Showing posts with label wikileaks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wikileaks. Show all posts

12.17.2013

today is chelsea manning's fourth birthday behind bars

Private Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning), who risked her freedom and her life so that people would see the truth about the US occupation of Iraq, is spending another birthday in prison. This is Manning's fourth birthday behind bars. She was held in solitary confinement (a recognized form of torture) for 10 months, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing the video now known as Collateral Murder and other information to Wikileaks. Not one person was harmed as a result of the information becoming public.

On the other hand, the men who cooked up the highly profitable invasion of Iraq continue to live in luxury, commanding high fees for speaking engagements, protected by President Barack Obama, never answering for their crimes. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and untold numbers of people wounded and families destroyed, because of their deceit and greed.

Until there is justice for Chelsea Manning, let's not forget her. You can write to Private Manning at this address:

Pvt. Bradley E. Manning
89289
1300 N Warehouse Rd
Ft Leavenworth KS 66027-2304
USA

Please address the envelope to "Bradley Manning," or it will be destroyed. In the letter itself, you can address Manning by her preferred name, Chelsea, and use "Ms." instead of "Private". Please be sure to write on plain paper, and send a letter only.

You can also donate to the ongoing fundraising efforts on Manning's behalf. If you give now, your contribution will be doubled by an anonymous matching donation.
Your year-end tax-deductible contribution will help Chelsea to:
• Receive more visits from her mother and aunt, who are themselves of limited financial means
• Pursue all legal avenues for possible reductions in sentence including clemency applications and appeals based on prosecutor misconduct
• Enroll in college courses and pursue a degree
• Receive medically appropriate treatment for her gender dysphoria, in particular Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and a legal name change, things which she has desired for some time and which doctors believe would help her to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

We have raised $26,000 so far of the $40,000 needed to sustain these projects. As we approach both her birthday and the holidays, we would love nothing more than to be able to tell Chelsea that these projects were fully-funded. We know that many of you have given before, and we are grateful for that; but we are asking you to give what you can today to help us meet our goal, and give Chelsea some good news this holiday. She has sacrificed much in our interest, and we think it’s the least we can do.
You can donate here. If you have any trouble with that link (I did, repeatedly), you can go through Courage To Resist. Use the drop-down arrow at the "donate" tab.

8.27.2013

the standard double-standard: prison for war resisters, immunity for war criminals

Abby Zimet reports on Common Dreams:
Days before Bradley - now Chelsea - Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for helping expose U.S. war crimes in Iraq, the Obama Department of Justice filed a petition in federal court arguing that the perpetrators of those crimes - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al - enjoy “absolute immunity” against criminal charges or civil liability. The filing came in a suit brought by Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, who alleges that the planning and waging of the Iraq war under false pretenses constituted a "crime of aggression" under a law used in the Nuremberg trials.
Meanwhile, after the revolution...

8.23.2013

how you can support chelsea manning

Here are two important things you can do to help support Chelsea Manning.

1. Do whatever you can to work for her pardon. You can sign the petition to President Obama here.

You have to create an account, but that only takes a few moments, and the form accepts Canadian postal codes. Please sign and share widely.

2. Write her. According to her support team, she's looking forward to being able to correspond with her supporters for the first time. The mailing address will say Bradley Manning, as that's the only name the military will recognize. But you can and should use her chosen name out of simple courtesy and respect.
Bradley E. Manning
89289
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304
USA
Here's a good short piece by John Cassidy in The New Yorker: History Will Pardon Manning, Even if Obama Doesn't.

8.21.2013

bradley manning in his own words

In case you haven't seen it, this link at Democracy Now! has the transcript of Bradley Manning's statement, read by his lawyer David Coombs, after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
I believe I've quoted this Bob Dylan song more than once, but it keeps going around in my head: "And all the criminals in their coats and ties, are free to drink martinis, and watch the sun rise..."

Or, as a Facebook friend said today: Bradley Manning, 35 years; the war criminals he exposed, still at large.

8.16.2013

bradley manning's apology: the triumph of torture

Earlier this week, Bradley Manning's defense ended its case in Manning's sentencing hearing. Manning made a statement to the military court: an apology.

Reading it, I thought of 1984, when Winston faces the terror of being eaten alive by rats, and he tells his tormentors what they want to hear. I read the apology and I thought, They have crushed him.

Manning has been tortured - physically and mentally. He has been through an ordeal that few of us can possibly imagine. No matter how much we admire him, no matter how we stand with him in spirit or in thought or by donating to his defense, no matter how many of us say "I Am Bradley Manning," only Bradley Manning is Bradley Manning. And he is alone.

