• Arrest Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy.com

    January 17, 2013 // 15 Comments »

    Hello? FBI? CIA? Diplomatic Security? You have a leak. A source inside the State Department leaked a SECRET cable to reporter Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy.com, and Rogin published details of the cable on the web site. This is exactly what Bradley Manning and Julian Assange did on Wikileaks, so hurry!!!!!!!!!

    It is true. You can read the details of what Rogin claims is an actual Secret State Department cable right now online. Except for the Internet, you would otherwise need to work for the State Department or in the intelligence community to see this kind of information. Or maybe be Julian Assange.

    Actually, there is no rush. The cable purports to be “evidence” that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons against its insurgents and was clearly and obviously leaked by the Obama team as a trial balloon. You see, Obama needs to test public opinion and/or prep public opinion on some sort of more bloody and “robust” intervention into Syria. Leaking the cable is one way to do that– find a sympathetic writer who will publish the information as an exclusive without committing too much actual journalism by asking questions like “Mr. or Ms. Leaker Person at the State Department, exactly why did you risk your career and indeed confinement in Federal prison to pass a secret level document to a popular web site? Aren’t you aware that Bradley Manning is facing execution for just such a thing?”

    (And the cable is crap. Interviews in Turkey with Syrian defectors [facilitated by BASMA, an NGO the State Department hired as one of its ‘implementing partners’ inside Syria. BASMA connected State with willing witnesses] who are trying desperately to get the U.S. drawn deeper into the Syrian conflict for their own benefit. And yes this is exactly what happened with self-serving Iraqi defectors in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion).

    So anyway Josh Rogin fans, I doubt he is in danger of arrest. In America, sharing secret documents is a crime only when it isn’t the president doing it.



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    Wikileaks: So What’s the Fuss?

    November 29, 2011 // Comments Off on Wikileaks: So What’s the Fuss?

    In his first court appearance, Bradley Manning’s lawyer says that three separate reviews of the “damage” done by Wikileaks show that, well, not much damage was done.

    The attorney is seeking public release of damage assessments prepared by the White House, the Defense Department and the State Department.

    One of the reports requested is a comprehensive White House review that he said details “the rather benign nature of the leaks and the lack of any real damage to national security.” He also asked for a report on a State Department review that he said reached similar conclusions.

    Reuters reports that State Department officials have privately told Congress they expect overall damage to U.S. foreign policy to be containable, said the official, one of two congressional aides familiar with the briefings who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity. “We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging,” said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials.

    Yes, State, what did ever happen to that big-time intra-Departmental Wikileaks Task Force you put together? Did it just… fade… away?

    Also sought was a report on a Defense Intelligence Agency review of the WikiLeaks documents from July 29, 2010. “Specifically, the damage assessment concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was either dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly understood and known due to previous public disclosures,” Manning’s lawyer wrote.

    The Pentagon said in October 2010 that a special task force led by the Defense Intelligence Agency had combed the posted reports to determine what might have been compromised. A Pentagon spokesman said then that the review supported the military’s initial assessment that the materials didn’t include the most sensitive kinds of information but still posed a risk to national security.

    So just checking, and please write if you noticed that the United States had collapsed, or anyone got killed, because of a Wikileaks document. Please be specific. The damn things have been out and around for close to two years, so by now there should be some blood on the floor the Government can point to.

    Or maybe most of the secrets compromised were just the embarrassing kind, like the one that got my security clearance suspended by State’s Stasi-in-waiting, Diplomatic Security?




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    Write to Bradley Manning

    November 22, 2011 // 5 Comments »

    Bradley Manning can receive mail and (money order) donations now, with some very specific restrictions/conditions. However, if you wish to contact him you can. Follow the rules on his lawyer’s website.

    After over 530+ days in captivity, Manning gets his first appearance, albeit at a military court, next month. Ironically, the appearance is simply a placeholder formality to determine if grounds exist to move forward. Yeah, right, after all this time, maybe it was all just a mistake, right?

    From my own experience with prison correspondence rules, they are very specific and the people who administer them are very particular. Think about it– that is not a job sought by free spirits and creative thinkers. If the restriction says no more than five pages, they mean it. Prison administrators will either return the entire six page letter to you, destroy it, or at least throw away the last page. Don’t waste time writing in to Bradley’s busy lawyer (as people are doing on his blog) asking about exceptions, or “what five pages” really means.

    Also, prisoners pretty much anywhere can’t receive goods. If you want to help Bradley with pens, stamps or whatever, follow the rules and send him a money order he can use at the prison store.

