The Advocate reports the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office (EBRSO) has been conducting undercover sting operations in Manchac Park in which deputies target gay men who agree to meet them to have consensual, non-commercial sex in private locations away from the park. The men are then arrested and charged with attempted ‘crime against nature’ under a state anti-sodomy law which was rendered unconstitutional following the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling.
In that landmark case, Houston police responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence stumbled upon two men engaging in private, consensual gay sex and arrested them under the state’s anti-sodomy law. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court found in favor of the arrested men, declaring that “their right to liberty under the Due Process clause (of the Fourteenth Amendment) gives them full right to engage in their conduct without the intervention of the government” and that Texas’ anti-sodomy law “furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.”
Lawrence v. Texas invalidated state anti-sodomy statutes, although they remain on the books in several states. Most recently, Montana decriminalized gay sex in April over the objection of dozens of Republican lawmakers who voted to keep the state’s unconstitutional law, which made homosexual acts a felony, on the books. In Virginia, state attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is locked in a heated battle against a federal court which recently struck down the state’s anti-sodomy law. Cuccinelli wants the law to remain in effect.
In Louisiana, where ‘crime against nature’ is defined as “unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same sex or opposite sex or with an animal,” EBRSO deputies reportedly arrested at least a dozen men under the invalid law since 2011. Deputies used the law to arrest men who even so much as discussed or agreed to having consensual sex in private. District Attorney Hillar Moore III has refused to prosecute any of the cases after his office determined that no actual crimes had occurred. Still, the arrests continued.
“This is a law that is currently on the Louisiana books, and the sheriff is charged with enforcing laws passed by our Louisiana legislature,” EBRSO spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks told the Advocate. “Whether the law is valid is something for the courts to determine, but the sheriff will enforce the laws that are enacted.”
The highest court in the nation has already determined that such laws are indeed unconstitutional and therefore invalid and unenforceable.
Unfortunately, local judges have been setting bond in cases in which the arrested men have been brought before them for review.
“In the cases we discussed, bond was set,” Hicks told the Advocate. “In effect, the judges concurred that there was probable cause for an arrest.”
Legal experts universally agree that this is unacceptable.
“If two adult men can have consensual oral sex in private, they can invite another adult man to do that in private,” Yale Law School professor William Eskridge told the Advocate. “So even if there were a verbal offer and acceptance, it would be constitutionally protected, so long as no money was involved and the men were of age.”
EBRSO deputies claim that such illegal sting operations deter unlawful sexual activity in Manchac Park, which is a notorious rendezvous for homosexual trysts. Some men masturbate or engage in illegal public sexual activity in the park, although Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet told the Advocate that there have not been many complaints of such behavior.
In the wake of the Advocate’s blistering exposé, EBRSO at first denied that it targeted gay men ‘cruising’ for consensual sex in private and defended the arrests, issuing a statement in which it claimed it only acted in response to “calls from the public about lewd activity near… children” or “reports of public masturbation, sex and other lewd activity in a park where children are playing.” According to EBRSO, the intention “was NEVER to target a certain segment of our population.”
Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado, who has demanded EBRSO apologize to victims of the “despicable, offensive, hateful, bigoted” sting, was not convinced. Critics argue the EBRSO statement attempts to justify the arrests by using terms such as “lewd conduct” and “public masturbation” and by falsely suggesting that children were present during the arrests.
“The newspaper article makes it quite clear that nothing of the sort occurred in these 12 arrests,” Delgado asserted. “These men were arrested even though they were innocent of any crime.”
In response to Delgado’s criticism and growing public outrage, EBRSO deleted its first statement and replaced it with the following:
“The Sheriff’s Office apologizes that the way these investigations were handled made it appear that we were targeting the gay community. That was not our intent. The Sheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that was unintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations. While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisiana law codes, they have been deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use these unconstitutional sections of the law in future cases. We are committed to working with all branches of our government, as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways to keep our community safe.”
Public reaction was a mix of outrage and support for EBRSO.
