Michael Ratner: Bradley Manning Verdict Update
I’ve been doing a lot of media on this lately, doing a lot of debates. I take a firm position. He should never have been tried in the first place.
He’s a hero, he’s a whistleblower. He publicly exposed the truths about the nature of this country, particularly its human rights violations, its criminality and its corruption.
That constitutes whistleblowing and whistleblowing is a legal defense to whatever kinds of crimes the United States wanted to try him for. He shouldn’t have been prosecuted at all.
First, we’ve all seen the Collateral Murder video. The killing of 2 Reuters journalists and I believe 10 civilians, shot with a gung-ho bloodlust.
Those crimes were never really investigated; no one was prosecuted for them, and yet it was cold-blooded murder taking place from an Apache helicopter on the streets of Baghdad.
Think about what the Iraq War Logs revealed. 20,000 more civilians killed in Iraq then the U.S. said were killed.
That fact alone caused the government of Iraq to not sign another Status of Forces agreement with the United States, because it would have given immunity to U.S. troops. Because there was no immunity for U.S. troops, the U.S. said, we’re not staying in Iraq. Think about how important that is.
Then there was a story last year taken from Wikileaks and the Iraq war logs of torture centers run in Iraq in 2003-2004.
The only reason we knew about that was because of Bradley Manning.
That is a little example of what Bradley Manning has revealed to all of us of the criminality of our own country and information we ought to know and debate.
The only reason we consider anything to be positive in this verdict is because Bradley Manning was so overcharged to begin with – a ridiculous charge of aiding the enemy that was sustained by a judge – that we’re relieved that he wasn’t convicted of it.
He was convicted of 20 charges. Six of them were espionage charges, each of them carrying 10 years.
Six of them were theft of government documents, each of them carrying 10 years.
This is the first ever conviction of anyone in the United States who is a whistleblower, who is a leaker, for espionage. There is great fear being sown by Obama, Holder and others, both in regard to whistleblowers and to journalists.
Guest – Law and Disorder Co-host Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), based in Berlin. Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court. Ratner is also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the author of numerous books and articles, including the books The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book, Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, as well as a textbook on international human rights.
Last month, prisoners at Pelican Bay Prison went on another hunger strike to protest solitary confinement and security unit conditions. What does solitary confinement mean at Pelican Bay Prison? Prisoners spend 22 to 24 hours a day in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell. The food is often rotten. Temperatures are extremely hot or cold. Within 15 days, these conditions can cause psychological damage.
Jules Lobel, who represents the prisoners at Pelican Bay in a lawsuit challenging long-term solitary confinement in California prisons, says prisoners land in solitary confinement not for crimes they were convicted of, not for any rule violation or violent act while in prison, but based on the slimmest pretext of “affiliation” with a gang.
Attorney Jules Lobel:
At any one time around the country there are about 80,000 people that are in some form of solitary confinement.
In California alone there are 4,000. What makes California somewhat unusual is that it has a large number of prisoners who’ve been in solitary confinement for over a decade, and many over 20 years.
In Pelican Bay Prison there are over 400 who have been in solitary confinement for over ten years and about 80 for two decades.
The conditions they’re place under are draconian.
The cells my clients are in, there are no windows. People spend 20 years without seeing trees, birds, the grass.
That’s unusual to have a whole prison without any windows.
They put thousands of people in solitary simply for “gang affiliation.” You don’t have to have committed any crime or disciplinary infraction in prison.
You get a birthday card from a member of a gang, that’s “gang affiliation.”
There are things society will look back on, and say how could this have been done in a civilized society? We look back at slavery and segregation now and say that.
They say that they will use force feeding only when a prisoner loses consciousness.
These folks are on a no-solid-food hunger strike and they’ve been willing to take salt tablets, vitamins.
We looked at the situation in California, as I described, and we also know that 2 years ago, hundreds of thousands of prisoners went on hunger strikes in California protesting this, and were promised reforms that were never delivered.
We decided that the time was right for a class action lawsuit.
We brought the lawsuit in May 2012.
We claim 2 things. One, to keep people in these conditions for over a decade is cruel and unusual punishment. It’s a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Two, to keep someone in these conditions because they think they’re gang-affiliated is disproportionate.
The case only deals with one facility, and that’s the most notorious, and that’s Pelican Bay Prison.
There are a thousand prisoners in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.
They deliberately place this prison where it’s 7 hours from any major metropolitan area by car.
It’s like a gulag there, in that they don’t want any media exposure or attention being placed on them.
It’s very costly to put someone in solitary confinement. It’s a waste of taxpayer resources.
Guest – Attorney Jules Lobel has litigated important cases regarding the application of international law in U.S. courts. In the late 1980s, he advised the Nicaraguan government on the development of its first democratic constitution, and has also advised the Burundi government on constitutional law issues. Professor Lobel is editor of a text on civil rights litigation and of a collection of essays on the U.S. Constitution, A Less Than Perfect Union (Monthly Review Press, 1988). He is the author of numerous articles on international law, foreign affairs, and the U.S. Constitution in publications including the Yale Law Journal, Harvard International Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, and Virginia Law Review. He is a member of the American Society of International Law.
Who Will Bell The Cat? Working People: Michael Zweig
2013 Left Forum Presentation by Michael Zweig, Professor of Economics at Stony Brook University and director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life. His most recent books are What’s Class Got to Do with It?: American Society in the Twenty-first Century (Cornell University Press, 2004), and The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret (Cornell University Press, 2000, 2nd edition due December 2011). In 2005-2006, he served as executive producer of Meeting Face to Face: The Iraq-U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour. He wrote, produced, and directed the DVD Why Are We in Afghanistan? in 2009.