When NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave his first public interview in Hong Kong, he said is greatest fear was that his revelations of huge US government spy programs might fall on deaf ears.
If that had happened, then his great personal sacrifice would have been for naught.
WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Snowden have paid a steep price for revealing US war crimes and the US government’s huge violations of the Bill of Rights and global spying program.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military stockade for exposing the truth. Snowden has been forced into exile, hunted down by the criminal administration in Washington.
But their sacrifice has not been in vain. Manning and Snowden have met their aim of initiating a serious discussion of these matters nationally and internationally.
Snowden’s revelations, coming after those of Manning, changed the context of Manning’s courts-martial. The exposure of the secret NSA programs caused many to begin to question Washington’s real intentions in prosecuting the soldier.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said Manning’s sentence was a partial victory, in that it was much less than what the administration wanted. The prosecutors argued strongly for a life sentence without the possibility of parole for “aiding the enemy” — in essence, treason.
The atmosphere created by Snowden’s revelations made that impossible. Their final demand was a sentence of 60 years, a virtual life sentence.
Manning’s lawyers say she will be eligible for parole in about seven years, having been given credit for the over three years he has already been held in prison, which included months of torture.
Her defense now moves into a new phase. After she was sentenced, Manning issued a strong open appeal to President Barack Obama for a pardon. That will be pursued legally.
Then Manning publicly stated she would now live her life as a woman, and changed her name to Chelsea. She said she would seek medical treatments to change her physical body accordingly.
The army immediately responded that it would allow no such treatments. Now Chelsea is challenging that in the courts. This is part of the fight for her to receive fair and good treatment in prison in general.
These campaigns will help keep her case in the public eye, and prepare, if necessary, to fight for her early release at the first opportunity for parole.
The New York Times editorialised that Manning’s sentence was “excessive”. But it said she deserved some punishment because she broke the law by revealing classified documents.
Manning should not have been charged at all for revealing serious crimes by the US government and military. But the NYT’s position reflects a division in the ruling class over the Manning-Snowden revelations.
Another indication was a close vote in the House of Representatives against defunding NSA’s program of monitoring every phone call in the US. Obama has also noted the unease in the country over the NSA’s spying.
Another aspect causing unease is the issue of freedom of the press. The Justice Department is seeking to force NUT reporter James Risen to testify in its case against former CIA officer Jeffry Sterling.
The Justice Department alleges Sterling leaked classified information to Risen for his coverage of the CIA. So far, Risen has resisted testifying, but he might face contempt of court charges.
The administration would like to move against the NYT and other papers for printing some of Manning’s and Snowden’s revelations. They are afraid of creating a backlash, however.
Now some US officials are seeking to put groups like WikiLeaks in a new category of “non-legitimate” journalism, and therefore not protected by the Constitutional guarantees of press freedom.
Such a move would raise its own problems for the ruling class, for example for reporting by social media. Would a teenager who posted Snowden’s documents be fair game for the spooks?
It is likely Assange is already under secret indictment, for publishing Manning’s material, as well as for aiding Snowden.
A section of the ruling class does not want to go that far in tearing up the Bill of Rights.
Another cause for concern in ruling class circles has been the wide international repercussions of Manning’s release of State Department cables embarrassing to the government, and the wide international net of the NSA’s spying.
A recent release of documents leaked by Snowden to journalist Glenn Greenwald, reported in Der Spiegel, revealed new information on US spying on Germans. The revelations created consternation.
Even conservative German Chancellor Merkel has raised the need for a mutual pact with the US against spying on each other’s government, citizens, and businesses — a suggestion that Obama has not even deigned to reply to.
Another new revelation reveals the NSA has broken into the encrypted discussions in United Nations delegations, in violation of UN rules.
The ham-fisted way that US and British authorities have targetted Snowden has raised international concern. Washington’s bid to capture Snowden, going so far as to force down an official plane carrying Bolivia’s president, has created an international uproar.
Further outrage was generated when Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained at London’s Heathrow airport for nine hours.
