Tag Archives: Chelsea Manning
We were pleasantly surprised by President Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence on January 17, just days before he left office. In a statement released to the press, NLG also noted that the sentence of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera was also commuted.
In the statement, MLTF Executive Director Kathleen Gilberd was quoted:
While Chelsea’s freedom is long-overdue, we are gratified that she has been afforded some measure of delayed justice. There is no doubt that the tremendous outpouring of public support and organizing for commuting the sentence contributed to this outcome. Still, we remain critical of a government that seems more intent on prosecuting those who expose war crimes than those who commit them.
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.
Military Law Task Force
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
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?
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.