activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: wikileaks

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2013 posts

Natan Blanc: After petitions and demonstrations, Natan Blanc was released in June, after spending six months in jail for refusing to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces.

Food Not Bombs: Although state health officials in New Mexico threatened in June to seek a court order to stop Food Not Bombs from serving free meals without a permit, Keith McHenry reports that “the state never returned and the meals continue without incident.”

Uriel Alberto: After beginning a hunger strike in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Charlotte on July 4, to protest his deportation, Uriel Alberto was approved within two weeks for a one-year stay of removal.

California Prisoner Hunger Strike: Following legislators’ announcement that they would hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that led to another prisoner hunger strike in July, hunger strikers suspended the strike in September, 60 days after it began.

Washington Ballot Initiative: The GE labeling initiative in Washington, which would have required retail food products and seed stocks that had been genetically engineered to be labeled, was defeated by a small margin in November. Corporations spent $22 million, more than in any prior campaign in the state’s history, to defeat the initiative. Monsanto was the largest single contributor. According to a Grist blog post by Nathanael Johnson, the money made a difference, just like it did in a similar attempt to pass a labeling bill in California last year:

In each case the labeling bills started out with big leads. In each case those leads shrank as the food industry and agribusiness paid for massive amounts of advertising. The moral of the story seems to be that money really can change the outcome of elections.

Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff: On November 6, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff had their second pretrial conference. Lang accepted a plea deal and was released. Olliff attempted to accept a plea deal, but the judge rejected it; so he remains in Woodford County Jail. He was in court again today in front of a different judge.

Jeremy Hammond: On November 15, anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In response to the sentence, WikiLeaks released all of the remaining Stratfor files.

Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett: At a court hearing on December 9, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reduced the charges against Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett, dropping the more serious charges and reducing the remaining offenses to misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and unlawful assembly.

Kimberly Rivera: On December 12, Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera was released early for good behavior and performing extra work. She had been scheduled for release in early January 2014.

Jerry Koch: On December 20, attorneys for Jerry Koch filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge John Keenan to release the 24-year-old philosophy student, because Koch has shown he has no intention of cooperating with the grand jury to which he’s been subpoenaed.

Pussy Riot: On December 23, the two women from Pussy Riot nearing the end of their two-year prison terms were released under a new amnesty law. The law was also expected to bring about the release of many people arrested after an anti-government demonstration in May, and close the cases of the 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists arrested in the Arctic Sea in September while occupying an oil rig to call attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change. According to a December 19 New York Times editorial,

In pardoning these prisoners, Mr. Putin gave no indication that they may have been wrongfully tried and imprisoned, nor that more people will not be treated similarly in the future.

chelsea manning submits pardon request to president obama

Chelsea Manning, recently sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth for sending documents to WikiLeaks, submitted a pardon request to President Obama today. Manning’s sentence will also be examined by a review board that can reduce, but not extend, her term of imprisonment. In addition, Manning will be eligible for parole in approximately six and a half years, and can already apply for clemency.

Among other criteria, the Army Clemency and Parole Board may consider Manning’s “psychological profile” and “medical condition,” including her “need for specialized treatment.” In the meantime, Manning might have to sue to receive proper medical care. According to an August 27 New York Times editorial,

Private Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, said last week that he hoped military prison officials would voluntarily provide hormone treatment, without a lawsuit. It should not take a court order to get officials — including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — to do the right thing. They should give Private Manning appropriate medical care and safe but not unduly isolated housing, which should be available for all transgender prisoners.

A spokeswoman for Fort Leavenworth told NBC News, however, that the Army does not provide hormone treatment. Yet several federal courts of appeal have acknowledged that failing to assess whether a transgender inmate needs access to hormone treatment or surgery constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. If prison officials don’t voluntarily provide proper medical care and Manning is forced to sue, staff writer Margaret Talbot with the New Yorker predicts that “she just might win.”

military prosecutors will face an additional burden at whistleblower bradley manning’s trial

The trial of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of the largest unauthorized disclosure of confidential documents in history, is scheduled to begin in June. Today the military judge on his case, Colonel Denise Lind, imposed a more demanding burden on the prosecution regarding the Espionage Act charge against Manning. Specifically, Lind ruled that to show Manning violated the Act, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had reason to believe his actions would harm the U.S. or aid a foreign power. According to a Los Angeles Times editorial from January 12,

A prosecutor indicated that the Army would proceed with … information that Osama bin Laden asked an Al Qaeda associate for some of the material that Manning allegedly gave to WikiLeaks. By that theory, the New York Times, which ran some WikiLeaks material, could be accused of espionage if Bin Laden picked up a copy of the paper.

Manning already pled guilty to 10 charges and confessed to providing documents to WikiLeaks. Although his plea exposed him to up to 20 years in prison, it was not part of a deal with the government. Thus, for disclosing data such as video footage of a U.S. helicopter gunship attack that killed two Reuters journalists (and ten other people) in Baghdad in 2007, he could still be sentenced to life in prison.

united states determined to prosecute wikileaks founder julian assange for political expression

In a Guardian article today, attorney Michael Ratner writes that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is correct to fear the worst with regard to his potential detention and prosecution by U.S. authorities. Ratner, who is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is Assange’s U.S. attorney. He cites three pieces of evidence to show that the U.S. is determined to prosecute Assange:

A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, empanelled to investigate violations of the Espionage Act – a statute that by its very nature targets speech – has subpoenaed Twitter feeds regarding Assange and WikiLeaks. An FBI agent, testifying at whistleblower Bradley Manning’s trial, said that “founders, owners and managers” of WikiLeaks are being investigated. And then there is Assange’s 42,135-page FBI file – a compilation of curious heft if the government is “not interested” in investigating its subject.

Assange sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London on June 19, to prevent his extradition to Sweden, and has been living there ever since. He’s not a Swedish citizen, does not reside in Sweden, and has not been charged with any crime. Indeed, a Swedish prosecutor initially dismissed the sexual assault allegations against him. Yet the prosecution later demanded that Assange be incarcerated for a police interrogation, even though police already interviewed him in August 2010.

Ecuador recently offered to allow Swedish officials to interview Assange at its embassy in London, in person or by video conference, but Ecuador’s foreign minister said in a statement released yesterday that Sweden declined. This affirms suspicions that the proceedings in Sweden are a means of subsequently extraditing Assange to the U.S., where he could be sentenced to death or life in prison.