Category Archives: Cases & Support Campaigns

MLTF supports pardon/commutation for Chelsea Manning

The NLG MLTF sent the following letter to President Obama on December 16.

NLG Military Law Task Force to Obama: Pardon Chelsea Manning/Commute Sentence to Time Served

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

December 16, 2016

Dear President Obama:

The National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force joins more than 102,000 people who have called on you to pardon Chelsea Manning or, at the very least, commute the remainder of her sentence. You are well aware of the fact that her actions revealed serious incidents and addressed important issues that, despite your administration’s promises of transparency, were kept from the American public. Whatever one may think of her choice of means, there is no doubt that her actions were prompted by a deep moral sense that is all too often lacking in US policy and among US leaders.

As you should know, Ms. Manning’s incarceration has been far more difficult than that of most prisoners because of her issues around her gender identity. Your administration has recently expressed its support for non-gender conforming members of our society. At least, Attorney General Lynch assured them that the Department of Justice has their backs.

No good can be served by extending Ms. Manning’s confinement. There is no possibility that she will repeat her offense, her punishment has already been severe and sufficient to serve whatever preventive purpose could have been accomplished by her prosecution. All that is left is retribution.

Our criminal system places excessive emphasis on punishment and has done so in this case. Justice requires that punishment be tempered with mercy in appropriate circumstances. This is one such circumstance and you would be remiss not to exercise it.

The National Lawyers Guild is the country’s oldest and largest human rights bar organization and was the first integrated national bar association. It has a proud history of defending and advancing human rights in the US and around the world. Its Military Law Task Force has defended the rights of our service members for decades and we stand in full support of PVT Manning.
Sincerely,

Kathleen Gilberd

Executive Director
Military Law Task Force

Report exposes mistreatment of GIs by Fort Hood leadership

Testimonies in ‘Fort Hood Report’ recount unethical health care practices, disregard of medical advice, violations of policy

This Memorial Day a national group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marked the solemn holiday by exposing a series of unethical healthcare practices at the largest Army post in the country, Fort Hood, that puts soldiers’ lives at risk and compounds the pressure on an overwhelmed VA. Practices such as commanders, with no medical training, deploying soldiers against a doctor’s orders are one of the many shocking discoveries that is revealed in the groundbreaking report ‘Operation Recovery: Fort Hood Soldiers and Veterans Testify on the Right to Heal‘ (also referred to as the Fort Hood Testimony Report).

The report is the product of months of investigation and compilation by its authors: Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Under The Hood Café and Resource Center, and Civilian Soldier Alliance. The Military Law Task Force contributed legal support, analysis of regulations, and assistance in developing recommendations. One of the individual authors noted that the Task Force’s participation was critical to the strength of the report.

The Fort Hood Testimony Report is the result of three years of sustained outreach in the Fort Hood community, and contains 31 in-depth testimonials from Fort Hood veterans and soldiers. Additionally it has a series of findings and recommendations for the Army and Congress. This report provides a snapshot in time of a military base at the height of the deployment cycle all the way to the recent drawdown and a window into the challenges that service members face in a military that has been at war for more than a decade.

Expressing amazement at the negligent deployment practices soldiers experienced, Fort Hood Army veteran and a testifier in the report Chas Jacquier says “Prior to going, our unit was so low in numbers that we actually took soldiers into Afghanistan who were on crutches. We’re walking fifteen, twenty cliffs a day at 10,000 feet elevation through the mountains. The guy just got off crutches and you expect him to be able to do that?”

Just a few of the findings include:

  • Overmedication in the form of routinely deploying service members who are prescribed with psychotropic drugs
  • Aggressive disciplinary measures and discharges of soldiers since the drawdown, often for displaying symptoms of PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • An almost total lack of enforcement of base policies on stigma and respect for a doctors recommendation

MLTF submits clemency request to Manning convening authority

MLTF submitted a letter requesting clemency to the officer authorized to review (and reduce, if he wishes) Chelsea Manning’s court-martial sentence. We use her former name, Bradley, in keeping with her wishes for legal documents. For information on what you can do to support her, see the Pvt. Manning Support Network website.

October 10, 2013

To:        GEN Jeffrey S. Buchanan
From:   Kathleen M. Gilberd, Executive Director, Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild

Subj: PVT Bradley Manning clemency petition

On behalf of the one hundred and sixty lawyers, law students, legal workers and counselors of the National Lawyers Guild’s Military Law Task Force, I am calling on you, as Convening Authority, to reduce PVT Manning’s sentence to time served and to upgrade the dishonorable discharge imposed by the court. The Military Law Task Force has been in existence for some forty years, and we have collectively developed considerable experience and tried many cases before courts-martial. PVT Manning’s case is, however, unique.

One of the benefits of courts-martial, rapidly disappearing from civilian courts, is the emphasis on the individual in determining an appropriate sentence. PVT Manning was accused of, and owned up to, various violations of the law, but motivation and character were not adequately considered by the military law judge. You have the opportunity to correct that.

The information PVT Manning revealed, while embarrassing to the government, is universally recognized as important for a democratic society to have and to debate. It is, as many have pointed out, similar to the revelations made by Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo with their release of the Pentagon Papers. They, too, were prosecuted, albeit unsuccessfully because of government violations of their rights and, today, their act is regarded as patriotic and noble. PVT Manning’s rights were also violated, with overlong pre-trial confinement under conditions that were, at a minimum, cruel, inhuman and degrading. Even if insufficient to warrant dismissal of the charges, those conditions certainly warrant that there be no further incarceration.

