Tag Archives: barack obama

President Obama Grants Commutation of Sentence to Chelsea Manning

President Obama Grants Commutation of Sentence to Chelsea Manning

WASHINGTON, DC — The Obama administration announced today the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence for disclosing classified information that raised public awareness regarding the impact of war on innocent civilians. Manning will reportedly be freed in May 2017.

“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” said Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning. “Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”

Manning, a transgender woman, is in the seventh year of an unprecedented 35-year sentence and has been forced to serve her sentence in an all-male prison. The ACLU previously filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the appeal of Manning’s conviction, arguing that the prosecution of Manning under the Espionage Act violated the Constitution because it leads to prosecutions where a court gives no consideration to the public interest. The ACLU also argued that such cases give the government too much leeway to selectively prosecute disfavored speakers.

Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, Manning’s appellate counselors, said in a joint statement, “Ms. Manning is the longest serving whistleblower in the history of the United States. Her 35-year sentence for disclosing information that served the public interest and never caused harm to the United States was always excessive, and we’re delighted that justice is being served in the form of this commutation.”

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, who has been an ardent supporter of Chelsea’s and speaks to her on the phone on a regular basis said, “Chelsea’s release is massive victory for free speech, human rights, and democracy. As someone who has become friends with Chelsea over the last year, but has never had a chance to see her face or give her a hug, I’m overjoyed that she will be able to share her beautiful self with the world. She has so much to offer, and her freedom will be a testament to the power of grassroots organizing. I’m so excited for the world to get to know her as the compassionate, intelligent, and kind person who she is.”

The president’s decision comes after an outpouring of support for Manning since her unfair and egregious sentence and the ongoing mistreatment throughout her incarceration. In December, the ACLU and over a dozen other LGBT groups sent a letter to President Obama urging him to grant clemency to Manning, and an official White House petition with the same request secured over 100,000 signatures.

The ACLU has represented Manning in a lawsuit against the Department of Defense that was first filed in 2014 over the department’s refusal to treat Manning’s well-documented gender dysphoria.

Thousands Online Want to Give Chelsea Manning a Hug

Thousands Online Want to Give Chelsea Manning a Hug

Following reports that Chelsea Manning is on President Obama’s “short list” for a possible commutation, the Internet has exploded with support for the imprisoned transgender transparency advocate. Over the weekend, thousands of people started taking part in a spontaneous #HugsForChelsea campaign, posting photos of themselves with their arms outstretched as if waiting to give Chelsea Manning a hug, calling for President Obama to grant her clemency. Some prominent individuals including Michael Stipe of REM, Dustin Kensrue of Thrice, and the punk band Anti-Flag, have joined the effort.

See a selection of #HugsForChelsea photos here, see the landing page for the campaign here.

“Chelsea has so much love and support coming from people across the political spectrum,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, who posted the first #HugsForChelsea photo, “She has suffered enough. People are coming out of the woodwork to speak out. President Obama needs to do the right thing and free her now. After getting to know her as one of her supporters over the last year, I personally can’t wait to give her a hug.”

“As President Obama’s days in office wind down, people from all walks of life are standing in solidarity with Chelsea and urging the President to save her before it is too late,” said Chase Strangio, Chelsea’s ACLU attorney. “After years of suffering in prison under horrific conditions including long stretches of solitary confinement, the denial of health care for gender dysphoria and arbitrary punishments including for attempting suicide, Chelsea needs to be set free before this treatment results in her death.”

