Cheney and Manning: A Modest Proposal

by Henry on March 13, 2012

It’s not at all surprising that most US media have yawned at today’s news that a UN rapporteur has found that the US has treated Bradley Manning in a cruel and inhuman fashion. But it does highlight a rather interesting inequity.

On the one side of the balance sheet, we have Richard B. Cheney. This gentleman, now in private life, is a self-admitted and unrepentant perpetrator of war crimes – specifically, of ordering the torture of Al Qaeda detainees. Along with other senior members of the Bush regime, he is also guilty of the outsourcing of even viler forms of torture through the extraordinary rendition of individuals to regimes notorious for torturing prisoners (including the dispatch of Maher Arar, who was entirely innocent, to the torturers of Syria). The Obama administration has shown no enthusiasm whatsoever for prosecuting Cheney, or other Bush senior officials, for their crimes. While Obama has effectively admitted that they were torturers, he has indicated, both through public statements and continued inaction, that he would prefer to let bygones be bygones.

On the other, we have Bradley Manning. He appears to be a confused individual – but his initial motivation for leaking information, if the transcripts are correct, were perfectly clear. He was appalled at what he saw as major abuses of authority by the US, including incidents that he witnessed directly in Iraq. There is no evidence that his leaking of information has caused anything worse than embarrassment for the US. Yet he is being pursued by the Obama administration with the vengefulness of Greek Furies. While Manning was being kept in solitary confinement, and treated in an inhuman fashion, Richard Cheney was enjoying the manifold pleasures of a well-compensated private life, being subjected to no more than the occasional impertinent question on a Sunday talk show, and the inconveniences of being unable to travel to jurisdictions where he might be arrested.

It would appear then that the administration is rather more prepared to let bygones be bygones in some cases than in others. High officials, who ordered that torture be carried out and dragged the US into international disrepute, are given an ex post carte blanche for their crimes, while a low-ranking soldier who is at most guilty of leaking minor secrets at the lowest levels of classification, is treated inhumanely and likely, should he be convicted, to face life imprisonment.

So here’s my proposal. It’s perfectly clear that Richard B. Cheney will never be prosecuted because a prosecution would be politically inconvenient. If that’s the Obama administration’s decision (and it’s pretty clear that it is the Obama administration’s decision), then the administration should own it. The president should grant Richard Cheney a pardon for his crimes. Simultaneously, as an acknowledgement that the high crimes of state officials should not go unpunished while the lesser crimes of those who opposed the Iraq war are exposed to the vengefulness of the military tribunal system, Bradley Manning should receive a complete pardon too.

I can’t imagine that Richard B. Cheney would like getting a presidential pardon. Indeed, I rather imagine that he’d vigorously protest it. It would serve as the best formal acknowledgment that we’re likely to get that he is, indeed, a criminal. Obviously, it would also be an unhappy compromise for those who think that he should be exposed to the full rigors of the law. But I personally think that it would be an acceptable compromise (others may reasonably disagree), if it were applied to both sides rather than just one.

{ 106 comments }

1

Murray Reiss 03.13.12 at 4:33 am

Coincidentally, this from today’s Globe & Mail:

Former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney has cancelled a Canadian speaking appearance due to security concerns sparked by demonstrations during a visit he made to Vancouver last fall, the event promoter said Monday.

“(They) decided it was better for their personal safety they stay out of Canada.”

Last Sept. 26, Mr. Cheney’s appearance in Vancouver was marred by demonstrators who blocked the entrances to the exclusive Vancouver Club.

The activists, who at one point scuffled with police, called for Mr. Cheney’s arrest for war crimes and booed guests as they arrived at the $500-a-ticket dinner.

2

Margarita 03.13.12 at 4:34 am

But wouldn’t pardoning unprosecuted war crimes itself be a violation of international law?

3

M 03.13.12 at 4:55 am

But why treat members of your own class in so ungentlemanly a manner?

Manning must be punished because he disobeyed. This is bad because in order to fulfill their function militaries must be filled with obeying men, and forgive one person just because they did the right thing and pretty soon you have chaos. A man like Cheney is a different matter; fail to prosecute him and pretty soon people will feel they have the right to do just anything, on condition that they are masters (viz. the situation that precisely obtains today and always more or less has.) It’s difficult to say why anyone with the opportunity to do so – the actual opportunity, not hypothetical opportunities and a pony – would indeed like to do so.

4

Salient 03.13.12 at 4:55 am

Obviously, it would also be an unhappy compromise for those who think that he should be exposed to the full rigors of the law.

Nah, it wouldn’t make me any less unhappy than the current situation does. It’s not like a U.S.-issued pardon grants ICC immunity, and a pardon might provide something useful to the ICC. Since we’re going full fantasy regardless, we might as well modestly propose that Obama give a very detailed pardon. There’s some tiny hope for the consolation of being able to Wikipeditorialize; “In his later years, Dick Cheney took refuge in the continental U.S. to avoid incarceration for his crimes against humanity.”

I would love to have a ^[1]^ to put at the end of that sentence.

5

purple 03.13.12 at 5:14 am

Cheney’s greatest crime is the war of choice against Iraq, something in which the much of the Democratic Party is complicit. Incidentally, it was this type of offensive war — a war of aggression –which was the chief charge at Nuremburg.

Robert Jackson: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Face it, the entire political system is corrupt and irredeemable, including your buddies in the Democratic Party.

6

js. 03.13.12 at 5:21 am

I don’t consider this proposal to be modest enough. How about: pardons for Manning, Cheney and George W. Bush (or a pony—your pick)?

7

Sebastian H 03.13.12 at 6:17 am

Quite seriously, Obama has a thing about leaking. It isn’t just Manning, look at the way the Justice Department tried to smear the leakers of Operation Fast and Furious (for those who don’t know that is the FBI operation to smuggle guns into Mexico wherein operatives participated in the murders of both US and Mexican law enforcement).

8

Henri Vieuxtemps 03.13.12 at 8:24 am

My Modest Proposal would be to lobotomize all the soldiers, so that nothing like the Manning incident could ever happen again. And to give Mr. Cheney permanent diplomatic status (a new one would have to be invented), so that he could travel everywhere without worrying.

9

Tim Worstall 03.13.12 at 8:50 am

A suggestion which is both cute and righteous. Well done that man.

Not politically possible nor going to happen but that’s not a criticism of the proposal.

10

a.y. mous 03.13.12 at 9:15 am

It would be more realistic to court-martial Manning, give him a dishonorable discharge with no benefits and give him the Presidential Citizens Medal for performing “….exemplary deeds or services for his or her country or fellow citizens”. His was a military crime and a civilian service, motivations apart.

Cheney? Perhaps, another hunting gig with his mates, but this time, roles reversed yet apologies maintained?

11

Filip 03.13.12 at 9:59 am

Pedantic comment: don’t you need a conviction before you can pardon? ( http://wp.me/pd52p-cTD )

12

Sus. 03.13.12 at 10:14 am

@Filip – In the US, the President can grant a pardon at any time before or after conviction. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/05/opinion/l-constitution-allows-pardons-before-conviction-590688.html

13

Malaclypse 03.13.12 at 10:43 am

Pedantic comment: don’t you need a conviction before you can pardon?

See Ford and Nixon.

14

Tim Wilkinson 03.13.12 at 11:18 am

Legal analysis from the man in the pub:

A presidential pardon in these corcs could probably be refused by the prospective pardoned party.

US v. Wilson ( http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a2_2_1s29.html )

A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him.

Burdick v. U S ( http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=236&invol=79 )

Indeed, the grace of a pardon, though good its intention, may be only in pretense or seeming; in pretense, as having purpose not moving from the individual to whom it is offered; in seeming, as involving consequences of even greater disgrace than those from which it purports to relieve. Circumstances may be made to bring innocence under the penalties of the law. If so brought, escape by [236 U.S. 79, 91] confession of guilt implied in the acceptance of a pardon may be rejected,- preferring to be the victim of the law rather than its acknowledged transgressor,-preferring death even to such certain infamy. This, at least theoretically, is a right, and a right is often best tested in its extreme.

