Month: December 2020

US Defense Secretary Sending More Ships To Haiti

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first_imgBy Dialogo January 20, 2010 U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in India Wednesday the port-clearing ship will help remove debris that has prevented larger ships with food and other vital supplies from making deliveries to help those affected by last week’s powerful earthquake. His comments come as U.S. military steps up its presence in Haiti On Tuesday, U.S. helicopters landed on the grounds of the shattered presidential palace to deploy troops and aid supplies in Port-au-Prince. Later Wednesday, a U.S. Navy hospital ship equipped with 1,000 beds is expected to arrive. Two critically injured boys were airlifted to the ship late Tuesday for emergency surgery. In New York, the U.N. Security Council agreed to add 2,000 troops and 1,500 more police to the thousands of U.N. forces already in Haiti. U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said the extra troops will be used to protect humanitarian convoys. Teams from all over the world have come to Haiti to provide assistance after last week’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake. But efforts to distribute aid have been hampered by numerous problems, including blocked roads, bureaucratic confusion and the collapse of local authority. U.N. officials say despite the problems, progress is being made. Search and rescue teams from several countries have freed 90 people buried under collapsed buildings, including an elderly woman on Tuesday who was trapped under rubble for a full week. Officials estimate the earthquake killed about 200,000 people and affected an estimated three million — about a third of Haiti’s population. Haitian authorities said 75,000 have been buried in mass graves. The U.S. State Department says Haitians who need emergency help inside the country can send a text message with their needs and their location to the number “4636.” That message will be passed on to aid organizations that can respond, or give directions to the nearest aid distribution points. The service currently only works with the Digicel mobile phone service. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Montreal, Canada Monday for meetings to prepare for an upcoming donor’s conference to raise money for Haiti.last_img read more

Nicaraguan Police on Alert to Prevent the Entrance of Gang Members

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first_imgBy Dialogo February 18, 2010 The Nicaraguan police declared a “general alert” to prevent the entrance of gangs operating in neighboring countries and their influence on criminal youth groups in the country, an official source announced. The director of the police, First Commissioner Aminta Granera, instructed all structures to “be alert; we have to maximize our efforts so that the danger of the gangs from the north (of Central America) does not shift here, which would cause serious problems if they came and provoked a jump in the activities of youth groups or gangs in Nicaragua.” Nicaragua does not have criminal gangs of the kind that operate in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and the youth groups or gangs that it does have are very different qualitatively; they do not have links to organized crime, the police chief explained during an annual report to President Daniel Ortega. The authorities’ alarm skyrocketed following the capture in different parts of the country last year of fourteen members of the Mara Salvatrucha and M-18 gangs, who were deported to their countries of origin. The police chief emphasized that Nicaragua’s police system is effective, since “we are capable of detecting (the gang members), and we did not give them time to create a social base or organize groups in the country.” Granera highlighted the police’s preventive work in dealing with youth groups or gangs, which succeeded in drawing four hundred young people away from these groups in 2009. The police are currently working with 11,490 young people who participate in sports groups, and this effort has been increased, with 25,150 people, including officers, young people, and community members, participating in the effort to prevent youth violence, she specified.last_img read more

JTF-Bravo Brings Medical Care to Honduran Villagers

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first_img There is no easy way to travel in and out of the municipality of Duyure, Honduras. No roads are paved within an hour and a half of town, and the existing dirt roads weave up and down through mountainous terrain. Factor in Honduras’ rainy season, which spans May through October, and driving the dirt roads becomes nearly impossible. This remoteness is exactly why the Honduran Ministry of Health selected Duyure as a site for a Medical Civic Assistance Program, a medical clinic conducted July 20 by Honduran health care providers, the Honduran military and Joint Task Force-Bravo. During the MEDCAP, medical personnel treated 435 Duyure citizens in need of care. The patients received preventive health briefings, visited nurses for screening, and then got the opportunity to meet with a doctor, see a dentist and receive medications. For the residents of the Duyure region, this was a rare opportunity to see doctors and receive professional medical attention. “From here, the closest location for emergency care is Choluteca – about two hours away by road,” said Dr. Carlos Duron, a liaison officer in JTF-Bravo’s Medical Element. “Today we were able to provide treatment for most of the conditions we saw. We had some patients with acute problems, and we were able to work with the Ministry of Health to get them proper care.” The MEDCAP was a result of months of cooperation and planning by the Honduran Ministry of Health, the Honduran military, JTF-Bravo and local volunteers. Fourteen members of JTF-Bravo’s Medical Element supported the MEDCAP, with transportation provided by two Blackhawk helicopters from JTF-Bravo’s 1-228th Aviation Regiment. “We had everyone – Airmen, Soldiers, civilians – pitching in and working together on this mission,” said Maj. Saundeth Williams, the mission officer-in-charge and MEDEL’s chief of preventive medicine. “Our presence showed the Duyure people that we are here to help, and they were very appreciative.” JTF-Bravo, based out of Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, conducts humanitarian assistance operations throughout Central America. The next medical assistance program is scheduled to take place Aug. 10-13 in the Mosquitia region of Honduras. Caption: By Dialogo August 03, 2010last_img read more

