Jill Abramson, the turtle in the comic, is the executive editor of the New York Times and she went on CBS' Face the Nation yesterday to declare that there were no scandals. Glad to see the paper continues to be 'objective.'
There are indeed White House scandals currently. On the IRS one, Sharyl Attkisson and Kim Skeen (CBS News) report:
But Engelbrecht's attorney, Cleta Mitchell, says it's not just the Democratic Party that went after the conservative causes, but also the federal government. Within months of the groups filing for tax-exempt status, Engelbrecht claims she started getting hit by an onslaught of harassment: six FBI domestic terrorism inquiries, an IRS visit, two IRS business audits, two IRS personal audits, and inspections of her equipment manufacturing company by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Texas environmental quality officials.
Taken alone, any of the visits and actions might seem perfectly reasonable. But Engelbrecht and her lawyer says it's the pattern and the timing of the attention paid to Engelbrecht's interests that led them to conclude something was amiss.
In a statement to CBS News, the FBI Houston Division said, "Pursuant to FBI policy, it would not be appropriate to comment on the nature of routine contacts made in the course of FBI business." ATF and OSHA said their inspections were also routine and had nothing to do with the IRS matter. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told us that agency had received a complaint and "can state without reservation that we were not directed to investigate Engelbrecht Manufacturing by any federal agency or any other agency."
All the while, the IRS tax-exempt applications seemed to languish. Engelbrecht says the IRS requested additional information from True the Vote five times, requiring thousands of pages of documentation. Engelbrecht estimates she's spent more than $100,000 in attorney and accountant fees to process the IRS requests. With its tax-exempt status in limbo, she says True the Vote had to return a $35,000 grant and cannot effectively fundraise. "I just kept thinking this can't be happening." Engelbrecht says, "it never ends."
There's also the Eric Holder scandal. But let's stay with the IRS. There was another hearing on that today and C.I.'s got a great report on the hearing. She captures an exchange that really goes to the lack of accountability. David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall of McClatchy report:
A group of anti-abortion activists in Iowa had to promise the Internal Revenue Service it wouldn’t picket in front of Planned Parenthood.
Catherine Engelbrecht’s family and business in Texas were audited by the government after her voting-rights group sought tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Retired military veteran Mark Drabik of Nebraska became active in and donated to conservative causes, then found the IRS challenging his church donations.
While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.
Use the links because it seems like there's a lot more going on than we ever knew.
Along with Dallas, the following worked on the latest edition of Third:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.
And this is what we came up with:
- Truest statement of the week
- Truest statement of the week II
- A note to our readers
- Editorial: Piss Ant Rao's Propaganda
- TV: The return of summer schedules on broadcast TV...
- On a blanket with Chris Christie . . .
- Mars once had a flowing water stream
- TV's 10 most embarrassing moments this season
- Movies, we love 'em
- Combating Military Sexual Assault
- Obama's peace rhetoric masks U.S. aggression (WW)
- Defiant prime march in Birmingham (UK Socialist Wo...
It was a good mixture. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Monday, June 3, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, the UN finds that over 1,000 people died in Iraq violence during the month of May, the KRG says the current talks among Iraq's political leaders are the final talks and leaves unstated what happens next, Bradley Manning's court-martial started today, the US Congress heard additional information about the IRS scandal, and more.
Ranking Member Jose Serrano: I think all members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- were appalled by the inappropriate actions taken by the IRS in determining how to examine the tax exempt status applications of various groups. The delays in processing applications, the criteria used to further review the information asked for indicate it's an organization failure that is simply unacceptable. The IRS is supposed to administer our tax laws in a fair and impartial manner -- anything else, and the agency loses the confidence of the American people. The IRS has not helped the situation with a seeming lack of clarity and forthrightness with Congress on these issues. In March of 2012, this Subcommittee was told in no uncertain terms that the IRS was not targeting particular groups for further scrutiny and that there were several safeguards in place to prevent bias or unfair examination policies of 501 (c) (IV) organizations. Both of these answers were terribly wrong then and they're terribly wrong now.
This afternoon, the House Oversight Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government held a hearing on the IRS scandal. Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel (who just assumed that job) and Treasury Inspector General for the IRS J. Russell George.
