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
– 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.
[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.
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 McCain, Lindsey 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 631.291.3010.
[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 availableHERE
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