Despite the U.S. government's inability, during his military trial, to demonstrate any harm to anybody caused by Bradley Manning's leaks, the U.S. Army whistleblower who revealed war crimes and government lies was sentenced today to 35 years in prison.
According to Charlie Savage at the New York Times, "The sentence is the longest ever handed down in a case involving a leak of United States government information to be reported to the public."
Manning, who is now 25-years old, has already served more than three years as he awaited trial. Much of that time was served in solitary, windowless, and often naked confinement 23 hours a day, leading the military judge of his military trial to declare his treatment "excessive". At the time, his potential life sentence was reduced by 122 days. Manning will now be eligible for parole in 9 years, even though the judge acquitted him of the government's most serious charge of "aiding the enemy", which had never before been included in a leak case.
The moment offers another nice opportunity to revisit a promise made by 2008 Presidential candidate (and then President-elect) Barack Obama, to see if he has been able to keep his word any better than the government argued Bradley Manning did, since Obama described whistleblowing at the time [PDF] as "acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives" and which "should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration"...
All of which led our friend Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks to tweet earlier today: "Do people think Edward Snowden should voluntarily come back to the US and get 35 years for being a whistleblower?"
Well, actual "courageous and patriotic" whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg certainly do not think Snowden should come back, for exactly that reason. He regards both him and Manning as "patriots".
While, at the same time, just to be "fair and balanced", cable news "legal experts" like CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, do think both Snowden and Manning are "criminals", and that the former should come back to the U.S. and face charges for his NSA leaks for some reason that only a fool would believe.
On the other hand, CNN's embarrassment Jeffrey Toobin, it appears, also stole classified government documents, but unlike Manning and Snowden, CNN's Jeffrey Toobin didn't bother to tell you about it, before cashing in on them for a book deal, rather than releasing them to the media in the public's interest as both Manning and Snowden did.
Summing up, Uygur added: "Govt. couldn't prove that a single soldier was harmed. 35 years for Manning. Bankers who committed fraud & destroyed our economy. Free to go." So is Toobin, apparently, and the NSA Chief who directly lied to Congress, and the Administration leakers who illegally leak classified information all the time but are never held accountable for it, because those are the "good leaks" the government wants the world to know about, not to mention those in the Bush Administration who lied us into the war Manning was concerned about, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Here are just some of the revelations Manning leaked to the world at no benefit to himself, including evidence of "U.S. torture, abuse [and] soldiers laughing as they killed innocent civilians", including journalists. For those leaks he will serve at least nine years in prison, unless something changes.
He did it, as revealed by his own words in chat logs secretly recorded prior to his capture, because while working in Iraq he "saw incredible things, awful things…things that belonged in the public domain", like "watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police…for printing 'anti-Iraqi literature'" and then being told to "shut up" about it when he complained to his superiors.
Manning thought, "for some bizarre reason," that releasing the information publicly to the media --- not selling them for profit, as Toobin did --- "might actually change something" in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps he had even read Barack Obama's promise to protect whistleblowers in 2008.
His releases did change something. It earned him the longest sentence ever for such a whistleblower and helped kick off more prosecutions of government whistleblowers than any other Presidential administration in history --- more than twice as many as all former Presidents combined.
Until Manning, Savage notes in today's NY Times, "There have been only a handful of previous convictions in cases involving leak accusations, resulting in sentences more in the range of probation to a few years in prison."
"In 1985, for example, a former Navy intelligence officer, Samuel Morison, was sentenced to two years for giving classified satellite surveillance photographs to Jane’s Defense Weekly, making him the first government official imprisoned for giving classified information to the press. In 2001, President Clinton pardoned him."
Savage also quotes Ann Wright, the 29-year U.S. Army Colonel and 16-year veteran of the U.S. diplomatic corps who resigned in protest at the beginning of the Iraq War. [We interviewed her in Crawford, TX in 2005. MP3 here.] Wright was an observer at Manning's trial and describes today's sentencing decision as "a very harsh statement."
"While he did release classified information," the woman who spent years teaching the Geneva Convention to troops at Fort Bragg told the Times, "it was information the public needed to know about what was going on with our government."
To bastardize the entire point of an earlier post today, "Heckuva job, Obama!"
How dumb, gullible, confused, played, brainwashed and miseducated are Republicans in Louisiana?
Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.
Heckuva job, GOP and Fox "News"!