How serious is the problem? After the idiot Marcy Kaptur tried to distract everyone, US House Rep Steve Womack was left to refocus.
US House Rep Steve Womack: Did this particular circumstance surprise you?
J. Russell George: Yes, very much so. This is unprecedented, Congressman. Again, obviously during -- during the Nixon administration there were attempts to use the Internal Revenue Service in terms of matters that might be comparable in terms of misusing it. I'm not suggesting that the actions that were taken are comparable but I'm just saying that the misuse, causing the mistrust of the system occurred some time ago. But this is unprecedented.
For the most part, Democrats took the issue seriously. In fact, I'd say everyone but anti-choice Kaptur had a solid moment. Kaptur made a fool of herself but that's being covered elsewhere tonight. Just know that no one has looked like this big of an idiot in a Congressional hearing so far this year as Kaptur did today. And it wasn't enough to make an idiot of herself in the first round of questioning, she also did it in the second round. A complete fool. Ohio should have gone with Dennis Kucinich. He always had his facts before speaking in a hearing and never got schooled by a witness the way Kaptur was repeatedly. Her argument was that the IRS was "doing their job." This is a seat that may be competitive in 2014 thanks to Kaptur's stupidity and how embarrassing it will be for her to lose the seat one election after she ousted Kucinich.
US House Rep Harold Rogers was bothered by the fact that as the scandal took place, the IRS gave out over $93 million in bonuses (2010, 2011 and 2012). And within that sum, key figures in the current scandal got bonuses. Sarah Hall Ingram, the former Commissioner of the Tax Exempt Division which was responsible for overseeing the 501 (c) (IV) received bonuses of $103,000 plus which increased during the period of increased scrutiny of these groups. And in addition to that, she was promoted." Her deputy, Joseph Grant, received "almost 84,000" in bonuses "during that same period of time." Lois Lerner, the IRS official who appeared before Congress last month and took the Fifth, refusing to answer questions to avoid self-incrimination, received "almost $42,000 in bonuses during that same period of time."
US House Rep Harold Rogers: And all of these had to be approved by the President. Isn't that right?
Daniel Werfel: Uh, my understanding is that there is a small subclass of bonuses -- called Presidential Rank Awards -- that are approved by the President but they are relatively small in number. There's maybe a couple of hundred throughout the entire government. The larger amount of bonuses in terms of quantity are typically approved by the agency head.
US House Rep Harold Rogers: But OPM's guidelines say that bonuses over $25,000 have to be approved by the President. So did the President approve these bonuses of these very critical people in this scandal that we're investigation?
Daniel Werfel: I'm not sure the answer to that question. I'm also not sure from the way you phrased the question if the bonus numbers that you articulated were individual bonuses that added up to those numbers or if there was an individual bonus that exceeded $25,000 but that's something that we can certainly look into and get back to you.
J. Russel George noted that his department was currently in the midst of an ongoing audit of the bonuses and would share the information when the audit is complete (which is supposed to be this fall).
Daniel Werfel told the Committee he met once with US President Barack Obama for "about a 20 minute conversation," on May 16 or 17th (he wasn't sure which), "He ordered me to do an accountability review. His primary order to me was to restore the trust." Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew was also at the meeting. Werfel was told to prepare a plan and he stated his plan was due at the end of the month "and the first aspect was get to the bottom of this and hold the appropriate people accountable."
US House Rep Tom Graves: Regardless of whether the President asked you to or not, do you plan on clearing house, terminating anyone or holding anyone accountable?
Daniel Werfel: I certainly plan on holding people accountable. I don't know that --
US House Rep Tom Graves: What is your definition of accountable?
Daniel Werfel: So here -- That's a good question. Here's where we are right now in the process. We have an audit report that the Inspector General provided and that audit report has conclusions about mismanagement. And so the first part about the review is to figure out whether any of that mismanagement would lead one to the conclusion that that individual can no longer hold a position of public trust in the IRS. And that's my first order of business.
US House Rep Tom Graves: You've already stated publicly that the public trust has been lost. You stated that at the beginning of this meeting.
Daniel Werfel: Right.
