This Is Not A
One Thousand Posts, One Thousand Days
Well, nine years, eight months and about twenty-eight days on from when I started this load of old cods, I have duly arrived at the one thousandth post. (*)
I had thought that I would have to come up with something special to mark the event; a sort of summing-up of what this site is about, including my own philosophy about why I have committed all this verbiage to the cyberworld and why I might carry on doing it for a while longer.
The very thought of having to formulate, write and code such a piece has impacted on my joie de vivre for a few days now, but I've thought of a crafty way out; one which links a current concern and one of my own obsessions.
If there has been a theme running through many of the pieces I've written and published here since the summer of 2003, it's a detestation of the way that power is routinely abused by those who have it in order to stamp on any real chance that someone might challenge it, even if only to the extent of revealing that the God-Emperors of their particular society are stark bollock naked. And so, I have railed impotently against the over-reach of police even to the point of arresting children for playing hopscotch; the dragging of people through trial after re-trial in order to try to get the 'right' result; the abuse of power by the judiciary in passing disproportionate sentences for nakedly political or ideological purposes (or just to prove that they can); and, sitting behind all this, the arrogance of the political, commercial and media élites in either denying their intent or implying that they are doing all this for our own good.
So it is, I think, in keeping with this spirit that post number One Thousand should consist of extracts from the extraordinary statement given to a military court in Fort Meade, Md. last Thursday week by Pfc. Bradley Manning who is, if you didn't know (and you bloody well should), shortly to face a court martial in connection with his leaking of low-level documents to Wikileaks which exposed diplomatic, political and economic bullying by the United States government and - far more serious and to the point - the acts of outright criminality, up to the point of actual war crimes, committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The full statement ran to thirty-five pages, but what follows are passages in which Bradley Manning explains not just what he did but - more significantly - why.
The clarity and cohesion of the statement not only give the lie to the US régime's claims that the information thereby made available to the world - information which the so-called 'free press' were too cowardly to touch - imperilled the very existence of the good ol' Yoo-Ess-Of-Ay, but also exposes as utterly bogus the attempts to psychologise Manning's motives and implying that he was motivated by 'lack of patriotism' or even confusion about his sexuality. Instead, it was a calm and methodical outline such as you would expect from a professional intelligence analyst.
The full statement - or, at least, that proportion of it which was taken down by Manning's supporters in the public gallery; the authorities have so far refused to release an official transcript, and any such release is likely to be substantially 'redacted' (i.e., censored) - can currently be read here. However, a set of 'highlights' has been put together by the support campaign. These can, for the moment, be read here; but, as they may in due course meet the same fate as the full version, I append them here as well, to mark not so much the one thousandth post made by Yer Judge, but the thousand days plus of confinement endured by a courageous and principled young man who faces the full wrath of a system of self-styled 'justice' which wishes to put him in the brig for the rest of his life, a system headed up by a Commander-in-Chief who smooth-talked his way into office by promising increased protection for those who revealed wrong-doing by public bodies and who then has spent over four years doing the exact - but the exact - opposite, setting his régime's attack mongrels on more whistleblowers than all of his predecessors combined.
In the light of that, I am proud to lend my efforts in support of Bradley Manning in whatever small way I can; to fervently hope that the full court martial due in June will not turn out to be quite as marsupial as I fear it will be; and to hope above all else that - a thousand days or a thousand posts from now - I won't have to remind people that Bradley Manning is still in prison.
"I wrote this statement in confinement, so... The following facts are provided in support of the providence inquiry for my court martial, United States v. Pfc. Bradley E. Manning.
"I am a 25-year old Private First Class in the United States Army currently assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, HHC, US Army Garrison-USAG, Joint Base Myer, Henderson Hall, Fort Meyer, Virginia. Prior to this assignment, I was assigned to HHC, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. My primary military occupational specialty or PMOS is 35 fox-trot: intelligence analyst. I entered active duty status on 2 October 2007. I enlisted with the hope of obtaining both real-world experience and earning benefits under the GI Bill for college opportunities."
On Bradley’s knowledge of WikiLeaks
"My primary reason for following WLO [WikiLeaks Organization] on IRC was curiosity, particularly in regards to how and why they obtained the SMS messages referenced above. I believed that collecting information on the WLO would assist me in this goal. Initially, I simply observed the IRC conversations. I wanted to know how the organization was structured, and how they obtained their data. The conversations I viewed were usually technical in nature but sometimes switched to a lively debate on issues the particular individual may have felt strongly about.