Manning said:
First, your honour, I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry I hurt the United States.

At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continuing to affect me. Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions.

I understood what I was doing, and decisions I made. However, I did not fully appreciate the broader effects of my actions.

Those factors are clear to me now, through both self-refection during my confinement in various forms, and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I have seen here.

I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.

The last few years have been a learning experience. I look back at my decisions and wonder how on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better […] on decisions of those with the proper authority.

In retrospect I should have worked more aggressively inside the system, as we discussed during the […] statement, I had options and I should have used these options.

Unfortunately, I can't go back and change things. I can only go forward. I want to go forward. Before I can do that, I understand that I must pay a price for my decisions and actions.

Once I pay that price, I hope to one day live in a manner that I haven't been able to in the past. I want to be a better person, to go to college, to get a degree and to have a meaningful relationship with my sister with my sister's family and my family.

I want to be a positive influence in their lives, just as my Aunt Deborah has been to me. I have flaws and issues that I have to deal with, but I know that I can and will be a better person.

I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words, but through conduct, that I am a good person and that I can return to productive place in society. Thank you, Your Honor.
People of peace and conscience know that Bradley Manning has nothing to apologize for. He is not a criminal. He is a hero. This is the response from the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Nothing To Apologize For

As the defense closed its sentencing case yesterday, whistle-blower PFC Bradley Manning – facing 90 years in prison on six Espionage Act convictions – apologized to military judge Colonel Denise Lind for the way in which he exposed the horrific crimes and abuses he witnessed in America’s wars and diplomacy abroad. “I should have worked more aggressively inside the system,” noted Manning on the stand.

The defense’s cross-examination of prosecution witnesses in open court revealed that no deaths or casualties have been connected to WikiLeaks releases, despite soaring government rhetoric since 2010. The defense tried a number of times to get the judge to consider overclassification and other big picture issues affecting the case, but her ruling in the merits portion showed she was not willing to do so. In closed court, prosecution witnesses were allowed to talk about indirect harm—primarily the money and Government resources expended reacting to the release of the documents. Meanwhile, the Defense was barred from addressing the many positive outcomes of the releases. In that context, Manning stated, “I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry I hurt the United States.” [Read more here.]
I wonder how many of us, if we could know what would happen afterwards, would have made the choices Manning did. In prison for three years before court martial, nine months of those in solitary confinement, at one point without even clothes, bedding or his glasses. And now he faces spending the rest of his days in prison.

I think most people could only make the moral choice in ignorance of the personal consequences - the suffering - it would bring.

6.08.2013

read matt taibbi on bradley manning court martial

While I'm not writing, I hope you will read this excellent article by Matt Taibbi on mainstream media coverage of the Bradley Manning court martial.

I cannot understand why good writers like Taibbi continue to refer to the "Bradley Manning trial". A trial is, in theory, an impartial hearing, where an unbiased judge and 12 ordinary citizens hear a full range of evidence from both prosecution and defense.

Bradley Manning, by contrast, is being tried by his accusers. The accusers are judge and jury, and they write the rule book.

What's more, the court martial procedures used by the United States military do not comply with accepted international standards of justice. This was proven in the cases of Chris Vassey and Jules Tindungan, US Iraq War resisters living in Canada.

Calling Bradley Manning's court martial a trial connotes justice, fairness, and due process, where none exist.

6.07.2013

in which i remember what big life change feels like

Even though I'm following several important news stories - from the revelations about the massive NSA domestic spying campaign to the slow-motion implosion of the Conservative Party of Canada to the show-trial of Bradley Manning - I seem unable to blog about anything but my own life. I remember two other times when this happened: just before and just after we moved to Canada, and when I started grad school. Big Life Change has a way of swamping everything else.

Career changes are huge transitions, but librarianship is even more than a career change for me: it's an entire change of lifestyle. With the exception of a few years after graduating university and some scattered months here and there, my working life has been fluid and unconventional. As a writer, editor, and activist, I worked from home, and always had the flexibility of my own hours. The paid employment that subsidized that work was usually compressed into either weekends or evenings, and required very low commitment or personal involvement.

This means that for nearly 30 years, I've scheduled appointments at my own convenience, gone shopping or out to dinner without crowds, gone to the for a walk or swim in the middle of the day, and so on. I'm glad that public librarianship is not strictly a Monday to Friday, 9-5 job. I'll be working one or two evenings each week, plus every-other Saturday, and some Sundays. That means I'll have some time off during the week, and I like that. Plus, Allan is still working on weekends, and we need at least one day off together.