US House Rep Tom Graves: You also stated, to the Chairman's question, that if somebody has done something wrong -- Would you terminate them? And it was in accordance to the refundable tax credits. And you said if somebody knowingly and advertently does that, you said yes, you would fire them. So we know that something has occurred here and yet we hear there's this long review process and yet no one has been held accountable. So for the Committee, to date, has anyone been held accountable?
Daniel Werfel: Well let me answer your question this way, if you look at the IRS --
US House Rep Tom Graves: That's a yes-or-no. Has anyone been held accountable?
Daniel Werfel: I -- I would say yes --
US House Rep Tom Graves: Who?
Daniel Werfel: -- and then I would like to expand on that. If you look at the IRS organization today versus the day the IG report was issued, we have new leadership in the Commissioner's Office, Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, Commissioner for Tax Exempt and Government Entites and in the organization --
US House Rep Tom Graves: That is new leadership, but who has been held accountable?
Daniel Werfel: Well I think the-the-the-the leaders that were replaced, certainly I think the fact that they're no longer holding positions of public trust, that's part of the accountability. The critical point here --
US House Rep Tom Graves: Were they terminated?
Daniel Werfel: Uhm. In most cases, resigned.
US House Rep Tom Graves: Voluntarily or were they asked to resign?
Daniel Werfel: It's uh -- a combination. For example, Steve Miller was asked --
US House Rep Tom Graves: So resignation is accountability? Is that what you're telling the American people?
Daniel Werfel: Well here's what I'm saying ---
US House Rep Tom Graves: Lois Lerner being on administrative leave is accountability? Is Lois Lerner still being paid today?
Daniel Werfel: She is.
US House Rep Tom Graves: Is that your definition of accountability?
Daniel Werfel: Well if you'd let me -- if you'd indulge me to answer the question.
US House Rep Tom Graves: That's easy, yes-or-no?
Daniel Werfel: There's two stages to accountability here. The first stage is based on the facts we have now to determine who can no longer hold a position of trust in the IRS. And the second stage, which I know is where you're going, is to determine whether there was any underlying malfeasance or issues that would warrant dismissal. We're going to follow the facts where they take us. We just do not yet have that completed review Inspector General --
US House Rep Tom Graves: If you don't know that there's underlying malfeasance, then why was somebody asked to resign?
Daniel Werfel: Because the decision was made that that person could no longer hold a position of trust because of the failures of management oversight. Whether those factors were motivated by something --
US House Rep Tom Graves: So they were asked to resign just to restore public trust? For public perception purposes or maybe political purposes.
Two things on that exchange. First, Lois Lerner has abused the public trust. That's not in question. First off, to try to get ahead of the scandal, she planted a question with a friend. The friend asked her it during the ABA conference and this is how the scandal broke. You don't plant a question. You don't pretend that your friend asking the question is a stranger. That's deception. That's an abuse of public trust.
You also aren't allowed to plead the Fifth with respect to your official duties. Once you do that, you've lost the public trust. There's no excuse for it. There's also no excuse to continue to pay Lois Lerner. She needs to be fired. She betrayed the public trust when she took the Fifth and when she misled the American people by planting a question (and by not answering her on planted question in full -- let's remember that as well.)
Second, Werfel's waiting on an IG report? No. Werfel is the acting Commissioner. He needs to be doing his own investigations. It is the "I'll wait for the IG report" that resulted in the last acting commissioner being asked to resign.
US House Rep Nita Lowey, early on, summed up the basic reaction to the IRS scandal better than anyone, "What on earth were they thinking? It is truly amazing to me. And I'm furious that the IRS engaged in ideological scrutiny which is absolutely unacceptable. We have a responsibility to the American people to make sure this is rectified and does not happen again. Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom of speech and expression. No position or party has a monopoly in our public debate or government. The IRS should never be used for any activities that come close to partisan or political action."
Today Kenneth Pollack offers another revisionary 'analysis' of Iraq at Brookings. Iraq is consumed with violence. April's death toll, the UN noted, was the worst in five years. And then came May. Saturday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq announced, "According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 1,045 Iraqis were killed and another 2,397 were wounded in acts of terrorism and acts of violence in May." In April, the UN death toll was 712.
Pollack, a 'centrist' who cheered on the Iraq War, insists that there is nothing surprising about the violence or a potential slide into civil war. Interestingly, it is now June and Pollack didn't find it worth sharing his 'knowledge' on this matter previously this year. In other words, no one believes you Pollack.
