Chelsea Manning acceptance statement of Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence


Aaron Kirkhouse (left), a childhood friend of Chelsea Manning, accepting the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence on her behalf. Also in photo: US Army Col. Ann Wright (ret.), Craig Murray, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Chelsea Manning via Aaron Kirkhouse. February 19, 2014

The founders of America – fresh from a war of independence from King George lll – were particularly fearful of concentrating power. James Madison wrote that “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”(1)

To address these concerns, the founders of America actively took steps when drafting the Constitution and ratifying a Bill of Rights-including protections echoing the Libertarianism of John Locke-to ensure that no person be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

More recently, though, since the rise of the national security apparatus – after a brief hiatus between the fall of the Soviet Union and the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center – the American government has been pursuing an unprecedented amount of secrecy and power consolidation in the Executive branch, under the President and the Cabinet.

When drafting Article III of the American Constitution, the founders were rather leery of accusations of treason, and accorded special protections for those accused of such a capital offense, providing that “[n]o person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

For those of you familiar with the American Constitution, you may notice that this provision is under the Article concerning the Judiciary, Article III, and not the Legislative or Executive Articles, I and II respectively. And, historically, when the American government accuses an American of such crimes, it has prosecuted them in a federal criminal court.

In a recent Freedom of Information Act case(2) – a seemingly Orwellian “newspeak” name for a statute that actually exempts categories of documents from release to the public – a federal district court judge ruled against the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Times and the ACLU argued that documents regarding the practice of “targeted killing” of American citizens, such as the radical Sunni cleric Anwar Nasser al-Aulaqi were in the public’s interest and were being withheld improperly.

The government first refused to acknowledge the existence of the documents, but later argued that their release could harm national security and were therefore exempt from disclosure. The court, however, felt constrained by the law and “conclud[ed] that the Government [had] not violated the FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and [could not] be compelled . . . to explain in detail the reasons why [the Government’s] actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

However, the judge also wrote candidly about her frustration with her sense that the request “implicate[d] serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States,” and that the Presidential “Administration ha[d] engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of [American] citizens, but in cryptic and imprecise ways.” In other words, it wasn’t that she didn’t think that the public didn’t have a right to know – it was that she didn’t feel that she had the “legal” authority to compel disclosure.

This case, like too many others, presents a critical problem that can also be seen in several recent cases, including my court-martial. For instance, I was accused by the Executive branch, and particularly the Department of Defense, of aiding the enemy – a treasonable offense covered under Article III of the Constitution.

Granted, I received due process. I received charges, was arraigned before a military judge for trial, and eventually acquitted. But, the al-Aulaqi case raises a fundamental question: did the American government, and particularly the same President and Department, have the power to unilaterally determine my guilt of such an offense, and execute me at the will of the pilot of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle?

Until documents held by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel were released after significant political pressure in mid-2013, I could not tell you. And, very likely, I do not believe I could speak intelligently of the Administration’s policy on “targeted killing” today either.

There is a problem with this level of secrecy, obfuscation, and classification or protective marking, in that they supposedly protect citizens of their nation; yet, it also breeds a unilateralism that the founders feared, and deliberately tried to prevent when drafting the American Constitution. Now, we have a “disposition matrix,” classified military commissions, and foreign intelligence and surveillance courts – modern Star Chamber equivalents.

I am now accepting this award, through my friend, former school peer, and former small business partner, Aaron, for the release of a video and documents that “sparked a worldwide dialogue about the importance of government accountability for human rights abuses,” it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the dangers of withholding documents, legal interpretations, and court jurisprudence from the public that pertain to the right to “life, liberty, and property” of a state’s citizens is as fundamental and important to protecting against such human rights abuses.

When the public lacks the ability to access what its government is doing, it ceases to be involved in the governing process. There is a distinct difference between citizens, in which people are entitled to rights and privileges protected by and from the state, and subjects, in which people are placed under the absolute authority and control of the state. In essence, this is the difference between tyranny and freedom. To echo a maxim from Milton and Rose Friedman: a society that puts secrecy – in the sense of state secrecy – ahead of transparency and accountability will end up neither secure nor free.

Thank you,

1 – Federalist Papers, No. 47 (1788).
2 – New York Times v. United States Department of Justice, 915 F. Supp.2d 5O8, (S.D.N.Y.,2013.01.03).

24 thoughts on “Chelsea Manning acceptance statement of Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence

  1. A “society that puts secrecy – in the sense of state secrecy – ahead of transparency and accountability will end up neither secure nor free.” We are already there. FEMA prisons springing up like mushrooms everywhere (but not as soft) are an indication that the state is preparing for civil unrest. Civil unrest is not going to help. These new measures must be defeated intellectually. Congratulations Chelsea Manning on winning the Sam Adams Award.

  2. Thank-you, Chelsea, for all that you have done to raise awareness of political human rights abuses. You are courageous, act with integrity, and have done so much for your country. You are my hero. I pray for your release. Truly, Sheila Cody

  3. chelsea; you deserve to receive untold numbers of honors. it is a travesty that you received a prison sentence. i hope one day to stand at the gates of fort leavenworth arm in arm with so many other of your supporters and welcome you home as those gates open and set you free.