But still, I'm working a defined schedule, in a workplace, and figuring out how to fit the rest of my life around that. I'm working in a field that demands personal involvement, which means it can encroach into your non-work time - or take over, if your boundaries are weak.

* * * *

Much of what overwhelms me is my reluctance to work full-time. My position right now is 24 hours per week. With that, it's still possible to have outside interests (like activism) and have a balanced life, with free time and without a lot of pressure.

But as Allan and I get older, I feel it's important that I increase my income and have better job benefits. Also, I will want to advance in my field. This means that I will have to pursue full-time work.

And full-time work scares me. I fear I will not have enough down-time, or time to pursue other interests. I do not want work to be my life.

I know I will eventually sort this out. I'm just explaining what's on my mind these days.

* * * *

Sometimes my mind reels with questions, as it has done throughout this entire process, beginning with my decision to go to graduate school, back in 2009. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. When that happens, I take deep, slow breaths, focus on the present, remind myself I can't answer all the questions in advance, remind myself that the answers will become clear in time.

3.14.2013

hear bradley manning's complete statement, and help spread his words across the internet

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has posted the leaked audio recording of Bradley Manning's statement to the military court in Ft. Meade. In it, Manning explains why he leaked more than 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. FPF also has posted transcript highlights, in case you can't make it through the full 35-page statement.

The US military "court" - that is, Manning's accusers - are trying to prevent public access to the proceedings, especially Manning's own statements. We can all help thwart their plans.

Listen to the statement here.

You can download Manning's statement, in part or in full, and embed the audio on your own website: Help Spread Bradley Manning's Words Across the Internet.

For more information on the groups FPF is helping to fund, go here.

For more on FPF itself, go here.

A man speaks the truth about war crimes and murder, and he is persecuted, tortured, and imprisoned. The people who are responsible for those war crimes continue to lead lives of wealth and privilege. Bradley Manning is being court martialed, but never forget who the real criminals are.

3.01.2013

bradley manning takes the stand, tells the world why he released the videos to wikileaks

Please watch Michael Ratner, the lawyer representing Julian Assange in the US, reporting on Bradley Manning's testimony yesterday. Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and the Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin.

2.23.2013

today bradley manning has been imprisoned 1,000 days without trial


One thousand days. Think of where you were one thousand days ago, and all you have done since then. In all that time, Bradley Manning has been in prison.

For 62 days, he was held in a cage in Kuwait.

For 265 days, he was held in solitary confinement.

For 1,000 days, he has been imprisoned.

And when Manning does receive a hearing, it will not be a trial. It will be a court martial: his accusers will be the only judge and jury.

Manning's "crime" is exposing the truth about the murder of civilians by US forces in Iraq. While the real criminals go unpunished - indeed, while they lead lives of wealth and privilege - a courageous whistleblower is persecuted.

This weekend, people in more than 70 cities around the world will stand in solidarity with Manning and mark his 1,000th day in jail without trial.

To find an event near you, go here.

To remember why Bradley Manning is being persecuted, go here, and watch the video.

Good reading: Nobel Laureates Salute Bradley Manning, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

1.12.2013

help defend whistleblowers who defend animals: marineland suing former employees who went public on animal abuse

Company abuses animals/the environment/labour.

Employee comes forward to make the abuse public.

Company tries to silence employee.

It's an old story, and it repeats itself again and again, in many different contexts. You've seen it dramatized in movies like Silkwood and Erin Brockovich. It's what Bradley Manning is going through on a grand scale.

Whistleblowers risk their jobs, and in some cases their lives, to stand up for others. Often, without whistleblowers, we would never know the truth. That's why we have an obligation to stand up for whistleblowers.

If you live in Ontario and watch any television, you've seen the ads for Marineland, with that cloying song: They come from a land of ice and snow, now belugas have a home in On-tar-ee-o... Everyone loves Marineland... Everyone loves Marineland...

That chorus is bitterly ironic. If the residents of Marineland could speak, I doubt those marine mammals would say they love living in unhealthy water that causes constant eye irritation and blindness, being held in waterless concrete pens, living alone (a practice that amounts to a prison of solitary confinement, banned for marine mammals in the US), bleeding, neglected, abused. But these animals can't speak, and they can't leave, and they can't change the conditions of their lives.

Trainers at Marineland were so upset about conditions there, and so frustrated at being unable to make improvements, that they quit their jobs, and went public.

Now Marineland is suing them for $1.5 million.

A fund has been started to help with the mounting costs of their legal defence. If you can give, any amount will help. As little as $5.00 or $10.00 will make a difference. Click here to donate.

