Bradley Manning’s heroic fight

September 7, 2010

Mike Gogulski is the founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. Pfc. Manning has been accused of leaking military video and other documents to the muckraking site WikiLeaks, including the so-called "Collateral Murder" video, which shows the killing of 11 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, by a U.S. helicopter gunship in Baghdad in 2007.

Manning is currently in a military prison in Quantico, Va., charged with the unauthorized use and disclosure of U.S. classified information. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 52 years in prison.

Gogulski spoke to Rick Greenblatt about the role of the Bradley Manning Support Network and upcoming actions to defend Manning.

WHO IS Bradley Manning, and what has he been accused of?

BRADLEY MANNING is a 22-year-old who grew up in Oklahoma first, then in Wales after his mother moved to Wales, and then moved back to the U.S. for a couple of years before joining the Army. He was trained as an intelligence analyst at Fort Huachuca and was deployed to Baghdad to Forward Operating Base Hammer, I believe in 2009.

At present, he stands accused of eight different charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and, I guess, the Espionage Act. The charges seem to relate to the disclosure of the video that was titled "Collateral Murder" by WikiLeaks, as well as the acquisition and possible transmission of other documents, either to WikiLeaks or to other parties.

The information available from the Army is not 100 percent clear on which documents or to whom they were sent and so forth. They just generally cite the statute. So he faces 52 years in prison on these charges.

CAN YOU say something about the content of the "Collateral Murder" video?

Protesters in Virginia rally to defend Bradley Manning
Protesters in Virginia rally to defend Bradley Manning

COLLATERAL MURDER is a recording from a gun camera on an Apache helicopter on a mission in 2007 in Baghdad--or I guess what they call "New Baghdad."

The video shows the helicopter shooting 11 people in the street, two of whom were later identified as employees of the Reuters News Agency. Among those killed in the short version of the video--you can actually enumerate the people who were shot dead--were people who had apparently come on the scene and had stopped their van, with their two children inside, in order to lend assistance to one man who was crawling away from the scene wounded. They were all shot, the two adults were killed, and the two children were badly wounded.

YOU SAID there are eight charges. Are there other documents that Manning has been accused of leaking to WikiLeaks?

THERE HAS been speculation in the media that Manning is behind the release of the documents that have been dubbed "The Afghan War Diary." If that is something the government is going to charge him with, of course, we don't know, but that would seem to be additional charges, on top of what's already been filed.

What you can do

Global Days of Action in Manning's support are being planned for September 16-19. Additional information about these actions, and what you can do to support Manning, is available at the Bradley Manning Support Network Web site.

He is being held in the U.S. Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Va. He is being held in isolation, yes, but it's not like solitary confinement, in the sense of a dark hole in the dungeon. My understanding is that he is in a cell to himself, as opposed to being in dormitory-style housing, as is common at other military confinement facilities.

The procedure as I understand it right now is, first, he's probably already going through a psychological and psychiatric evaluation. Depending on the results of that, there will be an Article 32 inquiry, which is the military equivalent of a grand jury inquest. If that proceeding returns a "thumbs up" on the charges, then the case would proceed to trial.

I don't know precisely what the procedure is for military courts-martial. I know that there have been some military courts-martial where observers from the public and from support and activist groups have been able to attend. Certainly there is some portion of the trial--assuming that all of these charges proceed--that will require the presentation of classified evidence to the court, and at this point, the public would be excluded, at least for the duration of that evidence.

He does have access to visitors. He has been able to meet with a member of his family, as was reported by CNN. He was also able to meet with a friend, who, with no small amount of effort, was able to get though the bureaucracy involved in getting on the appropriate lists and approved.

His friend, who we spoke with last night on a weekly conference call that hold, said Bradley seemed to be in good spirits. The way he described it was, "Gee, you seem fine. It's awfully strange there's this pane of glass between us."

CAN YOU tell me something about the Bradley Manning Support Network? You are identified on the Web site as the founder. What is it and how did you get involved?