  4. Heartfelt thanks Chelsea for your courageous stand on the side of Freedom Truth Accountability for all of us in this Nation and for the rights of human beings to be treated with respect. This nation needs to be set upon righteous and Constitutional paths once again, and you certainly did your part in honoring your oath to defend the Constitution. The travesty of justice that jailed YOU and left the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to run free must not stand! Much love and admiration. I expect to be there when you are set free!

  5. Chelsea, As you accept the honor that you so deserve, remember to honor yourself by affirming your worth everyday. You stand as an example to us all. Your freedom remains a prayer to those of us who stand with you.

  6. The human race should be grieving at your continued incarceration Chelsea. I’m sure one day in the future your freedom will mark the real change this evil corporate controlled world must have.

    Please keep well there.

    Your sister in Wales!

  7. Bravo Chelsea! Am so proud of you for having the courage to be true to your
    conscience. Too many others have feared to do so. You fit my definition of a true hero. For having the intelligence and integrity to merit this honor-Congratulations!

  8. CHELSEA …I can not thank you enough, to stand up for
    our rights and our freedom.I want with all my heart to see you free, because you deserve HONOUR and Not jail.
    Keep Strong my dearest HERO,we are putting pressure on
    our government in UK , and they must know , that they are on the wrong path of history.

  9. I can’t think of better role-models for American kids than Chelsey Manning & Edward Snowden. May they both realize freedom soon!

  10. Justice, USA style: Chelsea Maning exposes a team of cold-blooded helicopter gunship murderers.

    Manning is sentenced to 35 years jail.

    The murderers walk free.

    To quote Rael Nidess M>D., “I can’t think of better role-models for American kids than Chelsey Manning & Edward Snowden. May they both realize freedom soon!”

  11. “I can’t think of better role-models for American kids than Chelsey Manning & Edward Snowden.”

    Thanks, Rael. But don’t be so insular, Chelsea and Edward are role models for the whole of humanity. The hunt for whistle-blowers should be turned on their pursuers. What is needed is a Bertrand Russell-type tribunal to try *deep state* perpetrators.

  12. We all know how Chelsea Manning was vilified in the press … When you read her statement, however, after a sentence or two, you get a true picture of a quite human and very intelligent American patriot. Bravo!

  13. Congratulations on the award Chelsea Manning! With your integrity and courage to act, you have put in debt the whole of humanity. And it is now the rest of humanity’s duty to keep fighting for your release, and for correcting the ongoing injustices and preventing future crimes committed by the governments of the world. You are in our thoughts every day, and we will do whatever we can. Stay strong!

  14. Whistle blowers Chelsea Manning,Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange will go down in history as key figures in a pivotal moment in human history as beacons of light in a world shrouded in darkness. As MLK said ” The arch of time is long but it bends forever towards justice.”

  15. You have shown amazing dignity and courage in the face of adversity. Your plight and your service to democracy must not be forgotten. You are a true American hero. Congratulations on the award!

  16. Congratulations Chelsea. And condolences for your penalty for helping us understand what we need to know. None of that make sense, but you know what you did for us and we do too.

    Flaws in our government aren’t new. Many centuries ago Voltaire said, “It is dangerous to be right on matters on which the established authorities are wrong”. I am doubly sorry that you are paying a severe price for being right.

  17. Congratulations for your award, and condolences for losing your freedom for doing what needed to be done.

    Many centuries ago Voltaire said, “It is dangerous to be right on matters in which the established authorities are wrong”. I also am sorry that you had to experience that with such a vindictive penalty. But you know that many millions of people appreciate you.

  18. WE seem to on the way to becoming a dictatorship here in the United States Public awareness of this fact can eventually defeat these un elected representatives in the US government.

  19. Last Notice For Chelsea Manning Contingent In The Boston Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade

    Heroic Wikileaks Whistleblower Private Chelsea Manning ‘s Fight For Freedom Will Again Be Remembered At The Fourth Annual Veterans For Peace-Led Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade in South Boston On March 16, 2014

    VFPers (and many others) are still committed to fighting for freedom for Chelsea Manning and, as we have the past three years, will be prominently displaying signs and stickers on her behalf. We will have an organized group right behind the VFP-lead contingent within the parade in order to honor Chelsea and spread the word about her plight and about the need to have President Obama pardon her.

    We will have the VFP Chelsea banner, new Chelsea signs and sticker reflecting Chelsea’s gender-change although others can make signs available to be passed out at the parade. Also Amnesty International/Courage To Resist petitions to be signed calling on President Obama to pardon our sister. We will not leave our sister behind.

    We will be forming up at the corner of D Street and West Fourth in South Boston (take Redline MBTA to Broadway Station-walk up four blocks and then left) at 2 PM for a 3 PM step-off (note time change).

    Finally the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade Organizing Committee has incurred some expenses organizing this effect. In order to off-set those expenses we are urging every participant to buy a Peace Parade 2014 button to commemorate the event. Suggested donation is $5.00 so bring some cash with you if possible.

  20. Dear Chelsea, your courage and sacrifice leave me ashamed for all the people who have chosen to stay silent when their rights were turned into privileges and finally taken away from them. How could we have been so blind… how could I have been so blind. I hope it’s not too late to turn this tide. We all, you in the first place, deserve a better future than sharing your ordeal, for that’s the direction we’re heading.

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