UN Prober Cites U.S. For Manning Abuses As Security Issues Fester

Juan MendezA United Nations investigator cited the United States on March 12 for pre-trial mistreatment of Army private Bradley Manning, a suspected accomplice to WikiLeaks who was concerned about U.S. human rights violations. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez concluded that thBradley Manninge United States has imposed improper punitive conditions on Manning for some 18 months in advance of any formal charges, much less a finding of guilt. Mendez, at left, demanded to know why the United States is holding an “unindicted detainee in solitary confinement.” Government officials responded that Manning, right, is under “prevention of harm watch.” But they have refused to allow Mendez to interview Manning alone to determine the facts. Officials kept Manning in isolation and sleeping naked in a cell until worldwide human rights pressure forced his removal from a military brig to a maximum security prison to await further developments. 

Meanwhile, several other developments related to U.S. warmaking and surveillance illustrate how American policies are coming under increasing attack at home and abroad even beyond the likely devastating impact of the weekend rampage by a GI in Afghanistan. He reportedly killed 16 civilians in their homes. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. may execute the suspect, a 38-year-old staff sergeant with children who has served multiple Mideast duty tours. The attack is the latest and most serious threat undermining joint U.S. Afghan security strategies in the longest war in U.S. history. Separately, a Republican congressman introduced an impeachment warning to Panetta and President Obama. In a new campaign being promoted by Fox News and the American Spectator, U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), a war critic, says that Obama and Panetta are violating their office oaths by seeking UN authority for a war against Syria before congressional authorization.

Separately, the Justice Department's former spokesman Matt Miller said the department made "ill-considered" spy charges against former National Security Agency (NSA) executive Thomas Drake during an investigation launched during the Bush administration and conThomas Draketinued by Obama appointees. Drake, at right, sought to warn taxpayers about a billion dollars in waste at the NSA. He spoke to a Baltimore Sun reporter about the program and illustrated his concern with unclassified documents. The government then classified the documents retroactively as it sought to punish Drake with felonies carrying 35 years of potential prison time. A federal judge pressured the government to meet evidence rules shortly before trial. In a prosecution led by William Welch II of DOJ headquarters and Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, the government arranged a plea bargain by which Drake pled guilty to a misdemeanor of misusing a government computer.

Wayne MadsenIn web-based media, investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, himself a former Navy and NSA analyst, published a report focused on Welch. He wrote evidence from Welch's 1990s driving while intoxicated case mysteriously disappeared before a trial could occur, further evidence that Welch is fortunate in being able to preside over massive interrogations of suspected government leakers and reporters despite a string of high-profile embarrassments in the probes. Welch led the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section overseeing corruption investigations of a officials nationwide until a federal judge became outraged in 2008 that he and his DOJ team  illegally suppressed evidence to win a corruption conviction against then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) in September 2008. The Justice Department had to vacate its convictions against Stevens, and launch an internal investigation against Welch and his colleagues.The DOJ is resisting public release of that report. But U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan has given preliminary indications that he plans to release it this month to the public.

In the meantime, U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder has assigned Welch to lead the government's efforts to crack down on whistleblowers throughout government and reporters who listen them. New York Times reporter James Risen, author of the 2005 book State of War that disclosed a massive, illegal  U.S. spy program aimed at collecting and storing billions of emails and hone calls of U.S. citizens, is under investigation by a federal grand jury sitting in Virginia, for example. Madsen primarily publishes at the subscription-only Wayne Madsen Report but also is is a book author. One was The Handbook of Personal Data Protection, a 1,000-page comparison of electronic privacy law of major nations that in 1991. It concluded that the United States permits more privacy invasions than all but a few of other Western nations.

