Tampa activist receives thank-you letter from Bradley Manning; direct action planned at MacDill AFB

05/08/13 Seán Kinane
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In Tampa supporters of Private Bradley Manning are planning direct action outside MacDill Air Force base on June 1. MacDill is the home of U.S. Central Command. It’s part of a nationwide coordinated day of action and is being organized locally by the Tampa Bay Bradley Manning Support Network.

From his prison cell, Manning recently thanked an active member of the local group, Billy Livsey, in a handwritten letter.

"Dear Billy, it means more than I can express to have a gay man and activist organizing on this issue for me.I know you could put your talents in many places, thank you for using them to expose the truth about the war and for helping me. All the best, Private Bradley Manning."

"It didn't put the United States or the U.S. military in jeopardy, and the fact that it's come out most recently in the 35 page statement that he read, that he gave great thought into releasing. He actually approached the New York Times, the Washington Post and they either ignored or didn't get back to him before he ever released the information to Wikileaks. That information is necessary and crucial for all of us as taxpayers and citizens to make an informed decision about what is going on in the war. So I think that what he did was rather brave, I think he knew what he was doing, and I think the fact that he admitted to that chunk of it - that he really did release this, so that was no longer in question - shows that he understood going in to this that it was certainly against military policy for him to do this, but he gave great care to what he released, how it was released, and he wanted to create a conversation with the American people about the war. I understand that mindset and I think he should be applauded for being a hero. So it meant a lot to me to know that he is an activist and so for him to acknowledge me as that means that I hope he takes some solace in knowing that there are some people around the country who aren't just clicking like on Facebook saying, 'Gosh, it's too bad this kid's behind bars.' or just not informed at all, but {there are people] taking an activist approach to not only free him - because who knows if that is even possible - but to having the conversation that he wanted to have about our foreign policy."

There's been a recent development in the case: the judge recently ruled that the documents in the case would not be available to the public or the press. Tell us about that and what you think about that.

"I think that that's ridiculous. That's like trying to have a trial in a vacuum and the result can come out at the end without any analysis along the way. There's an effort being coordinated nationally to call the Major General, and we're are going to be calling him, 'cause he has the authority to release that sort of gag order is how I look on it. I don't know if that will be successful, but I think it's important that the Department of Defense and the military know that there are people watching what's going on and I think it's an affront to journalism and the freedom of the press. All of this is because Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower that should be protected. What's to stop an investigative journalist, who's doing a story about the war or anything in the middle east, from being charged with aiding and abetting the enemy by releasing information that's simply that truth that might be contrary to what we are being fed in press releases from the White House or Pentagon. So I think it will further silence and efforts at real reporting if this prosecution is allowed not only to continue, but ends up in some horrific sentence. And it will send a message to whistle-blowers around the country that they need to be quiet as well."

There's a coordinated day of action on June 1st. Are you going to be involved in that and what might people expect?

"There's a coordinated effort around the country. Obviously the national call is for people to go to Fort Meade in Maryland because the court Marshall is expected to star that Monday, June 3rd and thousands will show up in Maryland. Tampa I think is a unique place, because Cent Comm is here at Mac Dill Air force Base and Cent Comm is the place where many of the decisions about what really goes on, in our military endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan, are made. And so you can expect to have that discussion happen and a solidarity action in Tampa to support not only the free speech, freedom of the press, and, of course, freeing Bradley Manning on June 1st."

Like Manning, Livsey is gay – but not everyone in the LGBT community is embracing Bradley Manning. The last week has seen controversy in San Francisco where supporters are livid Manning was not chosen as an honorary grand marshal of the city’s annual gay rights parade.

But that hasn’t dimmed Livsey’s activism to help free Bradley Manning.

A military judge has ordered what prosecutors say is an unprecedented closed hearing Wednesday. It will help her decide how much of Private Bradley Manning's trial will be closed to protect national security. Manning has admitted to giving reams of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

An unidentified prosecution witness will testify in a dry run to test alternatives to courtroom closures during presentation of classified evidence in Manning’s court-martial. The strategies could include redacted documents, unclassified summaries and even code words for classified information.

Link to information about the June 1 demonstration and direct action at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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Bradley Manning should be awarded the Noble Peace Prize (hands down) as well as be offered the rank and compensation of a four star general, at the very least.