And for good reason. Not just his lying to start and keep the Iraq War going but also his inability to be honest today. He wants to insist that Iraqi thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is not under control of Iran. That may or may not be true. But his example is a false one:
That said, it is important to understand that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki himself is no Iranian stooge, as is sometimes wrongly asserted. Although Maliki is a Shi’a chauvinist, he also sees himself as an Arab and an Iraqi nationalist. His proudest moment seems to have been Operation Charge of the Knights in 2008, when he ordered an Iraqi-American offensive that smashed Jaysh al-Mahdi— then Iran’s most important proxy in Iraq— and ousted it from the country. Especially because he is a Shi’a Islamist, the act of driving Iran and its allies from Iraq made him enormously popular among his countrymen.
The Operation Charge of the Knights has been remarked upon by many -- including David Petreaus when he was a General and the then-top commander in Iraq testified before Congress in 2008. Pollack has a cute reading that no other commentators shared. That was an attack on Moqtada al-Sadr supporters -- in Basra and in the Sadr City section of Baghdad. That wasn't a hit on Iran, that was a hit on a political rival and Moqtada saw it as such. Pollack wants to reinvent history and facts and you can't do that.
Thanks, Pollack, for showing up with distortions and telling the world that Iraq reaching the highest death toll in five years isn't really news. Crawl back under your rock.
Violence continued today in Iraq, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left a civilian injured, a Baghdad bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured, the son of a judge was injured in a Tikrit shooting, a Samarra bombing injured one police officer, 1 government worker was shot dead in Mosul, a Balad car bombing claimed 3 lives and left four more people injured, 1 police officer was shot dead outside his Falluja home, an assassination attempt was made on Hazem al-Araji ("a leading figure in the Sadrist movement") who survived but one of his companions was killed in the shooting, and an Anbar Province assassination attempt (by bombs) on a military division commander left five people injured (the commander wasn't one of the injured).
On the violence, the editorial board of the Saudi Gazette observes:
“Iraqi political leaders must act immediately to stop this intolerable bloodshed,” says Martin Kobler, UN envoy to Iraq, expressing concern at the new surge in violence. Unfortunately, Nouri Al-Maliki is yet to convince Iraq’s minorities or its neighbors that he is the prime minister of a country, not the leader of a sect. To make matters worse, he is exercising authority and centralizing power in ways that belie American claims that Iraq is now a “democracy” unlike in the days of Saddam Hussein. Maliki’s security agencies continue to round up minority leaders inviting charges that he is using terrorism as a pretext to destroy or neutralize political rivals.
[. . .]
If Iraqi politicians must act to stop the bloodshed, as UN’s Kobler urges, Maliki should take the lead. He has once again proved that he is not equal to the occasion, confounding Iraq’s tragedy. Unless the UN and Arab League do something to bring the warring factions to the negotiating table, civil war may return to Iraq, making an end to the Syrian violence all the more difficult.
On Saturday, when the UN released the death toll, Nouri immediately tried to change the news cycle with a claim of 'deadly terrorism.' Most reporters readily swallowed the hook. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "Iraqi troops raided a suspected terror cell of five people who specialize in making chemical compounds for sarin, mustard and nerve gases, the defense ministry said Saturday." Al Jazeera got giddy as well:
The members of the cell were preparing to launch attacks domestically, and also had a network to smuggle the toxins to neighbouring countries, and also to Europe, Canada and the United States, Askari said.
The members of the cell were preparing to launch attacks domestically, and also had a network to smuggle the toxins to neighbouring countries, and also to Europe, Canada and the United States, Askari said.
Officials showed reporters three suspects dressed in yellow jumpsuits with their heads covered by masks. They also displayed bottles of chemicals and other lab equipment as well as remote controlled toy helicopters authorities said the men planned to use to disperse the gas.
Judith Miller at her most gullible and most damaging couldn't have provided better stenography. It was left to Adam Schreck (AP) to provide context and skepticism:
Reporters were shown four of the alleged suspects, who were hooded, and a table displaying beakers and jars of chemical compounds. At one point, soldiers wearing gas masks and gloves brought out containers containing alleged chemical ingredients. Neither Askari nor the reporters at the news conference were given any protective gear.