Cass SunsteinMadsen has reported to his readers that sources tell him he has long been under intense government surveillance, including by the same Virgina grand jury investigating Risen. Nonetheless, Madsen has continued with aggressive reporting on security issues. Among them is a March 12 exclusive alleging, based on sources, that WikiLeaks and the hackers group Anonymous are being assisted by Obama security personnel in a complex plan to justify increased surveillance of the United States population. White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, left, co-authored a paper in 2008 advocating use of government employed academics, reporters and authors to thwart what Sunstein called millions of U.S. voters who falsely believe that the government engages in conspiracies. That joint University of Chicago-Harvard working paper, entitled, Conspiracy Theories, has attracted wide contempt among progressive, libertarian and other independent commentators. Among them are Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, as indicated below. But mainstream media and academics, for the most part, regard Sunstein as a fellow centrist and likely Supreme Court candidate if his friend Obama wins a second term.

Frances Fargos TownsendOn March 12, Greenwald published at Salon another of his critiques of the bipartsian Washington consensus on security issues, which is only slightly disturbed by such fringe developments as the conservative impeachment threat against Obama and Panetta. In Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters, Greenwald examined the comments of former Bush national security advisor Frances Fragos Townsend, at right. She is among the high-profile Republicans and Democrats who have obtained huge speaker and consulting fees to help MEK, an Iranian group that has long been listed by the U.S. Department of State as terrorist. Greenwald noted that Townsend enthusiastically endorsed on CNN in 2005 a controversial federal court decision that held Arab-Americans were guilty of serious felonies for "material support" for another group on the State Department list. Greenwald argued, as he has in his recent book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, that Townsend's support for MEK was vastly larger than that resulting in long prison terms for others. That pattern shows, he wrote, that federal prosecutors use their powers in highly selective fashion that cannot withstand close scrutiny.

Our Justice Integrity Project examines such issues and disparities also, of course. One explanation for the seemingly bizarre enforcement policies is the fundamental consensus by leaders of both parties that taxpayers should continue to spend vast amounts for war and security, even if voters oppose such efforts as the Afghan war. the U.S. should spend almost unlimited funds for war and security. The Washington Post has reported two personality-style items illustrating the bipartisan war policies of major players in Washington. First, the Post noted that former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently dined with her spokeswoman and former Bush adviser, Victoria Nuland, and her husband, author and Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan, one of the nation's leading neo-con advocates of the Iraq War. The Post separately reported that The World America Made, Kagan's most recent book, is a favorite of Obama's.

For those seeking a more in-depth explanation of the bipartisan Bush-Obama campaign against whistleblowers and those who report about them? It's justified as protecting the country. But it's worth remembering also that the top leaders of many White House and law enforcement organizations, including Eric Holder and Frances Townsend, come into their political posts primarily from the huge law firms handling defense and security contractors, and expect to return to such places or to the contractors themselves. Similarly, the so-called think tanks and media organizations are heavily funded by the war and contractors, and their supports in the energy, high-tech and banking sectors.


Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment


Related News Coverage

Afghanistan Massacre

Update: Guardian (United Kindgom), Afghanistan and American imperialism, Glenn Greenwald, March 19, 2012. Afghans have been excluded from the judicial process after the shooting that left 16 dead. No wonder anti-US feeling is growing. US army staff sergeant Robert Bales is accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan villagers, including nine children, and then burning some of the bodies. Though this horrific crime targeted Afghans on Afghan soil, Afghanistan will play no role in investigating the crime or bringing the perpetrator (or perpetrators) to justice. That is because the US almost immediately whisked the accused out of Afghanistan and brought him to an American army base in Fort Leavensworth, Kansas. The rapid exclusion of Afghans from the process of trying the accused shooter has, predictably and understandably, exacerbated the growing anti-American anger in that country. It is hard to imagine any nation on the planet reacting any other way to being denied the ability to try suspects over crimes that take place on its soil. A Taliban commander quickly gave voice to that nationalistic fury, announcing: "We want this soldier to be prosecuted in Afghanistan. The Afghans should prosecute him." Demands that the atrocity be investigated by Afghans are grounded in part by reports that Bales did not act alone. While US military officials decreed from the start that Bales was the lone culprit, eyewitnesses in the villages reported the presence of multiple attackers.

