On the import of Debra Van Poolen’s artistic witness

Those of us who covered Chelsea Manning’s court martial at Ft. Meade relied on the drawings of artists in attendance to illustrate our coverage of witnesses testifying, dramatic proceedings, and vital courtroom moments. Debra van Poolen, one such artist, wrote about her experience here. I’ve thanked Debra in a piece explaining the value of her and others’ images, first published here at WARP Place. Relatedly, see artist Clark Stoeckley’s book-length graphic account of the trial here.


We are, increasingly, a visual people, overloaded with imagery at every turn. Thus the army’s (and administration’s) strategy to turn what should have been a trial available to the public for witness, conversation, and debate into a covert one made sense. No cameras, no cell phones, no computers in the courtroom. Metal detectors scanned our every inch for a hidden lens or wire. Uniformed muscles with weapons lined the walls, escorting us out to stretch our limbs and rest our eyes, watching, retrieving us. In the media room, a relaxed appearance betrayed an even more sinister crackdown on any attempt to publicize the show trial of U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning.

By and large, the mainstream media ignored the trial. We few reporters followed proceedings on a delayed video feed, that—just next door to the NSA, capable of spying on Americans’ every communication—was conveniently, annoyingly liable to cut out at any minute, for several at a time. So adverse was the Army to the public witnessing the immense, inexorable courage of a 5’2” soldier who stood head and shoulders above her fear-stricken fellow servicemen that when a few seconds of video did seep onto the world wide web, Ft. Meade soldiers with handguns were assigned to patrol the media room, their hot breath on our necks as we tried to transcribe extensive motions in real time. Continue reading “On the import of Debra Van Poolen’s artistic witness”

Alex Gibney’s response to my ‘We Steal Secrets’ review

On May 24, 2013, I reviewed Alex Gibney’s WikiLeaks/Bradley Manning film ‘We Steal Secrets,’ focusing on its portrayal of Pfc. Bradley Manning. Read that review here. Alex Gibney wrote me a letter in response, reprinted in full below:

Dear Nathan:

I read your recent review of “We Steal Secrets: the Story of WikiLeaks.”

I have great respect for the work that you have done and continue to do on behalf of Bradley Manning.  With that in mind, let me express my disagreement with a number of your assertions about my film.  I do not expect you to share my views, but I would hope that you hear them. Continue reading “Alex Gibney’s response to my ‘We Steal Secrets’ review”

What ‘We Steal Secrets’ leaves out

This review was first posted here on May 24, 2013

Alex Gibney’s “We Steal Secrets” chronicles WikiLeaks’ front-page, world-shocking 2010 leaks from inception to publication to aftermath, framing WikiLeaks’ work as a meteoric rise giving way to a self-incurred implosion.

While I find fault with this view, and even its premise that WikiLeaks has failed and died (the site continues to publish Stratfor emails and Kissinger files, it just won an important Icelandic victory to resume accepting donations through Visa interlocutors, and the Freedom of the Press foundation continues to funnel anonymous contributions its way), I’d rather let others dissect its portrayal of Assange and WikiLeaks and instead focus on how it characterizes Bradley Manning. (Read WikiLeaks’ annotated copy of the film’s script here.)

Earlier this year, we took issue with some of director Alex Gibney’s comments associating whistleblowing with alienation, pathologizing Manning’s leaks and undermining his political values. Producer Sam Black emailed to assure us that, in fact, Bradley Manning is “a hero in the film. He is the moral and emotional center of a complex story about what should and should not be secret.”

Though the movie does laudably transition away from its opening focus on Julian Assange by reminding viewers that Manning is the courageous whistleblower who deserves at least as much public attention, Manning’s story only makes it into about a quarter of the two-hour film, which quotes journalists, former WikiLeaks members, high-ranking government officials, and fellow soldiers.

The time that is spent on Manning leaves much to be desired, and what it leaves out is as much to blame as what it includes. Ultimately, the resulting portrait of Bradley Manning is one of pity more than empathy, one that makes us feel bad for Manning rather than take a serious interest in his beliefs and his plight. Continue reading “What ‘We Steal Secrets’ leaves out”

The United States cannot win its war on Chelsea Manning

By Russell Fuller

The United States cannot win its war on Bradley Manning. Though it sent a somewhat fragile young man off to war in Iraq, it produced instead a committed humanitarian; though it has caged him without trial for three years, one of them in torturous solitary confinement, it produced instead a fine, free spirit; though it brings its full weight to bear on a man who stands but five-foot two and tips the scales at one hundred and five pounds, it simply steeled his spine; though it restricts public access to pre-trial hearings and, in contradistinction to the First Amendment, threatens the meager group of gathered journalists and witnesses by stating today that access is not a right but a privilege, it produces instead a hunger for truth. Continue reading “The United States cannot win its war on Chelsea Manning”

Interview: Chase Madar, “The Passion of Bradley Manning”

Chase Madar is a civil rights attorney and author of the new book on the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower, called “The Passion of Bradley Manning.” The book looks at Bradley’s motives, his treatment by the U.S. government, and the political issues his case brings up. Chase answered a few questions for the Support Network about Bradley, his new book, and the crackdown on whistle-blowers in America.