The lessons of the pre-war reporting were never learned. Saturday demonstrated that yet again.
Turning to The Godfather of the Divide as he's been dubbed, US Vice President Joe Biden. Peyamner News Agency reported yesterday that, "U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the meeting with Iraqi delegation in Washington announced that Iraq should be divided into three separate areas, Kurd, Shiite and Sunni, to resolve the current crisis in Iraq." As a US senator, Biden proposed Iraq become a federation -- split into three regions: Shi'ite (largely in the south), the KRG already in the north, and a segment of the central part of the country going to Sunnis. The south and the north are oil rich. While seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2007, he supported the plan. By January 2008, before he dropped out, he was saying that if there was support for it in the US Congress, it would go through but otherwise it was dead. There was not support for it in the Congress.
Though Joe Biden has not spoken of it to Americans, for weeks the rumors have been that he was proposing it to Iraqis.
Today, All Iraq News reports, "The National Dialogue Front, headed by Deputy Premier, Saleh al-Mutleq criticized the US Vice President Joseph Biden's renewing for his call to split Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions to achieve the security and political stability in Iraq." They go on to note news reports from last week about his three phone calls two weeks ago. (For the three phone calls, drop back to the May 24th snapshot.) The talk of breaking up Iraq comes days after a leading Iraqi figure was being hailed as a deal maker. Saturday, Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, oversaw a meet-up. Alsumaria noted al-Hakim's speech which tossed around the terms "honor," "blood" and "partnership." The theme was parternship is not a privilege given but the natural outcome of people in a country. The secondary theme was that pluralism is represented in Iraq by its people and must be reflected in its government. All Iraq News added that the meeting was at al-Hakim's office and that attendees included Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Ayad Allawi, Moqtada al-Sadr and KRG President Massoud Barzani did not attend but did send representatives.
The refusal to attend wasn't surprising and should have been seen as a message.
Non-attendee Massoud Barzani issued a statement to the press today. National Iraqi News Agency quotes him stating, "Current round of talks, that started last month, is last chance to end dispute that resulted in tension within Federal Iraq. We either reach an agreement or we have to think of a new form of relations with Baghdad." Isabel Coles, Patrick Markey and Mark Trevelyan (Reuters) report:
How the matter is settled will have a major impact on oil producers like Exxon Mobil and Iraq's neighbour Turkey, which has upset Baghdad and Washington by deepening energy ties with Kurdistan.
"The current talks will be the last chance," Barzani said in an interview at his presidential office outside the Kurdish capital Arbil. "There has been a softening of their (Baghdad's) position, but practically speaking there has been no progress".
"Either we will be able to reach an agreement... or we will have to think of a new form of relations between the region and Baghdad," he said, declining to elaborate.
He declined to elaborate but the unspoken threat is if the talks don't work, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government goes its own way.
This NINA story and this NINA story is about the US government rushing around doing conversations about the future of Iraq in Iraq. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee might want to review these reports. Brett McGurk couldn't pass Senate confirmation. But he's now the State Dept's Senior Advisor in Iraq. If someone was unable to pass confirmation, they really shouldn't be the Senior Advisor for anything. Secretary John Kerry should be asked why McGurk continues in that spot? (Hillary put him in it.) Now that Kerry is Secretary of State he should be asked that question and he should be asked, as the former Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to reconsider McGurk's role in Iraq.
Today, the US State Dept issued the following:
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
June 3, 2013On May 31, thirty residents of Camp Hurriya departed Iraq for permanent relocation in Albania. The United States commends the Government of Albania’s generous offer to accept up to 210 former Camp Hurriya residents. This marks the second in a series of planned moves to relocate Camp Hurriya residents to Albania. Albania continues to be a strong partner of the United States in contributing to peace and stability in Iraq.
The United States also reiterates its call to the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to cooperate fully with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) process to relocate Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq as expeditiously as possible. The permanent relocation of residents is essential to ensure the safety and security of residents, especially following the February 9 terrorist attack that took eight lives.
