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A Case of Arbitrariness and Political Refugees without Asylum

Obama must pardon Manning so whistleblowers in the future will not see themselves forced to be warmly received in the dark Putin Empire. Political lawbreakers like Nixon, Iran-Contra conspirators like former Defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and security advisor Robert McFarlane were pardoned. The state has no claim to secrecy of its illegal practices.

By Hans Hoyng

[This article published in August 2013 is translated from the German in Der Spiegel 32/2013.]

Whether Bradley Manning broke US laws was never the question. At the beginning of his court martial trial, he pled guilty in ten points. The maximum punishment for that would have been 20 years. That would have been an intolerable judgment but certainly not the last word in this matter.

The last word could have been 136 years imprisonment - if the state prosecutor brought in the big guns - those paragraphs in US federal law of the Espionage Act adopted in 1917 out of fear of German spies and saboteurs.

The application of these paragraphs in a trial that does not involve espionage or sabotage is a case of political arbitrariness. The defense cannot make the argument that the accused ultimately promoted the general welfare and did not harm anyone. The only basis of justification was thereby taken from private 1st class Manning. He had no chance of escaping a verdict of guilty.

The proper reaction to the sentence would be its annulment. It was legal and political overzealousness to condemn Manning in this way as a warning to other politically-motivated actors. The 25-year old soldier, a character weighed down with complex problems and hardly fit as a heroic figure, is the last victim in a hysterically-prolonged "war on terror."

This trial under Barack Obama was not the first time the US showed it acts with all severity against the spread of unpleasant truths. With the help of the same paragraphs, Richard Nixon commonly regarded as a sinister character among modern US presidents tried to lock up the whistleblower of the Pentagon Papers on the planning of the Vietnam War. With the conviction against Manning, Obama has now won where Nixon was defeated.

This injustice will define Barack Obama's presidency in the long term, more than his withdrawal from two wars and more than his largely vain struggle to make the US a more social state.

Together with other important international media, Der Spiegel published Manning's flood of data spread over the whistleblower platform Wikileaks. Thus Der Spiegel has an interest that future sources will not be intimidated and that this judgment will not stand up.

Obama must also have the same interest. The respect of the US is at stake, its credibility as a country where confrontation with the truth is part of its understanding of freedom.

The struggle against misuse of power depends on disclosures. Manning's revelations uncovered war crimes that remained unpunished for a long while. They showed how the US operates without orientation in Afghanistan. Far from spreading sublime gossip, the data from the US embassies proves how ready and willing the rulers are to pull the wool over the eyes of their own people.

Obama must pardon Manning so whistleblowers in the future will not see themselves forced to be warmly received in the dark Putin Empire. Political lawbreakers like Nixon, Iran-Contra conspirators like former Defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and security advisor Robert McFarlane were pardoned. Crows did not ultimately hack their eyes out.

Now one who called a crow a crow must also be pardoned.


By Norman Paech

[This article published in: Ossietsky 16/2013 is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, www.linksnet.de.]

Three persons are now bringing the media into a surge of emotion. At every opportunity, the media sing the praises of civil society and its freedoms. This demonstrates that every invocation of civil courage, openness and boldness is purely rhetorical when the twilight of their own power is involved. What the three - Assange, Manning and Snowden - put in question was the power and inviolability of their elected representatives and their instruments, not the security of the state, citizens and democracy.

The focus on the hypocrisy and criminality of their overlords and political prominence unites all three, not only the courage to leave the social roles they had once chosen. Nothing is left undone in the media to psychologize the three and present them as dubious and not very sympathetic personalities. They had to expect that. They have no illusions about the powerful hand of criminal prosecution. Their independence and sovereignty explains their different handling of the enormous dangers for themselves and their future. This is true for Assange and Snowden who with good reason evaded the hardly trustworthy administration of justice. Whoever strips governments of their carefully arranged costume of rule of law and puts them in the twilight of their dark praxis must adjust to long-term harsh resistance and persecution with all possible tricks.

What the three brought into the light of the public was already long present on the plane of suspicion. Law and justice are the first casualties in times of war, not only the truth. The evidence of crimes against humanity connected with Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo, war crimes committed in the destruction of wedding- and holiday p[arties in Afghanistan and Pakistan, massacres as at the Kundus river or the targeted killing of individual suspects are never examined in an unbiased way by a judge. Even the requests for information from archives or data espionage were refused by courts in the US. The embarrassing journey of minister of the interior Friedrich to the US did not bring back more than the assurance that the US in the future would instruct the German authorit6ies or secret services about the charges of the NSA. This guarantees further secrecy and only strengthens the suspicion of the collaboration of the two secret services. Still the call for a German Snowden also becomes loud because changing the NSA's practices is not discussed.

Parliamentary groups of the Bundestag control the German secret services. However no one except some members of parliament is seriously convinced that this group effectively controls the secret services. It is itself part of the branched-out secret service machine. Only so much is told to the handpicked circle of the regular "story time" in the Bundestag by the heads of the secret services as they deem necessary. The members of parliament are obliged to silence outside the conference room free of monitoring. To hope for a "Snowden" among them is simply na´ve. He would have hardly anything comparable to report since the group is definitely the most unsuspecting part of the secret services and the government members of parliament are not interested in enlightenment anyway.

Let us disregard for the moment the still underrated dangers brought to the individual user of the Internet by the gigantic net monitoring and abnormal data collection. The political danger for the governments and the physical danger for the whistleblower lie in the airing of secret space, the Arkanum of the governments. That is the reason for the furious prosecution of the US administration... Assange and Co. encounter daily government criminality...

Manning made visible the conscious and targeted violation of humanitarian international law and human rights. The US administration put out two transparent legal justifications that could not6 weaken or invalidat6e the reproaches of Manning's documents. First, it appealed to the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" (AUMF) passed by Congress in September 2001 and secondly to the right of self-defense of Art. 51 of the UN Charter to declare the whole world the battlefield against any terror suspects. But the AUMF was limited to the battle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Art 51 of the UN Charter cannot be claimed either for ten years of war or for the targeted killing of terror suspects. Manning and Assange thoroughly denounced the excesses of torture and prison conditions in Guantanamo and not only this warfare that led to similarly degrading prison conditions.

The state has no claim to secrecy of its illegal practices. We should get over the late feudal understanding of the state. The claim to secrecy and the penal claim against betrayal of secrets can only refer to legal state actions. Whoever uncovers criminal practices of a state and is prosecuted as a criminal should be granted asylum everywhere for political reasons. H

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