I’d like to start this interview with presenting myself to whoever may be listening to this interview: My name is Erik Lönroth and I am the commune lead for the Pirate Party in Södertälje
, Sweden. It’s Piratpartiet to those that are listening to this in swedish.
We are currently driving a campaign to bring some international attention to the Bradley Manning case. We are going to go more into the details about who Bradley Manning is and what his situation is now. With us we have Jeff Paterson from the Bradley Manning Support Network. He is going to tell us a lot about this and why we are doing this.
In Södertälje we recently posted some articles and we tried to get some media attention to this case. Doing this by sending a bunch of blog messages, we have donated some money and we posted a letter to the “Courage to Resist” network with a small amount of money that we raised in order to support this campaign to get Bradley Manning released.
We’re also calling on the swedish national community of journalists to get some attention to this issue. It’s been very poorly covered, this case, which is a very serious case of violation of human rights and freedom to express yourself and maybe also corruption…
For the international community, I can try to give a brief insight into how this issue is covered in Sweden: That could be very simply put, it’s not covered at all, or very very briefly – which is surprising as many of us that are born here or have been living in Sweden for a long time, consider Sweden to be a leading country in terms of democracy, human rights and those very core values in democracy. Unfortunately, our leaders in Sweden and our goverment have shown exceptional cowardness in bringing attention to this very very important issue. You guys in America unfortunately the world is looking at you but in Sweden we don’t get much attention about this, and that is a very sad thing.
So, that was enough from me, I would like to start with the first question for Jeff. Thank you for joining me – and us – in this interview! I would like to know a bit about you and the organization that you are part of, so if you can start with letting everybody know about this?
Jeff: Hi, well, thanks for having me on this morning (my time here in San Francisco, California, US). My name is Jeff Paterson, I am the project director of an organization called “Courage to resist”, and for the last six years, we’ve been dedicated to helping support U.S. active duty military service personnel who are speaking out or refusing to fight in our wars abroad, Iraq, Afghanistan, particularly, with a number of people going to prison for refusing to fight or simply speaking out against the things that they saw and refusing to return, redeploy (U.S. soldiers repeatedly deployed after one enlistment). So it’s really not true that everybody actually knows what they’re getting into with this “voluntary service” of ours. And this put us in a good position, because we have a network of attorneys and supporters around the U.S. and they stepped forward and formed the Bradley Manning support network last July, a month after Bradley Manning being arrested and accused of being the primary source for basically all of the Wikileaks documents that the world now associates with wikileaks – the Collateral Murder video, the Guantanamo Files, the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, and scores of embarrassing U.S. cables that have helped sparked a democratic uprising in Tunesia, specifically. Obviously Bradley is a hero to us. If he is the person who is accused for of doing what he did, it is very clear that he did it at no gain for himself. So, the U.S. citizens particularly but people worldwide have an insight into what the U.S. government is really doing. And as U.S. citizens, who have spent 2,000,000,000,000 of our Dollars to fight these endless occupation wars this information is invaluable. If we are ever going to force our government to change its foreign policies and have a sane relationship with the world, we can’t do without whistleblowers like Bradley.
Erik: Yeah, I think that you are so right about this, this raises a lot of very profound questions about the modern democracy. It’s a very tough line here, I can see the problem that many people think that this might be a question of loyalty whether or not to support the U.S. course, but on the other hand, it’s a matter of what is really right or wrong, if people should really suffer this much, just to support the most profound values in our modern society. Something that is very unclear to many people is exactly who this Bradley Manning is, there is so many questions about him – could you tell us more about Bradley on a personal level, as much as you can of course? Who is this guy, how does it come he got himself in this sort of trouble?
Jeff: You mentioned the question of loyalty. I just want to speak on that: We really are at a crossroads in the U.S. – are we going to let our government decide our future in secret, or are we going to demand the truth? Thats really the question here – can the American people actually handle the truth, in making informed decisions? Without real information, there is no democracy, we are simply being played by the powers that are in charge at that moment. Bradley Manning is a 23-year-old young man who grew up mainly in rural Oklahoma, in the middle of the U.S.. You spoke about the Swedish media not really talking about Bradley, but what’s even more frustrating for us here in the U.S. is the U.S. media going out of it’s way to actually not talk about the fundamental issues that hang in this case. They are caught up in a sort of reality TV show type of narrative, even it comes to hard news cases like this. We have issues of transparency, truth, war crimes, all these are playing in this case, a young man facing the death penalty for releasing information into the public domain – and the U.S. media wants to focus on Bradley Manning, the 7th-grader who had trouble with his teacher, the young man who had a screaming match with his stepmother when he was 17, Bradley Manning who was imperfect and got into a fight with another soldier, at the expense of talking about the real issues. So that’s a bit frustrating.