Background:

  1. More than 100,000 people signed an official Whitehouse.gov petition, meeting the threshold to require a response from the President.
  2. Hundreds of thousands have signed previous petitions organized by Fight for the Future and other groups decrying Chelsea’s treatment while in prison
  3. The ACLU and more than a dozen prominent LGBT organizations sent a letter to President Obama calling for Chelsea’s commutation
  4. Amnesty International sent a letter to President Obama, and supporters sent over 25,000 emails to the White House.
  5. Human Rights Watch sent a letter to President Obama supporting clemency
  6. Dozens of other human rights, free speech, government transparency, and civil liberties organizations have called for Chelsea’s release
  7. A wide range of notable people have publicly supported Chelsea including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Morris C. Davis, journalist Glenn Greenwald, Sean Ono Lennon, REM lead singer Michael Stipe, comedian Margaret Cho, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine,, and many others.
  8. Learn more at FreeChelsea.com, and follow Chelsea on Twitter at @xychelsea
Chelsea Manning Reportedly on President Obama’s ‘Short List’ for Commutation

Chelsea Manning Reportedly on President Obama’s ‘Short List’ for Commutation

NBC News is reporting that Chelsea Manning, who has served 7 years of a 35 year sentence, is on President Obama’s “short list” for commutation.

Chelsea Manning’s attorney at the ACLU, Chase Strangio, said:

“The Obama administration has done many commendable things to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, but in the case of Chelsea Manning they have systematically mistreated her and denied her access to medically recommended gender-related health care. Chelsea won’t survive another 5 years in prison, much less another 30. President Obama has 9 days to do the right thing and commute her sentence. The world is watching, and we hope that he stands on the side of justice, and that his legacy will be one of standing up for trans people’s rights, not having extinguished one of our community’s brightest lights.”

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said:

“Chelsea Manning is a compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant human being whose actions have always been motivated by the same thing: her desire to help people and make the world a better place. She has suffered enough. President Obama should act now to right this wrong before it’s too late.”

If the NBC News report is accurate and President Obama moves to commute Manning’s sentence, he will be responding to overwhelming public outcry about Chelsea’s mistreatment while incarcerated.

– More than 100,000 people signed an official Whitehouse.gov petition, meeting the threshold to require a response from the President.

– Hundreds of thousands have signed previous petitions organized by Fight for the Future and other groups decrying Chelsea’s treatment while in prison

– The ACLU and more than a dozen prominent LGBT organizations sent a letter to President Obama calling for Chelsea’s commutation

– Amnesty International sent a letter to President Obama, and supporters sent over 25,000 emails to the White House

– Dozens of other human rights, free speech, government transparency, and civil liberties organizations have called for Chelsea’s release

– A wide range of notable people have publicly supported Chelsea including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Morris C. Davis, journalist Glenn Greenwald, Sean Ono Lennon, REM lead singer Michael Stipe, comedian Margaret Cho, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine,, and many others.

Learn more at FreeChelsea.com & follow Chelsea on Twitter at @xychelsea

Lawsuit Plaintiffs & Hundreds of Activists will ‘Flood’ 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Fight Against NDAA Indefinite Detention

Lawsuit Plaintiffs & Hundreds of Activists will ‘Flood’ 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Fight Against NDAA Indefinite Detention

[New York, NY] A lawsuit over a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will be back in federal court at 10am on February 6, 2013, awaiting decision on an injunction prohibiting indefinite detention of civilians without charge or trial. A group of academics, journalists, and activists filed suit last year over § 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA alleging that the provision suspended due process rights and threatened first amendment protections.

flood the court MEME

In a landmark ruling last September the plaintiffs —former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges, RevolutionTruth founder Jennifer “Tangerine” Bolen, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, linguist and author Noam Chomsky, Icelandic Parliamentarian Brigitta Jonsdottir, US Day of Rage founder Alexa O’Brien, and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla— were awarded a permanent, worldwide injunction against the provision by Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of NY (2nd Circuit).  In her ruling Judge Forrest, an Obama appointee, challenged the Justice Department attorneys for refusing to provide assurances that journalists and activists would not be indefinitely detained under the provision for exercising first amendment rights:

“Not once in any of its submissions in this action or at either the March or August hearings has the Government said, ‘First Amendment activities are not covered and could never be encompassed by § 1021(b)(2). This Court rejects the Government’s suggestion that American citizens can be placed in military detention indefinitely, for acts they could not predict might subject them to detention, and have as their sole remedy a habeas petition…That scenario dispenses with a number of guaranteed rights.”

