Government

Berkeley City Council tables WikiLeaks resolution

A resolution to brand Pfc. Bradley Manning a hero brought out both supporters and critics. Photo: John C. Osborn

The Berkeley City Council voted last night to table a controversial resolution calling for the release of alleged military whistle blower Private Bradley Manning from military prison and to honor him as a hero if he did leak sensitive information to WikiLeaks.

Virtually all council members and Mayor Tom Bates voted to table the resolution, while District 3 Councilman Max Anderson abstained. By tabling the motion, any council member can bring the issue back for consideration at a future date.

“We’ve gotten to the point in this country,” Anderson said, “where heroes are designed by job category, not action.”

The move to ultimately table the resolution stemmed from what a number of council members saw as a lack of certainty as to whether Manning was, in fact, the WikiLeaks whistle blower and if he was, what his motives were. That aside, comments from both the public and council expressed the complexity of the issue at hand, where values of transparency, open government, and the need for state secrecy collided into a volatile soup.

Berkeley had been thrust into the international spotlight since its Peace and Justice Commission passed a resolution that called Manning a hero. While the commission adopted the measure on Nov. 1, it only became public a month later, soon after WikiLeaks had released another batch of sensitive U.S. documents. The revelation of what many consider government secrets, the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on sexual assault charges, and Berkeley’s resolution, created a huge media storm.

The resolution asked that the council formally urge the U.S. government to release Manning and drop all charges against him; and if it is discovered that Manning did, in fact, leak the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, among other leaks, the council would declare him a hero and thank him for his courage.

The majority of the 20 or so people who commented on the issue supported the resolution (a contrast to Berkeleyside’s poll). A number of residents held orange, pink, and blue signs in support of Manning. One sign read “Bradley Manning is a Hero,” another read “Free Bradley Manning. Support WikiLeaks.” Most of the supporters of Manning assumed he did leak the video.

One resident, Gene Bernardi, said that what Manning did was a service to the country. He shed light on the truth behind the wars and should be freed.

“Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime,” Bernardi said.

Resolution author and Peace and Justice Commissioner Bob Meola explained that taxpayers have a right to know where their taxes are going, especially if the government is engaged in corruption and cover-ups over the wars. He pointed at funds given to Pakistan to fight the war on terror that were then turned over to the Taliban, the people fighting American troops in Afghanistan.

“Whoever did this needs to be thanked by the American people,” Meola said.

Berkeley resident David Salisbury said the council should vote no on the “foolish resolution” and commented that diplomacy, which people in Berkeley supposedly value over war, demands a certain level of discretion. He added that it was time for the ’60s mentality to give way to new ideas

“Without privacy, how are we going to have diplomacy,” Salisbury said. “Berkeley needs to grow up.”

Danny Gonzalez, a spokesperson for Sacramento-based non-profit Move America Forward, which advocates for American troops and veterans, strongly criticized the council for even considering to praise Manning for leaking information that could harm U.S. soldiers. He said the organization collected 4,660 signed petitions from Berkeley residents opposing the resolution as of the meeting.

“Don’t call this traitor Bradley Manning a hero,” Gonzalez said.

Bateman Neighborhood Association Board Member Jim Bullock read a letter from the association’s Board that lambasted the council for wasting time, money, and staff resources on “feel-good issues,” while local issues, such as homelessness, crime, and the economy demand attention.

“It’s frustrating that the council spends way too much time on issues in which you have no jurisdiction,” he said. The association took no position on the actual resolution.

Council members had mixed reactions to not only the resolution, but also the greater issues of transparency vs. secrecy.

District 8 Council member Gordon Wozniak criticized the wholesale dumping of some 250,000 diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks and questioned the judgment of the Peace and Justice Commission after its chair, Wendy Kenin, explained that no one expected the media frenzy that followed.

“I would question that judgment,” Wozniak said. He added that not all information should be made available to the public. “Some information should be kept secret. We can argue, but I suspect there is going to be a lot of harm (from the leaks).”

Anderson, a veteran, took the opportunity to criticize the media for not being courageous enough to report on the truth, particularly embedded reporters, and the Pentagon for subjecting America’s youth fighting abroad to such horrors as shown on the 2007 video and then turning its back on them when they return home.