A Common Threat

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first_img Southern Cone countries have realized that halting the drug flow through their territory begins with secure borders. As the shortest route between their cocaine-producing Andean neighbors and West Africa, a major conduit to the European drug market, the Southern Cone has increased as a transit point for shipping cocaine to consumer markets abroad. The illicit trade in turn threatens the local population with a growing sense of insecurity, the presence of criminal organizations and armed gangs, and as many as 2.4 million drug users on the continent, according to 2010 U.N. figures. “It is easier to secure drugs at the border than to secure drugs at the ports,” said Oslain Santana, coordinator of the counternarcotics unit of the Brazilian Federal Police, explaining that once drugs have entered the country, they are redistributed to numerous traffickers. Brazil increased the number of police officers by 90 percent between 2007 and 2010. In the past three to four years, Santana told Diálogo in an interview from Brasilia that new police officers spend their first tour assigned to the state of Amazonas, which borders Peru and Colombia. The country also increased its training and cooperation with Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. In 2010, an agreement was signed with Colombia to allow an officer exchange program this year. Skills training with regional, European and U.S. officials takes place regularly in Brazil covering topics including money laundering, drug interdiction in ports and airports and use of canines. In Brazil, technological innovations have included electronic surveillance on the border, unmanned aerial vehicles and greater information sharing with international agencies such as Interpol, as well as internal intelligence gathering. Santana said that his nation’s collaboration with the U.S. government goes back 20 years. “We are very grateful in large part for the technology and investigation techniques used for drug interdiction,” he said. Santana added that while drug interdiction is primarily the responsibility of the Federal Police, informal relationships with the Brazilian military are vital for sharing logistical information and requesting assistance in the form of boats and helicopters to track down traffickers. Sean Waite, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, country attaché in Chile, told Diálogo in an e-mail interview that larger scale trafficking is more common at the northern borders of Chile and through the ports of Arica and Iquique, near Peru and Bolivia. Some 40 percent of border drug seizures in 2010 also took place in Paso Los Libertadores according to the government; the pass is located directly east of the major port of Valparaiso on Chile’s border with Argentina and the largest access route to the capital of Santiago. The Chilean government announced in February 2011 an investment of $35 million for a new border complex, and 10,000 more Carabineros police to help fight narcotrafficking and organized crime, according to the Chilean government website, www.gob.cl. Chile has also increased surveillance of containers at its ports and upgraded border surveillance technology along its northern borders with Peru and Bolivia, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Lucia Dammert, an analyst with the nongovernmental Global Consortium on Security Transformation in Santiago, said Chile has become part of the network of drug routes feeding consumer markets internally and in Brazil and Argentina. “It is important to recognize that this is a regional problem,” she said. Maritime trafficking hot spots have emerged in the border zones to the north of the country. “There are ports that receive much more transit of goods, much more transit of people, and in this, we can see a greater presence in drug trafficking,” she said. The Chilean police have also received training from a variety of sources, including the DEA Academy’s International Training Section, according to Waite. In 2009, Argentina identified dozens of illegal airstrips near its borders with Paraguay and Bolivia. New military radar stations were installed and legislation was enacted to allow for immediate information sharing between provincial and federal police forces, according to industry forecaster Global Insight. Drug violence Across the region, countries are noticing increases in violent crime associated with the drug trade. In Argentina, a triple murder in 2008 gripped the attention of Buenos Aires residents and drew notice to the violence associated with drug trafficking. Drug violence in Brazil is often associated with powerful gangs. “In this country, we have observed that violence is intimately connected to the trafficking of drugs,” said Santana, noting the relationship between arms trafficking and drug trafficking. Dammert believes that while Chile is not known for large scale drug seizures, the real threat in the country is the rise in violence and crime associated with drug consumption. “A significant percentage of crimes that take place in the country are done by people who are drug addicts, or who are looking for money to buy drugs, or by people who live in the world of trafficking,” she said, adding that a recent study by Fundacion Paz Ciudadana (Citizen Peace Foundation) in Santiago found that 80 percent of those detained had consumed drugs in the 24 hours prior to their arrest. “This is perhaps one of the top concerns in Chile, the increase in insecurity, or the feeling of safety,” Dammert said. By Dialogo April 01, 2011center_img Security experts acknowledged to Diálogo there is more to be done to combat this threat. Santana advocates regional cooperation through information sharing and training. “Brazil is encouraging information exchange,” he said, noting the DEA as an example for the region. “We are trying to apply the same policy with countries here in the Southern Cone with respect to producers of cocaine and marijuana.” Chile’s Dammert believes steps have been taken toward regional collaboration, but she said the road is still long, “Even if we do not have high levels of violence, we have to begin to review the best ways to prevent these groups from establishing themselves by strengthening the institutions of government and, above all, look at the role each country plays in the varied world of crime.”last_img read more

Honduras on Alert Due to Supposed Presence of Al Qaida Members

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first_imgBy Dialogo April 26, 2011 The Honduran authorities declared an alert at land and airport customs posts as a result of a warning from the United Nations that two Afghan members of Al Qaida might enter or have already entered the country, the director of migration, Venancio Cervantes, confirmed to AFP on 16 April. The retired general explained that the United Nations Security Council advised the Honduran delegation to verify whether the Afghans Khalil Al-Rahman Haqqani and Said Jan Abd Al-Salan, members of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaida network, had entered Honduras or to look out for an attempt by them to enter. “Three weeks ago, I received that correspondence from the foreign ministry, and we’ve already issued a circular to all our border posts, and the files have also been checked, and as of now, we haven’t found anything under those names,” he indicated. He acknowledged that members of the network “use several names, so we’ve sent alerts about these individuals to the airports, the land border posts also, that if they enter, they should inform the police so that they can take appropriate measures with the public prosecutor’s office, so that the latter, in turn, can take appropriate measures in its area.” The Afghans, who pass themselves off as businessmen, are believed to be moving around Central American countries under other names. Khalil Al-Rahman Haqqani was born on 1 January 1966, while Said Jan Abd Al-Salan was born on 5 February 1981. On 15 April, Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez had announced that investigations of Al Qaida members were continuing, but “since these are very sensitive issues, we hadn’t revealed what we are investigating,” although he said that “this doesn’t meant that there’s a presence” of the group in Honduras. But “with international and national intelligence units, we’ve been following up on this information that has come in from sources in our country and outside the country,” he added. “I don’t think that Honduras would be an objective for Al Qaida, but rather that it could be something like a transit location, a platform from which to be able to access the United States” or act against some American objective in the country, he emphasized.last_img read more