BUT:

Biddle v. Perovich ( http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=274&invol=480 )

We cannot doubt that the power extends to this case. By common understanding imprisonment for life is a less penalty than death. It is treated so in the statute under which Perovich was tried, which provides that ‘the jury may qualify their verdict (guilty of murder) by adding thereto ‘without capital punishment;’ and whenever the jury shall return a verdict qualified as aforesaid the person convicted shall be sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor for life.’ Criminal Code of Alaska, Act of March 3, 1899, c. 429, 4; 30 Stat. 1253. See Ex parte Wells, 18 How. 307; Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 109 , 45 S. Ct. 332, 38 A. L. R. 131. The opposite answer would permit the President to decide that justice requires the diminution of a term or a fine without consulting the convict, but would deprive him of the power in the most important cases and require him to permit an execution which he had decided ought not to take place unless the change is agreed to by one who on no sound principle ought to have any voice in what the law should do for the welfare of the whole. We are of opin- [274 U.S. 480, 488] ion that the reasoning of Burdick v. United States, 236 U.S. 79 , 35 S. Ct. 267, is not to be extended to the present case.

HOWEVER:

Biddle v. Perovich is explicitly framed as refusing to extend the reasoning of Burdick. The reasoning is based on the inability of a convict to have a say in sentencing, and illustrated by the desirability of reducing a sentence against the prisoner’s wish. So I wouldn’t have thought it should be seen as overturning the ‘White Elephant’ principle which appears to be asserted in that judgement – particularly in the circumstances envisaged.

15

Tim Wilkinson 03.13.12 at 11:19 am

corcs => circs => circumstances

16

Tim Wilkinson 03.13.12 at 11:35 am

Actually the above is on a bit of a tangent – no-one is suggesting that Cheney might have the option of availing himself or not of the pardon in court. The issuing of the pardon itself is a unilateral thing.

17

Anderson 03.13.12 at 1:32 pm

Accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt, so Cheney would have the right to refuse the pardon.

18

Tim Wilkinson 03.13.12 at 2:07 pm

But the ‘offer’ of it (what I rather ambiguously called ‘issuing’) could be made publicly, which would have many of the same effects. It would spoil the gag, which depends on imposing the pardon, a bit though.

19

JohnR 03.13.12 at 2:09 pm

Sorry to risk feeding the troll here, but this is simply stupid rather than bait, assuming my reading of Mr. purple is relatively accurate:

“Cheney’s greatest crime is the war of choice against Iraq”

Given that Cheney has admitted the commission of at least one crime (and a felony at that) under both US and International Law – that being the ordering of torture – and that a “war of choice” is more of a debatable point in a gray area (“war crimes”) of international jurisprudence, I think your statement is not merely foolish, but also ignorant. Probably ideologically biased as well, but we don’t have to dig into all that. There, I feel better knowing that I have corrected someone who is wrong on the Internet.

20

mattski 03.13.12 at 3:02 pm

@19 I don’t share your opinion that the invasion of Iraq was arguably justified. Otoh, I don’t share purple’s sweeping dismissal of “the entire system.”

21

Brett Dunbar 03.13.12 at 3:28 pm

@ 20

The arguable justification was that Iraq appeared to be in breach of the terms of the ceasefire and to be attempting to develop WMDs, so had by deed withdrawn from the ceasefire. If they were no longer bound by the ceasefire then we were not obliged to accept Iraq’s attempt to unilaterally rewrite the terms of the ceasefire and could regard Iraq’s actions as a withdrawal (similar to a breach of contract). Iraq’s behaviour in attempting to prevent inspections of certain sites wasn’t actually rational in the absence of a WMD programme. We, not unreasonably, assumed that the Iraqi regime was behaving rationally in the face of a credible threat of force, we were wrong. It may not be the strongest argument but it was a coherent argument.

22

mattski 03.13.12 at 4:00 pm

It may not be the strongest argument but it was a coherent argument.

Maybe. Although doesn’t it strike you as odd that we can construe an apparent attempt to acquire means of self-defense as a pretext for an offensive invasion & occupation? Add to that the likelihood that Bush & Co really cared one way or another whether or not the allegation was based in fact or not.

23

Barry 03.13.12 at 5:02 pm

Brett: “Iraq’s behaviour in attempting to prevent inspections of certain sites wasn’t actually rational in the absence of a WMD programme. We, not unreasonably, assumed that the Iraqi regime was behaving rationally in the face of a credible threat of force, we were wrong. It may not be the strongest argument but it was a coherent argument.”

Meanwhile, in our world, Hans ‘He was right’ Blix stated something like that they had faced no significant obstacles, and only needed a few more weeks to verify that Iraq had no WMD’s.

24

Brett Dunbar 03.13.12 at 5:13 pm

An apparent attempt to acquire weapons from a regime that had on two separate occasions invaded a neighbor and had agreed specifically as part of the ceasefire not to acquire that specific weapon. I was merely disputing your claim that there wasn’t an arguable case for war.

Bush was looking for a pretext for war, Saddam really didn’t need to give him one.

I’m fairly sure that the actual reason for the war was rather more personal. More the desire to complete his father’s work, genuine hatred for a seriously noxious regime, a wish to have a friendly regime in Iraq, Saddam’s alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate Bush Sr. But not oil, if we were interested in the oil then we could simply have lifted the embargo and abandoned attempts to enforce all the terms of the ceasefire. Switching the currency used to purchase oil from Iraq to Euros rather than Dollars was a total irrelevance, it just doesn’t matter enough.

25

js. 03.13.12 at 5:14 pm

Hans ‘He was right’ Blix stated something like that they had faced no significant obstacles, and only needed a few more weeks to verify that Iraq had no WMD’s.

Blix Schmix! Do you not see that the Iraqi people want to be liberated? Don’t you want to see dictators topple like dominoes? Are you opposed to Freedom!?

26

christian_h 03.13.12 at 5:16 pm

Yeah as Barry says, Iraq’s allegedly “irrational” behaviour is a complete invention. Suppose however that Iraq did deny UN inspectors access to certain military installations – that would have been a completely rational decision in light of the undeniable fact that any information the inspectors gathered was bound to end up at SAC within days. So no, there is no doubt that the invasion of Iraq was an illegal war of aggression. However, I do agree this misses the point of the original post, which is that Cheney admitted to the commission of acts that are illegal under US law (as opposed to being ‘merely’ party to violations of international legal standards that apply to states first, and individuals in those states only by derivative).

27

js. 03.13.12 at 5:22 pm

genuine hatred for a seriously noxious regime, a wish to have a friendly regime in Iraq

Highly selective, this genuine hatred. Precision-targeted, one might even say.

Also, what christian_h says (with which I’ll stop assisting the derailment).

28

Merp 03.13.12 at 5:45 pm

Oh man remember when Scooter Libby was pardoned wasn’t that awesome you guys

29

Tedra Osell 03.13.12 at 6:51 pm

I don’t see why we need to argue over whether the illegal war on Iraq was more or less appalling than illegal torture and rendition. They were both fucking heinous (and I am going to steal the phrase “Hans ‘he was right’ Blix”, thank you Barry). Cheney and Bush should both be prosecuted, and it does please me, at least, that they have both recently cancelled international travel plans.

Re. Manning, I agree with a. y. mous at 10 (as much as it pains me to agree with anyone with such a lame, presumably one-time-only pseud) that “military crime and a civilian service.” I really want to be 100% supportive of Manning, but the military wife in me, who has lied to family members about the husband’s location and work, has a hard time getting past the idea that yes, military folks are really supposed to take this “secrets” stuff very seriously.

Which in no way excuses the way he has been treated while awaiting trial. (See also Jose Padilla.)

30

c.l. ball 03.13.12 at 7:43 pm

Two points on Cheney: 1) ordering torture is not a war crime under Geneva 1949 or the Rome Statute; 2) Cheney, as VP, had no authority to order anything unless the president expressly delegated authorities to him pursuant to a statute.

Unfortunately, Manning was treated much like many other persons who have been held in coercive pre-trial conditions (like Wen Lee Ho).

31

understudy 03.13.12 at 7:45 pm

“rendition” is one of those things that I see gets different reactions on one side of the atlantic vs. the other. The facts are there are a lot of noxious governments that don’t apply legal protections that would pass muster on either side of the atlantic. Both US and EU still deal with these countries, with the EU not allowing rendition, but being perfectly content to bank these dictators’ billions of dollars, house their families, educate their children, sell them weapons, sell them goods, build projects in their countries.