Background, all from the Toronto Star:

Marineland animals suffering, former staffers say

Marineland: Heartache for Smooshi the walrus as top trainer quits

Ontario SPCA to inspect Marineland

‘Everyone loves Marineland!’ singer wants voice pulled from commercials

Marineland: Killer whale bleeding for months, trainer says

Marineland sues former trainer Christine Santos for $1.25 million for Toronto Star article

Donate to Christine Santos' legal defence here.

12.23.2012

greenwald, ellsberg, and others launch freedom of press foundation to fight government censorship and secrecy

An important and exciting column by Glenn Greenwald. See original for more links.
New press freedom group is launched to block US government attacks

Nothing is more vital than enabling true transparency and adversarial journalism, and preventing further assaults on them

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the steps taken by the US government to pressure large corporations to choke off the finances and other means of support for WikiLeaks in retaliation for the group's exposure of substantial government deceit, wrongdoing and illegality. Because WikiLeaks has never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime, I wrote: "that the US government largely succeeded in using extra-legal and extra-judicial means to cripple an adverse journalistic outlet is a truly consequential episode." At the end of that column, I disclosed that I had been involved in discussions "regarding the formation of a new organization designed to support independent journalists and groups such as WikiLeaks under attack by the US and other governments."

That group has now been formed and, this morning, was formally launched. Its name is Freedom of the Press Foundation. Its website is here and its Twitter account, which will be quite active, is @FreedomOfPress.

I'm very excited to have participated in its formation and will serve as an unpaid member of the Board of Directors, along with the heroic whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, 2012 McArthur-fellowship-receipient and Oscar-nominated documentarian Laura Poitras, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow, the actor and civil liberties advocate John Cusack, BoingBoing co-founder Xeni Jardin, and several other passionate free press and transparency activists. Numerous articles have been written today about its launch, including from the New York Times' media reporter David Carr, the Guardian's Dan Gillmor, Forbes' Andy Greenberg, Huffington Post's media reporter Michael Calderone, FDL's Kevin Gosztola, and board member Josh Stearns.

The primary impetus for the formation of this group was to block the US government from ever again being able to attack and suffocate an independent journalistic enterprise the way it did with WikiLeaks. Government pressure and the eager compliance of large financial corporations (such as Visa, Master Card, Bank of America, etc.) has - by design - made it extremely difficult for anyone to donate to WikiLeaks, while many people are simply afraid to directly support the group (for reasons I explained here).

We intend to raise funds ourselves and then distribute it to the beneficiaries we name. The first group of beneficiaries includes WikiLeaks. We can circumvent those extra-legal, totally inappropriate blocks that have been imposed on the group. We can enable people to support WikiLeaks without donating directly to it by donating to this new organization that will then support a group of deserving independent journalism outlets, one of which is WikiLeaks. In sum, we will render impotent the government's efforts to use its coercive pressure over corporations to suffocate not only WikiLeaks but any other group it may similarly target in the future.

The second purpose is to ensure that truly independent journalistic outlets - devoted to holding the US government and other powerful factions accountable with transparency and real adversarial journalism - are supported to the fullest extent possible. Along those lines, we have selected three other organizations along with WikiLeaks as our initial beneficiaries:

- Muckrock News, a truly innovative group devoted to enabling any citizen easily and quickly to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or public records requests with the government, and then "guides the requests through the system so the government does not disregard" them. They also act as a news organization by analyzing and publicizing any newsworthy information they and their users uncover. Currently, "they are conducting a Drone Census of the United States, filing public records requests around the country that ask police agencies if they plan on buying domestic drones for surveillance purposes."

- The UpTake, a Minnesota-based group that uses truly innovative means to break "down walls of power to expose the raw truth by pushing for transparency and access to information." They use citizen journalism, crowd-sourcing and cutting-edge technology to film and document the bad acts of government agents. I worked next to them when I covered the incredibly excessive federal and local police actions and brutality against protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and was truly impressed with them then, as I watched all sorts of young activists and older ones use hand-held video cameras and phones to comprehensively cover all sorts of police abuses being ignored by most large journalistic outlets, which were comfortably ensconced inside the convention hall. They've expanded their operations substantially since then, have a long list of achievements to tout, and - most excitingly to me - can serve as a template for how to engage in real journalism across the country using citizens and the power of technology.

- The National Security Archive, a group founded "by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy" and which "combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents." It also "serves as an advocacy organization to defend and expand citizen access to government information", as exemplified by its having "filed over 40,000 targeted Freedom of Information and declassification requests to more than 200 offices and agencies of the United States." Anyone who writes about or works on transparency and civil liberties issues (including me) depends on it; due to its efforts, "more than 10 million pages of previously secret U.S. government documents have been made public."