New Countertrafficking Command Center Is First of Its Kind

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first_img A new, high-tech command center in Key West will move the fight against illicit traffickers to a new level, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said. Just before cutting a ribbon to the Joint Operations Command Center alongside William F. Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, Lynn said the threat that plagues the region has evolved beyond drugs alone. “Transnational criminal organizations are posing a not-very-well-understood, but growing, threat to the United States,” he told the task force staff. “It’s something I know you are on the front lines of addressing and, ultimately, preventing.” The new command center serves Joint Interagency Task Force South, a subordinate command to the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command that integrates military, interagency and international capabilities to combat illicit trafficking. Lynn traveled to Miami to meet with Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, SOUTHCOM commander, and his leadership team. In testimony last month before the House Armed Services Committee, Fraser called the task force “the center of U.S. maritime interdiction efforts in the Caribbean basin and eastern Pacific.” Using information from law enforcement agencies, the general added, the task force detects and monitors suspect aircraft and maritime vessels and then provides this information to international and interagency partners who have the authority to interdict illicit shipments and arrest members of transnational criminal organizations. Task force members represent each U.S. military service and most federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Other members from the U.S. intelligence community represent the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency. The task force staff includes liaison officers from 13 nations: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom. “We made the decision in April 2008 to apply our collective wisdom and knowledge across the interagency, our international partners and the joint team here,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Daniel Lloyd, commander of Joint Interagency Task Force South, said during the ceremony opening the new operations center. The aim, he said, was “to come up with a better way to be even more effective in countering the illicit traffickers.” The new command center, Lloyd added, “is the first of its kind anywhere, and represents the very best way we know how to conduct the fight against illicit traffickers.” In the center, intelligence and operations functions come together in a state-of-the-art command, control, communications and intelligence facility, officials said, where the task force coordinates the use of Navy and Coast Guard ships and aircraft, Air Force and U.S. Customs Service aircraft, and aircraft and ships from allied nations and law enforcement agencies. “I think it’s important at this moment to recognize how far we’ve come,” Wechsler said. “Back in the 1980s, the mission set against which [the task force] was deployed was considered to be an unsolvable problem. There was a never-ending stream of air and maritime vessels headed right for our coast. It was a direct threat to U.S. sovereignty.” Today, he added, the problem has evolved, and so has the task force. “[It] is really, in my mind, a model — perhaps one of the best models of coordination that exists in the U.S. government,” he said. By Dialogo April 21, 2011last_img read more

Over Two Tons of Cocaine Recovered from Submarine Sunk in Honduras

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first_imgBy Dialogo August 01, 2011 On 28 July, Honduran and U.S. authorities recovered 2.5 tons from inside a sunken drug submarine in the Central American country’s Caribbean waters, a high-ranking Honduran military leader said. The semi-submersible vessel, which is estimated to still hold another 2.5 tons of drugs, was scuttled on 13 July by its four crew members – three Colombians and one Honduran – when they were intercepted by Honduran coast guard agents. “We’ve recovered 2.5 tons of cocaine, and we estimate that there is an equal amount still in the vessel,” said the head of the Joint General Staff of the Honduran Armed Forces, Gen. René Osorio. Honduras, which has Atlantic and Pacific coasts, is used by Mexican and Colombian cartels for shipping cocaine from South America to the United States. The presence in Honduras of the Mexican cartels, which have extended their operations into Central America as a result of the war launched against them in their own country, is exacerbating local violence due to territorial disputes between gangs, according to the authorities.last_img read more

Leader of Gulf Cartel Hitmen Detained in Mexico

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first_imgBy Dialogo August 03, 2011 Antonio Acosta Hernández, alias “El Diego,” is “an operational leader of La Línea [The Line] gang” who “ordered the homicides of around 1,500 people” in Ciudad Juárez, according to Ramón Pequeño, the head of the anti-drug division of the country’s Federal Police. Among these crimes were the March 2010 murders of three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez. The victims were consular official Lesley Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs, a corrections officer at an El Paso jail, and the husband of an employee at the U.S. diplomatic mission. Pequeño spoke to the press on 31 July, and said that the leading hitman’s record includes several other crimes. “El Diego” ordered the massacre of 14 young people at a party in January 2010, an attack using explosives in July of the same year, in which two police officers were killed, and the homicides of several members of rival groups at a drug rehabilitation center. Police officers and local and federal officials were killed on the orders of “El Diego,” including a delegate of the Attorney-General’s Office and members of his own organization in whom in he had lost trust. Acosta Hernández “had infused more violence and radicalism into the dispute between the Juárez cartel and the Pacific (Sinaloa) cartel” for greater control over the drug transport routes to the United States, according to Pequeño. According to official figures, the violence unleashed by the fight against organized crime has caused the deaths of more than 41,000 people in Mexico since December 2006.last_img read more

