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Michael Ratner: Worldwide support for Manning as trial of alleged Stratfor hacker Jeremy Hammond takes bizarre twist

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week’s edition of The Ratner Report with Michael Ratner, who now joins us from New York City.

Michael’s the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He’s also a board member of The Real News.

Thanks for joining us again, Michael.

MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: The best part of the title is board member of Real News, Paul.

JAY: Thank you.

RATNER: That’s the only one that matters. The rest of it is—you know. Anyway.

JAY: Actually, given the work you’ve done there—. Okay, enough back-patting.

What are you working on this week? What have you got for us?

RATNER: Well, I’ve had a really busy week. It’s—again I’m working a lot on WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, looking at Bradley Manning and Jeremy Hammond, who is the alleged hacker of the Stratfor emails.

This week is the thousandth day that Bradley Manning, the private who allegedly uploaded the Iraq War logs, Afghan War logs, “Collateral Murder” video, State Department cables, uploaded them to WikiLeaks. He has now been in pretrial detention, as we’re speaking, 1,003 days. It’s a big anniversary. That means he has been in detention almost three years without a trial. He’s not been convicted of anything.

And of course you might say, what’s going on here? It’s outrageous. The speedy trial rule is 120 days in the military, and somehow he’s been there almost ten times that. Well, next week at Fort Meade there is going to be a hearing on whether or not these charges should be dismissed because of the violation [incompr.] violation of the speedy trial rule. We’ll see what the judge does. The hearing will be on that. It will also be on this proffer of some kind of plea to a lower charge than he’s been charged with. We’ll see what happens. It’ll be going on in Fort Meade next week.

The interesting thing, of course, is Bradley Manning has now been in custody, as I said, for over 1,000 days. He’s one of the two major sources, apparently, alleged sources, for my client Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

The other source—and I was in court today on it, not as the lawyer, but as an observer—is Jeremy Hammond. Jeremy Hammond has now been in custody for almost a year, 355 days or so. And he is alleged to have cracked into the Stratfor emails, of which there 5 million, uploaded them to WikiLeaks. Stratfor’s a private intelligence company. WikiLeaks had been putting them up regularly. The latest group of them has to do with Latin America, correspondence back and forth with various people in Latin America who are looking at things.

Some of that Stratfor stuff is very interesting. One piece, of course, is the claim that there’s a sealed indictment against my client, Julian Assange; other pieces about, you know, Pakistan knowing the location of bin Laden; other pieces about the Israelis furnishing the Russians with the codes of the military equipment they gave to the country of Georgia so the Russians could disable or shoot down that stuff. So there’s a lot of stuff in Stratfor.

But what you have here, if you look at it, you have two people, Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond, both in prison, both in prison for a very long time, Julian Assange in the Ecuador embassy. Julian’s actually been in custody now of some sort for eight hundred [incompr.] days. Bradley’s ahead by a couple of hundred days. But I’m afraid, I fear that those differences, they’ll always remain the same, but they may be less of a proportion. So you have Hammond, Manning, and Julian Assange.

And today I was at the hearing, and the hearing today in the Manning case was about whether the judge in the case—it’s in federal court in Manhattan—ought to recuse herself.

If you know anything about Hammond, it’s, one, that the group he was with, allegedly with, called [incompr.] was a group of supposed hackers who were out there and got busted about a year ago. An informant busted them. And what’s interesting: it’s again entrapment, because what happened in that case is the FBI actually bought the computer that the documents from Stratfor were uploaded into. So the FBI knew about them taking all these Stratfor documents and then passing them on to WikiLeaks, but somehow the FBI let that happen. Presumably, they wanted to not just entrap Jeremy Hammond, but entrap WikiLeaks as well.

That was the second thing is the charge against Jeremy Hammond is really serious. It’s 37 years to life, computer hacking. And what that illustrates is the way this government right now is persecuting people who are trying to make the government or corporations transparent and make our country more democratic. The government doesn’t want that. They’re giving punitive charges against people, punitive against Jeremy Hammond, punitive, obviously, against Bradley manning, who is facing life imprisonment—actually, it’s a death penalty charge possible, although the government says they’re not asking for it. And, of course, Julian Assange, if they ever get their hands on him [incompr.] forever, I presume. And, of course, we all know the case of Aaron Swartz, Aaron, who was charged not even as a hacker, was charged for uploading documents [incompr.] or downloading them that he had the authorization to get from JSTOR, persecuted by the Boston U.S. attorney, and eventually, as a result, committed suicide.

So what we’re seeing going on in the country is incredible repression by the government. And the two philosophies here are—on the one hand, the government’s philosophy is keep all the secrets we can, do all the dirty tricks and corruption we can, don’t expose it, don’t let it out. Likewise, with corporations like Stratfor, they want complete opaqueness.

On the other hand, the group of people who I represent and are out there doing a lot of work, Anonymous and others, they want transparency, they want openness. They believe that democracy needs transparency.

JAY: I was just going to say, there’s apparently a lot of protests that are going to play—or solidarity rallies or something about the Manning case around the world.

RATNER: There’s already been a number of them. There were 40 of them on the actual 1,000th day. And there’s probably hundreds of them right now. Bradley Manning has a lot of support, all of these people have a fair amount of support, because there’s a lot of people out there who understand that our governments are not about openness and transparency and democracy, but are about closing themselves up. The only people the government wants open are you and me and whatever we do on the internet. In fact, the opposite should be there. We should have privacy, and governments should be transparent.