The MEK leadership has the responsibility to facilitate the full and immediate participation of residents in interview and counseling processes required by the UNHCR. Residents of Camp Hurriya are entitled to unimpeded and private access to UN human rights monitors. The MEK leadership has an obligation to ensure residents are able to engage openly and freely with UN human rights monitors, UNHCR personnel and UNAMI representatives.
The United States reaffirms its strong support for the work of UNHCR, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and especially the tireless work of UNAMI Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler, to assist and resettle Camp Hurriya residents.
The safety and security of Camp Hurriya residents remain an utmost concern. Security requirements to protect residents must be fulfilled in accordance with the December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq.
In the US, the court-martial of Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning began today. Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. Independent.ie adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor." February 28th, Bradley told the court he was the whistle blower who provided WikiLeaks with the documents. Amnesty International issued the following:
‘It disturbing that he was not permitted to offer the "public interest" defence' - Anne FitzGerald
Bradley Manning must be allowed to argue that he acted in the public interest when he distributed information to WikiLeaks, Amnesty International said today as the court martial against the US soldier began in the US state of Maryland.
Manning faces multiple charges in relation to obtaining and distributing thousands of classified documents to unauthorised parties, including “aiding the enemy”.
The charge of aiding the enemy carries a potential death sentence, although the prosecution has said it would not seek this in his case. Instead, Manning faces a possible life sentence or decades in prison.
Manning has already pleaded guilty to 11 of the charges after presiding Judge Col Denise Lind ruled that he could not argue that he was acting in the public interest when he released information to WikiLeaks. At the start of his trial, in a statement read to the court, Manning stated that he believed he was exposing abuses. Judge Lind ruled that Manning’s motives for disclosure were not relevant to whether he had intentionally broken the law, but could only be considered in mitigation for purposes of sentencing.
Information released by Manning included a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in which US soldiers killed 12 people, including civilians, and which hadn’t been in the public domain until then. Although a US military internal inquiry on the incident concluded that the soldiers had acted appropriately, there has been no independent and impartial investigation into the attack.
Amnesty International Research and Crisis Response Director Anne FitzGerald said:
“The court must allow Manning to explain in full his motives for releasing the information to WikiLeaks.
“It disturbing that he was not permitted to offer the ‘public interest’ defence as he has said he reasonably believed he was exposing human rights and humanitarian law violations.
“Allowing Manning to explain his motives only at the sentencing stage could have a chilling effect on others who believe that they are whistleblowing or acting in the public interest in disclosing information.
“Manning should have been allowed to explain how in his opinion, the public interest in being made aware of the information he disclosed outweighed the government’s interest in keeping it confidential.”
Manning could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years for the 11 charges for which he has pleaded guilty. He was arrested in May 2010 while stationed with the US army in Iraq and has been held in military custody since then.
Amnesty will continue to follow the case closely and will send an observer at key points of the trial, which is expected to run for the next several months.
David Dishneua (AP) quotes Capt Joe Morrow, with the prosecution, telling the military court today, "This is a case of about what happens when arrogance meets access to sensitive information. This, your honor, this is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousand of documents from classified databases and then dumped that information on to the internet and into the hands of the enemy." Ian Simpson (Reuters) notes Bradley's civilian attorney David Coombs declared that Bradley was "young, naive, but good intentioned." Is ignorance of the law going to be Coombs defense? He is aware that's not an excuse, right? And if he thinks he's laying the groundwork for ineptitude, he's doing it very poorly. (Ineptitude is a recognized military defense. If you were inept -- it has to be specific -- then you can be found not guilty. Ineptitude is not ignorance.) Also, it's "well intentioned," not "good intentioned." What a moron. Who is the idiot who paired Bradley with this attorney?
ITV (link is text and video) quotes Coombs more fully, "He was 22-years old. He was young. A little naive, but good intentioned in that he was selecting information that he thought would make a difference. He is not the typical soldier. He was a humanist."
That argument? It's meaningless. It became meaningless when the decision was made by the defense not to seek a trial by his peers and instead allow the military official overseeing the court-martial to decide on guilt or innocence. Denise Lind will be swayed only by the law. Coombs is such an idiot he's making jury arguments when there's no jury present. What an idiot.