Ecuador Seizes 1.5 Tons of Marihuana

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first_img A stash of 1.5 tons of marihuana was seized at the Ecuadorean port of Guayaquil, the Ecuadorean Ministry of Interior reported on April 17. “About two tons of drugs from micro-trafficking have been seized, compared to the three tons from international trafficking,” the official said. “The fight against micro-trafficking and internal [drug] consumption continues; 1.5 tons of marihuana were seized in Guayaquil,” the ministry stated via Twitter. Ecuador, a country traditionally considered as a transit country of drugs destined to the United States and Europe, confiscated about 42 tons of drugs in 2012, mainly cocaine, compared to 26 tons in 2011 and 18 tons in 2010. In 2009, a record amount of 68 tons were seized. The officer told the public TV station Gama TV that counter drug units have strengthened their work against micro-trafficking of drugs. center_img On April 15, Minister of Interior José Serrano said that Ecuador seized about five tons of drugs in 2013, including two tons from micro-trafficking. By Dialogo April 19, 2013 Chief of Police General Rodrigo Suárez, said that authorities would give further details about the operation carried out on April 16, and described the seizure it as a “considerable quantity of marihuana that we believe is not for internal consumption.” last_img read more

Revolution’s Family Tree: Franklin and Adams to Manning and Snowden

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first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York There once stood a large elm tree at the corner of Essex and Washington streets in Boston responsible for sparking and embodying the patriotic spirit that fueled the American Revolution. In 1765, patriots such as the Loyal Nine and Sons of Liberty hung in effigy the official charged with implementing that year’s infamous Stamp Act—which among other stipulations required magazines and newspapers to be printed on British paper; viewed as a form of censorship among colonists. The protest was the first public act of defiance against the British government and transformed the tree into a rallying point for the growing resistance simmering throughout the 13 colonies. Soon, a sign proclaiming “Tree of Liberty” was affixed to its trunk. This spirit did not fade when British troops tarred and feathered dissenters beneath its branches, nor after it was cut down during the siege of the city. Rather, “Liberty Trees” sprang up across the fledgling confederation and inspired even more to speak out and oppose the assault on colonists’ civil liberties, rights they believed were theirs. The tree became a flashpoint for revolution, and its image emblazoned many “traitors” and “rebels” struggling to be free from oppressive rule who sought to establish a government reflective and representative of its people’s best values and interests…“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure,” wrote Thomas Jefferson soon after the signing of the U.S. Constitution.Namir Noor-Eldeen walks through the bright sunlight of an open courtyard in New Baghdad, Iraq, his camera slung around his shoulder, the same he’s done countless times before as a photojournalist for Reuters covering the ensuing chaos of the U.S.-led invasion.The 22-year-old, one of the most well-respected war photographers in the industry, is once again accompanied by 40-year-old Reuters camera assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh; two of about a dozen or so men talking and strolling casually to the right of a nondescript building in the eastern suburb of the capital.“Okay we got a target fifteen coming at you,” crackles a voice from the cockpit of an AH-64 Apache gunship hovering about a mile away, the crosshairs of its 30mm machineguns bouncing from the dome of a nearby mosque to the torsos of the group, before focusing for a time on Chmagh, then Noor-Eldeen. “It’s a guy with a weapon.”Their sights zoom in as the men continue through the yard; several others standing beside a scooter while others occupy a nearby street corner.“Stay firm,” commands another voice over the radio. “And open the courtyard.”“Yeah roger,” a voice responds. “I just estimate there’s probably about 20 of them.”The vantage zooms in closer, the crosshairs settling on Chmagh for a few moments, who appears to be carrying a satchel, then back to Noor-Eldeen.“That’s a weapon,” states a voice.“Yeah,” another agrees.“Fucking prick,” blurts a voice, the crosshairs focusing on Noor-Eldeen’s crotch.“Have individuals with weapons,” says another as the gunship banks to the left, the men falling out of view behind a building.“Hotel Two-Six, Crazy Horse One-Eight,” spits the radio. “Have five to six individuals with AK-47s. Request permission to engage.”“Roger that,” another responds. “We have no personnel east of our position. So, uh, you are free to engage, over.”“I’m gonna—I can’t get ’em now because they’re behind that building,” says a gunner. “He’s got an RPG!”“All right, we got a guy with an RPG,” says another.“I’m going to fire.”“Okay.”“Hotel Two-Six, have eyes on individual with RPG,” says a voice. “Getting ready to fire. We won’t—““Yeah, we got a guy shooting,” interrupts another.“God damn it,” says a voice, the camera’s view shifting to the building’s right flank. As the gunship turns the corner, its crosshairs align with one of the men in the group, who’s looking in the opposite direction.“Just freakin’—once you get on ‘em, just open ‘em up,” declares a voice.“You’re clear,” says a voice.“All right, firing,” responds another.“Let me know when you’ve got them.”The crosshairs target the center of about 10 people huddled together, most of their backs to the gunship.“Let’s shoot,” says a voice.“Light ’em all up,” says another.“Come on, fire!” someone shouts.Bodies drop as a barrage of shelling shreds the crowd.“Keep shootin’, keep shootin’,” a calm voice states.Dirt and debris are launched into the air as the earth explodes from beneath the men and machineguns rattle and hiss.“Keep shootin’,” the voice repeats.The crosshairs dance within the dust, tracking any distinguishable human form and a thick cloud billows upward, blocking the view. More bursts of gunfire, more smoke.“Come on, fire!” shouts a voice.“Yeah, we see two birds and we’re still fir[ing],” says another.“I got ’em…,” says a voice before another cuts in.“All right,” he laughs. “I hit ’em.”The laughter continues with the sights fixed on the massacre.“All right, you’re clear,” someone says.“All right, I’m just trying to find targets again,” assures the shooter.As the smoke clears the lifeless men are strewn across the courtyard, many distorted into odd shapes and mutilated; some lying bent and twisted atop each other.“Got a bunch of bodies layin’ there,” says the shooter.“All right, we got about, uh, eight individuals,” says another.“Yeah, we got one guy crawling down there,” someone adds. “We’re shooting some more.”“Hey, you shoot, I’ll talk,” a voice responds.