Despite including a signing statement expressing deep reservations over the “indefinite detention provision” and promising not to use such powers against American citizens, President Obama immediately appealed Judge Forrest’s ruling, and sought an emergency stay on the injunction, claiming “irreparable harm” would be incurred by the US if the government lacked the ability to indefinitely detain civilians under section 1021.

“This is the final battle between the restoration of due process along with our most cherished civil liberties and the imposition of a military state,” said Chris Hedges, “if we lose this battle, will be vulnerable to being seized on American soil by the military, stripped of due process and held in indefinate detention in military facilities, including our off-shore penal colonies. It is up to federal judges now to pull us back form the brink.  Our legal challenge to section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA is one of the defining moments of our era.”

The suit has been joined by over two dozen organizations and individuals who have filed Amicus Curiae briefs in support of the plaintiff’s claims that § 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA is over-broad and facially unconstitutional.  One such supporting brief, filed by Karen and Ken Korematsu (Children of Fred Korematsu & each Amici in this case), draws a chilling comparison between indefinite detention under the auspices of the war on terror and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II:

Korematsu remains on the pages of our legal and political history. As a legal precedent it is now recognized as having very limited application. As historical precedent it stands as a constant caution that in times of war or declared military necessity our institutions must be vigilant in protecting constitutional guarantees. It stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability. It stands as a caution that in times of international hostility and antagonisms our institutions, legislative, executive and judicial, must be prepared to exercise their authority to protect all citizens from the petty fears and prejudices that are so easily aroused.”

In opposition to the plaintiffs Senators John McCainLindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte have utilized the Amicus process to file a brief in support of the government’s use of § 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA and have taken the unusual step of filing a motion requesting 10 minutes of oral argument time in the February 6th, 2012 proceedings, claiming the need for the Senate body to be represented in court when it comes to indefinite detention.  Plaintiff attorneys are awaiting word on whether the 2nd Circuit will grant this motion.

UPDATE: On Thursday, January 31st, 2012 attorneys for the plaintiffs received notice that McCain, Graham and Ayotte were awarded a 5 minute oral argument at the proceeding. To compensate for this the 2nd circuit also added 5 minutes onto the plaintiff argument (allowing for 20 minutes total).

A bipartisan coalition of groups backing this lawsuit, including Demand Progress, RevolutionTruth, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the Tenth Amendment Center, are calling on members and supporters to join the plaintiffs in court. Activists promoting a call to “Flood the Courthouse” have already received over 300 RSVP’s from activists and supporters of the plaintiffs

Plaintiff and lawsuit coordinator Tangerine Bolen will lead a press conference upon adjournment of the court session. Speakers will include Tangerine Bolen, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Bruce Afran, Alexa O’Brien, Cornel West, Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack and a number of others working to prevent indefinite detention and restore civil liberties.

To obtain video of the press conference or to arrange an interview with any of the plaintiffs or counsel please contact Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010.

COURT ARGUMENTS & ACTIVIST SOLIDARITY ACTION

WHAT: Oral Arguments in NDAA Court Ruling & Activist Solidarity Action
WHERE: 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Thurgood Marshall Courthouse
(Room 1505, 15th floor), 40 Foley Square, NYC
WHEN: 10am Wednesday, February 6, 2013
INFO: Stop NDAA Lawsuit | Facebook RSVP

PRESS CONFERENCE

WHAT: Press Conference with Plaintiffs, Counsel, and Supporters
(Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Bruce Afran, Tangerine Bolen, Alexa O’Brien, Cornel West)
WHERE: Foley Square, NYC (directly across from courthouse steps)
WHEN: After Court Adjourns (Approximately 11:30am Wednesday, February 6, 2013)
INFO: Stop NDAA Lawsuit | Facebook RSVP

• Suggested reading: Echoes of Korematsu by Noor Elashi

Activists & Journalists Sue President Over NDAA’s Chilling Effect on Constitutional Protections

Activists & Journalists Sue President Over NDAA’s Chilling Effect on Constitutional Protections

[NEW YORK, NY] The first round of statements from seven high-profile plaintiffs suing President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, House Speakers, and DOD Representatives seeking injunctive relief barring the implementation of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)’s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions of indefinite detention and suspension of Habeas Corpus was heard in federal court last week. The first hearing took place in front of Hon. Kathryn B. Forrest at the U.S. District Court in New York City on Thursday, March 29th, 2012.