You’re a civil rights lawyer, a writer on politics and civil liberties, and a contributing editor for the American Conservative. What drew you to Bradley Manning?

Few events scream to be written about like l’affaire Bradley Manning.  First there’s Private Manning himself, he’s like someone out of a novel or a heroic folk ballad.  He’s a small-town kid who’s become an international cause.  He’s gay, he’s brainy, he’s critical of his country, but he’s intensely patriotic and a deep believer in responsibility for one’s country.  He refuses to help round up Iraqi citizens and hand them over to the authorities who are, even after the U.S. occupation, still torturing prisoners right and left.   He brings us incredible knowledge of our wars and of how our foreign policy works, and he gets severely punished.  Manning is the last great Enlightenment martyr.  The chatlogs with Adrian Lamo by themselves read like a tragic novella.  I said he’s a novelistic character, but the drama is almost operatic.

A half dozen crucial issues collide in l’affaire Manning: how we assess national security threats; how we create 77million state secrets every year in this country; who we blame, and don’t blame, for civilian casualties; what the laws of war are really worth; how we punish Americans, how we punish foreigners, with solitary confinement.  The injustice in this case really stinks in the nostrils.  It’s been said a million times but I’ll say it again: if only Pfc Manning had tortured prisoners, or authorized torture, or illegally spied on Americans with warrantless wiretapping, or lied us into a catastrophic war…if the young private had done any of these things, he’d be a free man.  If he had massacred civilians in Haditha, Iraq, or in Kandahar, Afghanistan, he’d be out of jail sooner.  But bringing new knowledge to the American people, and to the world, this is unforgivable.  Suddenly we hear that “rules are rules” and need to be enforced, this after the orgy of impunity among elite officials and ordinary soldiers over the past decade. Continue reading “Interview: Chase Madar, “The Passion of Bradley Manning””

UNAC Peace Conference: March 23-25 (now with audio)

Update: audio of the conference

Audio of my talk is here, starting shortly after the 17-minute mark. When video of the talk or the rest of the conference is online, I’ll post that as well.

Original Post:

This weekend, beginning tomorrow night, the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is hosting a peace conference in Stamford, CT (just 45 minutes from Grand Central Station, NYC), to bring together major groups working to end war, imperialism, poverty, and social injustice.

I’ll be speaking briefly on a Sunday morning panel called “Victims of Political Repression Speak Out.” Representing the Bradley Manning Support Network, I’ll discuss the material PFC Manning is alleged to have leaked, why he shouldn’t be on trial in the first place, and how the military is railroading his court proceedings to make a chilling example of him.

The conference will be livestreamed here: http://cprmetro.blogspot.com/

Below is a schedule of speakers, panels, and workshops. Come if you can, or check out the livestream!

Continue reading “UNAC Peace Conference: March 23-25 (now with audio)”

Coverage of Bradley Manning’s motion hearing

This Thursday and Friday, March 15 & 16, I attended Bradley Manning’s motion hearing at Ft. Meade, MD. We held vigils outside the gate before the hearings began both days, and several supporters came inside the courtroom to show solidarity with the 24-year-old whistle-blower. I took as detailed notes as I could each day in court, and I published those notes here. The first day … Continue reading Coverage of Bradley Manning’s motion hearing

The Scale of American Overclassification

[This piece was first posted here, for the Bradley Manning Support Network.] In his closing statement two weeks ago, PFC Bradley Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs said of the information released, that it is all out in the public, and yet it hasn’t caused any harm. “If anything, it’s helped,” he said. Coombs called the government’s warning about the impact of the releases a “Chicken … Continue reading The Scale of American Overclassification

“More Questions than Answers” at the Bradley Manning Hearing

Here are the notes I took on the final day of Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing. The last day was brief – the defense and prosecution each gave their closing statements, and we were out of the courtroom in an hour – but revealing. Each side suggested the type of arguments they planned to make if and when the case goes to court-martial, with the prosecution … Continue reading “More Questions than Answers” at the Bradley Manning Hearing

Two-Tiered Transparency

Today National Journal reports that since March, the Justice Department has been investigating former top CIA lawyer John Rizzo for allegedly disclosing classified information about that agency’s highly secretive drone program. The Justice Dept. opened the investigation following Newsweek’s article, “Inside the Killing Machine,” in which Rizzo divulges specific details about the drone program. Reason for Rizzo to leak information on the CIA’s use of … Continue reading Two-Tiered Transparency

Secret Memo Justifying Killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki

Charlie Savage has an exclusive story in the New York Times on the details of the United States’ secret memo, written by administration lawyers, laying out arguments for the targeted killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki. The memo, which remains classified and was discussed anonymously, is of particular importance because the Obama administration has thus far provided no evidence of al-Awlaki’s wrongdoing and no explanation … Continue reading Secret Memo Justifying Killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki

WikiLeaks reveals US opposed Afghanistan signing cluster bombs ban

As the Washington Post and Democracy Now report, diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States attempted to dissuade the Afghanistan government from ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Afghanistan joined at least 61 other countries (though one cable puts the number at 93) in vowing to “destroy their stockpiles and clear the munitions remnants from their territory.” Cluster bombs are especially heinous … Continue reading WikiLeaks reveals US opposed Afghanistan signing cluster bombs ban