“Currently engaging approximately eight individuals, uh KIA, uh RPGs and AK-47s,” radios another.The camera again scans the yard. Piled, mangled bodies, some staining the ground, become clearer.“Oh yeah, look at all those dead bastards,” says the gunner.“Nice,” says another. “Nice. Good shootin’.”“Thank you.”The crosshairs circle back to Chmagh, lying crooked halfway on the curb and street, his left leg twisted unnaturally 180 degrees off alignment, the back of his head and shoulders jilting upward as he struggles and pushes off his elbows.“He’s getting up,” says a voice.“Maybe he has a weapon down in his hand?” asks another.“No, I haven’t seen one yet,” says the shooter.Face down, Chamgh somehow gets to his knees.“Come on, buddy,” eggs a voice.“All you gotta do is pick up a weapon,” says another.The camera zooms in on a dark van that pulls up alongside Chamgh. Two men begin trying to lift him up by his arms and legs.“We have individuals going to the scene, looks like possibly picking up bodies and weapons,” someone says.“Let me engage!” shouts the gunner. “Can I shoot?”“Come on, let us shoot! They’re taking him.”“Fuck,” says a voice as the men try and load him into the van.“Roger,” says another. “Engage.”“Come on!” shouts the gunner to the rattling of more machinegun fire. The van shakes violently as its front explodes, bursts of light flashing from its inside before jolting forward several feet and slamming backwards and to the side, smoke and shrapnel again clouding the scene.The gun jams briefly before resuming; after a few moments the smoke clearing. A basketball-sized hole is seen through the center of the windshield. The men who were helping Chamgh lie motionless and outstretched around the van.“Oh yeah, look at that!” laughs the gunman. “Right through the windshield.”“I think we whacked ‘em all,” someone adds.“That’s good,” says another.“Hey yeah, roger, be advised, there were some guys popping out with AKs behind that dirt pile break,” a voice informs an incoming ground team that will be photographing the scene. “We also took some RPGs off, earlier, so just make sure your men keep your eyes open.”Instead of armed insurgents, the team discovers two severely wounded children in the van; its driver, their deceased father, had been driving them to school when he saw Chamgh and attempted to bring him to a hospital.“Well it’s their fault for bringing kids into battle,” says the gunner, following up a comment about how a tank crushed a body as it approached.The massacre and cockpit chatter among the two U.S. Apache helicopters participating in it make up the bulk of Collateral Murder, leaked classified cockpit gunsight footage of July 12, 2007 airstrikes that killed, along with all of the other men accompanying them, Reuters journalists Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh. Following their deaths the media organization requested the footage documenting the clash to no avail; Noor-Eldeen’s body reportedly discovered by a friend in a dilapidated Iraqi morgue.A clearer view of the truth of that tragic day did not emerge until Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks—the online international nonprofit whistleblower site which publishes secret, classified and leaked news material about governments and corporations from around the world—presented the footage on April 5, 2010 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and made it available to the world via wikileaks.org and collateralmurder.com.The U.S. military characterizes the slayings as justified. Subsequent military reports released the same day as Collateral Murder hit the Internet state the journalists were not wearing anything that would identify them as such, their Canon EOSs with telescopic lenses resembled weapons, and they were among armed insurgents; the military says weapons were found by ground troops at the scene.In February, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who’s currently facing a military court martial at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland for leaking more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and more than 490,000 classified U.S. Army reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, including sharing the aforementioned video. The 25-year-old faces life in prison if convicted on the heftiest charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and aiding the enemy.Listen to Manning’s statement:Yet this is not your typical court martial, contend the few core journalists who’ve been covering Manning’s plight since the beginning—he was arrested in May 2010 after an informant turning over chat logs to the FBI—other whistleblowers, advocates and outside observers. Nor is Manning, who’s been jailed for more than three years, sometimes in solitary confinement and in conditions so severe it caused international uproar and State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley to resign in protest, your typical soldier.Taken within the larger context of 2001’s Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF); alarming new provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); a recent power grab by the military sans Congress the Long Island Press exposed in May which essentially suspends the Posse Comitatus Act and allows the military to take authority over undefined “domestic disturbances”; the government’s recent admission it seized the phone records of the Associated Press and a reporter as part of an investigation into an alleged leak; the naming of Fox News reporter James Rosen as a co-conspirator in another investigation; and the Pandora’s box the latest U.S. government whistleblower, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden leaked to The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald about the government’s ongoing mass surveillance programs; Manning’s prosecution has ramifications on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It has ramifications on the Fourth Amendment. It speaks to a larger discussion regarding the lack of whistleblower protections, especially for those employed in the national security and intelligence sectors—President Barack Obama has used the Espionage Act more than double all presidents combined. It shines a light into the murky back-alley dealings of U.S. foreign policy, opening the door for more rigorous debate about the ever-growing U.S. military industrial complex and covert surveillance forces. And it has tremendously significant ramifications for the future of journalism—specifically investigative journalism.That is because Manning’s trial is also very much a trial about WikiLeaks, which the U.S. government is widely believed to have empanelled a grand jury against and which the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind ruled in pre-trial hearings, has the same standing as a media outlet as The New York Times and Washington Post, who also published significant portions of he and Snowden’s classified disclosures.Truth-seeker: Government Accountability Project’s Kathleen McClellan advocates for whistleblower protections.