WACA’s Samantha Castro Speaks About Detained Whistleblower US Army Private Bradley Manning
| WTF News |
The case of US Army PFC Bradley Manning has been closely followed by many on the internet.
As described by Wikileaks
Bradley Edward Manning (born December 17, 1987) is a United States Army soldier who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified material to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. He was charged with a number of offenses, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy, a capital offense, though prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. He was arraigned in February 2012 at Fort Meade, Maryland, where he declined to enter a plea. The trial is expected to begin in February 2013.
Assigned to an army unit based near Baghdad, Manning had access to databases used by the United States government to transmit classified information. He was arrested after Adrian Lamo, a computer hacker, co-operated with the Department of Defense, stating Manning had confided during online chats that he had downloaded material from these databases and passed it to WikiLeaks. The material included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 United States diplomatic cables; and 500,000 army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs. It was the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. Much of it was published by WikiLeaks or its media partners between April and November 2010.
Manning was held from July 2010 in the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, under Prevention of Injury status, which entailed de facto solitary confinement and other restrictions that caused international concern. In April 2011, 295 academics – many of them prominent American legal scholars – signed a letter arguing that the detention conditions violated the United States Constitution. Later that month the Pentagon transferred him to Fort Leavenworth, allowing him to interact with other detainees.
Jenny Baker of Revolution News interviewed Samantha Castro of Wikileaks Australian Citizens Alliance (WACA).
We are honoured to speak with Samantha Castro, co-founder of Wikileaks Australian Citizens Alliance (WACA) about Bradley Manning, in what is considered by many, the most important trail on truth in our time. Sam Castro is a mother of 3 and co founder of WACA, the oldest support campaign for Julian Assange and Wikileaks in Australia. She holds a BA in Media and a Masters in Professional Communication. Her speciality is in Global Media and the War On Terror.
Bradley Manning returns to Ft. Meade for another pre-trial hearing beginning on the 8th, and continuing again January 16 and 17, 2013. “Government prosecutors will argue their motion to block both any reference to the lack of harm caused by the released documents, and any reference of Bradley Manning’s whistle-blower motives, from the merits portion of his trial. … Judge Lind will rule on the defence motion to dismiss all the charges based on the abusive and unlawful pretrial treatment Bradley Manning endured at the Quantico Marine brig prison” (http://www.bradleymanning.org/, http://ymlp.com/z1og0V).
We learned recently that during Bradley Manning’s 11 month incarceration, he was held alone in a dark, tent-sheltered cage for 2 months in Kuwait. Bradley described his torment as a “shark attack environment” where guards would give him conflicting orders so that everything he did was wrong. Once delivered to Quantico, after being cleared by military psychologists for general population, Bradley was wrongfully kept on a extended suicide watch by Military Officials. They often kept him naked for long periods of time; forcing him to plead for every basic human need, like soap and toilet paper. Bradley endured months and months of this textbook CIA no touch torture technique.
As Julian Assange noted in his Sept. 2012 address to the UN, all of this inhumane treatment was an attempt to punish Bradley Manning before his trial in order to break him down to the point where he would give damning testimony against Assange and Wikileaks.
Is there any justification for such inhumane treatment of an American Soldier?
SC: The short answer in my opinion is no. But I guess the question is: is there any justification for such inhumane treatment of anyone, especially considering Manning is clearly a whistle-blower who has revealed war crimes, human rights abuses, corporate and government collusion and geopolitical manipulation. The same question could be asked of America’s treatment of Jeremy Hammond and of all of those men/teenagers who have passed through Guantanamo or remain there without charge. From an outside perspective it appears that the American military and Government are taking USA exceptionalism to a new level (such as with enhanced interrogation techniques which, lets face it, is a nicer word for torture, Drone assassinations of your own citizens and the NDAA) and with such behaviour the American people should be aware your Government is eroding your countries standing as a beacon of democracy in the eyes of many around the world.”
RN: Is there any hope that the military figures involved in violating the UCMJ Article 13, which prohibits pretrial punishment, will ever have their own day in court?
SC: Well, as an American I am sure you would have a clearer idea on this than me but from an outside perspective it would seem to me that this is unlikely – without a tremendous uproar by the American people and the global community – that anyone will be punished for the torture of Bradley Manning or in fact for the torture of any of the other men that have suffered at the hands of the American military system whether in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay (http://www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=2444).
