Jul 2013 13

by Blogbot

Video streaming by Ustream

This past Thursday, July 27th, our show was devoted to the topic of Bradley Manning. Host Nicole Powers and guest co-host Dell Cameron (VICE) were joined via Skype by independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, artist and activist Clark Stoeckley (Wikileaks Truck), and RT America reporter Andrew Panda Blake, who have all spent quality time on the Fort Meade base observing the trial.

Alexa O’Brien has been called “a national treasure” by Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project for her work chronicling the Manning proceedings. Though working outside of the mainstream media, she has provided by far the most extensive coverage of the trial. During our 45 minute conversation, O’Brien talked about the unprecedented treatment Manning is receiving and the alarming precedents with regards to whistleblowers and the freedom of the press that the US government is trying to set with this case:

“Manning is being tried in a court martial, so it’s a military court…But what makes it unusual is here we have a whistleblower, or even if you want to call him a leaker, we have somebody who is a soldier who is being tried for aiding the enemy – without the intent to actually aid the enemy. He gave the information to a media organization, or he published it on the internet, and they’re charging him with aiding the enemy, even though he didn’t have that bad faith motive.

“The other thing that I think is really important about this trial, and unprecedented, is that he has charges against him that have never been used in either a federal court or in a military court. One of them is called “Wanton Publication” – this is where the government is trying to also control large data sets being published…

“It has co-aspects to it…It’s the fact that he leaked it to Wikileaks and the government’s trying to [frame] Wikileaks [as] this evil organization, and not a journalistic one, but it also has to do with the size of the leaks. You and I know that in this day and age, with data modeling and the like, large leaks are completely appropriate for the age this young man grew up in, which is basically the information age.

“But people always talk about aiding the enemy, and they should, but when we even take away the aiding the enemy charge, Manning is charged with 21 other charges that total 149 years if he’s convicted. So here we also see the government using the Espionage Act, which should be used for spies, is addition to aiding the enemy and everything else.”

O’Brien not only talked about the legal and moral aspects of the case, but gave an incredible insight into the character of the key players inside the Fort Meade military courtroom:

“The military prosecutors, they come into court, they talk about Al Qaeda and the enemy, and they talk about harming US soldiers – and there is no actual evidence of any harm, and that will come up later in the sentencing phase. They talk about the US and patriotism, and they’re very aggressive.

“And then you have the defense…

“David Coombs is an amazing defense attorney and he plays this case like a poker player, everything is very close to his chest. He’s not very vocal in the press, in fact Manning has never really talked to the media. He also has shielded his own defense tactics…And here we have him come into court and when David Coombs is actually cross examining he’s really likeable – immediately likeable – so he’s very disarming, but boy, he can really just cut apart witnesses, and he’ll do it with a smile and in a really respectful way. It’s really amazing to watch him.

“And then you have this judge, who is probably two generations older than Manning, and the questions that we have are ‘does she really understand the environment that Manning grew up in and his upbringing in the information age.’”

Our next guest was Clark Stoeckley, who is familiar to many activists as the man responsible for the art installation on wheels that is the Wikileaks Truck. Stoeckley, who comes from a military family, has been supporting Manning – and the truth – by sporting a “truth” T-shirt in court and serving as a courtroom sketch artist:

“I’ve sat in the courtroom in more seats than any other person ever, both in the courtroom, in the press room, in the theater, and the overflow trailer. I’ve tried to get as many different angles of this trial as possible. It’s a trial that I believe should be televised for the world to see…

“We’re going after the sources, and we’re going after those that report this information, rather than focusing on the misdeeds and the corruption of our governments and corporations.”

The illustrations featured in this blog post are all by Stoeckley, and will be collected together into a graphic book, The United States vs. PFC Bradley Manning, featuring quotes from the court transcripts.

In depth coverage of the trial has been noticeable by its absence in the mainstream media, which is why independent journalists like O’Brien and citizen journalists like Stoeckley have been so invaluable. One of the few outlets that has provided consistent coverage of the trial, somewhat ironically for such a historic US case, has been RT a.k.a. Russian Television. Andrew Panda Blake, a reporter for RT, has been covering the Manning beat and joined us for the final half hour of the show. Among other things, he gave us an insight into the incredibly harsh treatment an as-yet-to-be-convicted Manning received at the hands of the US government:

“He was arrested on 8/26 2010 and he was transferred to an 8 by 8 by 8 wire mesh cage in Kuwait, and the only things in the cage were a shelf and a toilet…When he testified a few month ago, he said, ‘I just thought I was going to die in that cage…’

“‪Manning said he thought he was being treated like an animal. He was there for almost two months, and then they flew him into BWI, that’s the Baltimore Airport, then brought him to Quantico in Northern Virginia. He was held in a Marine brig there in a cell that was 6 foot by 8 foot. He was only allowed out for 20 minutes per day while still in shackles…So he was in there for twenty-three and a half hours a day. He was forced to sleep from 1 PM to 11 PM – naked – and was only allowed to do so when facing his lamp. This was at the most extreme of his conditions, it wasn’t always this terrible. Pretty much the only thing he had in there was a mirror and he would make faces into it – that’s how he’d keep himself entertained…

Blake also gave us the run down of the possible outcomes for the trial, and the worrying precedents it might set:

“The trial is supposed to be all done by the end of the summer. Bradley has already admitted guilt to a handful of lesser crimes that would get him perhaps 20 years in prison. The prosecution said that that wasn’t good enough for them and they want to keep charging forth. They’re still trying to convict him on aiding the enemy, and if he gets convicted on aiding the enemy that could potentially be a life sentence…

“What really infuriates me more tha anything else about this case – aside from the terrible treatment that Private Manning had to endure – people aren’t responding to this case, and they are picking up on it to the degree that they should, but the repercussions that could happen if he’s convicted of aiding the enemy will seriously destroy freedom of the press, and potentially Western democracy. It’s such a blow to journalism and press freedom that the publication and the distribution of this documentation of war crimes warrants a potential death penalty. And it’s not even hyperbole because they have been trying to convict so many people for espionage that have only been exposing really terrible truths that the US government is guilty of and never would have admitted to.


SuicideGirls would like to thank all of our amazing guests for participating in our show – and for contributing to the public record of this historic trial.