“What the mainstream media here in the U.S. should realize is: as goes Wikileaks, as goes the mainstream media,” warns Kathleen McClellan, national security and human rights counsel for nonprofit whistleblower advocacy group Government Accountability Project (GAP), at its D.C. headquarters. “There’s no distinction in the law between an organization like WikiLeaks disclosing information and The New York Times disclosing information. The law doesn’t protect either more or less.”Yet despite what’s at stake, the vast majority of mainstream journalists and news organizations throughout the country have been providing little, if any, coverage of the Manning trial at all (Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan recently chastised the staff because of it). A handful of dedicated, if lesser-known journalists and outlets have, however, and theirs has been the most in-depth and consistent reporting on the proceedings to date—to where many others frequently call seeking input before publishing their own stories. Sometimes, they’ve been the only coverage.Their commitment has oftentimes come at great costs and sacrifices.WHO WOULD YOU SAY IS REVOLUTIONARY?CLICK HERE AND TELL US IN THE COMMENTSDIRTY WARSThe Obama administration’s harsh treatment and prosecution of Manning and the shadowy actions of military and covert surveillance operations both overseas and domestically are not new occurrences, rather, the war between the government and public over what information is shared and what stays secret has been raging since the birth of the country, with revealing glimpses behind the curtain every so often.Independent investigative journalist-turned-Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh exposed what has become known as the My Lai Massacre—the mass murder and cover-up of up to more than 500 unarmed South Vietnamese villagers, including women and children, by U.S. Army troops in 1968. Initially it was reported to the public that 128 enemy combatants were slain in battle.Daniel Ellsberg leaked a classified internal Department of Defense report detailing much of the decision-making behind U.S. policy and involvement during the Vietnam War in 1971 and was also tried under the Espionage Act, yet the judge ruled a mistrial after learning about, among other actions taken against him by the intelligence community, the tapping of his phones.The Watergate break-in, orchestrated by President Richard Nixon’s CIA-connected “plumbers” and exposed by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with help from perhaps the most infamous whistleblower in U.S. history, former top FBI official Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat—also ironically essentially a case of presidentially condoned domestic spying, albeit on the National Democratic Committee headquarters instead of the general public at large—resulted in an investigation by the Senate and culminated in Nixon’s 1974 resignation.The following year’s Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, known as the Church Committee after Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, stands as perhaps the most intrinsic look inside the inner workings of this world to date. It probed not only the CIA’s activities for illegalities and abuses, but the NSA and FBI—including the agencies’ roles in assassinations targeting foreign leaders.Among the findings: The CIA had varying roles in coups and assassination plots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Cuba and Vietnam. In the case of the Congo, the committee discovered the agency had plotted to kill its newly elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and although didn’t ultimately do the deed (the Belgians did), had supplied weapons and money to help it along, originally planning to poison the leader.The committee also shed light on just how high up the chain of command these orders came, revealing a concept called “plausible deniability,” meaning the president and other officials with authority to pull the trigger on such activities could know without knowing about them and escape blame.President Dwight D. Eisenhower was implicated in the Lumumba takedown, according to the committee’s reports. Classified information detailing the government’s roles in similar schemes in Iran and other countries wouldn’t surface until decades later.The Church Committee also discovered widespread domestic surveillance operations by the CIA, including the mass photographing and/or opening and resealing of citizens’ mail without even the U.S. Postal Service’s knowledge.In 1996 Pulitzer Prize investigative journalist Gary Webb exposed the CIA’s involvement in at least permitting Nicaraguan drug smugglers linked to the Contras to peddle crack cocaine on the streets of Los Angeles in the 1980s as a way to fund its guerrilla operations during the Reagan administration.Jeremy Scahill, reporter for The Nation, exposes questionable present-day operations in the recently published Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield, also a documentary in theaters now. Besides uncovering the self-authorized international assassination program of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—according to Scahill, the equivalent of the president’s personal death squads with international reach, though Americans can also be targeted—he documents the systemic eradication of nearly all oversight over such forces, arguing, that their actions actually serve to perpetually feed the “War on Terror.”Sept. 11, 2001 opened the door.“To fight its global war,” writes Scahill, “the White House made extensive use of the tactics [former Vice President Dick] Cheney had long advocated. Central to its ‘dark side’ campaign would be the use of presidential findings [executive directives] that, by their nature, would greatly limit any effective congressional oversight.“According to the National Security Act of 1947, the president is required to issue a finding before undertaking a covert action,” he continues. “The law states that the action must comply with U.S. law and the Constitution. The presidential findings signed by [President George W.] Bush on Sept. 17, 2001, was used to create a highly classified, secret program code-named Greystone. GST, as it was referred to in internal documents, would be an umbrella under which many of the most clandestine and legally questionable activities would be authorized and conducted in the early days of the Global War on Terror.“It relied on the administration’s interpretation of the AUMF passed by Congress, which declared any al Qaeda suspect anywhere in the world a legitimate target,” he adds. “In effect, the presidential finding declared all covert actions to be preauthorized and legal, which critics said violated the spirit of the National Security Act. Under GTS, a series of compartmentalized programs were created that, together, effectively formed a global assassination and kidnap operation.”In other words, where in the past journalists including Hersh were rewarded for exposing war crimes and corruption, the government’s espionage case against whistleblower Ellsberg was dropped and the president of the United States ousted due to disclosures about covert surveillance, nowadays, an Army private and former NSA contractor face decades, if not life in prison for exposing the same crimes, news outlets such as the AP have had their phone records seized and a journalist has been named as a co-conspirator in the government’s attempt to plug a leak.All indicative, say critics, of an ongoing war not just against journalists, but civil liberties across the board.