The US has had far more stringent restrictions on trade with Sudan than the EU. Rendering people from the EU/US to Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria is bad, but so is selling weapons and dual-use equipment to the government of Sudan…

32

JohnR 03.13.12 at 7:51 pm

@20: I see I was unclear; my apologies! I was in no way attempting to make a statement about the justification or lack of one for the invasion of Iraq. I was merely trying to make the point that the invasion of Iraq was not one of the clear-cut crimes in international law, unlike, say, the laws regarding torture. I plead guilty to being too opaque. purple’s apparent point is that Cheney’s “greatest crime” (using the arguments from the Nuremberg Trials, which eventually gave rise to the Geneva Conventions) was waging a “war of choice”. Presumably, this would also make Cheney guilty of usurping the authority of the President of the US but hey, whatever.
In fact, I would say that if we’re going to wander off into the thickets of moral crimes and other philosophical points, even that would not count as Cheney’s “greatest crime”. After all, if we’re discussing morality, what about bearing false witness, coveting that (oil?) which belongs to your neighbor, and setting lust for personal power and wealth above your fellow men. Surely these are greater crimes, since the war thing is only a crime against man, but these others are crimes against God, right? The whole “Nuremberg/Geneva” thing is a fairly murky point anyway, seeing as how (a) it seems to be applied somewhat arbitrarily (and only to the losing, weak and/or unimportant side at that), and (b) actually, it’s more of a guideline than a rule.

33

BenP 03.13.12 at 7:57 pm

“military folks are really supposed to take this “secrets” stuff very seriously.”

If you care to look at the Manning/Lamo transcripts it is apparent Manning did take this very seriously indeed. As a result many lies and crimes were brought to the world’s attention for which we should be grateful.

http://www.bradleymanning.org/

34

MPAVictoria 03.13.12 at 8:04 pm

“Ordering torture is not a war crime under Geneva 1949 or the Rome Statute”
I really hope this is not true. Anybody know?

35

Anderson 03.13.12 at 8:25 pm

Ordering torture would be conspiracy to commit torture under 18 USC 2340A(c).

The Torture Act applies to torture committed outside the U.S. – I’m unaware of any case law interpreting whether the conspiracy could include orders issued within the U.S.

36

novakant 03.13.12 at 8:52 pm

Henry’s point only makes sense if one assumes that the crimes of the Bush/Cheney era are not being committed under Obama – that is unfortunately not the case. Even worse, Obama has worked hard to enshrine many of the things that Bush/Cheney thought they could just get away with for a while into law.

As for military secrecy: if it is used as a fig leaf for crimes and power grabs, it should damn well be breached, citizens have a right to know what is going on, not least because they are funding the whole thing.

37

James 03.13.12 at 10:08 pm

What pardon would Cheney receive? The US doesn’t recognize International Law for the declaration of war (EG war is legal if the US says it is legal). No administration, of either party, is going to officially admit that torture was sanctioned in Iraq. Lying about it is perceived as politically expedient. Pardoning the Lying under Oath opens up questions concerning Cheney’s statements about torture so that’s not happening either. The US didn’t sign the ICC treaty and the ICC refuses to even investigate the US war actions due to jurisdictional reasons.

38

chris 03.14.12 at 12:02 am

actually, it’s more of a guideline than a rule

Isn’t the point of this thread that so are they all? The “rule” of law has never been more than a polite fiction, anywhere, anytime. The crimes of politicians are prosecuted when it’s politically convenient, not when the crimes themselves are important or worthy of prosecution.

39

Andrew F. 03.14.12 at 12:16 am

On the other, we have Bradley Manning. He appears to be a confused individual – but his initial motivation for leaking information, if the transcripts are correct, were perfectly clear. He was appalled at what he saw as major abuses of authority by the US, including incidents that he witnessed directly in Iraq. There is no evidence that his leaking of information has caused anything worse than embarrassment for the US.

I’m sure Manning took the time to thoroughly review the enormous amount of classified data that he released to ensure that no one was endangered. And really, how silly were Wikileaks, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel for taking the time to redact various names before releasing the documents?

Manning’s actions were undertaken in deliberate disregard of his duty and the law, placed a larger number of persons at risk of harm, and certainly damaged the interests of the United States. His sentence should be mitigated by the presence of whatever psychological problems he may have been suffering; but the apparent good fortune that there have been no confirmed deaths resulting from crimes should not be a factor.

Regardless of how one feels about Cheney – and his prosecution would be difficult not merely for political reasons – I don’t think Manning’s actions are quite as excusable as your post implies, and I don’t think he is deserving of such a favorable contrast.

40

Nababov 03.14.12 at 12:40 am

“Manning’s actions were undertaken in deliberate disregard of his duty and the law, placed a larger number of persons at risk of harm and certainly damaged the interests of the United States”

And so were Cheney’s. Why is one prosecuted and not the other? Where’s the favourable contrast there?

41

jeer9 03.14.12 at 12:44 am

In complete agreement with Novakant. While it’s pleasant to rationalize one’s tepid support for Obama as predicated upon his superior SC nominations, the brethren’s constitutional ruminations and judgements seem at times much less significant in comparison to the everyday, run-of-the-mill failures of our legal system which are promoted and advanced by this administration’s DoJ (no torture prosecutions, winks and nods to the banksters, perpetuation of the war on drugs, crackdowns on whistleblowers, etc.), hypocrisies and misplaced priorities that undercut the very fabric of society. When the law is accurately perceived as not applying to everyone, it soon applies to no one – and that’s a road none of us want to travel.

42

ice9 03.14.12 at 12:47 am

“apparent good fortune that there have been no confirmed deaths should not be a factor”

No deaths. It’s a factor.

Also a factor: Manning had the apparent bad fortune to be tortured by the United States Government. While incarcerated on Marine Corps Base Quantico, which is, as you can undertake to thoroughly review with any map, in my home Commonwealth of Virginia–not Syria, or Argentina, or an ironic corner of Commie Cuba. This should have been difficult not merely because of the state law, and the military law, and the Federal law, and the international law, and the moral law, but because it is every bit as inexcusable as it seems. Contrast it all you want but it is law that Manning deserves–by virtue of his citizenship and the fact that he is governed and protected by the UCMJ–to be treated fairly and not to be quibbled to death by the slobbery duck-nips of equivocators who would mitigate the rule of law.

His bad fortune to have been tortured does not mitigate his crimes; he has not argued thus. It is in fact a separate crime, and though no statute would hold Andrew responsible for any part of it, there is an ugly aroma to this cavilling deflection of Manning’s treatment.

We now have a useful analogy. What say you, multisyllable Andrew of the recondite proofs, to the case of the unnamed noncom who has confessed to murdering at least 13 innocent Afghans, 9 of them children, with a rifle, in their homes? I’ll stipulate one death resulting from Manning’s espionage, just so we can get the arithmetic on the page. I’ll wait to hear from you.

ice9

43

DelRey 03.14.12 at 12:54 am

Given that Cheney has admitted the commission of at least one crime (and a felony at that) under both US and International Law – that being the ordering of torture –

Where did Cheney admit to the crime of ordering torture?

Cheney and Bush should both be prosecuted,

They shouldn’t be and they won’t be.

the inconveniences of being unable to travel to jurisdictions where he might be arrested.

No country would be foolish enough to try that. The United States would crucify them.

44

Bloix 03.14.12 at 1:44 am

#28 – Libby wasn’t pardoned. Bush commuted his sentence so that he served no time, but paid a fine and did community service and probation. One theory is that Bush refused to pardon Libby because he was pissed at Cheney.

#43 – “Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he was directly involved in approving severe interrogation methods used by the CIA… Cheney’s comments also mark the first time that he has acknowledged playing a central role in clearing the CIA’s use of an array of controversial interrogation tactics, including a simulated drowning method known as waterboarding. .. ‘I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared,’ Cheney said in an interview with ABC News.”

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/16/nation/na-cheney16

45

geo 03.14.12 at 2:19 am

Andrew @39: Manning’s actions were undertaken in deliberate disregard of his duty and the law, placed a larger number of persons at risk of harm, and certainly damaged the interests of the United States.

