Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What did Chelsea Manning do? (A reminder)

Washington (CNN)  President Barack Obama on Tuesday overruled his secretary of defense to commute the sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks.
The decision – which a senior defense official told CNN was made over the objections of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter – immediately touched off a controversy in the closing days of the Obama administration.

What did Chelsea Manning do to deserve a 45-year sentence (currently being served at Ft. Leavenworth, KS?   Everyone remember?

Nearly seven years ago, on April 5, 2010, Wikileaks released video with transcripts and other documents showing that laughing American troops machine-gunned civilians (including two journalists) from helicopters. Three months later, on July 6, 2010, U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, a 22 year old intelligence analyst with the United States Army in Baghdad, was charged with providing the video to Wikileaks.

He informed the American people of what was being done, in their names, to the unfortunate, defenseless people of Iraq ... in their OWN country.

But such things happen in war, right?  Yes, that is right.  All the time, as a matter-of-fact. 

The significance of the Wikileaks release, though, is that the US military attempted to hide the incident, to keep it secret, and they lied about it.  The official statement initially listed all adult victims as insurgents and claimed the US
 military did not know how they were killed.  Lies.

All I need to know about WikiLeaks is that if it wasn't for Private Manning and WikiLeaks, we would never have known about the US military attempt to hide an incident in which civilians were murdered. Never. Just like we were never supposed to find out about Abu Ghraid, or the PRISM surveillance system.

The attack on civilians occurred three years before WikiLeaks released the "Collateral Murder" video.  Three years.  In three years, no one in the mainstream media showed any interest at all in collecting and disclosing information about those murders.  In three years, the US military focused solely on hiding the act. 

No one in the US military leadership or in the US mainstream media – no one – would ever have stood up and acted honorably.  No one.  You can take that to the bank.  They all failed to do their jobs.  It was necessary for someone else to do their jobs for them.  Pure and simple:  We owe Chelsea Manning.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Personal privacy: essentially, it's a constitutional debate

When the Americans added the Bill of Rights to their Constitution (to ensure its ratification by a few recalcitrant states, I believe) in 1791, it was a revolutionary (pardon the pun) notion that the government should be restrained from infringing on the rights of sovereign citizens. Under Crown law, there were no such restraints on the actions of the King to his subjects.  

At that time, there were no huge corporations that needed to be considered when imposing limits on institutional power.  That is what has changed most in 225 years ... essentially, citizens still have a right to privacy (to be secure in their persons, homes, and possessions) ... government is still restrained, by law, from infringing on those rights.  The difference is that now it is corporations that hold the real power in the US, and pose the greatest threat to individual liberty.  The government serves corporate interests in the US.  That's the nature of its "inverted totalitarianism."

Transparency is the key ... that's why courageous, self-sacrificing, individuals like Edward Snowden are so important.  They expose what we have a right to know, in order for democracy to exist.  Without that transparency, our society is under totalitarian rule.

The "terrorist" threat, insignificant as it is, is being used to stymie attempts at transparency. "National security", you know.  The attack is not one on our privacy; it's an attack on open government and self-governance by the people.

Protecting our privacy should not be our primary concern.  Protecting our rights to that privacy, to live free from government and corporate surveillance and profiling, should be a major concern to all of us.  The fact this it is NOT a concern to most people is an absolute guarantee that those rights will be abridged.  And, in all likelihood, we won't even know about it.

One of the most significant things that was not well understood about the events of last year was that it's not entirely about surveillance. We have seen a trend toward governments that are affording themselves, in secret, greater powers and more and more authority without the consent or awareness of the public.
Edward Snowden, November 7 2014

Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides everyone in Canada with protection against unreasonable search and seizure. This right provides Canadians with their primary source of constitutionally enforced privacy rights against unreasonable intrusion from the state. Typically, this protects personal information that can be obtained through searching someone in pat-down, entering someone's property or surveillanceUnder the heading of legal rights, section 8 states, succinctly:  Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.