During the 3/29 hearing, Alexa O’Brien of U.S. Day of Rage spoke about running the group’s website. She indicated that she received a warning about her affiliations and that she now has deep concerns about continuing her activities since the passage of NDAA.

The NDAA’s Sub-Section 1021 (b)(2) would allow the military to detain anyone it suspects “substantially supported” terrorists or their “associated forces,” and would allow the military to keep them detained until “the end of hostilities.” The specific use of the terms “associated forces” and “substantial support,” terms which have not been defined within the subsection or elsewhere in the bill, is at the core of the plaintiff’s challenge. The plaintiffs are challenging that the vague, over-broad, language is so nebulous that it creates a space where their journalism or non-violent activism may be threatened by the provisions. Moreover, Sub-Section 1021 (b)(2) creates a space for the indefinite detention of targeted individuals, including US citizens, and denies their protections under Habeas Corpus.

Icelandic Parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottír did not attend the hearing, due to her fear of being detained because of her support of WikiLeaks. She instead submitted a written piece that was read by the author Naomi Wolf. Jonsdottír’s twitter account has been subpoenaed as part of a U.S. led investigation.

Kai Wargalla, Deputy Director of RevolutionTruth and an organizer with Occupy London expressed reluctance to continue with her organization’s online “Live Panels” since they may feature individuals the U.S. government could perceive to be terrorists or as having affiliations with terrorists. When asked by the judge whether the British government had threatened her, Wargalla replied, “Other than describing my group as a terrorist group, no”.

Plaintiffs Jennifer “Tangerine” Bolen, a civil liberties advocate and independent journalist who hosts Live Panel discussions with activists and revolutionaries from around the globe, spearheaded this multi-plaintiff lawsuit due to fears of her own safety under the NDAA. Ms. Bolen, Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg were unable to testify on March 29th but may be called in Round Two of this lawsuit.

The plaintiff’s lawyers stressed that the definitional terms used in Sub-Section 1021 were vague and would have the effect of “chilling” speech and dissent due to the threat of detention. They also read into the court record that President Obama, upon signing the bill, made a statement that he signed the bill despite reservations about detention, interrogation and prosecution of American citizens. The plaintiff’s lawyers continued on to state that the bill contradicts fundamental principles of American government, and that the military should not be involved in civilian prosecutions.

During Christopher Hedges’ testimony he delineated his coverage while embedded in El Salvador, Gaza, Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. He cited controversial people he had interviewed, many of whom have affiliations with terrorist groups. During testimony Hedges said, “…what I find to be frightening is when the definition of ‘associated forces’ is ruled by a Manichean vision of the world (such as Oliver North, George Bush, Cheney) whose thinking is binary – i.e. good/bad; black/white…. in their assessment I would be a terrorist”. He also drew a comparison between the “Authorization for Use of Military Force” passed just post 9/11 and the NDAA’s Section 1021, with the former being a declaration of war specifically on those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks whereas this new law expands beyond enemy combatants to bring ordinary people into the rubric – people who were not even part of 9/11.

While on the stand the plaintiff’s lawyer handed Hedges a list of terrorist groups as designated by the U.S. government and he indicated that he had reported on seventeen of them and that in his opinion some of these organizations are engaged in hostilities with coalition partners. He then went on to describe upcoming lectures and a book he plans to release and inferred fears about his safety in carrying them out since enactment of NDAA. He indicated his fears stem from the belief “that we’ve undergone a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion” and that “NDAA is a quantum deterioration of the ability to exercize free speech”. He further indicated that prior to the passage of NDAA he had no fear of detention. “Every investigative reporter will tell you that [information] sources have dried up. Six whistleblowers are currently detained”.