“Sheriff Gautreaux should resign,” commented local Christopher Cochrane on Facebook. “No matter how much backtracking and damage control that the department does now, [its] initial response… makes clear that the Sheriff does not feel that one of the most famous, well-known, landmark Supreme Court decisions of the last century applies to him and his deputies.”
“Shame on you for your bigoted ways,” Stephanie Antoniuk added.
But not everyone was opposed to EBRSO’s illegal arrests.
“Don’t be so PC (politically correct),” commented Bill Atkinson. “[We] have to clean up the parks and get that trash out of it.”
The accused Fort Hood shooter has issued an apology– not to the families of the 13 US troops he killed at the Texas army base in 2009 or to the 32 others he wounded in the attack, but rather to Muslim victims of US aggression.
Major Nidan Hasan released a six-page statement to Fox News in which he does not directly mention the deadly November 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage. Instead, the former army psychiatrist apologized for his complicity in what he called America’s “illegal and immoral aggression” against Muslims.
“My complicity was on behalf of a government that openly acknowledges that it would hate for the law of Almighty Allah to be the supreme law of the land,” Hasan wrote, referring to Islamic sharia law.
Toward the beginning of his statement Hasan wrote that, “I would like to begin by repenting to Almighty Allah and apologize to the mujahideen (militants fighting against the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan), the believers (Muslims) and the innocents.”
“I ask for their forgiveness and their prayers,” Hasan continues. “I ask for their forgiveness for participating in the illegal and immoral aggression against Muslims, their religion and their lands.”
The United States led a multinational invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington DC and rural Pennsylvania. Less than two years later, the US led another invasion and occupation, this one of Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. It was later reported that influential members of George W. Bush’s inner circle had been trying to find a way to attack Iraq and overthrow the brutal Saddam Hussein regime, a longtime US ally, since well before 9/11 in order to achieve the strategic and economic goals of powerful neoconservative elements within the administration.
More than 100,000 innocent civilians have died as a result of the US-led ‘War on Terror’ in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In addition to these deaths, US military and intelligence personnel have committed widespread documented crimes and atrocities in Muslim nations subject to attack, invasion and occupation, acts which have fueled anti-American global sentiment and revenge attacks such as the Boston Marathon bombing and Fort Hood shooting. Among these are: murder of innocent civilians, murder of detainees in US custody, torture, rape of innocent civilians, rape of male and female detainees, intentional false imprisonment of innocent civilians, corpse desecration, and destruction and desecration of Korans.
Additionally, Hasan’s statement accused the United States of being at war with Islam, an assertion repeatedly denied by both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. But some Muslim observers point to the increasing Christianization of the US armed forces, the fact that some avowed anti-Muslim military leaders have said the US is at war with Islam, and the fact that some US military officers were taught that our forces should wage “total war,” replete with the use of “Hiroshima tactics,” to destroy the holiest cities in Islam, as evidence that there is indeed an American ‘war on Islam.’
Maj. Hasan also reportedly railed against US policy toward Israel and Palestinian Muslims in his statement to Fox News. Israel, which committed a year-long campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians as the Jewish state declared its independence in 1948, has been illegally occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights since 1967, with illegal settler colonies continuing to drive more Palestinians from their homes. The US provides funding and diplomatic support for Israel’s internationally condemned actions, which critics call ethnic cleansing and apartheid.
The exact language of Hasan’s critique remains largely unknown, as Fox News has not published his statement in its entirety.
George Stratton, whose son was wounded in the Fort Hood shooting attack, told Fox News that Hasan’s statement does not surprise him at all.
“I have all along believed Nidal Hasan to be a Muslim terrorist, so it confirms what I always thought,” Stratton said of the statement.
Maj. Hasan’s court martial is scheduled to begin on August 6. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder and faces execution or life imprisonment if found guilty. Hasan is acting as his own attorney.
A 95-year-old Chicago-area man has died after a Friday confrontation with police during which he allegedly threatened officers with a cane and a butcher knife.
UPI reports Warna allegedly grew combative when employees of a private ambulance company arrived to transfer him to a hospital for medical treatment. Warna, who was involuntarily committed to the facility, allegedly refused to surrender when Forest Park police arrived at the scene of the disturbance.