Every clause in this sentence is dubious. Manning saw that his superiors were engaged in war crimes and decided it was his duty to expose them. Given the chronic deceit and criminality of American foreign and military policy since Revolutionary times (haven’t you been paying attention, Andrew?), the prerogatives of the US government do not deserve automatic deference, and Manning’s is a decision that every American should emulate if the opportunity ever arises. Manning saw a very large number of people exposed not merely to the risk but to the fact of harm by his government’s cruel and lawless actions, and he acted, with reasonable prudence respecting the agents of American foreign policy, to protect the former. “The interests of the United States” is a meaningless phrase, regularly employed in demagogic fashion by our governments (and, mutatis mutandis, every government) to suppress dissent and shield its own criminality.

46

ChrisTS 03.14.12 at 3:35 am

Cheney went to Vancouver? Why didn’t the Canadians arrest him and ship him to The Hague?!

47

M 03.14.12 at 3:44 am

“The interests of the United States” is a meaningless phrase, regularly employed in demagogic fashion by our governments (and, mutatis mutandis, every government) to suppress dissent and shield its own criminality.

But that’s perfectly meaningful, even literal. Manning’s actions do threaten US interests in an incredibly straightforward (if incredibly minor) way, inconveniencing its power to murder with impunity.

48

Substance McGravitas 03.14.12 at 3:45 am

Cheney went to Vancouver? Why didn’t the Canadians arrest him and ship him to The Hague?!

Bush too.

Tory government.

49

geo 03.14.12 at 4:10 am

M@47: Excellent point. To descend into humorlessness for a moment: it’s something of an compulsion of mine to object to the phrase “national interest.” That phrase is usually intended either to identify the nation’s interests with the state’s or else to obfuscate the conflicting interests (usually class-related) within the nation. Either way, it’s deeply pernicious.

50

Watson Ladd 03.14.12 at 4:14 am

geo, what war crimes were revealed by the War Logs or the Cables? If he exposed something on the order of Abu Gharib that would probably lead to a pardon and a promotion. All he did was exposed a great deal of mundane information that he wasn’t supposed to.

51

Salient 03.14.12 at 4:47 am

what war crimes were revealed by the War Logs or the Cables?

What a horrible, pathological way to mislead and disorient a conversation partner who’s kind enough to engage with you. It’s like asking, what was the trigonometric content of your average high-schooler’s algebra and calculus classes? Sure, I can carefully phrase that question so as to remove their year-long geometry course from consideration, and you can phrase a question about the WikiLeak that carefully removes from consideration video of a helicopter crew firing on civilians for the fun of it, corroborating at least anecdotally the claims that U.S. soldiers have been engaged in indiscriminate and purposeless killing of civilians with sloppy and absurd after-the-fact rationalizations… which is prima facie a fucking war crime. I suppose this lets you successfully form a reasonable-sounding rhetorical question that will leave your respondent stuttering with frustration at how misleading you’re attempting to be, but WTF is the point of doing this? Do you really have no better use of your time than formulating precise questions which carefully obfuscate the basic facts we have at hand as much as possible, hoping to make the day of people you dislike just a smidge more stressful and antagonizing?

Were you just literally forgetting that video that happened to be the central document of the leak, with the cables and etc. mass-downloaded and shoveled along mostly unread in the hopes they’d contain something useful?

That would be an awfully convenient and awfully stupid lapse of memory; not only was the helicopter video the first and most dominant item in the news cycle, but also, if you had somehow forgotten the most important component of the tripartite content of the massive leak, I suspect you’d have asked something like “Q. What evidence of war crimes did Bradley Manning leak?” (A. Helicopter video!) rather than something like “Q. What evidence of war crimes, other than the helicopter video that apparently prompted him to initiate the leak in the first place, did Bradley Manning leak?” (Which would also be a reasonable enough question, I guess, at least it’s far more reasonable than yours, since my version at least explicitly acknowledges its own weird exclusion of the single most important item in the leak.)

52

Salient 03.14.12 at 4:56 am

Possibly falling into the exact minesweeper trap I just flagged, but whatever — I’m not familiar with anyone who was involved in leaking information about Abu Gharib getting a pardon or a promotion, or any such thing. If there’s anything to that comment other than more bullshit obfuscation, I confess to some curiosity and would welcome further information about it. Did anyone (especially anyone affiliated with the military) get promoted or pardoned or explicitly praised or rewarded or whatever, for work related to exposing the scandal at Abu Gharib?

I guess I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that some folks in the press got promoted for their contribution to that (presumably ‘pardoned’ doesn’t really apply in those cases), but seriously, I’d be pleasantly surprised to hear anyone in the military was rewarded for their role in that incident of whistleblowing.

53

js. 03.14.12 at 5:06 am

If he exposed something on the order of Abu Gharib [sic] that would probably lead to a pardon and a promotion.

Watson, let me know when you want to come back to Earth. I’ll beam you down.

54

a.y. mous 03.14.12 at 11:41 am

Tedra Osell @ 29.

Alas! It is not a one-off. Saddened too. Ain’t I clever? ;-) Started off as one though, but got stuck with it. Don’t want to change. Citations matter. After all. this is an academic blog!

55

derrida derider 03.14.12 at 11:45 am

“No country would be foolish enough to try [[prosecuting Cheney]. The United States would crucify them.” – Del Rey @43

Actually some democracies take the doctrine of separation of powers seriously, even if the US itself has recently backslid from this principle. If their courts issue a warrant then it will be acted upon whether their State Department likes it or not – fiat justitia ruat caelum. Cheney and Bush should indeed be careful where they travel.

56

Ralph Hitchens 03.14.12 at 1:16 pm

No doubt Bradley Manning is “confused” but I seriously doubt that he directly witnessed, in Iraq, “major abuses of authority by the US.” Didn’t he work in an intelligence center and do little or no time in the field?

57

LFC 03.14.12 at 1:39 pm

jeer9 @41
It’s true that the Obama DoJ has gone after whistleblowers and done some of the other things you list. OTOH it has also recently formed a prosecutorial task force to go after mortgage/banking execs involved in bringing on the housing crisis (better late than never). I don’t think it’s accurate to say there is no difference betw. the two Justice depts. Would the Bush Justice Dept. have blocked the recent state laws requiring voters to have licenses (or other IDs) to vote?

58

Bloix 03.14.12 at 2:02 pm

#56 – “I seriously doubt that he directly witnessed, in Iraq, “major abuses of authority by the US.””

Manning initially became dissolutioned when he was assigned to review translations of supposedly subversive writings by imprisoned “insurgents.” They turned out to be journalistic investigations of corruption in the Iraqi cabinet. Manning went to his commanding officer and said, in effect, we’re imprisoning the good guys, and the officer told him to shut up and get back to work looking for names of more people they could lock up.

Manning’s first alleged leak was the Apache helicopter “collateral murder” video, taken from a gunship and showing the intentional killing of a Reuters reporter, his driver, and other unarmed civilians, including children, in a public square in broad daylight.

59

wilfred 03.14.12 at 2:13 pm

Issuing a pardon to Cheney would be an act of moral cowardice, an admission by Obama that he is far more interested in advancing his own political interests than seeking justice.

The only reading would have to be that Obama did not have the necessary courage to do what is right but instead tries the manipulative strategy one sees in failed relationships: “I just want you know that whatever you have done to me, however much you have ruined my life, that I, I, forgive you”. Sob.

Manipulative and puerile tricks are no substitute for justice.

60

Earwig 03.14.12 at 3:39 pm

There IS NO substitute for justice.

And there isn’t going to be any justice.
So I guess we’d better just suck it up.

Thanks Henry anyway for a laugh, after all it *does* say “Modest Proposal” right there in the title…

61

Anderson 03.14.12 at 4:20 pm

Issuing a pardon to Cheney would be an act of moral cowardice, an admission by Obama that he is far more interested in advancing his own political interests than seeking justice.

When you put it like that, I’m surprised he hasn’t done it already. Maybe he’s waiting for the general-election campaign.

62

geo 03.14.12 at 6:04 pm

Hats off to Anderson @61. Wish I’d said that.