“The young people that we send to defend our country get transformed into monstrous people,” Anderson said. “They are used as cannon fodder and are then disregarded.”

Mayor Bates said the city took a positive step to openly discuss the incredible number of issues involved with Manning yet couldn’t proclaim him a hero without first knowing his motives and the facts behind the case. Even still, Bates countered critics who said taking on national issues such as this one somehow impeded the city’s ability to tackle local issues, citing the city’s extensive budget work and AAA bond rating as proof.

“This is not stalling us from doing the work we do,” Bates said.

Manning, 22, is accused of leaking a number of top secret and confidential material to WikiLeaks and faces 52 years in federal prison for illegally sharing classified information. Initially, he was accused of providing WikiLeaks with video from a 2007 incident where a U.S. Apache helicopter gunned down 11 Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists after soldiers mistook camera equipment for weapons.

Since then, whenever WikiLeaks released classified information to its website or media allies, U.S. officials suspected that Manning was behind the leak. Wikileaks has released tens of thousands of pages of documents about military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq, and 250,000 diplomatic cables which generally humiliated the U.S. State Department.

Bradley Manning – Wikileaks

The Berkeley City Council last night voted to table a controversial resolution to honor alleged military whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning and call for his release from military prison.

Virtually all councilmembers and Mayor Tom Bates voted to table the resolution, while Councilmember Max Anderson abstained. By tabling the motion, any councilmember could bring the issue back for consideration at a future date.

“We’ve gotten to the point in this country,” Anderson said in support of Pfc. Manning, “where heroes are designed by job category and not action.”

The move to ultimately table the resolution stemmed from what a number of councilmembers saw as a lack of certainty as to whether Pfc. Manning was, in fact, the WikiLeaks whistleblower and if he was, what his motives were if any. But comments from the public and council expressed the complexity of the issue at hand, where values of transparency, open government, and the need for state secrecy collide in violate soup.

Berkeley has been thrust into the international spotlight since its Peace and Justice Commission passed a resolution on Nov. 1 that generally scoffed the position U.S. officials have taken on the Pfc. Manning question, while a broader, and certainly contentious, conflict over WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange rages worldwide.

The resolution asked that the council formally urge the U.S. government to release Pfc. Manning and drop all charges against him; and if it is discovered that Pfc. Manning did, in fact, leak the 2007 video, among other leaks, the council should declare him a hero and thank him for his courage.

The vast majority of the 20-or-so people who commented on the issue supported the resolution. A number of residents held orange and pink signs in support of Pfc. Manning. One sign read “Bradley Manning is a Hero,” another “Free Bradley Manning. Support WikiLeaks.”

One resident, Jean Bernardy, said that what Pfc. Manning did is a service to the country by shining light on the truth behind the wars and should be freed.

“Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime,” she said.

@@@@@Peace and Justice Author

Berkeley resident David Salisbury said the council should vote no on the “foolish resolution” and commented that diplomacy, which people in Berkeley value, demands a certain level of discretion.

“Without privacy,” he said, “how are we going to have diplomacy.”

Jim Bullock, speaking for the Batesman Neighborhood Association, lambasted the council for wasting time, money, and staff resources on “feel-good issues”, while local issues, such as homelessness, crime, and floundering business needs to be addressed.

“It’s frustrating that the council spends way too much time on issues in which you have no jurisdiction,” he said.

Councilmembers XX and YY commented that their constituents overwhelmingly opposed the resolution.

Pfc. Manning is accused of leaking a number of top secret and confidential material to Internet-based WikiLeaks and faces 52 years in Federal prison if convicted of XXX (exact crime). Media outlets have reported rumors that a secret panel is currently working on indictments for Assanage, who is currently being held in England for alleged sex crimes in Sweden, regarding what could be violations of U.S. law.

Initially, he was accused of providing the website with video from a 2007 incident where a U.S. apache helicopter gunned down 11 Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists after soldiers mistook camera equipment for weapons. He was arrested after a friend turned him in to authorities after Manning allegedly confided that he leaked the material.