When officers ordered Warna to drop his weapons and surrender he instead allegedly grabbed a large butcher knife. Officers then Tased the elderly man and shot him with a less-lethal beanbag projectile.
Warna was reportedly conscious and talking as he was taken to a nearby hospital, but he was pronounced dead at 2:30 am on Saturday. The specific cause of his death has not yet been determined; an autopsy is scheduled.
The Ilinois State Police is also investigating the incident.
The man widely regarded as ‘the moral conscience of South Africa’ says he would rather go to ‘hell’ than to a ‘homophobic heaven.’
BBC reports Desmond Tutu, the 81-year-old former Catholic archbishop of South Africa and a hero of his nation’s struggle against apartheid, was speaking at the Cape Town launch of the Free and Equal campaign, a United Nations-backed LGBT rights initiative.
According to the UN, Free and Equal “will focus on the need for both legal reforms and public education to counter homophobia and transphobia.”
“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in combatting apartheid, declared. “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”
Tutu compared the the campaign against homophobia to the anti-apartheid struggle.
“I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level,” he said.
South Africa is the continent’s best country for LGBT individuals– it is the only African nation where same-sex marriage is legal, while homosexual relationships remain illegal in 38 of the continent’s 54 countries. But even in this relatively enlightened bastion, LGBT residents face many obstacles and dangers. Lesbians, for example, are often victims of ‘corrective rape,’ and just last month Duduzile Zozo, a 26-year-old lesbian from Ekurhuleni, was raped to death with a toilet brush.
“The government must open a dialogue with cultural and religious leaders of this country about LGBT rights, so that the incitement to hate that motivates such crimes, is stopped,” Junior Equality Mayema of People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) organization told Gay Star News in the wake of the Zozo murder.
“I am disappointed why US president Barack Obama didn’t raise the topic of LGBT rights during his visit to South Africa; perhaps he is not well informed of what is happening here,” he added. “Religion, customs and culture are rife with homophobia which also plagues the police. All these issues must be addressed before more people die from such heinous hate crimes that plague South Africa.”
“People are literally paying for their love with their lives,” UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said of South Africa. “I constantly hear governments tell me, ‘but this is our culture, our tradition and we can’t change it’… So we have lots of work to do,” she added.
In addition to being a longtime advocate for LGBT rights, Tutu is also an outspoken champion for social justice and human rights around the world. He has earned widespread praise– and, in some circles, scorn– for his condemnation of what he calls Israel’s apartheid policies and actions against the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.
Julie Hautzenroeder, 36, of Loveland, was indicted on Friday by a Hamilton County grand jury on two counts of sexual battery. Hautzenroeder, who taught at Colerain High School in Colerain Township, allegedly has sex with a 16-year-old male student and another male student whose age was not immediately released, WCPO reports.
Officials with the Northwest Local School District placed Hautzenroeder on administrative leave and notified police after learning of the allegation of illicit conduct. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department then launched an investigation.
According to court documents, the illicit sex occurred at Hautzenroeder’s home between April 26 and May 15.
Northwest Local School District released the following statement on Friday:
On Friday, May 17, 2013, Julie Hautzenroeder was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into criminal activity. The matter was turned over to the local law enforcement authorities for investigation.
In light of the recent indictment, the Board of Education and administration will begin the next steps in the due process procedures. There will be no further comment at this time.
Hautzenroeder’s arrest comes just days after Shannon Fox, an art teacher at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, was arrested and charged with having an illicit sexual relationship with a student.
James Lee Lyons, 52, of St. John’s County was arrested for animal cruelty and sexual activities involving an animal, WOKV reports.
Lyons is a convicted sexual predator who was released from prison two years ago after serving time for sexual battery on a child and sexual act with a child while in a familial role in 1998.
A neighbor notified the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office after two of his dogs wandered into Lyons’ yard on Saturday and one of the canines was seen being carried by the suspect. After its encounter with Lyons, the dog was acting withdrawn and had injuries consistent with sexual assault. A veterinary examination confirmed that the dog had likely been assaulted.