Yeah, I think so too, it’s completely the same thing here. I don’t know if you know anything about that, there is a person called Dawit Isaak
, he is a journalist as far as I know that was working in Eritrea for a newspaper, who somehow got abducted by the Eritrean government under similar circumstances – there are no charges against him and there is not going to be a trial and he has now been abducted more than 3000 days.
There is a counter on Internet that let everyone know that he has been taken away all his human rights. The journalist community is covering this case on a broad level here in Sweden, but nothing, or by far enough has been focused on the Bradley Manning case. In our news paper here in Södertälje, a duck family is covered better than this case
. That gets more attentions than this case. Its striking hos lousy the journalist community is covering this. To me this is the one of the most important questions to the modern democracy and yet there is nothing from the journalists. So please if you are a journalist listening to this, you should really speak to your community about bringing this to attention.
I want to continue with the Bradley. There is something I have been looking into, which is an interesting thing. Its what Bradley Manning spoke about – I think I’m quoting this more or less – that he wanted “change, reform, debate”. This was taken from what is supposed to be the chat that he attended and that revealed his identity. If he said this, what do you think he meant by that?
Jeff: Well, the chat logs that was released by the US government. If they are an accurate reflection of what Bradley has said. They depict a young man who’s struggling with these issues we are talking about; truth, transparency, without truth there can be no democracy. They really do underscore the absurdity about this case. The USA government is charging Bradley with the intent of “aiding the enemy through indirect means”, where clearly his intent – with the same evidence that the USA government presents – was not to aid the enemy. No individual has been physically harmed by any of the information that Bradley has released. His intent is clear and that is to provoke reforms. That is provoke people having the truth to make informed desicions, and that is exactly what he speaks to.
You know, we could admonish the media and I think there is a road for that. Here we have Bradley Manning the source of basically all the Wikileaks document that has been released regarding the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and the USA state department cables, allegedly. This information has played a huge role in international news stories. Tens of thousands of stories. One of every two New York Times news papers has included a story based on the Wikileaks documents over the last year. There is no doubt that Bradley Manning is accused of being the most prominent and significant news source of our generation. Yet how does that same media that benefited from the information, and our society has benefited, how do we deal with Bradley Manning? We talk about how he may have been motivated because he was gay, he was an angry soldier, he was a troubled teenager. That is ridiculous.
Yeah, I totally agree with you. I was listening to what Daniel Ellsberg has to say about this subject, and he regards Bradley Manning as his personal hero and says that he is hoping that everyone finding himself in the same situation would have the courage to do what Bradley Manning did. What he has done is to reveal evidence of murder. Who would not agree that revealing evidence of murder is something that is a courageous thing to do? There is no doubt to me that what we have seen and learned is clearly nothing that we can accept as nothing else but murder. And I think that it is core that it can not be a crime to reveal mass murder, crimes against humanity – that can not be a crime. What do you think, can there even be a trial in the U.S. at this moment? As far as I know, first of all, there is no law against whistleblowing in the U.S., and in my opinion – and there have also been very known lawyers who say that – this is a violation of the first amendment
. Can there even be a trial towards Bradley Manning?
You talked about murder – Bradley Manning is accused of releasing the “Collateral Murder” video
– helicopter gunship attack
, two Reuters journalists shot dead in front of your eyes, dozens unarmed Iraqis. The Guantanamo Files
detail how the US detained, imprisoned and tortured, for a full year, individuals who they knew to be innocent, for no other reason except that he was a member of the Al Jazeera international news agency. They detail Afghan War Logs
, they detail how US tax dollars went to finance child sex partys for the war lords that we were trying to ingratiate ourselves with. All of these things are heinous, and while we might have suspected heinous things to be happening in our name, with our tax dollars, it’s another thing to actually read them in black and white. All of these are obviously war crimes and yet nobody is facing criminal charges, except for the messenger, except for the alleged whistleblower in this case, Bradley Manning. That is outrageous. You mentioned Daniel Ellsberg
, he is a friend of mine, he lives down the street here in Berkeley, California. He was the Bradley Manning of his time, he released the pentagon papers. The pentagon papers
were secret, top secret (!) documents that detailed US policy and strategy, and their release helped end the Vietnam war for the US. President Obama and other people actually now uphold Daniel Ellsberg as a historical figure, but Bradley Manning is facing the death penalty.
We actually confronted President Obama about six weeks ago
, when he was trying to do a fund raiser here in the San Francisco bay area, and President Obama said to us that this is different, a different situation – but President Obama was wrong, because Bradley Mannings release of documents was actually less severe, they were only secret, they weren’t top secret, the President of the United States declared that Bradley Manning was guilty of the crime, and he declared that Bradley Manning dumped information. And this is a violation of the military legal system that Bradley Manning will be prosecuted under – President Obama is the leader of the US military, and here you have the leader of the US military declaring a person guilty ahead of his court martial, and now his underlings are expected to judge him impartially. We believe that is impossible, and the law actually outlines that it is impossible, it’s called “undue command influence” or “unlawful command influence”. That’s clearly an issue here. And finally, Bradley Manning was put in torturous conditions for over ten months. They were in clear violation of US military law, and yet nobody has been held accountable for making Bradley remain naked at times, for keeping him awake throughout the night for weeks at a time, for yelling at him every five minutes to ensure that he didn’t commit suicide, all in an attempt to break him and get him to cooperate with the prosecution and possibly implicate Julian Assange and Wikileaks. And we do know that the State Department has begun a Grand Jury investigation on those type of allegations and possible charges in the future in the Virginia area and that’s what we are on right now.