Reuters, Death penalty possible in Afghan massacre: Panetta, Phil Stewart, March 13, 2012. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that the death penalty could be sought over the massacre of 16 villagers in Afghanistan, which U.S. officials said they believe was the work of a rogue American soldier. The shooting spree in the southern province of Kandahar, which killed mostly women and children, has triggered angry calls from Afghans for an immediate American exit from the country, as Washington tries to negotiate a long-term presence to keep it from sliding into chaos again. Panetta, however, attempted to portray the shooting as an isolated event that would not alter plans for a gradual, orderly withdrawal of American combat forces by the end of 2014. "War is hell. These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place, they've taken place in any war. They're terrible events. And this is not the first of those events, and it probably won't be the last," the defense secretary told reporters on a flight to Kyrgyzstan.

WikiLeaks and UN Torture Chief Allegations Against United States

Update: Telegraph (United Kingdom), WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to run for Australian Senate, March 17, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is planning to run for election to the Australian Senate. Assange, an Australian citizen, is on bail awaiting a British court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations. He strongly denies the claims, saying they are politically motivated and linked to the activities of WikiLeaks, which has published thousands of confidential documents on the internet. The whistle-blowing website said it appeared that the 40-year-old's current legal situation did not rule him out of running for Australia's upper house. "We have discovered that it is possible for Julian Assange to run for the Australian Senate while detained," WikiLeaks said on Twitter. "Julian has decided to run."

National Press Club, National Press Club, Other Groups Urge Pentagon to Allow Sunshine on Wikileaks Court Martial, John Donnelly
March 12, 2012. The National Press Club and 46 other journalism organizations joined in a letter Monday to the Pentagon urging greater openness in its court martial proceedings in general and particularly in the case of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of releasing classified information to the Wikileaks organization. In the letter to Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson, the media groups requested that the press and public have at least as much access to court records in domestic courts martial as they now get when covering military commission proceedings at the U.S. military’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Achieving that degree of transparency would “ensure that military personnel tried stateside have the same rights to a public trial as those afforded accused terrorists,” the letter states. The reforms called for reflect those now instituted at Guantanamo Bay and include online posting within one day of filings or decisions that do not require classification review.

OpEd News, Supreme Court Likely to Endorse Obama's War on Whistle-Blowers, Chris Hedges, March 12, 2012. President Obama, who serves the interests of the surveillance and security state with even more fervor than did George W. Bush, has used the Espionage Act to charge suspected leakers six times since he took office. The latest to be charged by the Obama administration under the act is John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer accused of disclosing classified information to journalists about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaida suspect. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published the cables and video clips allegedly provided by Manning, is expected to be the seventh charged under the act. The Supreme Court has yet to hear a case involving the Espionage Act. But one of these six cases will probably soon reach the court. If it, as expected, rules that the government is permitted to use the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, the United States will have a de facto official secrets act. A ruling in favor of the government would instantly criminalize all disclosures of classified information to the public. It would shut down one of the most important functions of the press. And at that point any challenges to the official versions of events would dry up. The Obama administration, to make matters worse, has mounted a war not only against those who leak information but those who publish it, including Assange. The Obama administration is attempting to force New York Times reporter James Risen to name the source, or sources, that told him about a failed effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer, is charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking information about the program to Risen. If Risen confirms in court that Sterling was his source, Sterling probably will be convicted. A Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Espionage Act would also remove the legal protection that traditionally allows journalists to refuse to reveal their sources.

FireDogLake, UN Torture Chief’s Report Officially Condemns US Treatment of Bradley Manning, Kevin Gosztola, March 12, 2012. After fourteen months of investigation, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has published his report on the United States’ “cruel and inhuman treatment” of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who allegedly released classified information to WikiLeaks. The findings are part of a report on “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” in countries of the world. Mendez concluded, “Imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.” He demanded to know why the government was holding an “unindicted detainee in solitary confinement.” The government asserted in a response to Mendez that the “brig commander” had authorization to “impose” an “isolation regime” because of the “seriousness of the offense” for which Manning would eventually be charged.  Mendez tried to get a private unmonitored meeting with Manning on the conditions of his detention.