WAWS reports the female dog had injuries to its vulva as well as its rectum.
Lyons is being held in the St. John’s County Jail.
Opponents of marriage equality often accuse same-sex marriage advocates of attempting to “redefine marriage.” Now the world’s most trusted English-language dictionary is set to do just that in order to acknowledge the reality of legalized gay marriage.
Gay Star News reports the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) have announced their definition of the word ‘marriage’ will change to include same-sex couples. This is largely due to the fact that Britain recently legalized gay marriage.
“We continually monitor the words in our dictionaries, paying particular [attention] to those words whose usage is shifting, so yes, this will happen with marriage,” an Oxford University Press spokeswoman told Gay Star News.
Currently, the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary defines marriage as “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.” Beneath that definition is the following: “(in some jurisdictions) a union between partners of the same sex.”
Some LGBT advocates view the secondary definition as discriminatory and believe that same-sex marriage should be recognized the same as heterosexual marriage.
In Canada, where gay marriage is also legal, the Canada Space Dictionary defines marriage as “the state of being a married couple voluntarily joined for life (or until divorce).
In France, which also recently legalized same-sex marriage, the dictionary of record– Larousse– has changed the definition of marriage to read: “a solemn act between two same-sex or different-sex persons, who decide to establish a union.”
Oil services giant Halliburton has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of destroying key evidence in the wake of the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent massive oil spill.
The New York Times reports Halliburton will pay a fine of $200,000, the maximum amount allowed by law, and submit to three years’ probation. The Houston-based company will also continue cooperating with the federal government’s criminal investigation and make a voluntary $55 million donation to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The Huffington Post notes that the $200,000 fine is equivalent to about 23 seconds worth of Halliburton’s revenue, based on 2012 figures.
The Justice Department had charged Halliburton with one count of a Class A misdemeanor for ordering employees to destroy files related to computer simulations that showed there would be little difference between using six and 21 metal centralizing collars to stabilize the cement structure on the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig. Before the devastating accident, Halliburton had recommended to BP, the British oil company that operated the Macondo Prospect where the rig was located, to use 21 collars to stabilize the cementing in the doomed well. BP chose to use only six. BP, as well as Transocean, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig, have also both pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the explosion and spill. Last November, BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion after pleading guilty to 14 criminal charges in connection with the disaster.
On April 20, 2010, high-pressure methane gas expanded from the well into the drilling riser and drilling rig, sparking a massive explosion that engulfed the platform. Eleven workers were killed. A massive oil spill followed, discharging nearly 5 million barrels of oil over the course of the next 87 days and wreaking havoc on coastal ecosystems from Texas to Florida. The disaster was the world’s worst-ever accidental oil spill.
Legal experts say Halliburton’s slap-on-the-wrist fine is not nearly as important as the company’s admission of guilt, which will likely help the government’s case in an ongoing civil trial in New Orleans.
“This could impact how the civil litigation is resolved, potentially imposing more liability on Halliburton than we originally thought,” University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told the Times.
Halliburton is no stranger to controversy or criminal charges. Many of the allegations against the company involve its history of doing business in nations run by brutal dictators. Former CEO Dick Cheney once infamously declared that “the good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States.”
In Burma, a military dictatorship, Halliburton was part of an international pipeline consortium which relied upon forced labor and saw the forced displacement, torture, rape and murder of local peasants by corporate security forces.
In Nigeria, Halliburton, along with Chevron, Shell and other corporations, share responsibility for an environmental and human rights disaster on a breathtaking scale. More oil is spilled into the Niger Delta each year than was released during the 2010 Gulf disaster, with devastating results for the environment and residents’ health. Nigerian security forces murder, rape, torture and imprison those who speak out against this massive injustice. Nigeria brought bribery charges against Halliburton and Cheney; the charges were dropped after the company agreed to a $250 million payoff. Halliburton subsidiary KBR pleaded guilty to corruption and conspiracy charges and was fined $402 million by US authorities in 2009.
Halliburton and its subsidiaries have also violated US sanctions by doing business in Libya and Iran, and the company enriched former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, itself and Cheney by helping the tyrant’s regime illegally skirt UN sanctions.