It is also perhaps worth noting that being ordered to inflict torture on another human being has a severe impact on those doing the torturing, with all sorts of unintended consequences down the track for the community when those men ordered to commit such inhumane acts are discharged back to their local communities and their families.
A good example of this is someone like Brandon Neely a former guard at Guantanamo who has spoken out about the anguish and shame he has experienced over what he was ordered to participate in as a guard (http://youtu.be/H9-v4mqFQMw).
He has also been outspoken about the torture suffered by another Australian David Hicks – who was tortured for over five years at GITMO with the knowledge of American and Australian officials (http://thejusticecampaign.org/).
Therefore I think it is perhaps misguided to focus on punishing those following orders but the focus should be on the architects of a torture facility and such practices that go against human rights, international conventions and domestic laws.
It appears to us in Australia that America no longer plays by its own rules or by international rules and as such is committing itself to a pathway of continual deflection and denial over its abuse of human rights, civil liberties and your own constitution.
RN: Can you describe the involvement of the Wikileaks Australian Citizens Alliance in supporting Bradley Manning and how people can get involved in helping with your efforts?
SC: For WACA Bradley Manning and Julian Assange’s lives are inextricably linked because of the risks they have both taken to reveal to the world the truth of what Governments do and say in our name. The revelation of collateral murder also demonstrated to us clearly in Australia the way in which our close ally America is waging war, where 90% of the casualties are civilians. This by association makes Australia complicit in enabling war crimes and human rights abuses conveniently labelled as collateral damage.
Central to the mission of Wikileaks is to provide an anonymous secure platform for whistle-blowers. WACA believes that the protection of whistle-blowers is crucial to a healthy democracy. Therefore WACA has always seen the defence of Bradley Manning as equally important as the defence of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. I guess what has stunned us and perhaps many across the globe is the reaction by western democracies and the media to Wikileaks along with its dogged pursuit of Julian and the outrageous treatment of Bradley Manning, a soldier and an American citizen.
For WACA we have spent the last two years building networks of solidarity across the globe with Wikileaks, Assange and Manning supporters. Here in Australia we have demonstrated our support for Bradley by raising awareness repeatedly using direct action by occupying the USA Consulate in Melbourne. We feel Australia should be seriously reconsidering our relationship with any nation that uses torture on whistle-blowers or any other individual. WACA intends to continue to draw attention to Bradley Manning in 2013 and to apply pressure to both the USA and the Australian Government to respect human rights and civil liberties.
RN: There is a new project buzzing around, the: Influencing a Person of Influence Project. Can you tell us what that’s all about?
SC: Yes, I guess the reality is that in a global culture often our shared cultural signifiers come from popular culture or from those with public profile. This is a project that every individual can take on. The purpose is to inform people with influence either culturally or in the public sphere so they are armed with the truth and the facts. We hope in providing the facts that the mainstream media won’t that these people will also find that courage is contagious and speak out in defence of Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning.
For many years celebrities and cultural icons have used their position to highlight causes – well there is no greater narrative or cause on this planet right now than ensuring America does not get away with committing war crimes, silencing whistle-blowers and independent media and publishers.
What is happening to Julian Assange is a litmus test for our commitment to the ideals of democracy and free speech/free press. We hope everyone will choose a person of influence and reach out to them via social media or email and ask them to examine the facts and understand what is at stake for us all if people do not stand up now and speak out. A good example of this is the actor John Cusack who has been outspoken and recently helped form the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Many on twitter have been encouraging him for a long time to use his influence to help make a difference and he has fully embraced this call to action which is heart warming to see (https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/).
RN: Bradley Manning is alleged to have a role in exposing to Wikileaks the torture of Iraqis, murder of journalists, detailed records of more than 120,000 civilian killings in Iraq and Afghanistan and 251,000 diplomatic cables that helped to fuel the Arab Spring movement. Waiting for trail, Bradley is not alone in his whistle-blowers’ prison.
Jeremy Hammond,28, is also currently being held in a federal prison in New York for allegedly accessing and revealing 5 million internal documents from the private intelligence firm, Stratfor, to Wikileaks. Jeremy has spent the last 9 months incarcerated without bail or trial.
Award winning journalist Julian Assange has been detained without charge for over 2 years and has been under political asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than six months.