63

geo 03.14.12 at 6:17 pm

For Andrew F, Watson L, and Ralph H, re the alleged lack of wrongdoing revealed by Manning’s leaks, a quote from Greenwald’s column today (http://www.salon.com/writer/glenn_greenwald/):

There is one reason that the world knows the truth about what really happened in al Majala that day [GS – this refers to the drone killing of 30 or so Yemeni civilians, which the Obama administration falsely attributed to the Yemeni government] : because the Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, traveled there and, as [GS – the Nation’s Jeremy] Scahill writes, “photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label ‘Made in the USA,’ and distributed the photos to international media outlets.” He also documented the remnants of the Tomahawks and cluster bombs, neither of which is in Yemen’s arsenal. And he provided detailed accounts proving that scores of civilians, including those 21 children, had been killed in the attacks. It was Shaye’s journalism that led Amnesty International to show the world the evidence that it was the U.S. which had perpetrated the attack using cluster bombs, and media outlets to reveal the horrifying extent of the civilian deaths. Shaye’s work was vindicated when WikiLeaks released a diplomatic cable — allegedly provided by Bradley Manning — in which Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh joked with David Petraeus about continuing to lie to the public: ”We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

64

DelRey 03.14.12 at 7:19 pm

If their courts issue a warrant then it will be acted upon whether their State Department likes it or not – fiat justitia ruat caelum.

Then why hasn’t any country done that?

@44
We know Cheney approved the use of controversial interrogation tactics. Where did he admit to the crime of ordering torture?

65

Henry 03.14.12 at 7:53 pm

bq. We know Cheney approved the use of controversial interrogation tactics. Where did he admit to the crime of ordering torture?

When the US Army JAG, the US Airforce JAG, the US Navy JAG and the US Marines Staff Judge Advocate all agree that it’s torture, I think we can cut the bullshit and fucking semantic word-games, kthxbai.

66

Tim Wilkinson 03.14.12 at 8:36 pm

Even were the political will to be there (and I’m sure it would as things stand become a political matter almost instantly even if some earnest official, unaware that the principle of equality before the law has some notably rare exceptions, were to begin some criminal process) I wouldn’t expect that very much could be pinned on Cheney ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

…Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped “Treated As: Top Secret/SCI.” Experts in and out of government said Cheney’s office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to “sensitive compartmented information,” the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words “treated as,” they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause “exceptionally grave damage to national security.”

Across the board, the vice president’s office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that “the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch,” and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance.

In the usual business of interagency consultation, proposals and information flow into the vice president’s office from around the government, but high-ranking White House officials said in interviews that almost nothing flows out. Close aides to Cheney describe a similar one-way valve inside the office, with information flowing up to the vice president but little or no reaction flowing down.

(from http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cheney/chapters/chapter_1/ )

In general, destruction of evidence (and failure to keep minutes, etc) needs to be treated much more seriously than it is at present, either on the basis of omnia praesumuntur contra spoliatorem (adverse inference to be drawn from destruction of evidence), or (and I suppose in principle this makes more sense) via severe penalties for destroying (or failing in a duty to create or preserve) evidence.

As an amateur student of corruption and conspiracy, it is very clear to me that those in ‘authority’ roles tend (for many reasons, mostly fairly obvious) to receive a far, far greater benefit of the doubt than the general population, as well as (indeed, despite) being better able to cover their tracks.

67

Watson Ladd 03.14.12 at 8:49 pm

Salient, I saw the video. I can understand why the helicopter pilots thought that was a rocket launcher. If you want to second-guess every decision made in a war zone by soldiers under fire, go ahead: that isn’t what the existence of conventions against war crimes are about.

geo, if that’s the best you can do (5 times as many civilians as soldiers in an attack on a training camp?) try harder. And that was just one cable: why not release the cables giving evidence of crimes instead of a whole bunch? Bradley Manning acted recklessly and jeopardized the lives of thousands of people for no reason.

68

Salient 03.14.12 at 8:59 pm

If their courts issue a warrant then it will be acted upon whether their State Department likes it or not – fiat justitia ruat caelum.

Then why hasn’t any country done that?

Reasonable question. Even assuming you can find a way to solve the jurisdiction problem, for example by tricking Cheney into visiting the country, the problem is the lack of subpoena power.

Suppose a prosecutor (or judge, grand jury, …) wished to pursue this. Most of the evidence they’d need to obtain from U.S. records would be categorically protected as ‘state secrets vital to national security’ or whatever, so they stand no chance of accumulating enough concrete evidence that is veritably authentic. (Absence of access does not imply absence of evidence, mind you, but lack of access certainly does make prosecution difficult. Can you imagine attempting to try, say, Hermann Göring, without access to the relevant internal documents of Germany bearing his signature? I don’t mean for this to be a provocative comparison; hopefully we can all agree that Göring’s crimes were far more vast, more severe, and more well-documented than Cheney’s. Maybe this whole parenthetical aside was unnecessary; my only goal here is to defend the mild proposition that a lack of access to state documents makes effectively prosecuting a high-level state agent nearly impossible.)

Now of course, we do have Cheney’s confession. But would it hold up in trial? Admittedly, I hope not, in this case. The confession was vague and unclear enough that I think it sucks as courtroom evidence for trial purposes, even though it is pretty straightforward evidence of his guilt for non-trial purposes.

69

Bruce Wilder 03.14.12 at 9:01 pm

“Bradley Manning acted recklessly and jeopardized the lives of thousands of people for no reason.”

The inability of apologists for war crimes to see the irony of accusing Manning of being irresponsible and “jeopardizing lives”, in the shadow of Bush’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq, or the Bush-Obama choice to keep the American war in Afganistan going for more than a decade, seems very strange to me. Bush “jeopardized” the lives of millions of Iraqis, and 100,000+ lost their lives, for no discernible reason. Why is it so hard to see that as the primary issue. Just in terms of the vast scale and scope of America’s war policy, the irresponsibility of our political and military leadership would seem more acute and serious problem.

Of course, if you stubbornly deny the factual reality that Bush was malignly negligent in prosecuting an aggressive war against Iraq without provocation, I guess, then, Manning’s behavior can not be comprehended as an act of conscience.

70

mattski 03.14.12 at 9:17 pm

I’m fairly sure that the actual reason for the war was rather more personal. More the desire to complete his father’s work [or perhaps go “one up” on his father] … But not oil,

I agree as far as “more personal” motives for war, which to me leaves no room for the wars legitimacy. I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the oil motive though. We know that Cheney hosted oil executives in a secret meeting during which maps of Iraqi oil fields were reviewed.

See here.

71

Salient 03.14.12 at 9:26 pm

Salient, I saw the video.

This is a pretty disgusting way to treat somebody, by the way, but we’ve talked about that time and time again over the past year, so there’s no sense getting into it again. Look. You phrased your original question specifically so as to exclude the video and only inquire about other items. You knew the video was the point of contention and disagreement, so you asked a screwy question that excluded it without acknowledging its existence, meaning that you’ve artificially disarmed anyone who wanted to engage with you. That was pathological. (It was also crude and kludgy, so it was easy to notice the trap you set and flag it. If you’re angling for a job at The Atlantic, you might need to step up your troll game a little.)

Not that it really needs saying, but your evaluation of the video doesn’t enter into it. (After all, presumably you also feel confident that the Cables contain no evidence of crimes against humanity, but you made sure to ask about them.)

Now of course, your next move is to argue that other interpretations of your behavior are plausible, to point out that I have no evidence that this interpretation is accurate, and try to convince me that I need to construct an iron-clad proof that you were trolling and acting in bad faith. Conceded, conceded, and abandoned. Hey, look! You won! And you didn’t even need to put further effort into it!

72

Watson Ladd 03.14.12 at 9:37 pm

Salient, Manning could have limited the scope of his disclosure to just the video. It wasn’t a package deal where he had to reveal everything. I’m asking you to back up your argument that Manning revealed evidence of war crimes by handing over a massive trove of diplomatic cables to the world, and that this was an appropriate action by pointing out where the evidence is and explaining why it couldn’t be separated from the rest of the cables before disclosure.

