole story of WikiLeaks and its exposure of classified US documents — whether it is the Collateral Murder video, the Afghan and Iraqi war logs, the diplomatic cables, or the Detainee Assessment Briefs from Guantánamo — is one of overclassification across every government department, in which material that should not necessarily be secret was, until it was leaked, jealously guarded by a government that behaves as though it was not elected by the people, and is not answerable to them.

The treasure trove of documents released to WikiLeaks also came about because, after the pre-9/11 failures of the intelligence agencies to communicate with one another, the creation of a vast database accessible by, literally, millions of government employees, was designed to facilitate the sharing of useful information. This was in spite of the fact that it should also have been obvious that, with so many people having access to it, it was only a matter of time before someone concerned with transparency and justice — allegedly Pfc. Bradley Manning, imprisoned for leaking the documents since last May — would take advantage of the 21st century whistleblowing opportunities made available by WikiLeaks to let the world know what it was missing. Read the rest of this entry »

Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks: New Film by the Guardian Tells His Troubling Story

To mark the first anniversary of the arrest of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, the Guardian has produced a 19-minute film, “The madness of Bradley Manning?” telling his story, and including elements that have not been reported before.

Arrested in Kuwait on May 26, 2010, after computer hacker Adrian Lamo, with whom he had apparently been communicating about his activities downloading confidential material and handing it on to WikiLeaks, reported him to the FBI, Manning was held in solitary confinement in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia, for nine months from July 2010 to April 2011, when he was moved to Fort Leavenworth in Texas, where some social interaction is allowed.

The film is available below, as are cross-posts of two Guardian stories published to accompany it, Bradley Manning: the bullied outsider who knew US military’s inner secrets and Bradley Manning: fellow soldier recalls ‘scared, bullied kid’. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

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 (The State of London).
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