Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years for handing over 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks that exposed the inner workings of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, the architects of war and torture, are still free. War crime chargers were never brought against them.
There’s so much wrong with this picture. Cheney, who was often referred to the Darth Vader of the Bush administration, was the worst of the bunch. Instead of being charged with war crimes, he got a new heart! And it certainly wasn’t the heart of a Progressive. You can still see him from time to time on TV news, struggling to look tough but aware that he has become irrelevant.
Rumsfeld, Bush’s Secretary of defense, approved of “stripping prisoners naked, hooding them, exposing prisoners to extremes of heat and cold, and slamming them up against walls” at Guantanamo. No telling where he is, maybe working at a conservative think tan and pulling in two grand a day.
John C Yoo, an attorney in Bush’s Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, is the lawyer who claimed that waterboarding is legal. He now teaches law at Berkeley, one of the most liberal universities in the country. Sort of ironic, really.Trickster? I wouldn’t take a class from this guy.
Then there is W himself, a strange little man who used to emit weird chuckles at inopportune moments, the guy who called himself the Decider in Chief, a person of such diminished mental capacity that his brainy and corrupt cabinet members made decisions for him. Occasionally, W comes out of hiding, emerges from whatever weird cocoon he is now inhabiting in the aftermath of his disastrous eight years as president. No one pays too much attention him. Not even his own Republican party.
So Manning, now all of 25, gets 35 years in federal prison. Whistleblower Edward Snowden saw the proverbial writing on the wall and fled the U.S. for Hong Kong before he turned over a reported 700,000 documents that expose the extent of the NSA’s spying program on Americans. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, another irony that has the trickster’s fingerprints all over it. Russia isn’t a country we usually associate with freedom from persecution or human rights.
Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for The Guardian UK, is the man who broke this story. He lives in Brazil, with his partner, David Miranda, a Brazilian citizen. Several days ago, Miranda was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport in London, and was questioned under a provision of the UK’s terrorism laws. He was passing through London on his way from Berlin to Brazil.
In Berlin, he was visiting Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, who has partnered with Greenwald on revealing the information in these documents. When Snowden initially contacted her, she was working on a documentary film about surveillance that included an interview with Julian Assange (to whom Bradley Manning sent documents), who revealed certain information to her.
Not only did UK detain Greenwald’s partner, Miranda, for nine hours, but they confiscated his computer, flash drives, all his electronic equipment. Since that happened, it’s been revealed that The Guardian has been under constant pressure from UK officials to turn over the NSA documents they had. They refused to do so and eventually sent copies of their documents out of the UK and elected to destroy their own computers and hard drives.
The message in all this is clear: journalists, you’ve been put on notice. Here in the U.S., journalists are no longer protected by the first amendment. But as MSNBC host Rachel Maddow noted, Journalists are not terrorists.
Since the U.S. tries to manipulate most of the rest of the world, these whistleblowers and their journalist buddies won’t be safe wherever they flee. Except, well, maybe Russia. Or Brazil. Or Bolivia? Maybe not. When it was rumored that Bolivia had extended asylum to Snowden, the plane of the Bolivian president, while flying over Europe, was diverted and searched. Snowden wasn’t on board. The president got home – and raised holy hell.
But these days, you have to raise more than holy hell. You have to look back to history, to the Nixon/Watergate years, when journalists were still protected by the first amendment, and Woodward and Bernstein published their explosive findings that ultimately brought down the administration of Richard Nixon. And then you have to ask yourself: was George Orwell right and just way off on his timing? Is the kind of world in which I choose to live? If not, what can I do about it?
So here’s another synchro. Even though David Miranda is Brazilian, his last name means something in the U.S. The Miranda Rights. We’ve all heard it in cop shows:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
It means that a suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights are protected; he or she can refuse to answer self-incriminating questions. And what’s at the very heart of the Snowden/Assange/Manning travesty? That in the aftermath of this massive release of government secrets, you – whistleblower, journalist or documentary filmmakers- better say nothing that might incriminate you. You had better be afraid – and mute about your government’s illegal activities against other countries – and against its own citizens.
This whole thing is sad commentary on a country like the U.S. that supposedly stands for freedom in all its forms and touts that PR rhetoric. The truth is that our politicians violate the most human tenets of the Bill of Rights.
What have we become? Who are we as a nation, a collective, a people?
Back in 2005, I think it was, Rob, Megan and I walked into a restaurant in the Dominica Republic and ordered dinner. Laid back town, we were there for windsurfing. But a French couple approached us and the man looked at us and snapped, “Why did you vote for Bush not only once, but twice? How could you Americans do such a thing? Do you have any idea what the repercussions of eight years of Bush are going to be?”
And I looked back at him and said, “We didn’t vote for him.” And yes, we understand the repercussions. We are living them right now.