Then-Halliburton subsidiary KBR has been implicated in human trafficking and a host of other crimes, including bribery, kickbacks, concealing rapes, knowingly exposing US troops to carcinogenic chemicals, and the electrocution deaths of at least 18 US troops due to shoddy barracks construction.
Closer to home, Halliburton has released toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, including an acid cloud that forced the evacuation of hundreds of New Mexico residents in 2006.
Pfc. Bradley Manning’s massive disclosure of military secrets to WikiLeaks proved that “the emperor” – here, the U.S. classification system — “has no clothes,” a defense attorney said at the end of a landmark court-martial.
Manning, a 25-year-old former intelligence specialist, faces 22 charges connected with the disclosure of more than 700,000 military and diplomatic files, including battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. embassy cables, Guantanamo detainee profiles, and footage of airstrikes that killed civilians.
On Thursday, the lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, called him a “traitor,” “hacker” and “anarchist” who worked for WikiLeaks, almost immediately upon his deployment, to undermine the U.S. war effort and become notorious.
Defense attorney David Coombs mocked the prosecutor’s “diatribe” as a patchwork of “cherry-picked” quotations and “child’s logic.” He added that the government’s depiction of his client as a scheming saboteur was fundamentally incompatible with the defense’s view of him as “young, naive but good intentioned.”
“One of us is not telling you the truth,” Coombs said. “There is no way to look at the facts and see what Maj. Fein said yesterday.”
Both the defense and prosecution quoted Pfc. Manning telling an online confidant at the age of 22, “If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months what would you do?”
Defense attorney David Coombs began his opening arguments with the second half of the quote, in which Manning says he saw “incredible things, awful things, things that belonged on the public domain.”
“That is a whistle-blower,” Coombs said. “That is somebody that wants to inform the American public.”
The only witness who cast Manning as disloyal to the United States was a former supervisor whom the young soldier had punched in the face. Spc. Jirleah Showman testified that Manning told her, “The flag means nothing to me,” but she never wrote anything down about the alleged incident.
Coombs said Showman’s hostility toward Manning gives her a motive to lie, and noted that every other witness who commented on their impressions of Manning described him as a promising intelligence analyst whose naive ideals alienated him from the fold. The proof of Manning’s good intentions lies in how he spoke in private chats, when he thought nobody was watching, about his ambitions, he added. Before he deployed, Manning told an online stranger: “I can apply what I learn to provide more information to my officers and commanders, and hopefully save lives.” The soldier added: “I feel a great responsibility and duty to people… It’s strange, I know.”
This optimistic outlook soured as Manning’s deployment progressed and he became more familiar with military bureaucracy.
A former sergeant deployed in Manning’s unit testified that Manning had once been troubled by an assignment to find protesters distributing “anti-Iraqi” literature that evidence showed was actually a scholarly critique of financial corruption within the new regime. In an online chat, Manning said his supervisor insisted on continuing to hand these protesters over to Iraqi Federal Police who had a reputation for indefinitely detaining and torturing political dissidents.
Defense attorneys also trace Manning’s disillusionment to a Christmastime incident in which insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device, killing a bystander but leaving the soldiers unharmed. Manning says his troops celebrated their good fortune, but he was concerned with the Iraqi dead.
Under the government’s telling, Manning started working for WikiLeaks, in essence, two weeks into his deployment by leaking files that they wanted purportedly requested with the 2009 Most-Wanted Leaks List. Prosecutors call the list Manning’s “guiding light,” and claim that he immediately started searching for footage of an Afghanistan airstrike that killed more than 100 people.
The problem with such logic is that the video never appeared on the Most-Wanted List, and it was protected by code that WikiLeaks could not crack, Coombs said. Moreover, the vast majority of Manning’s leaks do not appear anywhere on that list. Coombs compared the government’s theory with arriving to a wedding with a gift that neither the bride nor groom wanted.