As the 3/29 hearing came to a close Judge Forrest questioned whether the language in the statute provides sufficient information for the plaintiffs vis a vis the terms “associated forces” and “substantial support” of terrorists. Points were raised in these closing discussions surrounding the fact that journalists’ speech is “chilled” because they don’t know how to interpret these terms. The government lawyers were unable to reassure the plaintiffs in these questions. The government lawyers non-response was an affirmation that the verbiage in NDAA is in fact vague, simplistic and nebulous, thus they had little to draw upon in respect to providing the plaintiffs or the judge answers.

Plaintiffs were joined by Dr. Cornel West for a press conference outside the courtroom that afternoon, an archive of the press conference is available HERE

After leaving the courtroom Carl Mayer, an attorney for the plaintiffs said, “I believe the plaintiffs proved in federal court why they are ‘the Freedom Seven‘. The plaintiffs demonstrated definitively that the Homeland Battlefield Act is massively ‘chilling’ free speech and intimidating activists and journalists in this country. America is not a Battlefield and we will fight this law to the highest court in the land, if we have to.”

You can read or print a copy of the plaintiffs lawsuit at THIS LINK the text of the NDAA in its entirety is available at THIS LINK. For more information on the case and it’s plaintiffs visit www.stopNDAA.org

US anti-terrorism law curbs free speech and activist work, court told – The Guardian

The reason I’m helping Chris Hedges’ lawsuit against the NDAA – The Guardian

Lawyers tested in court over anti-terrorism act – Reuters

Lawyers tested in court over anti-terrorism act – The Chicago Tribune

Headlines
– Democracy Now! (1/2)

Journalists, Activists Challenge NDAA in Federal Suit [5:30 mark] – Democracy Now! (2/2)

Someone You Love: Coming to a Gulag Near You – Truthdig

Bruce Afran, NDAA Threatens Free Speech – The Majority Report

Chris Hedges: “No Outcry Within Media” on NDAA – Current TV

Humanae Tempore Ignis (NDAA) – The Daily Kos

Hedges: NDAA is ‘chilling’ the practice of journalism – Raw Story

NDAA needs definite attention – Minnesota Daily

Press TV

RT, The Aylona Show

RT America

RT America, Newshour

RT America, Newshour (Hedges Interview)

RT America, Alyona Show

Russia Voice Radio

China Daily

International Business Times (1/3)

International Business Times (2/3)

International Business Times (3/3)

Only YOU can prevent a Totalitarian police state – The Collegian

Lawsuit Seeking Injunction Against NDAA Misinterprets Law, Administration, Lawmakers Say – Homeland Security Today [negative]

U.S. anti-terrorism law curbs free speech and activist work, court told – Raw Story

Hot Stuff: NDAA Lawsuit – Smiley & West

How Does a ‘Common Citizen’ Know If They Can Be Target of NDAA? – FireDogLake

Lawyers tested in court over anti-terrorism act – MSNBC Newsvine

FindLaw

Yahoo News

Q&A with Naomi Wolf and Alexa O’Brien: the NDAA and free speechThe Guardian (Blog)

Daylong Tussle on ‘Homeland Battlefield’ Law – Courthouse News

Journalists, Activists Challenge NDAA LawCommon Dreams

Lawyers tested in court over anti-terrorism act – 99.9 Radio

Paleo Radio (Pacifica)

Court Hears Arguments In Lawsuit Against …Indefinite Detention Law – Prison Planet

‘Terrorists’ at Home – Egypt Daily News

NDAA, Who Does It Apply to?
The Lone Republic

Freedom Seven Strike Back Against NDAA And Unlimited Detention Without Due Process – Suicide Girls

PeaceNews.org

Journalists, Activists Challenge Government ‘Vagueness’ In Indefinite Detention Statute – All Voices

‘War on terror’ comes home to the US The Gulf Times

New York Raw Video (clip of march)

Lawsuit: Journalists Fear First Amendment Infringed by NDAAThe New American