Since then, whenever WikiLeaks released classified information to its website or media allies, U.S. officials suspected that Manning was behind the leak, including tens-of-thousands of pages worth of documents about military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently 250,000 diplomatic cables which generally humiliated the U.S. State Department.

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  • mark streets

    manning should be hung for treason hes a lieing cowerd !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • laura menard

    Being a Berkeleyan who does not conform to groupthink or the fear tactics of ideologues like Max Anderson or Phoebe Sorgen I read from all points of view and across political lines. I found political scientist and intelligence expert Friedman’s article to a well reasoned and informed.
    http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2010/12/14/taking_stock_of_wikileaks_99313.html

    “This is the contradiction at the heart of the WikiLeaks project. Given what I have read Assange saying, he seems to me to be an opponent of war and a supporter of peace. Yet what he did in leaking these documents, if the leaking did anything at all, is make diplomacy more difficult. It is not that it will lead to war by any means; it is simply that one cannot advocate negotiations and then demand that negotiators be denied confidentiality in which to conduct their negotiations. No business could do that, nor could any other institution. Note how vigorously WikiLeaks hides the inner workings of its own organization, from how it is funded to the people it employs.”

  • Melanie

    Mr. Streets, this is the United States of America, and our laws state that people are innocent until proven guilty.

  • DC

    Melanie: I think courts martial have slightly different standards from civilian law.
    In any case, nothing regarding his case has anything to do with Berkeley city government.

  • David

    I’m a Field Artillery Officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a former INTEL analyst; similar to SPC Manning. SPC Manning is not a hero. The information that is released is not fact but pieces from different INTEL sources. The INTEL analyst is trained to make logic from these pieces. I say about 65% of the classified INTEL is untrue because most of it is HUMINT, and unlike our culture, the Afghani and Iraqi culture has a tendency to over exaggerate or bluntly lie. It is very important to have INTEL analyst and investigation officers. When we find a soldier or soldiers being guilty of war crimes they are punished very harshly. Our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is to build up the society and protect the civilian populace. Our counter insurgency manual is free online, please read it. If you visit the country and get first hand account from the Iraqi populace; you will understand the majority of the population does not want us to leave. We had to build their confidense in their own security forces. All that SPC Manning did, with Wikileaks help, was throw out a bunch of tabloid information to the public and called it facts; not true (why would we have INTEL analyst?). I am really upset about the mention of U.S. turning a blind eye to Iraqi torture. We do not, but it is something that will take time to change. Our definition of torture is different from the Iraqis. Iraqis do not see slapping and causing physical harm as torture, so we have to slowly weed it out. Torture to the Iraqis is undressing them. People want to turn this war into the Vietnam war with a draft style military. The vast majority of men and women of our military put their lives on the line every day for the Afghani and Iraqi civilians. All they ask of the American public is to support the mission GEN Petreaus has given us. We do not want more money, days off, less hours; just your support.

  • Michael Anderson

    Manning had a security clearance and betrayed that trust. He is guilty of TREASON! *PERIOD*

  • Mike Farrell

    David, thank you for an intelligent and lucid post from outside the box that is Berkeley.

  • Zach

    DC is right. There is no good reason for the City Council to weigh in on this issue, or any other national/international political issue, one way or another. It’s not their job. Their job is to manage the actual operations of the City of Berkeley – streets, sewers, buildings, fire, police, etc. There are a lot of smart folks in Berkeley with different opinions on the issues of the day, and we all have plenty of avenues to share those opinions with the world – civic groups, the Internet, etc.

    I’m still waiting for someone to come onto Berkeleyside and make a case for why we need the Peace and Justice Commission at all. The whole idea just sounds so presumptuous.

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  • John

    Who should be on trial is Military Intel for having a undisciplined systems where some weary and disolutioned soldier could walk out of a secure security work place facility with a treasure trove of classified info like this.

    Focusing on Brad Manning is just a smoke screen so they can shift the blame solely on him and cry Red, White and Blue so people don’t look to deep at the findings.

    Free Manning and jail his superiors all the way to the top, its called responsible government.
    Berkeley City Council is truly a Brave and Patriotic American institution for not believing the hype and looking at the facts.