Alright, let me try to get you up to date what happened here: The Swedish nation also got it’s fair share of Wikileaks information, especially from leaking the diplomatic documents. This affected to some extent our government and especially our foreign minister Carl Bildt that in my opinion also is a very very weak character on this subject. He has been avoiding these questions like they were hot, probably because he does not really know what these questions touch, and there is probably going to be more leaks like by Bradley Manning in the future – I hope so! Wikileaks is obviously something that is not going to be a single site, there is already a competing site called OpenLeaks
that is also involved in similar activities, revealing these documents. What would you say, what is the future of whistleblowers? If you look at how these persons get treated, what will it mean if your American government and I am also thinking about my own government, if they continue to fight these open networks of information. What is your opinion, how will the society look like if these persons get hunted and maybe Bradley gets murdered, if he gets a death penalty?
Jeff: The point you make is critical. We are at a juncture here in the US (I can’t speak for Sweden), but our current administration, President Obama, he is currently prosecuting more whistleblowers trough his justice department than all of the other presidents of the last three decades combined. Whistleblowers are under attack here in the US, and I think the government is very afraid of the internet’s capability of quickly and freely exchange information. They are trying to make an example of a number of people, Bradley Manning included. What happens to Bradley will affect if future possible whistleblowers will keep their mouth shut and follow orders and rules, or they actually step forward and contribute to our society, and there is no doubt about that.
That’s why many people from various movements in the US, the religious community, the gay community, the anti-war community, and whistleblowers and freedom of information/sunshine law advocates care about Bradley and why we built this grassroots campagin. There is nothing easy about it, but I think people are starting to see the importance of this case. We have done protests in over a hundred different US cities, this weekend, many of us including myself are flying to the middle of the United States, Kansas, where Fort Levenworth
is, where Bradley in being incarcerated, very rural, very conservative, a military prison town, and we are going up there and stand in front of the base, and the local sheriff has threatened to arrest us. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how that turns out. His pretrial hearing will be coming up in a month or so.
It’s important to know that Bradley has been incarcerated for over a year now, he was arrested in late may 2010, so it’s over a year, and he has yet to have a day, a moment before a judge. He has been incarcerated simply because the military signed a piece of paper that says they vaguely believe that he is accused of doing certain things, and they wrote certain paragraphs on that piece of paper. He has not been formally, and that won’t happen for another month or two. During that pre-trial hearing, we are going to have at least 50 different events around the country, and we will be out in Washington, DC where the hearing will be with hundreds
, hopefully over a thousand supporters, surrounding the court room.
Erik: I hope that you can raise even more attention to this, and we are certainly trying to do our best to also put attention to this. Its also a shame to Sweden that we have such a weak democratic leadership currently in place that do not stand up for these sort of questions that you do. I want to put even more emphasis on this, because USA is a super-power – and Sweden is not, obviously and Sweden is such a small country, compared to you and we are constantly following examples in Sweden to what other bigger nations are doing. I think that if President Obama and the USA would go along with actually prosecuting and god forbid convicting Bradley Manning to a crime here, that will have serious effects to Sweden. I think that one of the reason our government is not doing anything here is basically that everyone is sort of looking at what sort of position the US is taking on these subjects. This is critical. It is an international effect to what the US will do in these matters and it will definitely affect Sweden in the long run.
President Obama received the Nobel Peace Price
and it would be such a shame to that price if the US would go along with this. It is as you say, President Obama is the chief commander, or the top guy in your military justice system, and if he goes along with prosecuting Bradley Manning and getting him convicted to this as a crime, that could be nothing else than…. then I think they could give that price to some terrorist instead. That would be the same thing. This is so important to bring up to the Swedish society and the government to look at this. This is something that cannot happen.
Alright, the time is running out. We had 30 minutes for this interview and I think that we could speak about this for a long time more. I want to again thank you for this interview, and thank you for this tremendous effort you put into this network and helping the Bradley Manning cause. I want to let you know, that if it is possible to get through with this to Bradley Manning I want you to let him know that we are as of today announcing Bradley Manning will be something that we call a “Hederspirat
“, that means that he is an “Honorable Pirate” and he is the first of its kind. We will put up some sort of announcement that he has been awarded this one time title and we are making this donation of money to your support network and I hope that we can continue to support your effort here.
Erik: Than you very much Jeff, and we gonna end the interview now.
Jeff: Thank you.