This action of detention without trial, of citizens turned activists in their morally just effort to help tell the rest of us the truth, could be described as a witch-hunt for anyone who goes against the “official narrative” of the United States. These unlawful detainments not only have a prolonged psychological effect on the prisoner, these people are like everyone else, they have families and loved ones who must also be traumatized from this experience.
Can you give us any insight into the families; or describe how you perceive the daily struggle of Christine Assange, Julian’s mother?
SC: Yes I think it is easy to forget that anyone in the public eye also has family and loved ones that are impacted in emotional ways that are often impossible to fathom: and this is really not something I would care to speculate on. What I can tell you is Christine is a strong and intelligent woman and she is an inspiration to many supporters here in Australia. Her courage, intellect and humour are legendary amongst supporters and her insight into what is happening to Australia and western democracies is erudite. I think my interview with Christine may give people some insight (http://waca.net.au/)..
RN: Now that Wikileaks, and Julian Assange, have been declared “Enemies of the State” by the United States and taking into consideration Mr. Assange’s recent announcement that Wikileaks is prepared to expose over a million documents in 2013 that will affect every country in the world, as an American Journalist I have to ask, has honest investigative journalism, regarding anything within the realm of an unexposed Government or Corporate truth, been outlawed?
SC: Well as Orwell stated, In a time of universal deceit telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
The potential designation of Wikileaks staff and supporters as Enemies of the United States is extraordinary for so many reasons. However does that mean honest investigative journalism around exposing Government and Corporate behaviour has been outlawed?
I definitely think this designation is designed to scare off other independent media or future whistle-blowers but more disturbingly it is designed to scare off supporters, active citizens and fracture a global community that is committed to transparency, truth and justice. I think the capacity for honest journalism has in fact increased via new media but it is coming out of the citizenry not necessarily those employed by commercial media. This is why the American Government and the western media’s response to Wikileaks and Julian Assange are so revealing. There is an attempt under way to insert a hierarchical “cold war” mentality and control of information and discourse in cyberspace, which is of course impossible. In an attempt to contain discourse our democratic governments have revealed their authoritarian tendencies, and this is why brave, honest journalism and activists are required now more than ever.
I think this idea that commercial media and journalists were ever really honest or free to print what they wanted is perhaps a bit of nostalgia.
The truth is, news has always been a construction of reality, it is a virtual immersion of reality that is full of covert and overt ideologies and perspectives or framing. No text is innocent even those exposing criminal behaviour come with the embedded world view of the journalist or producer, editors etc… there is a whole process that brings you this constructed reality. People need to understand the way news is constructed and filtered for the masses. This is of course nothing new for academics or cultural theorist who have been talking about this for decades.
The most obvious example of this is the way the global media were embedded in the Iraq war, all sense of objectivity and independence removed, the media made themselves the stars in their own stories. For the first time ever a mother could watch her soldier son rolling across the desert into battle, I mean this is just crazy, this is not news this is staged managed reality TV. But thanks to the same technology people can go on-line and see protesters streaming the brutality of war or evictions at occupy encampments. It all depends on how it’s filtered. This is why defending free speech, free press and free Internet is so important, these are the big issues of our generation, along with creating sustainability.
RN: What are the implications of the actions and subsequent persecution of these three men on journalists and future whistle blowers?
SC: I hope that Julian Assange and Bradley Manning inspire a thousand more Wikileaks and whistle-blowers. They have changed the world already in so many ways yet to be studied or understood.
I also hope the attempted persecution of Julian and Bradley will be resisted by the people because what happens to them may determine our fate in regards to free press, free Internet and free speech. It seems at the moment that most of the mainstream media are either too scared to speak out or are unaware of how significant the fate of Assange and Manning are. In fact the corporate media with their cosy political and corporate relations are part of the problem. Perhaps it is time for journalists to all go non profit and to stand up and make a choice for themselves. I think we are at a cross roads in history in so many ways and how WE the people respond to this is significant because we are all potentially Manning or Assange.
The Goal is Justice, the Method is Transparency.
Wikileaks Australian Citizens Alliance
Get active now, visit WACA http://waca.net.au/
Bradley Manning support network www.bradleymanning.org/
Justice for Assange justice4assange.com/
Free Jeremy Hammond http://freehammond.org/
Write to Bradley Manning
Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Bradley Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211
Write to Jeremy Hammond
#18729-424, Metropolitan Correctional Center
150 Park Row, New York, New York, 10007