Miranda was on his way back to Brazil from a meeting in Berlin with journalist Laura Poitras, who is working with Greenwald on further Snowden releases.
The British political police claimed they were acting under a law to ferret out information about terrorism.
But the spooks didn’t even raise anything about terrorism when they grilled Miranda. Greenwald said: “The only thing they were interested in was NSA documents and what I was doing with Laura Poitras.”
British authorities confiscated all Miranda’s electronic documents and equipment. A court later ruled that his computers and records would have to be returned, but gave the police seven days to copy them.
The Brazilian government strongly objected. There is no doubt London acted in collaboration with Washington.
The British political police also threatened to shut down The Guardian, its editor Alan Rusbridger revealed. This was in retaliation for the paper’s publishing material from WikiLeaks and Greenwald.
The police said they would shut down the paper unless it turned over its hard drives containing the leaked material, or destroyed the hard drives. Rusbridger decided to destroy them under the watchful eyes of three police thugs.
The act was ridiculous since the material on the hard drives exists elsewhere. The intent was clearly to intimidate.
The credibility of the US administration has been damaged, both the revelations (and there are more to come), and the authoritarian response.
That this has caused consternation at the top presents new opportunities to expose the truth about Washington’s crimes. When thieves fall out, we should take advantage.
Source: Barry Sheppard was a long-time leader of the US Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International. He recounts his experience in the SWP in a two-volume book, The Party — the Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, available from Resistance Books.
MDC shares, the second in series on the militarization of policing, from Radley Balko.
One of the heroes of my book is the late Sen. Sam Ervin, the Democrat from North Carolina who served from 1954 to 1974. Ervin was an old school conservative Democrat, but could be something of an enigma. He was a devoutly religious man who, while in the North Carolina legislature in the 1940s, single-handedly defeated a proposed law that would have banned teaching evolution in the state’s public schools. Ervin was a brilliant man, who often slyly hid his intellect behind a veil of aw shucks country charm. But once he’d disarmed his opponents, he’d pounce with a devastating argument or flourish of rhetoric that would ultimately win the day.
Ervin was a staunch Cold Warrior and anti-communist, but he was also on the special Senate committee to investigate Sen. Joe McCarthy and his red-baiting, which Ervin found deplorable. Once his committee had concluded its work, Ervin fought for an official censure of McCarthy. He gave a brilliant speech on the floor of the Senate that disarmed the tense chamber with humor, invoked Shakespeare (“adversity, like the toad, wears yet a precious jewel in his head”), was self-effacing (he told a lawyer joke), and included two parables from the hills of North Carolina. The typically Ervinesque soliloquy swayed votes and won Ervin a lot of early respect from his colleagues. The Senate voted 67-22 to censure McCarthy.
For much of his career, Ervin was pro-segregation, or at least opposed to federal efforts to desegregate the south. He even signed the Southern Manifesto, a document decrying what its signatories called federal infringement on the sovereignty of southern states.
Ervin eventually changed his mind on those issues. And toward the tail end of his career, he became the Nixon administration’s most persistent and potent adversary on Capitol Hill. Ervin was particularly angry at Nixon’s early efforts to push through Congress a series of anti-crime packages that Ervin considered to be unacceptable violations of the Constitution. In particular, he was angry about a proposal that would have eliminated bail for criminal defendants in Washington, D.C., and two proposals that would have allowed narcotics cops to conduct “no-knock raids,” one that would apply to cops in D.C., and another that would give the power to federal agents conducting federal anti-drug investigations.
Ervin railed against these bills – to the media, from his position as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and from the floor of the U.S. Senate. There’s one particularly poignant moment in my book where Ervin rants for hours on the floor of the Senate against the 1970 bill that gave D.C. police the no-knock raid power. Two influential liberals and committee chairs from Ervin’s party – Sen. Joe Tydings of Maryland and Sen. Thomas Dodd of Connecticut – had already pledged support for the bill. The country was in the midst of anti-crime fervor, and both were facing reelection. So Ervin stood alone. From Paul Clancy’s biography of Ervin:
On July 17, 1970, Ervin treated the few senators in the chamber and the visitors in the galleries to a tour de force. Using small Senate envelopes on which he had scribbled page numbers of the Bible, the Constitution, and his favorite history books, he spoke extemporaneously for four and a half hours. He contemptuously took the legislation apart sentence by sentence, showing at each point where it did violence to the Constitution, hoping to draw attention to what the Senate was doing. Word got around that the old constitutionalist was on his feet, fighting the Administration’s crime bill.