And Bradley's facing life in prison (in part because his idiot attorney couldn't get a plea deal). Ashley Fantz and Paul Courson (CNN) remind, "In February, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges he faced and could be sentenced to two decades in prison on those charges. But he has not admitted to the most serious count -- aiding the enemies of the United States. If convicted on that count, he could go to prison for life."
If you're not getting how stupid Combs is, let's move to Arun Rath's report for Frontline (PBS) where he notes the prosecution spent an hour making their opening statement:
The prosecution’s opening argument presented a detailed timeline of Manning’s deployment to Iraq and how he began to download confidential documents within two weeks of his arrival. Prosecutor Army Capt. Joe Morrow argued that Manning’s case shows what happens, “when arrogance meets access to sensitive information,” and said that “the evidence will show he used his military training to gain the notoriety he craved.”
Morrow argued that Manning was fully aware that the leaks could aid the enemy, having been briefed multiple times on the consequences of disclosure and potential damage. He also referenced an internal military report, which would have been read by Manning, that details the specific risks posed by the WikiLeaks website, noting that Manning was “warned repeatedly” in training of America’s enemies’ use of WikiLeaks. Capt. Morrow also noted that Osama bin Laden himself received the Afghanistan war logs leaked by Manning.
The prosecution also claimed that Manning was “indiscriminate” in leaking a massive trove of documents “to a group that advocated for random openness.” He characterized Manning’s leaking as “not calculated” and essentially reckless, “massive, massive downloads.”
The defense’s opening was somewhat more general, and at times philosophical, beginning with an attempt to establish the point of view of PFC Manning in Iraq, “22 years young,” excited to be on his first deployment, and “hopefully make Iraq a safer place.”
So while the prosecution is being systematic in their presentation, Coombs is all over the board with idiotic statements which don't even rally public support outside the courtroom. All weekend long we heard or read or saw one interview after another of Daniel Ellsberg and others maintaining, "I am Bradley Manning." The point of that p.r. blitz is to normalize Bradley, to make him appear like someone you know, someone you can understand. But Coombs is presenting Bradley as an "oddball." While the p.r. campaign is saying we're all like Bradley, Coombs is arguing Bradley is nothing like others.
It's stupid. It's stupid in that this part of the hearing is open and his statements could be used to rally the public but Coombs is too stupid to grasp that. It's stupid because he already looks like an idiot before the judge while the prosecution looks methodical and informed. It really says something when you think about the brain trust that devoted their time and energy to Julian Assange (including but not limited to American attorney Michael Ratner) but there's a brain drought when it comes to Bradley's defense.
What should Coombs be doing? Having failed to get a plea deal that would allow Bradley to serve less than five years (that was possible), having failed to get a jury trial, having failed to stipulate so that the trial would not last (as many outlets insist it will) 12 weeks, what is Coombs left with?
He's left with the law. You argue the law. And it's not hard to argue the law. The law is in conflict all the time. You raise those conflicts before the judge, you make the judge explore those conflicts on her own, in her own mind. You're not going to sway a military judge with kittens and sob stories.
As Matthew Hay Brown (Baltimore Sun) noted yesterday, "The 25-year-old soldier faces charges including violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison." So this is serious and Coombs needs to get his act together. What he should be arguing is the law. What he should be arguing is that the military can find you guilty of a crime after it has taken place (guilty after the fact) just because you didn't report what you learned. In this case, what Bradley learned was shocking and it was well known by his superiors. Where was he supposed to report that? Put the entire military justice system on trial. Note how many men and women in the military who come forward about being raped and assaulted get no justice. Bradley wanted to honor the oath he took, wanted to honor the military, wanted to follow the laws but they were all in conflict, lacked clarity and left a private to navigate the system completely alone. And, if indeed, Coombs is trying to argue ineptitude (on Bradley's part) as a defense, that gives him even more framework.
You make the legal argument. You engage the judge's critical thinking and you do so grasping that judicial activism -- which happens across the political spectrum -- happens because judges think they know so much and think if writing the law was left up to them all the problems in the world would be solved. You invite the judge into a legal maze and let the judge sort it out. The vanity usually works to the defense's interest.
the baltimore sun
matthew hay brown
national iraqi news agency
the saudi gazette
peyamner news agency
all iraq news
the associated press
mohammed tawfeeq reuters