Each of these groups is innovating real, adversarial journalism. They deserve the support of anyone who believes that rampant government secrecy and a supine establishment media are serious problems. And our new organization needs the support of everyone who finds the ability of the US government to shut off the funding of journalistic groups it dislikes to be threatening and wrong.

By clicking here, you can donate to all four of these groups at once or to any combination of them in whatever amounts you specify. Every two months, we will release a new bundle of deserving groups or individuals devoted to these values of independent, adversarial journalism and in need. You can also donate directly to the Freedom of Press Foundation, which will distribute the funds to the beneficiaries in accordance with our published criteria. All of the details of the group's operation, mission, and goals are here. Those who lack the resources to donate can help in other ways, listed here.

Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power. Few priorities are more important, in my view, than supporting and enabling any efforts to subvert the ability of the US government and other factions to operate in the dark. It's particularly vital to undercut the US government's ability to punish and kill groups that succeed in these transparency efforts. Those are the goals to which this new press freedom foundation are devoted, and I hope that anyone who believes these goals are important will find ways to support this effort.

12.17.2012

happy birthday, bradley manning

Today is the third birthday that courageous military whistleblower Bradley Manning has spent in prison. By the time his court martial begins in March, he will have been imprisoned almost three years, including a full year in solitary confinement - an internationally recognized form of torture.

Bradley Manning helped people see the truth about the US occupation of Iraq. And for that he is being persecuted.

Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, recently spoke publicly to a group of supporters in Washington DC. Here's an excerpt from his speech:
When I'm in the courtroom, I stand up and look to my right, and, I see the United States government. The United States government with all of its resources, all of its personnel, I see them standing against me and Brad. And I have to admit to you, that can be rather intimidating. And I was intimidated. Especially when the President of the United States says your client broke the law. Especially when congress members say your client deserves the death penalty.

I want to tell you, though, today as I stand here I'm no longer intimidated. I am not intimidated because when I stand up I know I'm not standing alone. I know I'm not alone because I turn around and I see the support behind me. I see members here today in the audience that are there every time we have a court hearing. I see what I am not going to affectionately call the 'truth batallion,' those who wear a black shirt. It has the word 'truth' on it, and they are behind me. And when I look there, I know that I also have unlimited personnel and unlimited resources."
You can watch the speech here.

You can help with Bradley Manning's legal defense by donating here.

And you can wish Bradley Manning luck and safe passage by writing to him here:
Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Bradley Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211
Before you write, see these restrictions about what mail Manning can and cannot receive.


8.24.2012

another thing you should know about wikileaks, assange, and bradley manning

Further to this post, one more thing we should all know. Not one war crime exposed by WikiLeaks has been investigated. Not one war criminal has been prosecuted. Only Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, who brought the truth to light, have been imprisoned - both before they were even charged with crimes.

Thanks to Bradley Manning Support Organization.

greenwald + women against rape = what you should know about the julian assange case

I've been avidly following the strange tale of Julian Assange, Ecuador, Sweden, extradition, the lying UK media, and people who suddenly care so much about prosecuting sexual offenders. (This has been an excellent use of Tala's Twitter account.) One of the biggest takeaways has been the constant lies, distortion, and misrepresentation of the facts of this story by the mainstream media. The other is how little this has to do with protecting women from sexual assault.

On the latter, I highly recommend reading a piece in the Guardian written by Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff, of the group Women Against Rape. I urge you to read the whole thing. For me, it answers every question about what's really going on.
We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited

When Julian Assange was first arrested, we were struck by the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued for rape allegations.

It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction.

Justice for an accused rapist does not deny justice for his accusers. But in this case justice is being denied both to accusers and accused.

The judicial process has been corrupted. On the one hand, the names of the women have been circulated on the internet; they have been trashed, accused of setting a "honey trap", and seen their allegations dismissed as "not real rape". On the other hand, Assange is dealt with by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged. It is not for us to decide whether or not the allegations are true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don't have all the facts and what has been said so far has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims' right to anonymity and defendants' right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.

Swedish and British courts are responsible for how the women's allegations have been handled. As with every rape case, the women are not in charge of the case, the state is.

Whether or not Assange is guilty of sexual violence, we do not believe that is why he is being pursued. Once again women's fury and frustration at the prevalence of rape and other violence, is being used by politicians to advance their own purposes. The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will, usually to increase their powers, this time to facilitate Assange's extradition or even rendition to the US. That the US has not presented a demand for his extradition at this stage is no guarantee that they won't do so once he is in Sweden, and that he will not be tortured as Bradley Manning and many others, women and men, have. Women Against Rape cannot ignore this threat.

