wikileaks: snapping at the heels

Lots of focus on Manning at the moment:

Firstly, the military (via Fox, of course) make their claims about Manning’s treatment, that it is standard and customary: U.S. Military Assures U.N. WikiLeaks Suspect Treated ‘Fairly

But the responses piled up pretty quickly. Based on reports, UN is checking in UN looking into WikiLeaks suspect’s treatment

The United Nations’ top anti-torture envoy is looking into a complaint that the Army private suspected of giving classified documents to WikiLeaks has been mistreated in custody, a spokesperson said Wednesday.

The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture in Geneva, received a complaint from one of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s supporters alleging conditions in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., amount to torture, said spokesperson Xabier Celaya. Visitors say he spends at least 23 hours a day alone in a cell.

The U.N. could ask the United States to stop any violations it finds.

David House, a friend of Manning and one of the few people aside from his lawyer allowed to visit him, reports here: Bradley Manning Speaks About His Conditions.

Manning related to me on December 18 2010 that he is not allowed to view international news during his television period. He mentioned that he might theoretically be able to view local news, but his television period is typically from 7pm – 8pm such that no local news is playing in the Quantico, VA area.

Manning told me explicitly on December 18 2010 that he is not, nor has he ever been, allowed newspapers while in confinement. When I said “The Pentagon has stated that you are allowed newspapers”, his immediate reaction was surprised laughter.

[…] Manning stated to me on December 18 2010 that he has not been outside or into the brig yard for either recreation nor exercise in four full weeks. He related that visits to the outdoors have been infrequent and sporadic for the past several months.

[…]Manning related to me on December 18 2010 that he does not receive any substantive exercise and cannot perform even basic exercises in his cell. When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he did indeed receive exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise.

[…] Manning related to me on December 19 2010 that his blankets are similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories, and similar in texture to coarse and stiff carpet. He stated explicitly that the blankets are not soft in the least and expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns. The problem of carpet burns was exacerbated, he related, by the stipulation that he must sleep only in his boxer shorts as part of the longstanding POI order. Manning also stated on December 19 2010 that hallway-mounted lights shine through his window at night. This constant illumination is consistent with reports from attorney David Coombs’ blog that marines must visually inspect Manning as he sleeps.

Go read this. It utterly shreds the case the military tried to make for his treatment.

Among other similar experts (Greenwald has listed many in his articles; he’s been doing a lot of work regarding Manning’s situation), many are weighing in on the torture aspects of solitary confinement and sleep deprivation, Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First weighs in at Bradley Manning’s Confinement Conditions are ‘Not Customary’. This is a good article that recaps a lot of what has been going on, and concludes with this eye opener:

Although [Manning’s lawyer] Coombs has raised the issue with officials at Quantico, he can’t actually bring a motion for relief under Article 13 until the case is officially referred for court-martial. So far, although Manning has been charged, the case is still under investigation and court-martial has not yet begun. It therefore remains up to Quantico officials to address the situation. Although Coombs says that the Army Staff Judge Advocate’s office has tried to intervene to improve Manning’s conditions, it has so far been unsuccessful. Quantico is run by the Marines.

I’m hopeful this continued public scrutiny of how Manning has been handled will help force things to change at Quantico (even if by getting the court-martial started so that relief can be filed for). He may be guilty of the allegations against him, but nothing in those allegations merits this sort of treatment. I don’t care if you’re civilian or military. There’s a petition that FDL is circulating regarding Manning’s conditions that you can sign: Sign Our Letter: Stop the Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning.

Moving along to the leaks, there’s a couple of items.

First addressing charges that Israel has been absent from the current crop of released leaks, we learn that WikiLeaks to release Israel documents in six months.

WikiLeaks will release top secret American files concerning Israel in the next six months, its founder Julian Assange disclosed yesterday [Dec 22].

In an excusive[sic] interview with Al Jazeera, Assange said only a meagre number of files related to Israel had been published so far, because the newspapers in the West that were given exclusive rights to publish the secret documents were reluctant to publish many sensitive information about Israel.

As a side note, I think I counted at least three “exclusive” interviews with Assange yesterday. I don’t think the word means what they think it does.

Also some very interesting information and overview from El Pais on the decision process that led to the initial publication of the leaked diplomatic cables: Why EL PAÍS chose to publish the leaks

Rather than sparking an acute state of supranational security crisis, as predicted by some observers, Washington and Europe’s political elites have reacted with a mixture of irritation and embarrassed annoyance that is extremely informative as to the true scope and meaning of the WikiLeaks documents.

Government versus state:

We have come to accept the difference between the government that we elect every five years, and the military, bureaucratic, and diplomatic apparatus that it is sustained by, but that all too often it fails to control. The WikiLeaks cables have confirmed this beyond any doubt.

And concludes:

It is the prerogative of governments, not the press, to bury secrets for as long as they can, and I will not argue with this as long as it does not cover up deceitful acts against citizens. But a newspaper’s main task is to publish news, and to seek out news where it can find it. As I said in a recent online chat with EL PAÍS readers, newspapers have many obligations in a democratic society: responsibility, truthfulness, balance and a commitment to citizens. Our obligations definitely do not, however, include protecting governments and the powerful in general from embarrassing revelations.

I definitely recommend reading this one through. He also addresses the various tactics that governments have been trying to use to mitigate the impact of the leaks. (He also says, but does not elaborate how this was determined, that the leaks were absolutely genuine information. Of course, as he also says, the reactions of the involved governments have confirmed their validity.)

In other news that made me giggle: CIA launches task force to assess impact of U.S. cables’ exposure by WikiLeaks

Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it’s mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F.

The task force is intended to assess the impact of the leaks on the organization, including an internal security audit of sorts.

CIA officials said the agency is conducting an extensive inventory of the classified information, which is routinely distributed on a dozen or more networks that connect agency employees around the world.

And the task force is focused on the immediate impact of the most recently released files. One issue is whether the agency’s ability to recruit informants could be damaged by declining confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to keep secrets.

Cute acronym aside, this is an interesting article, including thoughts on CIA’s disinclination to share its information with other branches of the government (as per the post 9/11 push to aggregate this kind of information).

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