“Gone are the days of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers,” laments Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of FireDogLake.com, a progressive news site and action organization that’s been covering Manning’s story and trial for years. “You got the government considering whistleblowers terrorists and journalists looking down their noses on people who are sources.”“What we’re really seeing here is a war on information and who controls information,” says GAP’s McClellan. “Cracking down on what the public is going to hear and cracking down on who can speak to certain issues.”“It’s so hard on the whistleblowers,” adds Hamsher. “It’s just so emotionally hard on them. They’re destroyed, they’re wiped out financially, they’re called traitors, they lose their jobs. Anybody who thinks this is something somebody does for attention is out of their minds.”She would know. FireDogLake’s headquarters—a two-story house in Northwest D.C. (ironically a few blocks from Manning Place)—not only serves as its staff’s newsroom and lodging, but doubles as a meeting/refuge space for whistleblowers and others who’ve risked a lot in order to broadcast the truth.WHO WOULD YOU SAY IS REVOLUTIONARY?CLICK HERE AND TELL US IN THE COMMENTSBLACKOUTThey travel from other states every week, put their personal lives on hold, sleep wherever they can—local hotels, rented rooms or the homes of those sympathetic to the mission: telling the story of Bradley Manning and his trial, raising awareness about the case and its larger context, documenting history. They wake up at the crack of dawn and they make the trek to Fort Meade, Md.At least once a week they’ll pass a crowd of people of varying numbers protesting on their way in. They stand outside the base’s main gates, sometimes holding signs, often wearing black T-shirts proclaiming “TRUTH” in white block lettering—the weekly vigil of supporters and Bradley Manning Support Network members. Some have come from across the country; some have come from other countries entirely.The journalists wait in their vehicles till around 8 a.m. or whenever the MPs show up to inspect their paperwork, credentials, vehicle registration, photo identification and vehicles. They’re eventually escorted to the other side of the complex to a small hall serving as the “media operations center.” Journalists can also opt for a limited number of seats in the courtroom.Here, the proceedings are broadcast from one wall-size projector screen and journalists are permitted to bring along a computer “for filing and note taking purposes only.” Filing is to be done when court recesses. Social media posting may only be done when court is in recess or during break.Seventy journalists can fit here and more than 250 applied for opening arguments, but since then there’ve only been about a dozen on average. Half as many have been here consistently.The live feed from the courtroom occasionally craps out in the middle of important testimony [as it did on June 26, prompting complaints], and the shotgun speed the judge issues rulings and prosecution reads critical testimony into the record are regular sources of familiar jokes and frustration. More frustration, however, since unlike a traditional court proceeding, there is no official transcript provided for the public, and thus, no public record of what is said during the proceedings unless these handful of journalists write it all down, as fast as they can.“I often times get asked, ‘Why do you do this?’” says Alexa O’Brien, one of them, who’s been covering Bradley Manning for three years and is single-handedly responsible for transcribing and posting on her website AlexaOBrien.com literally every single syllable and filing she could type or obtain, including from the pre-trial hearings. She’s also recently built an online, searchable database for this. “I don’t have a simple answer for it.”“It’s the largest leak trial in U.S. history,” she explains in the empty media parking lot following June 26’s proceedings. “It has ramifications, wide ramifications, on the First Amendment and foundational purposes of our government and of society at large.“The government is using charges in this court martial that have never been used in military law,” continues O’Brien. “They want to take the intent and the motive out of the Espionage Act, and that intent makes the Espionage Act as constitutional as it could possibly be. It’s a First Amendment right.“The Department of State has been the puppet master in this prosecution vis-à-vis this—the largest criminal investigation ever into a publisher, which is the U.S. investigation into WikiLeaks—and we don’t see in any of the major papers the kind of reporting about what is happening…and what is at stake,” she adds.Dissenter: Kevin Gosztola, reporter for FireDogLake, has been providing nonstop coverage of the Bradley Manning trial.Kevin Gosztola, reporter for FireDogLake.com, seated in the backyard of its headquarters, agrees. He, along with O’Brien, the Associated Press’ David Dishneau, Adam Klasfeld from Courthouse News Service, a news wire, and Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network, make up the core of stalwarts covering the case.“When you think about what happened,” says Gosztola, “the significance isn’t just the act itself but the disclosures, the content of what was released to WikiLeaks—when you look at the Collateral Murder video and what it revealed, the killing of Reuters employees who were out there basically doing their news jobs, and the fact that somebody wounded was killed and shot and you can hear the bloodlust in the voices of the soldiers who seem to be playing some kind of video games—and when you look at the U.S. diplomatic cables and the different military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan that he disclosed, which give a full, complete picture of those wars, a picture vastly different than the one the United States government was promoting to people during the war, I think that’s some of the importance and significance of his act, in that he punctured a hole in this whole secrecy that we have in our government and gave us a way to tell a lot of information that probably shouldn’t have ever been kept secret from us in the first place.”Two tremendously large poodles gallop by as Hamsher explains FireDogLake’s purpose and origins inside.