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Protect Whistle Blowers

Posted by Medea -

Wed, Jun 15, 2011

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This morning CODEPINKERS and members of the Bradley Manning Support Network rallied outside of the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. The issues at stake: government transparency and basic civil liberties. We rallied today to express our support for whistle blower David House, who appeared at the Federal Grand Jury after receiving a subpoena in May.

These court hearings epitomize government secrecy. Designed to be inaccessible to the public, the Grand Jury does not even allow the witness’s attorney to be present. Only authorized persons are admitted into the court meaning members of the grand jury, the attorneys for the government, the witness, and a stenographer. I thought those tried were entitled to a FREE trial, but I suppose when it is government secrets at risk that civil liberty can be waived.

Secret military files, private court hearings, and unlawful detentions sound like the conditions of a harsh dictatorship, not the United States of America. Unfortunately, use of such practices in the United States has been made evident by the Wikileaks scandal and the following judicial hearings.

In May 2010 Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst for the U.S. military, was charged with illegally leaking US military information to Wikileaks, an anti-secrecy website. As a result, Manning has been held without trial since May. Initially placed in detention at the military base of Quantico, Virginia, Manning’s treatment was horrific. According to the Free Manning Support Network, Manning was denied “meaningful exercise, social interaction, sunlight and has occasionally been kept completely naked.” In these inhumane conditions, Manning’s physical and mental health deteriorated noticeably and he had very few visitors.

One of these visitors was close friend and founder of the Free Manning Movement, David House. House is a 23 year old computer expert who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was the one to call attention to Manning’s brutal confinement. Since Manning’s arrest, House has been working for David’s release, and while his efforts have been rewarded with widespread support, and eventually led to Manning’s transfer from Quantico to Leavenworth, Kansas it has drawn House the unwelcome and hostile attention of the government.

Since coming out in support of Manning, and publicly condemning the conditions under which he is being held, House has been repeatedly harassed by federal agents at airports. Most significantly, when House was traveling through Chicago, he was temporarily detained by federal officials at the airport, resulting in the confiscation of his laptop, camera, and thumb drives. The federal agents acted without any inclination of criminal activity on the part of House and their actions signal a serious breach of civil liberties, one that seems to be condoned by the Obama Administration.

House is one of several Boston area activists to be subpoenaed by the grand jury, illustrating a blatant targeting by the court. The few who made their appearance in court before House have refused to comply with the court’s questioning, only answering the most basic biographical questions and in all other cases pleading the 5th against self-incrimination.

It is important for us to keep an eye on these hearings, and continue to fight for the protection of whistle blowers. The practices of these courts have already had detrimental effects on the civil liberties of American citizens. The precedent has been set for unwarranted harassment by government officials, and threatens to intimidate those who would otherwise raise issue to government practices.

By: Mary Posman

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