By now, you've certainly heard of the outrageous 9-hour detention of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport under Great Britain's supposed "Terrorism Act" over the weekend. As Rachel Maddow amazingly, but justifiably, found it necessary to point out loudly last night, "journalism is not terrorism", and both the British government and U.S. government (which has admitted receiving a "heads-up" about the planned detention by British authorities in advance, but didn't stop it from happening) should be ashamed of themselves and held accountable for the outrage.
Many have opined, since the detention of Miranda, what an outrage something like that would have been had a similar harassment and the seizure of personal property of, say, a New York Times journalist doing his or her job, occurred in this country or by a country so closely allied with the U.S.
Well, before we took our short break last week, I had been covering some of the increasing citizen protests in several states around the U.S. in reaction to the extreme and radical Republican policies being put in place by states where the GOP has recently taken control of state government. I covered the ensuing arrests of an 83-year old Korean War vet peacefully demonstrating for voting rights in NC (as he did with MLK in Selma, AL in 1965) and of an 80- and 85-year old couple in WI arrested in a crackdown by Republican Gov. Scott Walker's Capitol Police for participating in a daily protest sing along in the state capitol building.
While I was gone, it seems, things have gotten worse in Wisconsin, as an elected official was also arrested for singing along, and even the editor of a progressive news magazine was arrested for having attempted to record it...
From John Nichols at The Nation who, comparing the WI crackdown to President John Adams' ill-conceived arrest of dissenters (which earned him the disdain of his own Vice-President Thomas Jefferson and removal from office two years later), charges that Walker, a GOP Presidential hopeful, is now going "All 1798" on those demonstrating against his radical policies at the capitol building in Madison...The arrests escalated on Thursday. And, though Walker plays on a small stage, those familiar with the basic outlines of American constitutional history will note a certain historical irony in the drama the governor has scripted.
First, an elected official, Madison Alder Mark Clear, the former president of the city council, was arrested for joining in the singing of “This Land Is Your Land.”
Then, just a few minutes later, Progressive magazine editor Matt Rothschild was detained when he attempted to record what was happening. Rothschild informed the arresting officers that he was a journalist and that he had every right to cover the story.
Clear and his fellow singers can point to a US Constitution that guarantees that Americans may assemble and petition for the redress of grievances—and to a Wisconsin Constitution that is even more explicit, declaring, “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”
Rothschild can point to a US Constitution that guards against any abridging of the freedom of the press—and to a Wisconsin Constitution that is even more explicit, declaring that “no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”
While many are justifiably infuriated about the detention of journalist Greenwald's partner, who was held under British "terrorism" laws for nine hours while on journalistic duties paid for by the UK's Guardian, much of the same thing seems to be going on in states around our own country to much less notice. In this case, it was a journalist simply doing his work of covering peaceful, supposedly Constitutionally-protected demonstrations inside the rotunda of a state capitol building and the ensuing crackdown on that activity by state police against those, including an elected official, daring to take part in that demonstration.
This is not meant to downplay the outrage of what happened to Greenwald's Brazilian partner Miranda in Great Britain and our own government's at least acquiescence, if not full complicity, in it. This is meant to say that much the same thing --- or disturbingly close to it --- is already happening right under our collective noses in our own country by state and local authorities who seem to have little concern for the First Amendment rights of citizens petitioning their government for redress of grievances and of the media's right to freely report on it.
Also disturbing is the seeming lack of concern that those authorities seem to display that they will ever be held accountable, in any substantial way, for their outrageously unconstitutional actions.
We area already a nation at war with ourselves. Al-Qaeda couldn't have asked for anything more.
Last year, in a petition to President Barack Obama, the advocacy group Change.Org described Edward J. DeMarco, a holdover from the Bush Administration who still serves as Acting Directer of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as "the single largest obstacle to meaningful economic recovery."
Around the time Change.Org began circulating its petition, New York Times' Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, called for President Obama to "Fire Ed DeMarco". The blog detailed how DeMarco had, in defiance of the Obama Administration, rejected a U.S. Treasury Department request "that he offer debt relief to troubled homeowners --- a request backed by an offer that the U.S. Treasury would pay up to 63 cents to the FHFA for every dollar of debt forgiven."
Treasury's request was rejected even though, as Krugman explained, "a reduction in debt burdens would strengthen the economy," creating "greater revenues" that could "offset any losses from the debt forgiveness itself."
The fact that a Bush holdover, who, for so many years, has been committed to protecting the same Wall Street casino --- the market created out of mortgaged backed securities --- whose collapse triggered what Krugman insists is now a "depression", is primarily due to the ability of Senate Republicans to block both of the nominations Obama finally made to replace him...