    The good news is that this means Bradley is aware of the support he is receiving outside, as well as having some minimal situational awareness of what is going on in the world around him.

    More info also from the Bradley Manning Support Network.




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    Courage to Resist

    October 21, 2011 // Comments Off on Courage to Resist

    Very happy to donate a signed copy of my book to Courage to Resist, who supports Bradley Manning.

    Bradley Manning should be given a trial and allowed to defend himself. His continued imprisonment without trial, now at 500 days, is wrong. Agree or disagree with what he allegedly did, we are America and everyone’s rights are to be protected.

    The Constitution is there for the hard, tough cases, not just the easy ones. You don’t get to choose Obama, but as a former professor of Constitutional law you must know that already.



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    Diplomat Loses Top Secret Clearance for Link to WikiLeaks

    October 20, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    Wired.com has the story about State taking away my security clearance as a tit-for-tat for my book documenting their silly failures in Iraq.

    The reporter really captured the 1984 meets Brazil world this is all taking place in:

    In December 2010 the White House issued a directive warning federal employees not to access the government documents WikiLeaks published online.

    “Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority,” the directive said.

    Ironically, Van Buren had worked across the hallway from Manning for about six months in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 at Forward Operating Base Hammer, he told Wired in a phone interview Wednesday.

    That’s where Manning allegedly downloaded the cables to a CD-Rom while pretending to lip-sync to Lady Gaga music that was supposedly on the disc. Now Van Buren is being punished for linking to something that Manning allegedly downloaded from the Army’s classified network and leaked to WikiLeaks.

    “I literally had my office across the hall from where he worked,” Van Buren said. “I don’t think I actually ever met the guy. The last time I had access to U.S. government secrets was on the Army system that Bradley Manning used.”

    Van Buren said State Department security staff who informed him of his suspension this week didn’t even know who Manning was when he mentioned the name. The security guys, Van Buren said, thought he was trying to brag about his Department connections.

    “Don’t try to impress me with the people you know,” he says one of the staffers told him. “You could work for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; the rules are the same.”



    Read the whole story at Wired.com.




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    BBC Panorama Interview: What Would You Say to Bradley Manning?

    September 21, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    My thanks to the nice folks at the BBC’s Panorama show for coming all the way out into Northern Virginia to interview me on camera for a special documentary they are producing on the US and Middle East.

    The show airs in the UK, and hopefully will find its way to PBS or BBC America while we all can still afford cable TV. Panorama is the world’s longest running investigative television show. Suck that 60 Minutes.

    The questions were good, very introspective. The one that haunts me still was one I wasn’t sure how to answer: If you could talk with Bradley Manning, what would you say?

    What would you say to Bradley? Add your thoughts to the Comments below and I’ll email the best of them to the people at the BBC.




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    See “Incident in New Baghdad” Thursday 8/11 in Providence

    August 6, 2011 // Comments Off on See “Incident in New Baghdad” Thursday 8/11 in Providence

    Bradley Manning is accused of leaking classified gun camera footage. Known as the “Collateral Murder” video, the deeply disturbing footage recounts a US helicopter attack on a group of mostly unarmed individuals in the streets of Baghdad in July 2007, resulting in the deaths of at least eight individuals including two Iraqi journalists, and two wounded children. Manning risked his life to make the atrocity public.

    To see that the video reached an even wider audience, as well as to provide context for what is shown, James Spione created a critically acclaimed short documentary, Incident in New Baghdad. James focuses on US Army Specialist Ethan McCord’s account of the attack as one of the first six American soldiers to reach the scene, and the struggle he now faces at home as he addresses his own PTSD and works to raise Americans’ awareness of the implications of war.

    “New Baghdad” refers both to the physical location of the killings, New Baghdad City, and perhaps ironically to the “new” Baghdad created by the American invasion.

    For those in the Rhode Island area, Incident in New Baghdad will screen at the Metcalf Auditorium at the RISD Museum on Thursday, August 11 at 1:15 p.m. Tickets are available online. The screening is part of The FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival™, the largest film festival in New England.

    Read an interview with filmmaker James Spione, or see a clip from the film, to learn more.



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    Guardian Story About Bradley Manning

    May 31, 2011 // Comments Off on Guardian Story About Bradley Manning

    I have a small part/quote in a good Guardian story about Bradley Manning. I don’t agree with the article’s statement “FOB Hammer’s overriding culture was one of boredom and casual bullying, where bored non-commissioned officers picked on juniors.” In my time at FOB Hammer, I never witnessed any bullying, though it was a boring place in many ways.

    No mention of Tupac, however. RIP.