73

John Quiggin 03.14.12 at 10:00 pm

Possibly relevant in the long term, the International Criminal Court brought down its first conviction yesterday
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/mar/14/lubanga-icc-milestone-accountability?intcmp=239
Lubanga, like Cheney has his partisans, so not a verdict that wins universal applause
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/mar/14/thomas-lubanga-verdict-congo-reaction

Of course, I’m aware that the ICC doesn’t have jurisdiction over Cheney’s crimes (for multiple reasons). But if convictions of war criminals become a routine event (there are more cases in the pipeline, and sadly, more war crimes being committed), the anomalous status of US immunity may become more of a problem.

74

geo 03.14.12 at 10:54 pm

Watson @72: Manning didn’t hand over a massive trove of diplomatic cables to the world. He apparently handed them to Wikileaks, who handed them to several large and established journalistic organizations to screen and publish at their discretion. If you can’t appreciate the difference …

Besides the copter video and the evidence of US lying about the Yemeni civilian massacre, there was evidence of US espionage against UN diplomats, US support for the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes against their own peoples, and considerably more.

Sad to say, I’m beginning to agree with Salient that the rewards of engaging with you are diminishing lately. I hope you’re just having a bad thread. We all do.

75

Watson Ladd 03.14.12 at 11:21 pm

geo, does government have a right to keep secrets? Clearly there are some things we all want the government to keep secret, from where informants hide tape recorders to the launch codes for nuclear weapons. Negotiation positions are also things we want the government to keep secret. And since the government has a legitimate right to keep secrets, it also should be able to expect people to keep them secret.

That the US spies was obvious to everyone with half a brain. That the US supported Mubarak was widely reported. That Tunisia receives military aid from the US was also quite obvious before wikileaks.

But even if these things weren’t widely known, is knowing them worth knowing everything else in the cables? Several cables identify people who I’m sure would not like to know that they told the US ambassador about their local regime’s problems. The leak also makes it hard for the US to gain access to confidential information held by other governments: would you trust the US not to splash on the front page of the Times that you are about to arrest a major terrorist now that they can’t keep their cables secret?

If what you cited above shouldn’t be kept secret, what can be kept secret in diplomacy? Most diplomatic secrets are mundane: secrecy is to prevent embarrassment and preserve bargaining position, as well as to enable assurances of confidence.

What journalists are ethically going to report on is far broader then the things that should be revealed from classified information. And this is good: we don’t want reporters to live in fear that they might be imprisoned for reporting on the wrong things. But it does mean that the responsibility about disclosure falls on those doing the disclosing. Handing that responsibility to others isn’t using it, but dodging it. Ultimately the entire trove of cables was revealed, in full, with no redaction.

What he did do however, was compromise the ability of the US to protect its sources. And that’s very bad: Afghanis working against the Taliban are not going to want to now that their names might publicly revealed, to pick the most obvious example.

76

Salient 03.14.12 at 11:33 pm

I’m asking you to back up your argument

Indeed, you’re doing this something like, what, 72 hours after I dissected this as the standard troll tactic on that Phaser thread? –a troll attempts to maintain control (when put on the explicit defensive by an accusation of trolling) by inappropriately representing the other person’s perspective and then demanding they provide evidence for it, leaving them to either defensively contest the characterization (in which case the troll has recovered the control they cherish) or leave it alone (implicitly letting it stand as accurate — it’s the threat of this that motivates a person to give in and defend themselves).

…I guess there’s no need to point out that I didn’t even put forward anything that conceivably resembles an “argument that Manning revealed evidence of war crimes by handing over a massive trove of diplomatic cables to the world” … which makes that response all the more bizarre. but of course, like most troll tactics, the outlandishness of the statement just further empowers it.

77

Salient 03.14.12 at 11:35 pm

Salient, […].

{Also noted. Once I could see as honest forgetfulness, slipping accidentally into a common tic. Twice, now that’s evidence of intent.}

78

Watson Ladd 03.14.12 at 11:52 pm

Salient, so what is your position on what justified the leaks? If it’s only that they may have contained something useful, that’s not a terribly good argument because it undermines all rationals for secrecy. geo’s argument has the advantage of being valid: revealing evidence of war crimes is good reason to reveal information that you are required to keep secret. It has the distinct disadvantage of not applying to much of the material released.

79

geo 03.15.12 at 12:00 am

Watson: Manning saw, up close, what many others have documented over the years (Greenwald only the most recent and most dogged): that deceit and lawlessness on the part of the US government is not occasional and incidental but massive, continuous, and central to policy, and that the government’s secrecy policies have no relation to legitimate security needs but are largely motivated by the desire to avoid embarrassment and conceal incompetence (or worse). He had access to a large body of evidence to this effect, which he could not possibly, for practical reasons, sift through in search of individual items. He knew of the existence of an organization, Wikileaks, which had a good record of handling material from whisteblowers responsibly and publicizing it usefully. He handed it over to them. They made responsible use of it, partnering with several large journalistic organizations who combed through it, selected particularly egregious material, redacted it for security, and published it. The eventual publication by Wikileaks of the entire trove was late, reluctant, and forced. (I don’t remember the details — I suspect you can easily find out with a Google search — apparently some other group acquired the information and was about to publish it in fragmentary or distorted form.) All this is perfectly well known to anyone who reads the right (ie, left) sources, and ought to be well known even to you.

You ask: are governments allowed to keep secrets? Because that is pretty far off the original topic, and because it seems to me you’re flailing about and not making a very disciplined effort to offer an argument, I think I’ll pass on trying to answer that very large question, only observing that a government that chronically acts in bad faith imposes an obligation on its citizens to defy its prohibitions when they feel it necessary to prevent that government from committing further crimes and imposing further suffering on innocents. Manning seems to me to have fulfilled this obligation magnificently. Perhaps we can debate larger questions of civil disobedience on another occasion.

80

DelRey 03.15.12 at 12:15 am

@65,
The JAG do not get to decide whether Cheney’s action was a crime, let alone whether he admitted to committing a crime. That is the responsibility of the Administration and congress, neither of which has shown the slightest interest in pursuing criminal charges against Cheney.

Nor has any other country. Meaning that among people whose opinions actually matter, either no one really believes Cheney actually broke the law, or that even if he did it’s not serious enough to warrant any kind of prosecution.

81

Henry 03.15.12 at 1:45 am

DelRey – cut the bullshit. If you aren’t aware that Obama has specifically described waterboarding as torture, you damn well should be. There are many possible reasons why the administration has not prosecuted Cheney for his actions, few of which plausibly reflect well upon it. But your claim that waterboarding was not torture, or is in some sense regarded as being trivial, is not one of those possible reasons. To be perfectly frank, your bad-faith attempts to justify this away hold no interest as arguments, and are only very slightly more interesting as a specific manifestation of the fundamental intellectual corruption and moral depravity of a particular brand of soi-disant conservatism. That’s really all I have to say on the matter – even pretending to take you seriously makes me feel dirty.

82

DelRey 03.15.12 at 2:23 am

On the contrary, the fact that the Obama Adminstration, and congress, and every other country, haven’t shown the slightest interest in prosecuting Cheney for torture or war crimes, and that there is no significant public pressure to do so, is an excellent reason not to take your accusations seriously. Same as the “war crime” accusations made against Bill Clinton for the bombing of Yugoslavia. Even if it was technically a crime, no one cares. It’s just far-left political theater.

83

Henry 03.15.12 at 2:27 am

bq. He knew of the existence of an organization, Wikileaks, which had a good record of handling material from whisteblowers responsibly and publicizing it usefully. He handed it over to them. They made responsible use of it, partnering with several large journalistic organizations who combed through it, selected particularly egregious material, redacted it for security, and published it. The eventual publication by Wikileaks of the entire trove was late, reluctant, and forced. (I don’t remember the details—I suspect you can easily find out with a Google search—apparently some other group acquired the information and was about to publish it in fragmentary or distorted form.)