GOP filibuster abuse continues
Joseph Smith, whom Obama nominated to serve as the Director of the FHFA on Nov. 12, 2010, withdrew his nomination on Jan. 27, 2011 after Republicans, according to the National Council of State Housing Agencies, "prevented the nomination from coming to a vote in the full Senate" despite a 16-6 vote of approval by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. A second nominee to the post has also been held up, so far, by Senate Republicans.
But for the GOP's ability to prevent nominations from coming to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote, DeMarco would not have been in a position to block debt reduction in 2012.
That said, some of the blame must be shared by the President. Despite repeated occasions in which DeMarco defied his administration's policy on this core issue, no new nomination was made until May 1, 2013 when the President nominated Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to head the FHFA. That nomination came only after 45 members of the House, eight state Attorneys General and the advocacy group MoveOn.org joined the "Dump DeMarco" movement.
As a member of Congress, Watt had urged DeMarco to "enact principal reduction," though when his nomination came before the Senate Banking Committee, he avoided committing to a specific position on the issue, asserting a need for further study.
Last month, a temporary accord between Republican and Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate --- struck in an effort to stave off the so-called "nuclear option" that might have done away with the filibuster --- paved the way for an up-or-down majority vote on several of the President's nominees, including Richard Cordray's long-standing nomination as Director of the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). A vote on Watt's nomination to FHFA, however, was pushed back to September.
This month, with DeMarco still at the helm after all of these years, the FHFA sent a heavy-handed instruction to Fannie and Freddie, directing the two mortgage giants to "'limit, restrict or cease business activities' in any jurisdiction" that elects to use eminent domain as a debt relief tool. Moreover, Fannie and Freddie recently joined with Wall Street as parties plaintiff in seeking to have Richmond, California's unique use of eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages, restructure them and return them to home owners, declared unconstitutional.
That participation and heavy-handed directive comes during the fifth year of a housing crisis in which a number of states are still said to be "drowning in underwater mortgages." In some areas, such as Atlanta, 54% of mortgages are underwater. Those underwater mortgages and high foreclosure rates have devastated local economies and municipal solvency.
The depth and length of economic insecurity wrought by the very economic activities that DeMarco's heavy-handed directives seeks to perpetuate ought to provide the straw that finally pushes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to invoke the "nuclear option" on Watt's nomination. Until that happens, however, the GOP filibuster and DeMarco will remain what Change.Org described as "the single largest obstacle to meaningful economic recovery."
Eminent domain as debt relief tool
Cornell Law Professor Robert Hockett argues (see Bloomberg Law's discussion and video below), that while there are significant legal issues in the novel use of eminent domain being opposed by Wall Street, they are not insurmountable.
In the meantime, it doesn't seem to be legal hurdles which most concern DeMarco and his gang about this use of eminent domain.
Los Angeles Times reports that Fannie Mae Chief Executive Timothy J. Mayopoulos, whose annual executive compensation is valued in excess of $3.2 million, objects to the use of eminent domain as a debt relief tool because it "has the potential to unsettle investors in mortgage securities." The joint Fannie, Freddie, Wall Street lawsuit argues that the City of Richmond has illegally misused its eminent domain powers solely for the benefit of private homeowners.
It is a bit disconcerting to see Wall Street hiding behind "investor rights." Compare that to the April 2010 exchange between Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Internal Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations and Daniel Sparks, former Mortgages Department Head at Goldman Sachs, pertaining to the fact that Goldman sold hundreds of millions of dollars in securities without advising their investors that Sparks' own staff regarded the sale as a "shitty deal."
The Wall Street lawsuit's suggestion that the only ones affected by mass foreclosures are individual homeowners reflects, at best, ideological blinders that prevent wealthy CEOs like Fannie Mae's Mayopoulos from recognizing the adverse impacts of mass foreclosures upon local economies and affected cities and counties in terms of declining tax revenues and direct costs to prevent civic blight. The "ideological blinders" descriptor is charitable. There is the prospect that Wall Street simply wants to keep its lucrative casino open for business, economy be damned.
As Hockett explains in the video below, while this particular use of eminent domain is new, the use of eminent domain to seize "intangible property" is not. The mere fact that cities and counties have had to resort to such a creative means to seek relief from the now five-year old housing crisis is but a testament to the failure at the federal level to address the source of our economic malaise --- a failure which, in turn, must be laid at the feet of the GOP and its radical misuse of the filibuster.
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Bloomberg Law's recent discussion of the use of the legal issues involved in the use of eminent domain as a debt relief tool follows below...
* * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.