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    I am (Rejected by) Bradley Manning

    May 26, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    peter van buren One year ago today, Bradley Manning was arrested. So you’ll be seeing a lot of him on the Internet over the next few days. Luckily some new photos have surfaced to replace that one of him smiling in his uniform.

    The folks at The Bradley Manning Support Network have a good idea. To raise awareness of Manning’s situation, they invite people to submit photos of themselves holding up a sign reading “I am Bradley Manning.” They are collecting the photos on their web site, and have quite a few, many from regular folks and several from semi-celebs like Daniel Ellsberg and some CodePink people. You can add yours, too.

    (True CodePink story: I was working alone in the State Department liaison office on Capitol Hill when CodePink people rushed in to protest something. One had a giant paper mache head of Condi Rice, with garish buck teeth the size of pieces of Wonderbread. I asked politely if I could finish a phone call before they protested and they very politely agreed. I finished talking, hung up, they shouted a bit and all was well. Politics is one thing, but I think politeness is still very important. Kudos to the giant headed CodePinker!)

    Back to Manning. I sent my photo of support in, above, but it was rejected because I did not have a sign. I guess my “sign” is there, electronically, but apparently you have to have a paper sign to be included. They wrote:

    Thanks for your submission. We are currently processing a back-log of images, but we noticed that yours didn’t quite fit the criteria. Would you mind resubmitting a photo of yourself holding a sign? It is hard for us to map support for Bradley Manning without the photos to prove it! Your sign could say “I am Bradley Manning,” or a message of your choice if you would prefer. Have a look at the ones that are posted, for ideas. 

    I could claim I went green and saved a piece of paper by not having a paper sign, or admit it was faster and easier for me to just add the words to an existing photo. I’m not sure it matters, but it seems to matter to the people at The Bradley Manning Support Network. Oh well, I’m sure they too meant well.



    Manning is held now in Leavenworth, not quite Rapture-level paradise but nowhere near as meaningfully nasty as Quantico was for him. You can read what a typical day for him is like, or see some photos of where he is locked up.

    If you really want to feel creepy, PBS’ frontline has published Manning’s old Facebook page posts as a weird way of marking his first year in captivity.







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    Leaking: Intellectual Consistency is Inconvenient

    May 20, 2011 // Comments Off on Leaking: Intellectual Consistency is Inconvenient

    What happens to you when you leak classified information depends a lot on where you sit.

    If you sit in a grown up chair in the White House, you can leak just about anything without getting into trouble. “Sources” up high have discussed all sorts of bin Laden raid things, including details of the op and tales of stealth helos and drones. SecDef Gates said “Too many people in too many places are talking too much about this operation.” He added that the level of disclosures and blabbing violates an agreement reached in the White House Situation Room on May 8 to keep details of the raid private. “That lasted about 15 hours,” Gates said sourly.

    If you sit in a midlevel chair, you get the same request, only with a stern chaser. CIA director Leon Panetta warned employees in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that leakers will be investigated and possibly prosecuted after a flurry of reports in the media about the technology and methods used to track and ultimately kill Osama bin Laden.

    And if you sit in a low-level analyst’s chair with the words “Bradley Manning” stenciled on the back, you go to jail without trial for leaking things.

    But then again, what’s new here? High level officials at State and the Cheney Vice President’s office blew the cover for CIA officer Valerie Plame and were never punished. Outing a CIA clandestine officer is a Federal crime. It also wastes the incredible sums of money and time that went into creating a sustainable false identity (fake background, transcripts, job history, Facebook account, etc.) and endangers the lives of everyone that officer worked with.

    As a smart person said, “Intellectual consistency is inconvenient in the current political climate.” OK, I get it, nothing new to see here, move along folks.



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    Interview with Guardian UK (TV)

    April 30, 2011 // Comments Off on Interview with Guardian UK (TV)

    Peter Van Buren, on Guardian TVI had an excellent interview with the Guardian TV unit, as part of a documentary they are doing about Iraq, Bradley Manning and the final phases of the war. The finished project airs in June– I’ll post a link when it is available online.

    Wish I was a little more photogenic, but we can’t all be Rob Lowe. Yes, a face made for radio and all that.

    The production will also likely use some of my photos of FOB Hammer, the base where Manning and I overlapped for some six months. The office where he worked was right down the hall from mine and though I never knowingly met him, it is hard to believe that we never walked past each other in the corridor, or ended up in the single cafeteria at the same time. The food wasn’t that good, and it could have been Manning one of those days when an anonymous soldier muttered that the salt was not enough to overpower the grease on pot roast Wednesdays.

    You can see the photos of FOB Hammer now, on Flickr.



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