George – having spent the last little while doing research on WikiLeaks, I don’t think that this description of the organization can be justified. According to Domscheit-Berg and others involved at the time, they were at best appallingly haphazard in the way that they handled the files, and at worst, something worse than that (Assange’s reported satisfaction at the thought that people who had cooperated with the US in Afghanistan would get killed is pretty unpleasant sounding). The reason that the entire trove got leaked was because he had salted it around the Internet in the encrypted form that he had originally given it to the _Guardian_ in, as a form of insurance against being held by the US, but hadn’t bothered to change the password. When someone decided to try the password provided to the _Guardian_ (conveniently to be found as a chapter heading in the book written by the two journalists), the cat was out of the bag, although it surely would have been released soon enough anyway (various forms of it were floating around among current and former WikiLeaks collaborators). The stories of how crazy Assange’s relationships were with the various journalistic organizations in question are legion – the books on this are mostly written by formerly involved journos or WikiLeaks people with an axe to grind, but they all tell the same basic story. I don’t think that this tells against Manning – Assange took great care to disguise the internal chaos of WikiLeaks’ organization, and Manning couldn’t reasonably have known the deficiencies of the crowd he was trusting. And I also think that some of Assange’s collaborators were smart people working in good faith (I’ve met Jake Applebaum, and found him an interesting guy). But I don’t think that WikiLeaks’ record on handling this material stands up to close examination.

84

Salient 03.15.12 at 2:36 am

Salient, so what is your position on what justified the leaks?

{Some days on the Internet it feels like I’m talking with a robot autogenerating messages. You call out someone’s behavior as pathological and disgusting, twice, their response is… so what is your position? No awareness, no acknowledgement of context. It’s not that I was expecting an apology, which would be awfully prissy of me; it’s just weird–and at least a little unhuman–to go on as if nothing happened. Offline, the entirety of this exchange is inconceivable. Anyway…}

I don’t think passing along documents you were authorized to obtain needs a justification, in general. My basic position is that sharing is acceptable as a rule, not only in exceptional cases. Of course, I’ve phrased this in a way so that ‘leaking’ ‘sensitive’ documents is just part of a much broader category, sharing documents that your employer provided to you. That’s the context in which I think about cases like this, in part because words like ‘leak’ and ‘sensitive’ carry a lot of baggage with them.

In this particular case, I do think it would have been reasonable for the military to promptly fire Manning (i.e., issue Manning a dishonorable discharge). Now, saying that someone can get fired for sharing a document is already pretty exceptional. (I wouldn’t say that firing is reasonable if Manning had forwarded email dispatches containing broadly similar information.) Manning wasn’t whistle-blowing, in the way I would use that phrase, since I consider whistle-blowing to be extricating oneself from conspiracy, subject to various protections the same way someone providing eyewitness testimony to a crime is subject to various protections more generally.

85

geo 03.15.12 at 2:53 am

Thanks, Henry @83; I stand corrected.

86

Watson Ladd 03.15.12 at 3:30 am

Salient, I don’t see why separating the video from the cables is “disgusting” and I do not like metaconversations. Anyway, your position is incredible as I understand it. It means the following scenarios are all okay:
1) An employee forwards a bid to a competitor.
2) Details of a coming highway are passed to developers, increasing the costs to the state for gaining control of the land.
3) An informant from the Mob comes forwards, and is promptly outed in a newspaper account relying on trial depositions forwarded to them by a clerk in the office of the Judge.
4) An Iranian citizen comes forward to the US warning of a terrorist attack. Their name appears in the paper before arrangements are made for them to leave Iran.
5) A reporter keeps a source confidential. A secretary reports the name to a rival paper, ruining the life of the source.
6) A school’s disciplinary files on a student are leaked.
7) A doctor’s secretary copies files and sends them to tabloid reporters. These files describe the treatment of a celebrity for a STD.
8) A diplomat, speaking frankly to his superiors, makes disparaging comments about his counterpart. They are reported in the press, forcing him to leave the country he works in.

8 actually happend as a result of the cables, as did some scenarios similar to 4. Do you have something to hide? Then you depend on the ability of employers to trust that their employees will handle confidential communications with appropriate care.

87

Salient 03.15.12 at 5:10 am

Well, running down the list:

1) I don’t run into trouble here, I don’t think? Seems like adequate grounds for firing someone, maybe a civil court case. A criminal case would seem highly suspect to me, and I don’t have any a priori judgment of them as a person — I’d need to know more about their motives, context, etc. (Which is just the default for most speech acts.)

2) Hmm, I admit I was thinking only about documents being released to the public, and both scenarios 1 and 2 illustrate how selectively withholding information can be a problem. But that’s not a problem I have with the leak itself; it’s basically still a motives problem. Generally releasing information about public-works plans, being made on ground that isn’t publicly owned, seems a priori OK to me. The problem in this scenario 2 (and to a lesser extent 1) is really the failure to disseminate the information more widely, I think.

3) through 7) illustrate a need to start clarifying exceptions (and are quite thorough in scope and well-imagined, by the way). So, formulating exception #1. These are privacy issues, the injured party is not the institution, but the individual whose privacy the institution had a duty to protect. So let’s say the first exception is, all employees of an institution bear an individual responsibility identical to the institution’s own responsibility of protecting clients’ personal records and personal data. A more thorough description would have to specify WTF I mean by ‘client’ and ‘personal’ — sure, sure, ‘client’ is a weird word to apply to a police informant, I just can’t think of a better word. Hopefully the general idea is clear — someone who does not actually work for the agency, and who is providing data to the agency in confidence and under the terms of a privacy policy. Again, not thoroughly satisfactorily described, but it’s a blog comment not a book.

The basic idea I’m getting at is that if you have a {vulnerable person}–{institution}–{employee} privacy relationship, any expectations we have for {vulnerable person}–{institution} privacy should naturally extend to identical {vulnerable person}–{employee} privacy. This seems like a fairly robust formulation, for something off the top of my head, but I’d welcome emendation.

8) I see no inherent problem with this as described, and as described it bears little resemblance to what actually happened (the cables in question were widely disseminated and widely accessible, and “speaking frankly to his superiors” does not obtain when one’s frank speech is carbon-copied out to thousands of people who are not one’s superiors…)

And also, your claim that 4) happened is incorrect, as Valerie Plame is not Iranian. :P

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geo 03.15.12 at 5:13 am

Watson: Do you have something to hide? Then you depend on the ability of employers to trust that their employees will handle confidential communications with appropriate care.

One thing you don’t seem to understand is that soldiers/bureaucrats etc are government employees, they are also citizens, and that citizens are, collectively, the employers of the government. The government, and all its information, belongs to us collectively. We are sovereign over it. We can call the government to account; indeed we have a duty to our fellow citizens to do just that if we have special knowledge of abuses that the government is trying to conceal. This is Democracy 101 and is the moral and legal basis of Manning’s actions. Of course, his is a minority position, and he will lose in court. But that’s only because the government, and a majority of his fellow citizens, apparently including you, have an understanding of the obligations of democratic citizenship far inferior to Manning’s.

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geo 03.15.12 at 5:16 am

Sorry, first sentence should read ” … while soldiers/bureaucrats etc are government employees … “

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js. 03.15.12 at 5:23 am

I haven’t been around these parts that long, so maybe it’s out of line for me to issue what is basically a virtual PSA; nevertheless, if you’re inclined to respond to this DelRey character, it may be worth skimming through Holbo’s recent Occam’s Phaser post first.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.15.12 at 9:13 am

Yes, like Geo said, Bradley Manning’s case is a case of civil disobedience, so that the question of whether governments have ‘the right’ to keep secrets is irrelevant. Governments do many things that make sense in general; keep roads open for traffic, for example. But then people come out to protest against the government, and they block roads. Tough shit. Turns out making the trains run on time is not enough; they also need to avoid making people mad at them for some other things they do.

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Ralph Hitchens 03.15.12 at 1:07 pm

“Manning’s first alleged leak was the Apache helicopter “collateral murder” video, taken from a gunship and showing the intentional killing of a Reuters reporter, his driver, and other unarmed civilians, including children, in a public square in broad daylight.”

For this disclosure, which should have prompted a major reevaluation of the Army’s ROE, he deserves a pardon. But my point was that he directly witnessed nothing; all or most of his information was gleaned by second-hand observation of intelligence files on SIPRNet, which may or may not tell the whole story or offer much in the way of context. What further amazed me was the fact that SIPRNet sysops had the software security tools to monitor downloads to removable media, but never bothered to use them. They should be in the dock alongside Manning.

.

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Henry 03.15.12 at 1:30 pm

js. – yes. DFTT – I can easily imagine his 1900s equivalent pontificating in some bar about how lynchings are fine and good, since ‘nobody serious’ is inclined to take them seriously, or try to punish them.