"Over a period of time I became more involved in these discussions especially when conversations turned to geopolitical events and information technology topics, such as networking and encryption methods. Based on these observations, I would describe the WLO organization [discussions?] as almost academic in nature."
On choosing a media outlet
"At my aunt's house I debated what I should do with the SigActs [Significant Activities], in particular whether I should hold on to them or disclose them to a press agency. At this point I decided that it made sense to expose the SigAct tables to an American newspaper. I first called my local newspaper, The Washington Post, and spoke with a woman saying that she was a reporter. I asked her if the Washington Post would be interested in receiving information that would have enormous value to the American public. Although we spoke for about five minutes concerning the general nature of what I possessed, I do not believe she took me seriously. She informed me that the Washington Post would possibly be interested, but that such decisions were made only after seeing the information I was referring to and after consideration by the senior editors.
"I then decided to contact the largest and most popular newspaper, The New York Times. I called the public editor number on the New York Times website. The phone rang and was answered by a machine. I went through the menu section for news tips. I was routed to an answering machine. I left a message stating I had access to information about Iraq and Afghanistan that I believed was very important. However, despite leaving my Skype phone number and personal email address, I never received a reply from The New York Times.
"I also briefly considered dropping into the office for the political commentary blog Politico, however the weather conditions during my leave hampered my efforts to travel. After these failed efforts I ultimately decided to submit the materials to the WLO. I was not sure if the WLO would even actually publish the SigAct tables. I was concerned that they might not be noticed by the American media. However, based upon what I had read about the WLO through my research described above, this seemed to be the best medium for publishing this information to the world within my reach."
Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs
"As an analyst I viewed the SigActs as historical data. I believed this view is shared by other all-source analysts as well. SigActs give a first look impression of a specific or isolated event. This event can be an improvised explosive device attack or IED, small-arms fire engagement or SAF engagement with a hostile force, or any other event a specific unit documented and recorded in real time. In my perspective, the information contained within a single SigAct or group of SigActs is not very sensitive. The events encapsulated within most SigActs involve either enemy engagements or casualties. Most of this information is publicly reported by the public affairs office or PAO, embedded media pools, or host-nation-HN-media.
"For me, the SigActs represented the on-the-ground reality of the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and [hatred? anger] on both sides.
"I began to become depressed with the situation we found ourselves increasingly mired in. The SigActs documented this in great detail and provide a context of what we were seeing on the ground. In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and on being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions.
"I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables it could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment everyday.
"I attached a text file I drafted while preparing to provide the documents to the Washington Post. I provided rough guidelines saying, "It's already been sanitized of any source identifying information. You might need to sit on this information - perhaps 90 to 100 days - to figure out how best to release such a large amount of data and to protect its source. This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of twenty-first century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day."
"After sending this, I left the SD card in a camera case at my aunt's house in the event I needed it again in the future. I returned from mid-tour leave on 11 February 2010. Although the information had not yet been published by the WLO, I felt this sense of relief by them having it. I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and what I had read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan everyday."
"The video depicted several individuals being engaged by an aerial weapons team. At first I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other 'war porn'-type videos depicting combat. However, the recording and audio comments by the aerial weapons team and the second engagement in the video of an unarmed bongo truck troubled me. As Showman and a few other analysts and officers in the T-SCIF commented on the video and debated whether the crew violated the rules of engagement or ROE in the second engagement, I shied away from this debate, and decided to conduct some research on the event. I wanted to learn what happened and whether there was any background to the events of the day that the event occurred, 12 July 2007.
"Using Google I searched for the event by date by its general location. I found several new accounts involving two Reuters employees who were killed during the aerial weapon team engagement. Another story explained how Reuters had requested for a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. Reuters wanted to view the video in order to understand what had happened and to improve their safety practices in combat zones. A spokesperson for Reuters was quoted saying that the video might help avoid the re-occurrence of the tragedy and believed there was a compelling need for the immediate release of the video.
"Despite the submission of the FOIA request, the news account explained that CENTCOM replied to Reuters, stating that they could not give a time frame for considering a FOIA request and that the video might no longer exist. Another story I found written a year later said that even though Reuters was still pursuing the request, they still did not receive a formal response or written determination in accordance with FOIA.
