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Ex-CIA Analyst Decries Manning Abuse

By David C. MacMichael
March 10, 2011

Editor’s Note: In the 1980s, David MacMichael, then a CIA analyst, grew disillusioned with the lies that pervaded the Reagan administration’s policies, especially over the Contra War in Nicaragua. He left the CIA and spoke out against crimes and abuses that he had witnessed.

Like millions of Americans, MacMichael also saw some hope for change in the 2008 campaign of Barack Obama. However, MacMichael and many others have grown disillusioned with President Obama’s preference for continuity regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and national security policies.

MacMichael, as a whistle blower himself, is particularly offended by the harsh treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning for allegedly leaking classified material relating to the two wars and describing U.S. diplomatic relations with repressive regimes around the world.

MacMichael expressed his outrage in this letter to President Obama:

I write to you in your capacity as the commander-in-chief of the armed services of the United States to express my concern, indeed my outrage, at the way in which the prosecution of U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is being conducted.

You are, I am sure, aware of the public attention, both in the United States and abroad, being paid to Manning’s case. Few can understand either the length of time without trial since his arrest for the unauthorized distribution of classified material nor the harsh conditions under which he is being held at the Quantico Marine Corps Base brig.

Many, and I am among them, who sympathize with his motive for doing this – to expose to the U.S. and world publics the manner, often arguably criminal, in which the U.S. armed forces are conducting the wars in the Middle East and the non-transparent way in which our diplomatic representatives are making and implementing foreign policy – also realize that, however worthy the cause, those who disobey the law should be tried in accordance with the law. 

This, as I need not tell you, even under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, requires not only a prompt trial, but that pre-trial confinement be humane.
Manning has now been imprisoned for over ten months and, regardless of statements to the contrary made by your military subordinates, the conditions of his confinement are not only highly unusual but so severe as to violate, in the opinion of distinguished jurists, both U.S. and international law.

I will not speculate here on just why this is being done but only note that many commentators believe that this is part of a larger effort by your administration to block and criminalize "whistle blowing" of the "Pentagon Papers" genre, specifically the activities of Wikileaks and its founder, the Australian citizen, Julian Assange.

Mr. Obama, I was one of the many thousands of people who heard your pronouncements of hope and change during the 2008 presidential campaign and, in my case, as a member of the Warren County, Virginia, Democratic Party Committee, devoted hundreds of hours and helped raise thousands of dollars for the effort which enabled you to capture the electoral votes of Virginia and secure the presidency.

I am now among the many and growing thousands of people who feel betrayed by you, especially by your continuation and expansion of the wars you inherited in the Middle East. Dashed hopes and very small change.

I have focused here on the Manning case not only because it is symbolic of
what I consider your failure to live up to the hopes you raised in 2008 or to make any real change, but because it is an instance where you can intervene directly to see not only that justice is done but that it is no longer delayed.

That you do not do this smacks of the hypocrisy that I began to fear in you when you accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, which fear was realized when you, as I have noted, went on to continue and expand our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama, I am now almost 83 years old. I was raised during the Great Depression and am a veteran of World War II and the Korean War in the latter of which as a Marine Corps officer I was severely wounded, and am now retired on veterans disability.

Ironically, perhaps, my last assignment before resigning my captain’s commission in 1959 was commanding the headquarters company at Quantico, something which gives me a special interest in Manning’s case.

After leaving the Marine Corps – remaining in the reserve for an additional ten years – I became a National Defense Education Act Fellow at the University of Oregon where I got my Ph.D. in the history of U.S. foreign relations.

Subsequently, I taught for several years before joining the Stanford Research Institute where I conducted Defense Department-funded studies in Central America and then in Thailand where I was assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s office of the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency between 1965 and 1969.
A decade or so later I was hired by the Central Intelligence Agency as a senior estimates officer at the National Intelligence Council.

I left the CIA in 1983 because, having major responsibility for national intelligence estimates on the western hemisphere, I could not support the lies of the Reagan administration used to rationalize the so-called contra war on Nicaragua.

Indeed, in 1985, I testified for Nicaragua at the U.N. International Court in The Hague where the U.S. was found guilty of numerous counts of violation of Nicaragua’s international law rights – basically of aggression.

Later in the 1980s I helped organize and headed the Washington office of a group of former U.S. intelligence officers – CIA and military – dedicated to exposing and ending that subtle form of aggression known as covert operations and publishing and editing the prize-winning bimonthly, UNCLASSIFIED.

I retired in 1994, hoping that with the end of the Cold War, there might be an end to the lies and aggressions I had been opposing, but this was not to be.
In the run-up to the Bush II wars I joined another group of former intelligence officers exposing the manipulation (falsification) of post-9/11 "intelligence" to deceive the American people and their representatives into authorizing yet another set of wars.

I must apologize for introducing here this over-lengthy CV. However,  I want to make sure you understand that in my long life I have had some experience at relatively high levels that allow me to speak not only to the immediate matter of the Manning case but to the foreign and military policies of your administration. 

In closing, I emphasize my disappointment, most especially with what I believe is your hypocrisy – the change that turned out to be policy and politics as usual.

It is now my intention to devote as much effort to oppose your re-nomination and re-election in 2012 as I did in 2008 to secure them for you.

I do not pretend that my personal opposition is in any way significant, but I know that my disappointment, even disgust, is shared by many others who worked  so hard to put you in office, the so-called "base" on whom you then turned your back.

The lesser evil is not a good enough reason to support you again.

But who knows? Perhaps you really do have better instincts.

One way you could show them, Mr. Commander-in-Chief, is to order your subordinates to end the inhumane conditions of PFC Manning’s confinement;  proceed immediately with a court-martial (dropping these insane 1917 Espionage Act charges "aiding the enemy!" just piled on); and subsequently use, if necessary, your powers of clemency with regard to any sentence.

In a recent letter to General Amos, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, on this matter I pointed out that Lt. Col. Oliver North, not only was never court-martialed for the commission of crimes at least as serious of those with which Manning was has been charged – including mishandling of classified documents – but, convicted in civilian court, was given only community service as punishment. Talk about equal justice under the law.

Mr. Obama, Mr. President. I regret taking so much of your (or your staff’s) time with this letter. As of now, I regret even more the trust and political support I gave you in 2008.

Sincerely yours,

David  C. MacMichael     

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