In over 30 years working with thousands of rape victims who are seeking asylum from rape and other forms of torture, we have met nothing but obstruction from British governments. Time after time, they have accused women of lying and deported them with no concern for their safety. We are currently working with three women who were raped again after having been deported – one of them is now destitute, struggling to survive with the child she conceived from the rape; the other managed to return to Britain and won the right to stay, and one of them won compensation.

Assange has made it clear for months that he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step to their investigation? What are they afraid of?

In 1998 Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London following an extradition request from Spain. His responsibility for the murder and disappearance of at least 3,000 people, and the torture of 30,000 people, including the rape and sexual abuse of more than 3,000 women often with the use of dogs, was never in doubt. Despite a lengthy legal action and a daily picket outside parliament called by Chilean refugees, including women who had been tortured under Pinochet, the British government reneged on its obligation to Spain's criminal justice system and Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile. Assange has not even been charged; yet the determination to have him extradited is much greater than ever it was with Pinochet. (Baltasar Garzón, whose request for extradition of Pinochet was denied, is representing Assange.) And there is a history of Sweden (and Britain) rendering asylum seekers at risk of torture at the behest of the US.

Like women in Sweden and everywhere, we want rapists caught, charged and convicted. We have campaigned for that for more than 35 years, with limited success. We are even having to campaign to prevent rape victims being accused of making false allegations and imprisoned for it. Two women who reported visibly violent attacks by strangers were given two and three year prison sentences.

But does anyone really believe that extraditing Julian Assange will strengthen women against rape? And do those supporting his extradition to Sweden care if he is then extradited to the US and tortured for telling the public what we need to know about those who govern us?
On the media's gross and purposeful distortion and outright lies about the Wikileaks-Assange case, we can turn first to Glenn Greenwald, now also writing in the Guardian.
The bizarre, unhealthy, blinding media contempt for Julian Assange

It is possible to protect the rights of the complainants in Sweden and Assange's rights against political persecution, but a vindictive thirst for vengeance is preventing that

Earlier this week, British lawyer and legal correspondent for the New Statesman David Allen Green generated a fair amount of attention by announcing that he would use his objective legal expertise to bust what he called "legal myths about the Assange extradition." These myths, he said, are being irresponsibly spread by Assange defenders and "are like 'zombie facts' which stagger on even when shot down."

In addition to his other credentials, Green – like virtually the entire British press – is a long-time and deeply devoted Assange-basher , and his purported myth-busting was predictably regurgitated by those who reflexively grasp onto anything that reflects poorly on western establishmentarians' public enemy No1. It's really worth examining what Green argued to understand the behavior in which Assange detractors engage to advance this collective vendetta, and also to see how frequently blatant ideological agendas masquerade as high-minded, objective legal expertise.

But before getting to that, let us pause to reflect on a truly amazing and revealing fact, one that calls for formal study in several academic fields of discipline. Is it not remarkable that one of the very few individuals over the past decade to risk his welfare, liberty and even life to meaningfully challenge the secrecy regime on which the American national security state (and those of its obedient allies ) depends just so happens to have become – long before he sought asylum from Ecuador – the most intensely and personally despised figure among the American and British media class and the British "liberal" intelligentsia?

In 2008 – two years before the release of the "collateral murder" video, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and the diplomatic cables – the Pentagon prepared a secret report which proclaimed WikiLeaks to be an enemy of the state and plotted ways to destroy its credibility and reputation. But in a stroke of amazing luck, Pentagon operatives never needed to do any of that, because the establishment media in the US and Britain harbor at least as much intense personal loathing for the group's founder as the US government does, and eagerly took the lead in targeting him. Many people like to posit the US national security state and western media outlets as adversarial forces, but here – as is so often the case – they have so harmoniously joined in common cause.
And finally, also from the Guardian, what lies beneath.
Don't lose sight of why the US is out to get Julian Assange

Considering he made his name with the biggest leak of secret government documents in history, you might imagine there would be at least some residual concern for Julian Assange among those trading in the freedom of information business. But the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting.

This is a man, after all, who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything. But as far as the bulk of the press is concerned, Assange is nothing but a "monstrous narcissist", a bail-jumping "sex pest" and an exhibitionist maniac. After Ecuador granted him political asylum and Assange delivered a "tirade" from its London embassy's balcony, fire was turned on the country's progressive president, Rafael Correa, ludicrously branded a corrupt "dictator" with an "iron grip" on a benighted land.