He said the no-knock statute would give policemen “the right to enter the dwelling houses of citizens of the District of Columbia in the same way that burglars now enter those dwelling houses,” and that preventive detention was “absolutely inconsistent with the policies that have prevailed in this nation since it became a Republic.”
He scoffed at the term “necessity,” which many of his fellow senators were using to justify the bill . . . And he gave the Senate his simple prescription for living: “Mr. President, the supreme value of civilization is the freedom of the individual, which is simply the right of the individual to be free from government tyranny.”
The District of Columbia provisions, he shouted, arms waving and voice trembling, “ought to be removed from this bill and transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, to manifest some of the greatest legal curiosities that ever have been evolved by the mind of man on the North American Continent.”
Hours later, still in a rage, Ervin implored the Senate “not to enact a bill which contains provisions that are absolutely hostile to the traditions which have prevailed in our country ever since it became a Republic. Once gone, the liberties which the bill threatened would be gone forever.”
Washington, D.C. was of course mostly Black. And it would likely be mostly Black people who would feel the brunt of the new policy. And so here was the aging, towering figure of a senator, nearing the end of his career, standing as the only member of the U.S. Senate who was outraged at this bill that would allow narcotics cops to smash into their homes without first knocking and announcing themselves.
The bill passed easily. But then a curious thing happened. A few years later, stories began to emerge about out-of-control federal drug cops ripping down doors and terrorizing people, often without a warrant, and frequently finding no drugs or contraband at all. Ervin called hearings, and exposed the outrages to the country. He then led the charge to repeal the no-knock laws. President Ford signed that bill into law in 1975, a year after Ervin’s retirement.
Ervin was a champion on other civil liberties issues as well. These other fights aren’t covered in my book, but I think they’re worth discussing here, particularly given the discussions we’ve been having over government surveillance over the last few months.
In 1971 President Nixon issued an executive order that vastly expanded the power of a creepy federal agency called the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB). Nixon authorized the SACB to investigate essentially anyone Nixon deemed to be an enemy. When Ervin heard about this, he went ballistic, and set about to override the order. With a number of parliamentary maneuvers and some impassioned speeches in defense of the First Amendment, he succeeded in effectively cutting off funding to the board, causing its demise.
Also in 1971, the White House waged an aggressive campaign against the press. Nixon officials called journalists before grand juries, demanding they reveal their sources. They attempted to tie FCC licenses to vague requirements that TV and radio stations uphold “community interests,” the implication being that undermining the Vietnam War effort or exposing federal wiretapping or warrantless spying fell short of upholding such standards. Ervin came to the aid of the press with a federal shield law allowing journalists to protect their sources without federal harassment.
When it was revealed the Defense Department had been carrying out a massive surveillance program that included databanks on just about anyone who had ever signed an anti-war petition, put a peace sticker on his bumper, or bought an anti-government book, Ervin – a career-long supporter of the Vietnam War and defense hawk – thought it was the most violent attack on the First Amendment he had seen in his career. (This was the program challenged in the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case Laird v. Tatum.) As Ervin biographer Paul Clancy writes, “He was determined not just to kill it, but to find out who was responsible. He wanted to make sure it never happened again.”
Over the span of the Nixon administration, Ervin had morphed from a fairly traditional conservative southern Democrat to civil libertarians’ best hope in Congress, and arguably Nixon’s most feared foe. He had also achieved more power and prestige among his colleagues – which is why Majority Leader Mike Mansfeld picked him to chair the Watergate hearings.