"The fact neither CENTCOM or Multi National Forces Iraq or MNF-I would not voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely 'Good Samaritans'. The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful blood-lust the Aerial Weapons Team seemed to have.
"They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as quote-unquote 'dead bastards', and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
"While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew's lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see a bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew assumes the individuals are a threat. They repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck, and once granted, they engage the vehicle at least six times.
"Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van. Despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."
"The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later, in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team crew vocalizes enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over one of the bodies.
"After the release, I was concerned about the impact of the video and how it would been received by the general public. I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled - if not more troubled - than me by what they saw."
15 Iraqi Detainees
"On 27 February 2010, a report was received from a subordinate battalion. The report described an event in which the Federal Police, or FP, detained 15 individuals for printing anti-Iraqi literature. On 2 March 2010, I received instructions from an S3 section officer in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Tactical Operation Center or TOC to investigate the matter and figure out who the quote 'bad guys' unquote were and how significant this event was for the Federal Police.
"Over the course of my research I found that none of the individuals had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups. A few hours later, I received several photos from the scene from the subordinate battalion. They were accidentally sent to an officer on a different team in the S2 section, and she forwarded them to me."
"These photos included picture of the individuals, [pallets?] of unprinted paper and seized copies of the final, printed document, and a high-resolution photo of the printed material itself. I printed out one copy of a high resolution photo. I laminated it for ease of use and transfer. I then walked to the TOC and delivered the laminated copy to our Category 2 interpreter.
"She reviewed the information and about a half and hour later delivered a rough written transcript in English to the S2 section. I read the transcript and followed up with her, asking her for her take on the content. She said it was easy for her to transcribe verbatim since I blew up the photograph and laminated it. She said the general nature of the document was benign. The document, as I had assessed as well, was merely a scholarly critique of the then current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"It detailed corruption within the cabinet of al-Maliki's government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people. After discovering this discrepancy between the Federal Police's report and the interpreter's transcript, I forwarded this discovery to the top OIC and the battle NCOIC. The top OIC and the [unavailable] battle captain informed me they didn't want or need to know this information anymore. They told me to quote 'drop it' unquote and to just assist them and the Federal Police in finding out where more of these print shops creating quote 'anti-Iraqi literature' unquote might be.
"I couldn't believe what I heard, and I returned to the T-SCIF and complained to the other analysts in my section NCOIC about what happened. Some were sympathetic, but no one wanted to do anything about it.
"I am the type of person who likes to know how things work, and as an analyst, this means I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts in my section or other sections within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie-cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could to correct or mitigate the situation.
"I knew if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time - if ever.
"Instead of assisting the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police, I decided to take the information and expose it to the WLO, before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election, hoping they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down in political opponents of al-Maliki."
Guantanamo Case Files
"I began sifting through information from SOUTHCOM and Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Cuba or JTF-GTMO. The thought occurred to me, although unlikely, the individual detained by the Federal Police might be turned over into US custody, ending up in the custody of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
"As I digested through the information on Joint Task Force Guantanamo, I quickly found the Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABs. I previously came across the documents before in 2009 but did not think much about them. However, this time I was more curious in this search and I found them again.
"The DABs were written in standard DoD memorandum format and addressed the commander of US SOUTHCOM. Each memorandum gave basic background information about detainees held at some point by Joint Task Force Guantanamo. I have always been interested in the issue of the moral efficacy of our actions surrounding Joint Task Force Guantanamo. On the one hand, I have always understood the need to detain and interrogate individuals who might wish to harm the United States and our allies, however, the more I became educated on the topic, it seemed that we found ourselves holding an increasing number of individuals indefinitely that we believed or knew to be innocent, low-level foot soldiers that did not have useful intelligence and would've been released if they were held in theater.
"I also recall that in early 2009 the then newly elected president, Barack Obama, stated he would close Joint Task Force Guantanamo, and that the facility compromised our standing over all, and diminished our quote-unquote 'moral authority'. After familiarizing myself with the DABs, I agreed.
"Reading through the Detainee Assessment Briefs, I noticed they were not analytical products. Instead they contained summaries of [unavailable] versions of interim intelligence reports that were old or unclassified. None of the DABs contained names of sources or quotes from tactical interrogation reports or TIRs. Since the DABs were being sent to the US SOUTHCOM commander, I assessed they were intended to provide general background information on each detainee - not a detailed assessment."