The ostensible reason for this venom is of course Assange's attempt to resist extradition to Sweden (and onward extradition to the US) over sexual assault allegations – including from newspapers whose record on covering rape and violence against women is shaky, to put it politely. But as the row over his embassy refuge has escalated into a major diplomatic stand-off, with the whole of South America piling in behind Ecuador, such posturing looks increasingly specious.

Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?

To get a grip on what is actually going on, rewind to WikiLeaks' explosive release of secret US military reports and hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables two years ago. They disgorged devastating evidence of US war crimes and collusion with death squads in Iraq on an industrial scale, the machinations and lies of America's wars and allies, its illegal US spying on UN officials – as well as a compendium of official corruption and deceit across the world.

WikiLeaks provided fuel for the Arab uprisings. It didn't just deliver information for citizens to hold governments everywhere to account, but crucially opened up the exercise of US global power to democratic scrutiny. Not surprisingly, the US government made clear it regarded WikiLeaks as a serious threat to its interests from the start, denouncing the release of confidential US cables as a "criminal act".

Vice-president Joe Biden has compared Assange to a "hi-tech terrorist". Shock jocks and neocons have called for him to be hunted down and killed. Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old soldier accused of passing the largest trove of US documents to WikiLeaks, who has been held in conditions described as "cruel and inhuman" by the UN special rapporteur on torture, faces up to 52 years in prison. [Read more here.]

6.25.2012

prominent progressive usians call on ecuador to grant asylum to assange

Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Wolf, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and Oliver Stone were among the prominent USians who signed a letter urging Ecuador to grant asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Guardian story here.

If you're confused about this situation - and if you've been reading about it in the mainstream media, then you are - this will help: Dissecting the Smears: Assange's asylum bid. The most important takeaway: Assange applied for asylum because of the threat of extradition to the US, not to avoid prosecution in Sweden.

4.09.2012

u.s. continues to target its own citizens at the border... which is 100 miles wide

This story --
A Montreal university student was detained at the U.S. border, held for several hours, interrogated, had his personal belongings searched and saw his computer confiscated for more than a week.

What caught the authorities’ attention? His doctoral research on Islamic studies, he says.

In a case that has attracted media attention in the U.S., Pascal Abidor has become embroiled in a drawn-out legal battle with the American government – and a poster child for civil-rights advocates defending the right to privacy and due process.

Mr. Abidor, a 28-year-old American and French dual citizen, was returning by train to Brooklyn in May, 2010, when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent stopped him at the border in Champlain, N.Y. ...
-- reminded me of my own detention at the border, now 2-1/2 years ago, and the several "secondary inspections" and shorter detentions that followed. I ended up re-reading that post - "the gray area": in which i am detained, harassed and threatened at the border - and the discussion that followed. It brought back all my feelings from that day, especially how surreal it seemed, as if I were watching myself from a distance, which I've come to recognize as a response to fear. And yes, my fear, at least for a few moments - my hesitation at entering the interrogation room, how vulnerable and alone I felt.
The older man said, "Come with us." They led me through a door behind the waiting area and opened a door to what I can only describe as an interrogation room: a tiny, bare room, with a desk and three chairs. At this point my heart raced a bit.

This is it. This is the room you've seen and heard about. The little room. I have no ID, no phone, no anything. I'm alone. I'm powerless. I don't wish to sound overly dramatic, but it was unnerving.

I thought, I'm sure glad I'm wearing my white skin and my non-Muslim-sounding last name. I'd hate to be walking in here without those protective devices.

In addition, the only time I have ever sat alone with police in a room like that was the night I was raped. So I felt little triggers flashing in my brain, old triggers but real, and for a split-second I thought I might cry, or faint - not from the present situation, but from August, 1982. I breathed deeply, and it passed.

Most of my brain knew that everything would be fine. Another part knew that having done nothing wrong is no guarantee of anything.
The US's habit of targeting its own citizens at the border is on Glenn Greenwald's radar screen. (See original for links.)
One of the more extreme government abuses of the post-9/11 era targets U.S. citizens re-entering their own country, and it has received far too little attention. With no oversight or legal framework whatsoever, the Department of Homeland Security routinely singles out individuals who are suspected of no crimes, detains them and questions them at the airport, often for hours, when they return to the U.S. after an international trip, and then copies and even seizes their electronic devices (laptops, cameras, cellphones) and other papers (notebooks, journals, credit card receipts), forever storing their contents in government files. No search warrant is needed for any of this. No oversight exists. And there are no apparent constraints on what the U.S. Government can do with regard to whom it decides to target or why.