Despite admitting a vast trove of other documents, Manning denies leaking the airstrike footage. He says he sent a decrypted version several months after the government’s timeline. The encrypted video was found on the computer of Jason Katz, a former Brookhaven Laboratory employee, whom Coombs contends was the actual source of this disclosure. Though WikiLeaks never released this video, it did publish footage of another airstrike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of two Reuters employees. Estimates vary as to whether nine to 12 civilians were killed in total.
Released under the title “Collateral Murder,” Coombs rolled tape and asked the judge to view the video from the perspective of a young man “who cares about human life.”
“The guy’s down,” Coombs said, referring to the Reuters reporter killed in the airstrike. “He’s being shot. He’s clearly wounded. We’re going to shoot him some more. They’re firing into a cloud of dust.”
One of the gunners can be heard in the footage saying, “C’mon buddy, all you have to do is pick up a weapon.”
Coombs commented: “He picks up something, and they’re going to kill him.”
“Nine lives, maybe more … extinguished,” he added. “Did they really deserve to die?”
Countering the lead prosecutor’s allegation that Manning engaged in “wholesale, indiscriminate leaking,” Coombs countered, “The amount of the documents in this case is the best evidence that he was discreet about what he chose.”
Manning has said, both in public statements and private chats, that he selected categories of data he believed would be safe for release while sparking conversation about how the U.S. conducts warfare and diplomacy. He culled cables, for example, only if that were marked “SipDis,” meaning they were meant to be seen by more than a million government eyes.
The soldier said he viewed the “significant action” battlefield reports, or SigActs, as historical data, and passed over far more sensitive “HumInt” reports, short for “human intelligence.”
Coombs asserted that Manning’s analysis was correct.
“Pfc. Manning was young and naive, but he wasn’t wrong,” he said.
Prosecutors claim that the leaked documents caused serious damage to national security. Coombs ridiculed this allegation with the morals of two children’s stories.
“Now, is the time to say, ‘The emperor has no clothes,'” he said. He added that the government’s “Chicken Little” response to their release is belied by its own inaction to the publication of the documents. A secret witness testifying from the defense from the Center for Army Lessons Learned, or CALL, testified that the military made no ground changes in Iraq and Afghanistan once WikiLeaks published the “war logs.” This undermines the prosecutors’ contention that the documents revealed the military’s “playbook” to al-Qaida and its affiliates, Coombs said.
The “aiding the enemy” charge rests on the notion that Manning helped al-Qaida and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula through “indirect means,” meaning through WikiLeaks. Prosecutors sought to prove this through evidence that Osama bin Laden and Adam Gadahn, a propagandist for the terror group, sought and received the information. Prosecutors claim that precedent supports their interpretation, pointing to the Civil War case of Pvt. Henry Vanderwater, who furtively leaked a roster of Union soldiers to an Alexandria, Va., newspaper. But Coombs said this interpretation puts any soldier at risk for speaking to a news outlet.
While prosecutors say Manning would have been prosecuted even if the New York Times were the sole publisher, they assert that the choice of WikiLeaks was more reckless. Arguments over the website’s legitimacy as a news outlet have centered on testimony by Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who wrote “A Free Irresponsible Press: WikiLeaks and the battle over the soul of the networked Fourth Estate.”
During his testimony, the professor refuted an Army counterintelligence document titled, “”WikiLeaks.org – An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups?” as “mediocre.”
The fact that Manning sent the document to WikiLeaks has been used to show that Manning knew the possible threat that the organization posed, but Benkler said that the paper called the answer to its question an “intelligence gap.” Using traditional journalistic terms, it also called Julian Assange a “foreign staff writer” for WikiLeaks and described the website’s verification attempts as “prudent,” in one example.
Coombs said: “In this instance, giving something to a legitimate news organization is unfortunately – or fortunately depending what side of the fence you’re on – is the way we hold our government accountable.”
“The enemy may go to that,” he conceded, referring to any news organization. But this risk comes with the watchdog role the press serves, he added.
As he ended his remarks, Coombs asked, “Is Pfc. Manning someone who is a traitor, who has no loyalty to this country or the flag, and wanted to systematically harvest and download as much information as possible for his true employer, WikiLeaks?