OpEd News, The Dirty War on WikiLeaks is Now Trial by Media in Sweden, John Pilger, March 12, 2012. War by media, says current military doctrine, is as important as the battlefield. This is because the real enemy is the public at home, whose manipulation and deception are essential for starting an unpopular colonial war. To the chagrin of many in authority and the media, WikiLeaks has torn down the facade behind which rapacious western power and journalism collude. Today, war by media is increasingly understood by the public, as is the trial by media of WikiLeaks' founder, and editor Julian Assange. Assange will soon know if the Supreme Court in London is to allow his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual misconduct, most of which were dismissed by a senior prosecutor in Stockholm and do not constitute a crime in Britain. On bail for 16 months, tagged and effectively under house arrest, he has been charged with nothing. His "crime" has been an epic form of investigative journalism: revealing to millions of people the lies and machinations of their politicians and officials and the barbarism of criminal war conducted in their name.

WMR, White House battles U.S. intelligence factions via WikiLeaks and Anonymous, Wayne Madsen, March 12, 2012 (Subscription required.)

Justice Integrity Project, Manning Inquiry Begins With Challenge To Tribunal's Fairness, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 16, 2011.  The Article 32 hearing for Private Bradley E. Manning began Dec. 16 at Fort Meade in Maryland with a challenge by the defense team to the fairness of the military proceedings. Manning was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq for suspicion of passing restricted material to WikiLeaks. Counsel for the defense argued that the hearing officer lacks sufficient independence.

Iranian 'Terrorist' Group MEK Hires Former U.S. Officials

Glenn GreenwaldSalon, Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters, Glenn Greenwald, March 12, 2012.  We now have an extraordinary situation that reveals the impunity with which political elites commit the most egregious crimes, as well as the special privileges to which they explicitly believe they — and they alone — are entitled. That a large bipartisan cast of Washington officials got caught being paid substantial sums of money by an Iranian dissident group, MEK, that is legally designated by the U.S. Government as a Terrorist organization, and then meeting with and advocating on behalf of that Terrorist group, is very significant for several reasons. On the day the Humanitarian Law decision was released, CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer interviewed Fran Townsend, George Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor and now-CNN analyst, and Townsend hailed the decision as “a tremendous win for not only the United States but for the current administration.” What is particularly repellent about all of this is not the supreme hypocrisy and self-interested provincialism of Fran Townsend. That’s all just par for the course. What’s infuriating is that there are large numbers of people — almost always Muslims — who have been prosecuted and are now in prison for providing “material support” to Terrorist groups for doing far less than Fran Townsend and her fellow cast of bipartisan ex-officials have done with and on behalf of MEK. See also: New York Times, Bush’s Chief Terrorism Adviser Is Leaving, Unscathed, David Johnston, Dec. 22, 2007. For more than four years, Frances Fragos Townsend, President Bush’s departing chief terrorism adviser, has worked at the center of contentious anti-terrorism programs, but unlike other battle-scarred West Wing colleagues, she is leaving with barely a scratch.

Obama Impeachment Efforts

Fox News, Obama Impeachment Bill Introduced in Congress, March 12, 2012. Let the president be duly warned. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C., has introduced a resolution declaring that should the president use offensive military force without authorization of an act of Congress, “it is the sense of Congress” that such an act would be “an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor.” Specifically, Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution reserves for Congress alone the power to declare war, a restriction that has been sorely tested in recent years, including Obama’s authorization of military force in Libya.

American Spectator, Leon Panetta: Clueless or Brazen? If not for Sen. Jeff Sessions, who would protect our Constitution from assault by Obama, Panetta & Co.? Jed Babbin, March 12, 2012. Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies.