In an age of international travel — where large numbers of citizens, especially those involved in sensitive journalism and activism, frequently travel outside the country — this power renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment entirely illusory. By virtue of that amendment, if the government wants to search and seize the papers and effects of someone on U.S. soil, it must (with some exceptions) first convince a court that there is probable cause to believe that the objects to be searched relate to criminal activity and a search warrant must be obtained. But now, none of those obstacles — ones at the very heart of the design of the Constitution — hinders the U.S. government: now, they can just wait until you leave the country, and then, at will, search, seize and copy all of your electronic files on your return. That includes your emails, the websites you’ve visited, the online conversations you’ve had, the identities of those with whom you’ve communicated, your cell phone contacts, your credit card receipts, film you’ve taken, drafts of documents you’re writing, and anything else that you store electronically: which, these days, when it comes to privacy, means basically everything of worth.

This government abuse has received some recent attention in the context of WikiLeaks. Over the past couple of years, any American remotely associated with that group — or even those who have advocated on behalf of Bradley Manning — have been detained at the airport and had their laptops, cellphones and cameras seized: sometimes for months, sometimes forever. But this practice usually targets people having nothing to do with WikiLeaks.

A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6,600 people — roughly half of whom were American citizens — were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant. Typifying the target of these invasive searches is Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen and an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student who was traveling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in 2011 when he was stopped at the border, questioned by DHS agents, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charges; those DHS agents seized his laptop and returned it 11 days later when, the ACLU explains, “there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched.” That’s just one case of thousands, all without any oversight, transparency, legal checks, or any demonstration of wrongdoing.

But the case of Laura Poitras, an Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and intrepid journalist, is perhaps the most extreme. In 2004 and 2005, Poitras spent many months in Iraq filming a documentary that, as The New York Times put it in its review, “exposed the emotional toll of occupation on Iraqis and American soldiers alike.” The film, “My Country, My Country,” focused on a Sunni physician and 2005 candidate for the Iraqi Congress as he did things like protest the imprisonment of a 9-year-old boy by the U.S. military. At the time Poitras made this film, Iraqi Sunnis formed the core of the anti-American insurgency and she spent substantial time filming and reporting on the epicenter of that resistance. Poitras’ film was released in 2006 and nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary. . . . [See original for more plus links.]
And of course, the "border", according to the US, is 161 kilometres (100 miles) wide. The ACLU points out that many USians are unaware that this happens, or else believe that it only effects potential illegal immigrants. My guess is the majority of USians still believe that their US citizenship protects them from such mistreatment - a myth that is now completely ridiculous, in light of the NDAA.
Many Americans and Washington policymakers believe that this is a problem confined to the San Diego-Tijuana border or the dusty sands of Arizona or Texas, but these powers stretch far inland across the United States.

To calculate what proportion of the U.S. population is affected by these powers, the ACLU created a map and spreadsheet showing the population and population centers that lie within 100 miles of any “external boundary” of the United States.

The population estimates were calculated by examining the most recent US census numbers for all counties within 100 miles of these borders. Using numbers from the Population Distribution Branch of the US Census Bureau, we were able to estimate both the total number and a state-by-state population breakdown. The custom map was created with help from a map expert at World Sites Atlas.

What we found is that fully TWO-THIRDS of the United States’ population lives within this Constitution-free or Constitution-lite Zone. That’s 197.4 million people who live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.

Nine of the top 10 largest metropolitan areas as determined by the 2000 census, fall within the Constitution-free Zone. (The only exception is #9, Dallas-Fort Worth.) Some states are considered to lie completely within the zone: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The spread of border-search powers inland is part of a broad expansion of border powers with the potential to affect the lives of ordinary Americans who have never left their own country.

It coincides with the development of numerous border technologies, including watch list and database systems such as the Automated Targeting System (ATS) traveler risk assessment program, identity and tracking systems such as electronic (RFID) passports, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), and intrusive technological schemes such as the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBINet) or “virtual border fence” and unmanned aerial vehicles (aka “drone aircraft”).

This illegitimate expansion of the extraordinary powers of agents at the border is also part of a general trend we have seen over the past 8 years of an untrammeled, heedless expansion of police and national security powers without regard to the effect on innocent Americans.

This trend is also typical of the Bush Administration’s dragnet approach to law enforcement and national security. Instead of intelligent, competent, targeted efforts to stop terrorism, illegal immigration, and other crimes, what we have been seeing in area after area is an approach that turns us all into suspects. This approach seeks to sift through the entire U.S. population in the hopes of encountering the rare individual whom the authorities have a legitimate interest in.
I highly recommend the ACLU's Fact Sheet on U.S. "Constitution Free Zone". "U.S. Constitution Free Zone"... an oxymoron?

Thanks to Alex L. and S. Cheung for the stories.