WE ARE kind of a loose organization--although we do have a steering committee now--dedicated to the support and defense of Private First Class Manning. We have been engaged with people from all over the world.

Most of the people who are most active are based on the West Coast of the U.S. I am based in Bratislava, Slovakia.

When the story first came out in Wired magazine, near the beginning of June, that this man had been arrested in relation to the "Collateral Murder" video, it said that Manning contacted Adrian Lamo, who represented himself as a journalist, and proceeded over the course of some days to tell him that he had been involved in leaking classified material. Then Lamo snitched on him.

When I first read that article, my first reaction was "You bastard." I immediately went to my blog and wrote a "damn you to hell for all eternity, Adrian Lamo" sort of thing. I started paying attention to the case, and what was being said on-line and in the media and on blogs and in comments.

After a couple of days, I realized that somebody was going to need to defend this guy, so I went out and registered a domain name and started a Web site.

The Bradley Manning Support Network has kind of become the lead organization here. Very little that we've done would be possible without the partnership of Courage to Resist, which is based up in Oakland, Calif., and headed by Jeff Paterson, who is a member of our steering committee. They are connected to a non-profit organization that hosts and enables the defense fund to function.

Besides that, if you take a look at our supporters, there's now a fair number of organizations and individuals who have given us explicit endorsements and, in some cases, joined our advisory board. Michael Moore also jumped on board with a public statement saying he would contribute $5,000 to Manning's defense.

Bradley now has a civilian attorney, David Coombs, based out of Providence, R.I. Mr. Coombs was in the Army for, I believe, about 10 years and retired from the Army about a year and a half ago. He is very highly qualified in the military law system, having held just about any post that you can in the system, except for the very top command. He was even a professor of law for the military's law school during his service. He is now on board.

He was Bradley's choice to retain as his counsel. We have begun sending funds to him, and we are very supportive of him and his work.

CAN YOU tell me something about the plans for the global days of action on September 16-19?

THE CALL here is that people in their own communities should organize events during these four days in support of Bradley Manning. That can be a rally, a demonstration, a march, a video screening, a dinner party--whatever, so long as there is some connection.

A number of folks have come forward saying that they are putting events together. I am aware of [events in] San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Houston, Quantico, Toronto and Columbus, Ohio. There might be something going on in New York. I am hoping to speak to a fellow later tonight about events that might happen in the UK. I know that there is at least one event planned in Australia, in the New South Wales territory.

So people have kind of picked this up and run with it. In some cases, we have kind of talked to them up front about what to do. In other cases, we just get an e-mail one day that says, "Hey, we're doing this."

WHAT WOULD you suggest people do if they want to support Bradley Manning?

THERE ARE a couple of things right now that are key. One is simply raising the public's awareness of this man's situation. In my view, if he has been erroneously charged by the military, then they should let him go immediately.

If the charges actually represent what he did, then he is a hero. He's not a criminal. He should be celebrated, not prosecuted. Not many folks are keenly aware of Manning's situation. The WikiLeaks story itself kind of overshadowed his particular involvement, although obviously, he has been in the media. So it's a matter of raising awareness in the first part.

The second is that we are still collecting funds for the defense fund. We are close to an interim goal of getting $90,000 in place, which should fund, roughly, the first year of legal work, barring any unforeseen expenses or other attorneys being attached to the case.

HOW CAN people get more information or get involved with the campaign?

THEY CAN visit the Web site On Facebook, there's a group called simply SaveBradley, where we try to keep people updated. There is an e-mail announcements list that I am just building up, and I am slightly delinquent on getting it on the Web site.

I said that there were two things that were important. A third one is that we are building this network. We are building relationships with organizations that I expect are going to last for a number of years.

Certainly, the U.S. government doesn't seem like it's going to back down from its prosecution anytime soon. There is a very realistic chance that Manning gets sentenced to prison. I think if that's the case, then our work has to continue.

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