“This is what is called the Hamsher Hotel,” she smiles, while chopping mixed vegetables on the kitchen counter into a salad. “Glenn Greenwald’s room is upstairs; Kevin is staying in it now. Glenn has his own room. Dan Ellsberg stays there. Dan Choi stays there. We have dinners here like once a month or so with [NSA whistleblower] Tom Drake and [CIA torture whistleblower John] Kiriakou before he went to jail—Peter Van Buren, all the whistleblowers. We really try and have a place that nurtures and takes care of people.”“I was just interested around the time of the 2004 Election and the power of online media and what it could do, and I was posting on Daily Kos and whenever I would finish I would post it on a free blogspot that I called firedoglake because I like to lie by the fire and watch the Lakers with my dogs,” she says. “And we started writing about the Scooter Libby trial and the next think you knew we had 100,000 people a day showing up. So it expanded to more than just me writing and now what Kevin does is very much in the tradition of what we started with, which is providing a counter-narrative to stories that aren’t being adequately covered or that are sort of overwhelmed by propaganda distributed by powerful self-interested people.”“They’re seeking life in prison for giving secret documents to a news organization and so that would essentially turn whistleblowing something akin to treason and that’s already had a huge chilling effect on sources for investigative journalists,” says Fuller, from the support network’s home base, a rented house in Columbia, Md.Fuller says he’s “talked to reporters who have been to Guantanamo Bay for military tribunals, and they say this is the more restrictive case,” adding that the judge has been clocked reading one of her rulings at 100 words per minute.Klasfeld, standing on a dock in the shadow of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, stresses the importance of keeping the focus on the content of Manning’s disclosures.“I think one thing that needs a little more emphasizing and highlighting is: Just what exactly did Bradley Manning leak?” he asks. “What do we know now in 2013 that we didn’t know before WikiLeaks published all this information in 2009 and what is the value of that information? What do we know about what’s going on in Guantanamo Bay? What do we know about what happened in the Iraq and Afghanistan War? Whether it comes to casualty counts or incidents that weren’t investigated, what did we not know about the conduct of U.S. diplomacy that we do know now?“In a lot of the focus in who Bradley Manning is and what WikiLeaks is, the personal drama of it—which is interesting—just what was leaked has gotten the short shrift.”It’s that content, along with a host of varying personal reasons, which attracts Manning supporters from across the globe to Ft. Meade—a trek that also requires an ample amount of dedication from the members of the public who do.WHO WOULD YOU SAY IS REVOLUTIONARY?CLICK HERE AND TELL US IN THE COMMENTSSECRET COURTIt’s approaching 9 a.m. and nearing 90 degrees by the time a soldier wearing U.S. Army fatigues walks over to the makeshift barricade in a back parking somewhere in the 95-acre complex of Ft. Meade to tell Dominic and Cynthia Vautier of Bellevue, Wa. that the start of the trial is going to be pushed back a bit.There are no signs indicating this is the courthouse, and nowhere to find reprieve from the sun. Were it not for the makeshift fencing—long lines of bicycle racks stacked alongside each other and a printout that warns not to go beyond the barricade—a visitor might imagine they were at one of the dozens of other military facilities throughout the base.The 71-year-old software engineer and Vietnam-era veteran sits on the hot cement, legs crossed, while his wife, 64, gazes behind the line at several air-conditioned trailers housing soldiers when David Reed, another spectator, joins them. He jokes that maybe they’re not letting Dominic in because he looks suspicious.“I would have thought there would be more people coming to the trial,” the 67-year-old retiree says. “It’s an apathy.”“It took us two days to figure out how to get into the fort,” says Dominic, explaining that the couple made the trek as part of Cynthia’s vacation.“When I’m a grandmother, I feel that I should be able to tell my grandchildren with great pride that I was at this trial and supported a hero,” she says.Soon others join them, many wearing “TRUTH” shirts. In all, about 50 supporters wait in the heat till they empty their pockets, are scanned with a magnetometer, obtain a pass, wait for a while in a side room and finally enter the courtroom (25 are permitted, the rest head to an overflow trailer).Kat, 47, from Ontario, who wore a “TRUTH” shirt and declined to give her last name, stressed the importance of being there to “show my support and be a witness to the proceedings and make it less secretive,” she says. “We’re here in support of Bradley and for people telling the truth, for example, Bradley Manning—about war crimes.”Deb Van Poolen, an organic farmer and artist-turned-court sketch artist who’s been coming to the trial every day to capture the scene and making them available on her website for free to raise awareness, takes a seat in the first row, behind the prosecution team.Two plainclothes soldiers, one with an earpiece, a sidearm and a taser, stand arms crossed between the public and Manning, who is dwarfed by his lead attorney David Coombs, Major Thomas Hurley and Captain Joshua Tooman.Three empty rows of 12 empty chairs and computers fill the courtroom to the right of the judge; five cameras pointed at the public are mounted above her head. Each session begins with a decorated Army official reading aloud a list of rules, which includes no loud whispering and no falling asleep.When U.S. Army prosecutor Major Ashden Fein isn’t standing before the judge, he slouches back in his chair while two other prosecutors occasionally giggle with each other. Manning and his team sit upright, intently listening to every utterance. Between two recesses the visitors dwindle to about 15; by 3 p.m. there is an hour-long closed session. Judge Col. Lind informs the trial will resume the following day at noon.It’s now that the media center crew hurries to file their stories and post them on their websites, Tweet out updates and prepare for the next day.“I knew the trial was going to be conducted in secrecy and de facto-secrecy and I felt that there was no coverage of it that was satisfying to me, gave me the information, answered any of the questions that I wanted to have answered, and so I decided that I was going to transcribe it,” O’Brien tells us back in the empty media parking lot. “I think if Manning gets sentenced to life, that is going to be a historic day in the history of our country, but I think also, just civilization in general.”“I do believe that fundamentally, it is our responsibility if we do know better, to do everything we can to dissent, but also to do the right thing here,” adds O’Brien. “The act of doing a transcript, for example, is a very simple act, but if it’s going to get me almost arrested at Ft. Meade, if it’s going to get me in a situation where I am somehow counter, there’s something wrong there.”last_img read more