Monthly Archives: September 2013

Interview with Jeff Paterson, founder of the Private Manning Support Network

This email exchange with Jeff Paterson was conducted by MLTF’s Rena Guay on Sept. 4. Paterson is the Project Director of Courage to Resist and founder of the Pvt. Manning Support Network (formerly the Bradley Manning Support Network). This is the full “interview;” the On Watch article in which some of Paterson’s comments were used was published on Sept. 16 in the September 2013 issue of On Watch.

Question: Beyond the very critical funding of the civilian defense team, how do you think the Support Network impacted public awareness/understanding of and support for the case?

Our biggest challenge was overcoming the mainstream media’s herculean efforts to avoid reporting on what this case was actually about — a soldier who shared classified documents with the world in order to expose wrongdoing, with the greater goal of ending war. Instead of accurately reporting on Manning as a young person who took bold action guided by conscience, without personal gain of any kind, Manning was painted as a crazed, gay, misfit soldier.

Question: What was its greatest accomplishment? Biggest challenge?

We built a grassroots support network that introduced Manning to the world, with very little help from the media. The government’s narrative from the very beginning was that Manning should be executed, but life in prison would be acceptable. According to the government, Manning was a traitor and a spy, WikiLeaks was not a journalistic entity, and people were killed because of the leaks. Each of these allegations was disproven in the course of the court-martial, which led to our success in winning an acquittal on the “Aiding the Enemy” charge.

We were always going to be the underdog in this fight, going up against the unlimited resources of the government, including the State Department, FBI, and NSA. I’m proud of the team we fielded both inside and outside the courtroom.

Question: How do you think the Manning case and the Support Network changed awareness about military/government whistleblowers and GI rights to resistance and dissent, including reporting war crimes and violations of the Geneva conventions?

Team Manning: How a grassroots crew of war resisters took on the US Army

BY RENA GUAY

Thanks to help from the Task Force, I was able to attend the first days of the Manning court-martial, and also attended the June 1 rally outside the main gate to Ft. Meade, which was organized by the Bradley Manning Support Network (now the Private Manning Support Network).

I wanted to witness the court-martial for myself and more clearly understand the case and the support campaign developed around it. MLTF executive director Kathy Gilberd reflects the general consensus among military law professionals (and progressive activists like me) that the Manning court-martial is “one of the most important cases in our military’s history.”

“It raises,” she observes, “critical issues about the moral and legal obligations of soldiers, and demonstrates the lengths to which the government will go to keep its military actions secret.”

I had to be there, even if only for five days.

As fascinatingly bizarre as the trial proceedings were and as admirable as the work of the legal team in the courtroom was, it was the staff and volunteers with the Support Network that most impressed and inspired me. (Likely this is due to not being a lawyer, but a long time organizer.)

This is the team behind the team, which for over three years has raised funds for legal fees, public education and publicity efforts, coordinated a massive and creative advocacy effort, made sure that reports of the case were made available to the public, despite the best attempts of the government to keep things secret, and generated awareness and action at countless panels, workshops and conferences within the wider peace/progressive movement.

Now that the court-martial is over, and as the needs for the future are being assessed and planned for, it’s worth taking time to consider – and praise — the stunning results this small organization achieved.

MLTF Fact Sheet: Servicemember rights under Military Whistleblowers Protection Act

The Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988  provides limited protection of lawful disclosure by members of the United States Armed Forces. In order to assist servicemembers in understanding their rights under this law, MLTF has prepared the following fact sheet. It is also available formatted for download and printing (PDF). You are welcome to share this document. Contact us with any questions you may have.

What is the Military Whistleblower Protection Act?

The MWPA was created by Congress in 1989.  The Act does two important things:

1)    it states that no person may restrict a member of the Armed Forces from lawfully communicating with a Member of Congress or an Inspector General (IG), and

2)    it protects military members who make disclosures of wrongdoing to Members of Congress or an IG from retaliation by other military members. (10 USC § 1034.)

In response to the MWPA, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued DoD Directive 7050.06 making the Act official DoD policy.

Marines implement new standards for conscientious objectors

By Bill Galvin

In a new version of Marine Corps Order (MCO) 1306.16, issued in June of this year, the Department of the Navy, Marine Corps Headquarters, heightened the evidentiary standard a conscientious objector (CO) must meet. This reissue rescinds the previous version, which dates back to 1986.

MCO 1306.16F (2013) Download PDF    MLTF was unable to find any web page where there was public access to the new regs, so we are hosting this copy of the order, until such time that an official version is found. 

For the most part, the new MCO is the same. Some sections have been reworded, but essentially say the same thing. In some such cases the tone of the new wording favors the CO, while in others it seems to favor the command.

However, there are two important substantive changes.

National Lawyers Guild Opposes Military Action Against Syria

On September 5, the national office of the National Lawyers Guild distributed the following news release, written with input from members of MLTF:
     

NEW YORK – The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls on Congress to vote against the illegal strike on Syria being planned by the administration. NLG president Azadeh Shahshahani said, “The military intervention in Syria is undeniably illegal, and any supposed framework the Obama administration constructs to defend it is based, not upon legality, but upon impunity.” The United States is once again poised to violate international and domestic law to impose its will.

President Obama’s threats to take military action against Syria are predicated on hypocrisy and obfuscation, as Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have vocalized, respectively. While Kerry said that the United States must “assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons,” the U.S. has historically used chemical weapons against other nations – Agent Orange in Vietnam, white phosphorous in Iraq, and depleted uranium, napalm, and other toxic chemicals and metals (including TNT and mercury) in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Hagel carefully avoided the assertion that military intervention would be legal, and instead vaguely promised that “any action taken [would be] within the framework of legal justification.” According to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the U.S. and other NATO countries are only legally entitled to intervene militarily when their own states have been attacked or threatened with chemical weapons.

The use of chemical weapons in Syria cannot be ignored. But military force, especially by the U.S., has never been a viable or effective response to international human rights abuses. Furthermore, the mandates of the UN Charter prohibit the use of military force without Security Council authorization except when a country is attacked and must defend itself pending Security Council action. While the Obama administration is lobbying Congress to support a “limited” strike on Syria, the National Lawyers Guild strongly opposes any U.S. threats of military intervention – irrespective of congressional approval. Instead, the NLG calls for renewed diplomatic initiatives with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Russia.

In addition, MLTF along with the NLG’s International Committee, published a short briefing paper on Syria. A longer version will be available in the near future. Read: Short Briefing Paper on Syria  (PDF)