So you have Jeremy Hammond in court today making a motion to get rid of the judge. And here’s why. It’s crazy. The judge’s husband is at a law firm called Cahill Gordon in New York, and his email was one of the emails hacked and revealed by Stratfor, or allegedly by the defendant sitting in the courtroom of the woman whose husband’s email was looked at—not the content, but at least the name, and then the law firm’s client as well; their emails were published. And you would think that that’s—you know, a recusal would be there because of bias that the judge might have, or at least the perception of bias.

We went into court. Lawyers from Jeremy Hammond argued it today. Immediately afterwards, or shortly afterwards—the opinion was obviously written before—the judge issued a 27-page opinion denying the recusal and saying she’s going to continue to sit on the case. It’s an outrage. I mean, it’s just an outrage. Here you have a judge sitting on the case where her husband’s email, even though it was a public email, was revealed by a hacker because it was part of the Stratfor intelligence system. It doesn’t make any sense to me why that judge is continuing to sit.

So you have Hammond there. Then you have, as I said, Bradley Manning [incompr.], Julian Assange in the embassy.

And then yesterday, 20 February, you have an incredible document issued by the United States government. It’s called—and I’ll have to look at it ’cause it has such a crazy name—”Administration’s Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets”. Now, when I did the press conference yesterday, we thought that might have been in response to China, you know, this allegation that China’s getting into our U.S. computers, etc. In fact, of course, it is around China and other countries, but a lot of it goes after people like Jeremy Hammond, WikiLeaks, and other people who are trying to open up government secrets that should not be hidden. And they go in.

And what’s interesting about the document is Holder stands in front of people and has the nerve to say, we think there must be increased enforcement against these kind of groups that are working, really, to open up government secrets. He’s putting it in an economic guise to try and sell it and saying these groups are going to try and, you know, commit economic sabotage, which, of course, as far as I can tell has not been the case.

And one of the fascinating things about the document (and it’s 141 pages; you can get it online) is what it says about my client, WikiLeaks. We consider—and WikiLeaks is a publishing company. It publishes information that it gets from sources, whether that source was Bradley Manning or that source was Jeremy Hammond or other people around the world; it publishes like The New York Times. How does it differ from The New York Times? I don’t know how it is. But according to Holder in this report—this report is written by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, nine government agencies [crosstalk]

JAY: Just to be clear, when you say, “How does it differ from The New York Times,” you’re not talking some generality. WikiLeaks published all this stuff through The New York Times and several other major newspapers. So, I mean, they participated in it with WikiLeaks. But WikiLeaks is the only one that’s being singled out.

RATNER: Right. There were four groups when the initial drop of the documents happened, or a certain number, I mean, four people. There’s WikiLeaks, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, and that’s who published it. But WikiLeaks somehow is not considered a publisher. I don’t know why, why Biden calls them high-tech terrorists, etc.

What is interesting about this report from Holder, which I’m holding up here, it’s eight different groups. What they call WikiLeaks is, quote, “self-styled whistleblowing group”. They don’t call it a publisher. They don’t even call it a whistleblowing group. They say “self-styled.” So, what do they really think it is? Do they really think it’s what Biden says, high-tech terrorist groups? Are they looking at it like they’re going to prosecute it? The answer is—it seems to me, to that is a yes. They’re looking at WikiLeaks as a target of some criminal investigation.

In the same paragraph, they mention another group called LulzSec, L-U-L-Z-S-E-C. That means Lulz Security. That’s the group that Jeremy Hammond allegedly belonged to and that allegedly hacked into Stratfor. And they put them all in the same group. They say groups like LulzSec have to be, essentially, prosecuted. In fact, they’ve already destroyed LulzSec through the informant.

So what’s interesting about this report—and I think it’s mandatory reading—is what’s going on here is this government has now decided to just shut itself up completely and go after anybody who wants to open up secrets and who had our attorney general standing in front of a huge crowd saying we need increased enforcement. To me what “increased enforcement” here is is putting people like—it is basically saying, we’re going to put these people against a wall and just shoot them, because what else can they do? They’ve already pushed them into life sentences. They’ve pushed them into, you know, incredibly heavy charges. They already caused one man, Aaron Swartz, to commit suicide. And now they’re saying they need increased enforcement.

I mean, what’s going on here is this fight between transparency of the government and government that shuts itself off and doesn’t allow the people to know what they’re doing and therefore cuts off any chance of democracy. We’re at a very, very serious moment.

JAY: The kind of rhetoric you’re quoting Biden with is the kind of justification for using the indefinite internment under the NDAA legislation. Once you start using that kind of language about somebody, why can’t the military pick them up and hold them?

RATNER: That’s absolutely right, Paul. And it goes to that kind of language, that if there are terrorists, then the NDAA, National Defense Authorization Act, authorized their detention. And then why can’t you drone them to death? You know, we saw that report that China was considering droning a person in their mountains who was a drug dealer. Well, you know, there’s been no ruling, no legal ruling that drones can’t be used not only in any country in the world and against American citizens, but in this country as well. And, of course, we have used, as people know, we have occasionally, you know, whether it’s a MoveOn in Philadelphia—MOVE in Philadelphia, not MoveOn, MOVE, the organization that they dropped a bomb on top of the house, or—you know, they do these kind of things. And you have to worry when Biden is using language like that. And that’s why the safest place Julian Assange can be right now, other than in Ecuador, is in the embassy.

JAY: Right. Alright. Thanks for joining us, Michael.

RATNER: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America, and Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.

NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.