Now the civil liberties hero was in charge of holding accountable one of the more autocratic administration in U.S. history. Irvin was at first reluctant about the task. But as he began to see the extent of the Nixon administration’s crimes, he grew angry at the lack of transparency and came to embrace the hearings as the most important undertaking of his political career. It was an opportunity not just to hold Nixon accountable, but to teach the country about constitutional government.
Even Irvin’s critics came around. Clancy notes that even the liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger – a believer in the “great man” view of history who disliked Irvin for dis-empowering the presidency – praised the senator for doing “so much to educate the American people in the meaning and majesty of the Constitution.”
One final personal anecdote. I grew fond of Ervin while researching my book. (This is a difficult thing for a libertarian to say about a politician!) At some point during my research, I inadvertently left my copy of Ervin’s biography on a plane. So I ordered another used copy from Amazon. When it arrived, I got a nice surprise. There was an inscription inside that Ervin himself had written to Maston O’Neal, a congressman from Georgia in the late 1960s. I also found a letter from Ervin to O’Neal inside the book, written on Ervin’s official U.S. Senate stationery. I apparently own the copy of the book that Ervin gave to O’Neal as a gift.
No-knock raids would of course return in the 1980s, as would the botched raids and raids on the wrong homes. These raids on people suspected of nonviolent, consensual crimes have victimized hundreds of innocent people, and needlessly taken the lives of nonviolent offenders, police officers, innocents, and children caught in the crossfire. Few politicians at any level of government have paid much attention. We could use few dozen Sam Ervins right now.
Source: ACLU’s investigation of the militarization for policing in America
There is nothing more ridiculous than expecting young men and women in the Armed Forces of the United States of America to pretend, hold back, deny, that hormones are rampantly uncontrollable from teenage through ones early twenties, and like the salmon that must return to spawn in the same river and die trying, it is impossible to expect something unnatural.
A veterinarian once responded to me when I asked if I could help enroll a young man into his program at the college he was connected to. He asked me, “How old is this person? “Why he is seventeen”, I said. Without hesitation he said, “Let him try after his hormones stop running”.
Not everything is a crime. Sex is everywhere and in every persons mind. It is not a crime to be caught up with hormonal thoughts as a matter of fact it is normal. What is not normal is denying that fact. If the military has a problem with sexual behavior then it is an educational issue, a boundaries issue, a puritanical attitude issue that other countries and societies seem to deal with naturally.
The last thing that any American should have is a Congressional representative legislating morality, criminalizing our sexual behavior.
Rape, Incest, violations of boundaries are all awful and transmitting disease is truly despicable, but we are all flawed already and without our flaws and the space to grow through them especially in our early years, these flaws turn into much more damaging emotions and behavior if not experienced early. It is hard enough to walk down any street and not look at the world as eye candy. Creating the space to have these sexual predatory circumstances is sure to have the worst results.
Expecting a Puritan Armed Forces, asking the Best and the Brightest to keep it in and not let out what needs to be let out is also wrong.
The explosion of sexual energy is natural. The Taoist Master explains, “ALL HUMAN ENERGY IS SEXUAL ENERGY”. Which leads to the truth and the need to find a better way for the Military hormones to exist.
The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was wondering who to invade when his telephone rang.
“This is Mendel Schlepper in Tel Aviv. We’re officially declaring war on you!”
“How big is your army?” the Iranian president asked.
“There’s me, my cousin Moishe, Avi Goldberg and our
pinochle group, Max, Larry, Jacob, Ari and Joshua!”
“I have a million men in my army,” said the president.
“I’ll call back!” said Mendel.
The next day, he called. “The war’s still on,” he said.
“We have now a bulldozer, and Simcha Goldberg’s tractor.”
“Well, we have 16,000 tanks, and the Iranian army is now two million men,” responded Mahmoud.
“Oy gevalt!” said Mendel. “I’ll call back.”
He phoned the next day.
“We’re calling off the war,” he said.
Why?”, asked the president.
“Well,” said Mendel, “we’ve had a little chat, and there’s no way we can feed two million prisoners.”