"In addition to the manner [in which] the DABs were written, I recognized they were at least several years old, discussing detainees already released from Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Based on this, I determined that the DABs were not very important from either an intelligence or national security standpoint. On 7 March 2010, during my Jabber conversation with Nathaniel, I asked him if he thought the DABs might be of any use to anyone. Nathaniel indicated although he did not believe that they were of political significance, he did believe that they could be used to merge into the general historical account of what occurred at JTF Guantanamo. He also thought the DABs might be helpful to the legal counsel of those currently or previously held at Gitmo."
"I first became aware of the diplomatic cables during my training period in the AIT. I later learned about the Department of State or DoS netcentric Diplomacy NCD portal from the 2/10 Brigade Combat Team S2, Captain Steven Lim. Captain Lim sent a section-wide email to the other analysts and officer in late December 2009 containing the SIPRnet link to the portal, along with the instructions to look at the cables contained within them and incorporate them into our work product.
"Shortly after this I also noticed the diplomatic cables were being reported to in products from the corp level US Forces Iraq or US-I. Based on Captain Lim's direction to become familiar with its contents, I read virtually every published cable concerning Iraq.
"I also began scanning the database and reading other random cables that piqued my curiosity. It was around this time, in early to mid-January of 2010, that I began searching the database for information on Iceland. I became interested in Iceland due to the IRC conversations I viewed in the WLO channel discussing an issue called Icesave. At this time I was not very familiar with the topic, but it seemed to be a big issue for those participating in the conversation. This is when I decided to investigate and conduct a few searches on Iceland to find out more.
"At the time, I did not find anything discussing the Icesave issue either directly or indirectly. I then conducted an open source search for Icesave. I then learned that Iceland was involved in a dispute with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands concerning the financial collapse of one or more of Iceland's banks. According to open source reporting much of the public controversy involved the UK's use of anti-terrorism legislation against Iceland in order to freeze Icelandic access for payment of the guarantees for UK depositors that lost money.
"The cable, published on 13 January 2010, was just over two pages in length. I read the cable and quickly concluded that Iceland was essentially being bullied diplomatically by two larger European powers. It appeared to me that Iceland was out viable options and was coming to the US for assistance. Despite the quiet request for assistance, it did not appear that we were going to do anything.
"From my perspective it appeared that we were not getting involved due to the lack of long term geopolitical benefit to do so. After digesting the contents of 10 Reykjavik 13 I debated whether this was something I should send to the WLO. At this point the WLO had not published or acknowledged receipt of the CIDNE-I or CIDNE-A tables. Despite not knowing if the SigActs were a priority for the WLO, I decided the cable was something that could be important. I felt that I might be able to right a wrong by having them publish this document.
"The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion this was the type of information that should become public. I once read [unavailable] a quote on open diplomacy written after the First World War [about how] the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with or against each other. I thought these cables were a prime example of the need for more open diplomacy.
Given all of the DoS info I read, the fact most of these cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption, I believed the public release of these cables would not damage the United States. I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing since they represent very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations. In many ways these cables are a catalogue of cliques and gossip. I believed exposing this information might make some within the DoS, and other government entities, unhappy."
"In late March 2010, I discovered a US CENTCOM directory on a 2009 air-strike in Afghanistan. I was searching CENTCOM for information I could use as an analyst. This is something myself and other officers did on a frequent basis. As I reviewed the documents, I recalled the incident and what happened. The airstrike occurred in the Garani village in the Farah Province, Northwestern Afghanistan. It received worldwide press coverage at the time as it was reported that up to 100-150 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, were accidentally killed during the airstrike.
"After going through the report and annexes, I began to review the incident as being similar to the 12 July 2007 aerial weapons team engagements in Iraq, however, this event was noticeably different in that it involved a significantly higher number of individuals, larger aircraft and much heavier munitions. The conclusions of the report are more disturbing than those of the July 2007 incident. I did not see anything in the 15-6 report or its annexes that gave away sensitive information. Rather, the investigation and its conclusions help explain how the incident occurred and what those involved should of done to avoid an event like this occurring again."
Post-historical note: Embarrassingly, and a long time after the event, I realised that this wasn't in fact the one-thousandth post, because I had missed one off when I was tallying them up. For what it's worth, this from the day before was Number 1000.