“Is that what the evidence shows, or is he a young naive and good intentioned soldier … whose sole focus was maybe this could make a difference, maybe make a change?”
Prosecutors will have one more chance at rebuttal before deliberations. Judge Lind signaled that she would try to reach a verdict before July 31, the tentative start of the sentencing case. So far, the court has heard evidence of the potential damage Manning’s leaks could have caused to national security. The judge excluded evidence from the trial about whether harm actually occurred.
Manning’s attorneys said internal government assessments of the leaks indicate that the impact of the disclosures was minimal. Three years after Manning’s arrest, no journalist has confirmed a case in which an individual has been harmed or killed as a result of the soldier’s disclosures. The defense will have access to such evidence for the first time next week, and the government will have the chance to try to prove what the journalists around the world have been unable to uncover.
In California, prisoners are fighting back against appalling human rights violations. Their hunger strike is into its third week, with nearly 1,000 inmates still participating. When the strike began, 30,000 prisoners refused meals. The prisoners are striking against long term solitary confinement, a punishment recognized as a form of torture by sources as diverse as the UN, John McCain, and Amnesty International. In California, it is often used to punish inmates suspected of being gang members. Such suspicion is laden with racial bias. As Shane Bauer explains,
“I have seen cases of people who are put in the SHU and deemed gang members because they have academic books by the Black Panthers or journal writings about African-American history. Even the materials for gang investigators teach that the use of the words ‘tío’ or ‘hermano,’ ‘uncle’ or ‘brother’ in Spanish, can indicate gang activity.”
California prisons torture inmates for reading about black liberation or for speaking Spanish.
The racism California’s prisoners are fighting does not stop there. They also demand an end to group punishments, including what ProPublica‘s Christie Thompson calls “race-based lockdowns that restrict an entire race of inmates for one prisoner’s violation.” This kind of collective punishment should disgust all who believe in individual rights. Anyone who values freedom, equality, or human dignity should support California’s striking prisoners. But we should not stop there.
The prisoners seek an end to some of the worst abuses of the prison system. We should demand an end to the prison system itself. The prison system is a continuation of slavery. The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” So rather than abolishing slavery, the 13th Amendment simply changed its form. After the Civil War, Southern states used the Black Codes to criminalize blacks. This created forced labor that was arguably worse than slavery. As Angela Davis explains:
Slave owners may have been concerned for the survival of individual slaves, who, after all, represented significant investments. Convicts, on the other hand, were leased not as individuals, but as a group, and they could be worked literally to death without affecting the profitability of a convict crew.
This extension of slavery continues today.
The Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as “Angola,” was converted from a slave plantation to a prison, and is still used for forced agricultural labor. Sweatshop conditions exist in prisons across the country. Companies like Walmart, AT&T, and Starbucks all profit from this slave labor. So do war profiteers like BAE, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. The racism of slavery persists; 60% of prisoners are people of color. The abolitionist movement has some unfinished business, and it can only be resolved through prison abolition.
Prison abolitionism is often seen as utopian, but I believe it is one of the most practical causes activists can work towards. I support three core tactics for resisting and eventually abolishing prisons:
1. Support prisoners. Act in solidarity with prisoners who resist, such as the hunger strikers. Write letters to prisoners. Raise money for their commissary or send them books. While these sorts of actions will not abolish prisons on their own, they help prisoners survive incarceration, and they can help build a resistance movement on all sides of prison walls.
2. Resist the prison growth industry. Organize against construction of any new prisons, jails, and detention centers. Divest from banks that profit off prisons, such as Wells Fargo, and urge others to do the same. Expose prison profiteers like Jane Marquardt and undermine their political influence. Film cops, finance legal defenses, and promote jury nullification, so fewer people are sent to prison.
3. Build alternatives to prisons. For example, LGBT people of color in New York run a Safe Neighborhood Campaign, which trains local businesses and community groups to stop violence without calling the police. Women organize many grassroots projects to defend themselves from gender violence in an America where97% of rapists are never sent to prison.
Building alternatives to police and prisons can make communities safer and end the state’s monopoly on security and justice. Abolishing prisons is a moral imperative. But moreover, it’s a practical plan.