Former DOJ Spokesman Says Its Spy-Charge Prosecution of NSA Whistleblower Was 'Ill-Considered'

Washington Post, Prosecution of ex-NSA official Thomas Drake was ‘ill-considered,’ former agency spokesman says, Ellen Nakashima, March 12, 2012. A former Justice Department spokesman has acknowledged that the prosecution of former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake was “ill-considered.” In an exchange with Politico correspondent Josh Gerstein about the department’s prosecutions of alleged leakers, former Department of Justice Director of Public Affairs Matt Miller on Saturday said the Drake case, which ended last year in a misdemeanor plea deal, was unlike other cases because “Drake did seem to be trying to expose actual government waste. I think the outcome of the case probably shows that it was an ill-considered choice for prosecution.”  The plea deal was a major embarrassment for the department, which had showcased Drake’s 2010 indictment as a signal to would-be leakers. Even after the case blew up, Miller continued to defend the prosecution. “It’s an important principle that people who have access to classified information follow the law and the agreements they have signed to protect that information,” he was quoted as saying in The New York Times. He also said, “The indictment was brought on the merits, and nothing else.” Today, Miller appears to be taking a different tone. “This is not just backtracking,” said Jesselyn Radack, one of Drake’s attorneys. “It is complete revisionist history.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Justice Dept. prosecutor targeting whistle blowers and journalists, Wayne Madsen, March 8, 2012 (Subscription required). William Welch II was the chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. While the title of his former office -- public integrity -- implies that Welch is dedicated to fighting corruption in the government, in President Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's Orwellian world of "Newspeak," Welch is the chief inquisitor of government whistle blowers and journalists who have communicated with them.

TSA Official Defends Airport Searches

John PistoleNational Press Club, People still bring guns on planes, TSA’s Pistole tells NPC, Heather Forsgren Weaver,  March 5, 2012. Photo/Image: Noel St. John. More than a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people are still bringing guns onto airplanes, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), told a Luncheon March 5. Over the recent President’s Day weekend, 19 guns were found in carry-on baggage nationwide, Pistole said. It is not believed that any of the people carrying these weapons were doing so with a malicious intent, he added. TSA matches 100 percent of all travelers in the United States against watch lists created by other agencies, Pistole said. TSA also screens all cargo transported on passenger planes domestically and about 90 percent of the cargo on in-bound international flights, he said. The agency is working toward screening 100 percent of in-bound cargo by the end of the year, he added. According to Pistole, the continuing check of baggage for dangerous items is one of the visible security protocols used by TSA to ensure travel safety. The agency continues to review its security protocols to ensure the safety of people and commerce by providing “the most efficient security in the most effective way,” Pistole said. Nine airports are currently participating in the TSA Pre-check Program, which allows passengers to sign up for preflight screening that usually doesn’t require them to remove their shoes and jackets or to remove laptops and liquids from their carry-on baggage, he said. Pistole hopes to expand the program to the nation’s 35 busiest airports by the end of the year. Pre-check is part of TSA’s effort to move to a more “intelligence-directed, risk-based” security system, Pistole said. The pre-check program is an example of TSA’s evolution from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more risk-based approach, Pistole said. “

Government Agents?

Salon, Obama Confidant's Spine-Chilling Proposal, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 15, 2010; Rag Blog, Got Fascism? : Obama Advisor Promotes 'Cognitive Infiltration,' Marc Estrin, Jan. 11, 2010; Harvard Law and University of Chicago Law School Working Papers, Conspiracy Theories, Cass R. Sunstein & Adrian Vermeule, Jan. 15, 2008.

Job Statistics

OpEd News, No Jobs For Americans, Paul Craig Roberts, March 9, 2012. Today (March 9, 2012) the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that 227,000 new non-farm payroll jobs were created by the economy during February. Is the government's claim true? No. Statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) reports that 44,000 of these jobs or 19% consist of an add-on factor derived from the BLS's estimate that 44,000 more unreported jobs from new business start-ups were created than were lost by unreported business failures. The BLS's estimate comes from the bureau's "birth-death model," which works better during normal times, but delivers erroneous results during troubled times such as the economy has been experiencing during the past four years. US economic policy continues to focus on the mega-rich at the expense of 99% of the population. US interest rates are kept at, or near to, zero in order to maximize mega-bank earnings, while depriving tens of millions of retired Americans of interest income on their lifetime savings, forcing them to spend their capital in order to live, thus depriving their heavily indebted children of inheritance. In short, the US is well on its way to becoming a third world country, as I predicted would be the case in 20 years at a Brookings Institution conference in Washington DC early in the 21st century.