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Watson Ladd 03.15.12 at 3:46 pm

geo, Henri: Our status as citizens who are collectively sovereign doesn’t individually give us powers over the government. For one thing, the collective sovereignty of the people doesn’t mean they all agree with the actions of a few.

It also isn’t clear that we can wave away the moral issues by simply saying “oh, it’s in protest of US policy”. Pentagon Papers is easily distinguished by the way that that was evidence that the Pentagon was knowingly pursuing the wrong policy. A boycott of a discriminatory bus company, even if illegal, is directly standing against policies hurting people. But releasing classified information, much of it unrelated to the Iraq and Afghan wars, doesn’t seem to interfere in the Afghan and Iraq wars.

Furthermore, even if you disagree with the Iraq war or the Afghan war, taking direct action against them is supporting the Taliban and the genocidal militias. The War Logs were a godsend for the Taliban: now they know how much of what we have, and where. They revealed the existence of units aiming at removing high value commanders from the battlefield, which means the Taliban now focuses on protecting them more. The Guardian wisely decided not to publish everything they had as well as redacting names.
Informants are not going to come forward without assurances that they will not be identified, and what Manning did made that assurance a lot harder to give.

Ralph, security has costs. If you make secret information accessible only by asking for a commander and filling out forms in triplicate, that adds a lot of time but might reduce espionage somewhat. Now the government has apparently implemented better analysis of access to classified materials. Maybe they should have earlier, but bad judgement is not a crime.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.15.12 at 4:27 pm

People block roads with burning tires, and so someone may not get in time to the hospital and die. But that’s exactly what the game is: you block the road to paralyze, to create chaos, to cause troubles – because this is the most effective weapon you have at this point. Presumably, you already tried a letter-writing campaign, and demonstrating in a ‘free speech zone’, but, alas, no one had paid any attention. So, you radicalize, and you escalate. This is all rather trivial.

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ajay 03.15.12 at 4:51 pm

People block roads with burning tiressmart bombs on bridges, and so someone may not get in time to the hospital and die. But that’s exactly what the game is: you block the road to paralyze, to create chaos, to cause troubles – because this is the most effective weapon you have at this point. Presumably, you already tried a letter-writing campaign diplomatic action, and demonstrating in a ‘free speech zone’imposing sanctions, but, alas, no one had paid any attention. So, you radicalize, and you escalate. This is all rather trivial.

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geo 03.15.12 at 5:09 pm

Presumably, you already tried a letter-writing campaign diplomatic action, and demonstrating in a ‘free speech zone’imposing sanctions, but, alas, no one had paid any attention. So, you radicalize, and you escalate.

Brilliant, ajay, and completely nonsensical as a justification of the US invasion of Iraq. The declared purpose of the invasion was to eliminate WMDs that might soon be used against the US. There were none; and there was no good reason to believe there were any. Diplomatic action and imposing sanctions did not fail to prevent the production of WMDs; there were no WMDs.

Actually, taken as a whole the comment as a whole is not so brilliant because in the comment of Henri’s that you’re so wittily parodying, the people who undertake civil disobedience after previous letter-writing campaigns haven’t worked are the same people. In your parody, the jihadis who put IEDs on bridges are not the governments doing diplomacy and imposing sanctions. Or are they? Are you suggesting (I should say “admitting,” because of course it is the case) that the US destroyed bridges and other infrastructure in order to “create chaos” — ie, punish the civilian population. If so, then the US is guilty of war crimes in Iraq. But you knew that.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.15.12 at 5:32 pm

Smart bombs is a different story, those are deliberate, calculated actions by a few powerful people. But this actually is the same process that logically ends with terrorism. The hope is that the feedback mechanism called ‘liberal democracy’ would somehow prevent radicalization and escalation, would somehow accommodate the strong minority views. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it fails. This time it’s failed to accommodate the anti-war view; in the early 90s it was the anti-government view, and it took the Oklahoma city bombing to produce a correction.

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ajay 03.15.12 at 5:49 pm

Brilliant, ajay, and completely nonsensical as a justification of the US invasion of Iraq.

Well, it wasn’t meant to be one. Quite the reverse: it’s not justifying Iraq by saying that it’s like blocking roads with tyres, it’s dejustifying blocking roads with tyres by pointing out similarities with war.
It was meant to point out the problem with taking the kind of approach that says it’s OK to block the road for a few ambulances, and if people die, well, that’s just the price that has to be paid (by someone else) for you to achieve your political objectives. Freedom is messy, you know.

Are you suggesting (I should say “admitting,” because of course it is the case) that the US destroyed bridges and other infrastructure in order to “create chaos”

I thought that was generally accepted at this point. What on earth did you think that shock and awe meant? Why else do you think James Mattis picked the personal callsign he did?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.15.12 at 7:10 pm

I’m not justifying anything, just explaining. You can dejustify anything you want, but when the system fails, people do get radicalized and things happen. Famine strikes – some mothers will eventually eat their babies. Is that justified or unjustified?

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LFC 03.16.12 at 12:35 am

This time it’s failed to accommodate the anti-war view; in the early 90s it was the anti-government view, and it took the Oklahoma city bombing to produce a correction.

Perhaps someone finds this sentence coherent and sensible. I find it a pile of rubbish. Timothy McVeigh did not bomb the Oklahoma City federal bldg b/c ‘liberal democracy’ had failed to ‘accommodate’ his ‘anti-govt’ view. He was ‘radicalized’ by, inter alia, reading some far-right conspiratorial novel whose name is escaping me. He did not engage in peaceful (albeit perhaps illegal) political action and then, disillusioned, turn to violence. As I recall, he went straight from generalized disaffection to violence. Perhaps I am misremembering. In any case I deprecate the implied equivalence between Manning and McVeigh. There is not a continuum, certainly not morally, between civil disobedience and terrorism, imo. Perhaps Manning’s actions jeopardized some lives though I have not seen this demonstrated. But his motives and actions are really not comparable to McVeigh’s, who intentionally blew up a building with people inside.

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LFC 03.16.12 at 12:39 am

P.s. There is not some neat hydraulic mechanism whirring away, giving us: system dysfunction -> radicalization -> protest -> civil disobedience -> violence/terrorism. This is just bad sociology, imo.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.16.12 at 8:05 am

No, he bombed it on an anniversary of the Waco/Koresh incident; and there were other fuckups that led to radicalization of right-wing militias. After the Oklahoma incident, militia leaders were invited to the congress to discuss their grievances, and from that point on, starting from the next incident (Texan Freemen , or something) it was handled completely differently, peacefully.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.16.12 at 5:18 pm

He was ‘radicalized’ by, inter alia, reading some far-right conspiratorial novel

This is a favoured but deeply unconvincing mode of explanation for such events.

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LFC 03.16.12 at 5:34 pm

T.W. @104:
More precisely, I should have said that McVeigh’s ‘radicalization’, already underway, was deepened by his reading of that book (whose name I still haven’t bothered to look up; it’s probably at the Wikipedia entry). I don’t find that “deeply unconvincing.” It was widely written about at the time and seems plausible.

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Andrew F. 03.16.12 at 7:05 pm

Well, either this “modest proposal” is a political stunt designed to at least embarrass Cheney, or an argument from fairness that if we are to let Cheney go, we should let Manning go as well, or some mixture of both.

What bothers me is the notion that because a powerful figure can get away with a crime (assumed for the sake of argument), we should therefore let a less-powerful figure get away with a crime as well. This doesn’t strike me as an argument well founded on fairness. Indeed, it’s an argument that relies implicitly on concepts of distributive justice that do not fit well here.

So, to be blunt, it is wholly irrelevant whether Cheney is guilty of torture, of building an energy-guzzling death star, or of serving forbidden fruit at a now closed resort. Manning broke the faith. He betrayed the country he swore to serve and those who served with him. Leaving aside whether he qualifies as a whistleblower at all, most of what he released had nothing to do with any war crimes.

While others have sacrificed far more than he ever will and did their duty anyway, psychological duress does not necessarily correlate with the magnitude of the most observable forms of suffering; and I hope the duress he was under – and appears to have been under for some time – is taken into full account when he is sentenced.

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