We would suggest that PVT Manning should be given the kind of consideration given to James Clapper, Director of National Security, who unquestionably perjured himself in testimony to Congress about government surveillance, yet was not prosecuted and has not even lost his job. Without any proof that any of PVT Manning’s revelations were damaging, and with substantial sentiment that they were beneficial to our democracy, immediate release from confinement seems the least that can be done.

PVT Manning acted out of conscience and the best of motives under difficult circumstances, including moral struggle and isolation. While many would not have made the same choices, we should nonetheless respect the courage of his convictions that PVT Manning possesses. For all these reasons and more, which others have no doubt expressed, we believe that PVT Manning should be freed immediately. Respectfully submitted KATHLEEN M. GILBERD For the Military Law Task Force

Manning clemency letter (.pdf)

Verdict in Manning Case Slow Death for Democracy

Op-Ed for MLTF

[Update]: In a public statement issued on 8/22/13, Pvt. Manning disclosed that her name is now Chelsea Manning, and that she is a female. Going forward, we will honor her request to use her new name and appropriate pronouns, in support of her transition.

Today, although he was acquitted of aiding the enemy, Bradley Manning was found guilty of five counts of violating the Espionage Act. It has long been said that military justice is to justice what military music is to music, but Manning’s prosecution has failed to clear that low bar. Since his arrest in 2010 and the long road to his court martial, the government has perverted the values it claims to represent, and made a mockery of its military justice system. The case has been a travesty since it began. Manning was tortured, held for years before trial, and overcharged. While the process of “justice” for Bradley Manning will proceed through the sentencing phase and appeals process—along with continued advocacy for a full pardon and release—it’s a good time to reflect on the most egregious of the government’s sins thus far.

On July 21, the New York Times reported that accused sexual predators in military service are claiming unlawful command influence because President Obama declared that anyone who committed a sexual assault should be punished and “dishonorably discharged” from military service. He did not name names. He accused no individual of a being guilty of any crime yet, the Times says, his statement will complicate prosecutions and render convictions more difficult.

When it came to Bradley Manning, however, Obama declared him guilty before he was even charged, at a time he was in “detention,” solitary confinement with no clothes, little contact with other human beings, no intellectual stimuli and presumably presumed innocent.

So the first question to be asked in the wake of Manning’s conviction is why he should not be accorded the same rights as rapists. Why did the Times not question potential command influence when the commander in chief declared Bradley Manning—not some nameless future defendant—guilty? Was it possible for any subordinate to ignore that presidential proclamation when rendering a verdict? Some credit must be accorded the judge who acquitted him of at least some charges, but that only demonstrates just how extreme the charges were.

That is not all that is questionable about the case. Recently, Eric Holder had to promise Russia that if Edward Snowden is returned to the United States, he will not face execution or torture. Snowden’s fear is well-founded, not just because of Abu Ghraib, but because of Bradley Manning, who suffered months of torture, defended by Obama. There was a time in the not too distant past when the treatment Manning suffered through would have led to dismissal of the charges against him and condemnation of the prosecution by the courts and media. Now, it appears, the United States no longer has any shame and is more than willing to sacrifice what it proclaims to be our fundamental principles at the altar of security.

Obama came to office promising the most transparent administration ever. He claims that we need an open and frank discussion of what the government should be able to do to protect ourselves from threats, but did so only after its secret operations were exposed. And he aggressively prosecutes those whose actions give rise to the questions he claims should be answered through a national debate.

Hypocrisy and criminality are rife in the United States government and, in its eyes, the worst criminals are those who expose such evils. Among the many documents Manning released, for example, was the notorious “collateral murder” video, showing U.S. pilots killing a Reuters journalist, his driver and several others. Some have argued that, although unfortunate, the killing was justified in the heat of battle but the U.S. denied any knowledge of how the reporter, Namir Noor-Eldeen, died until the video was released. Reuters had simply asked how such events could be avoided in the future and was stonewalled. It is only thanks to Manning that the world knows exactly what happened.

There are two ways in which any government can seek to control security leaks. The first is by honesty and transparency, by allowing the public to know enough to make democratic decisions about how far is too far. That is the path that the United States, and this president, claims to follow. The second is by threatening draconian consequences to anyone who exposes questionable policies and practices to the light of day. That is the path the United States, and this administration, has chosen with the prosecution of Bradley Manning and others. No amount of sophistry can hide that truth, try as the administration might. The result, for Bradley Manning, is many years in prison. The result for democracy is a slow death.

Army to deploy conscientious objector

Editor’s note: The lawyer representing PVC Munoz, James M. Branum, is an MLTF member.

Private still scheduled for upcoming deployment to Afghanistan

Killeen, Texas –  A soldier seeking a discharge from the Army based on a conscientious objection to war has been told by the command at Fort Hood that it still intends to deploy him to Afghanistan sometime in the coming weeks.

PVC Christopher MunozPrivate Second Class Christopher Munoz, 22, applied for a C.O. (conscientious objector) discharge on June 25, 2013. He has also asked for his deployment to be delayed until request for discharge would be given a fair hearing.

Servicemembers are eligible for C.O. status if they can prove to military authorities that they are opposed to all wars, and that the opposition is grounded in religious belief or moral conviction that is sincere and occurred at some point after enlistment. PV2 Munoz’s application asserts that he qualified for this status according to the provisions of Army Regulation 600-43.

As a C.O applicant, PV2 Munoz cannot be made to carry weapons or munitions if deployed.

“If deployed, PV2 Munoz will be at significant risk for harassment by his fellow soldiers since he will effectively be a ‘dead weight’ on the unit. Despite these very real risks, PV2 Munoz’s command has said that a delay of his deployment will not be considered,” said James M. Branum, an attorney who represents PV2 Munoz.