Tag Archives: espionage

IOC VP: Snubs? Snowden? Anti-gay laws? No problem for Olympics

The Winter Olympics in Sochi should not be affected by the heightened political tensions between the United States and Russia over Edward Snowden, gay rights and other issues, a vice president of the IOC said this week.

“If there are political tensions arising, it wouldn’t be the first time before an Olympic Games, and in the main, Olympic Games overcome political tensions,” IOC vice president Craig Reedie of Britain told The Associated Press.

Reedie downplayed the impact of President Barack Obama’s decision to call off a Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The snub follows Russia’s decision to grant asylum to Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker, in defiance of Obama’s repeated requests.

Obama’s decision also reflects strained ties with Russia over missile defense, Syria, human rights and other issues. He canceled the summit with Putin exactly six months before the start of the Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in southern Russia.

“I think the games are quite clearly an occasion which encourages peace among nations and I’m pretty sure, despite pressures at the moment, that’s what will appear to the world in February next year,” Reedie said in a telephone interview.

Reedie also cited the global situation before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which were held just months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and Washington.

“There must have been a question mark over that after what happened to New York, and the games went ahead,” Reedie said.

The International Olympic Committee official also said the 2008 Beijing Olympics were a “triumph” despite the pre-games controversies over China’s record on human rights, Tibet and press freedoms.

“It’s happened twice in recent years,” Reedie said. “I think it’s far too early to say what’s going on at the moment is going to be massively problematic.”

The buildup to the Sochi Games, scheduled for Feb. 7-23, has also been overshadowed recently by criticism of Russia’s new anti-gay legislation. The law, which was signed by Putin in June, bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”

Obama said he had “no patience” with countries which discriminate against gay people.

While some critics have called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, the IOC is quietly negotiating with Russian officials to make sure the law does not affect the games. Russia is also hosting the world track and field championships, which start Saturday in Moscow.

“I would hope wise counsel would be taken because they (Russia) have much to gain from a successful world athletics championships and have much to gain from a successful Olympic Games and (2018) World Cup,” Reedie said. “It is in their interests to have a decade of sport.”

100,000 call for Manning to receive Nobel Peace Prize

About 100,000 people have signed an internet petition saying they think gay Army Pfc. Bradley Manning should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The petition is being circulated by RootsAction.org and the co-founder of the cyber activist group, Norman Solomon, says he has plans to deliver the petition to the Nobel committee in Oslo later this week.

Manning was formally nominated for the prize by recipient Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, who has said, “I can think of no one more deserving.” She said Manning, convicted of espionage for relaying hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, helped end the Iraq War and “and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere.”

Manning faces up to 136 years in prison for leaking diplomatic cables, plus 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and some warzone video while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010.

He said he leaked the material to expose wrongdoing by the military and U.S. diplomats.

Prosecutors said Manning is a traitor and leaking the material threatened U.S. security and the lives of servicemembers.

Barack Obama is the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He received the honor in 2009, the first year of his presidency.

On the Web…


Military judge finds Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy

UPDATE: Military judge finds Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy.

A U.S. military judge issued a verdict today in the case of gay Army soldier Bradley Manning, who was facing life in prison for giving thousands of pieces of classified military and diplomatic information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks in one of the largest leaks in American history.

Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy but convicted on charges of espionage and theft.

The prosecution said the 25-year-old is a glory-seeking traitor.

His defense lawyers called him a naive whistleblower who was horrified by wartime atrocities but didn’t know that the material he leaked would end up in the hands of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

Army Col. Denise Lind began deliberating late last week after hearing nearly two months of conflicting evidence and arguments about the 25-year-old intelligence analyst. A military judge, not a jury, heard the case at Manning’s request.

The most serious of the charges against Manning was aiding the enemy, which carried a potential life sentence in prison. And the judge, according to various press reports released shortly after 1 p.m. EST, found Manning not guilty on this charge.

Manning’s supporters had said that a conviction on the charge would have a chilling effect on government accountability by deterring people from disclosing official secrets to journalists. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a telephone press conference last week that if Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, it will be “the end of national security journalism in the United States.”

He accused the Obama administration of waging a “war on whistleblowers” and a “war on journalism.”

Prosecutors argued Manning knew the material would be seen across the globe, including by bin Laden, when he started the leaks in late 2009. Manning said he didn’t’ start leaking until February 2010.

“Worldwide distribution, that was his goal,” said the military’s lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, during closing arguments. “Pfc. Manning knew the entire world included the enemy, from his training. He knew he was giving it to the enemy, specifically al-Qaida.”

Defense attorney David Coombs said Manning was negligent in releasing classified material, but lacked the “evil intent” that prosecutors must prove to convict him of aiding the enemy.

Coombs called the government’s final remarks “a diatribe … fictional … fantastical,” and said it leaped to conclusions and contradicted itself in areas where prosecutors could not prove something with facts.

After Coombs finished his three-hour-long argument, there was a smattering of applause from Manning supporters, who were hushed by the judge.

Manning also faced federal espionage and theft charges, and he was found guilty of those.

Manning had acknowledged giving WikiLeaks some 700,000 battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and videos, but he says he didn’t believe the information would harm troops in Afghanistan and Iraq or threaten national security.

“The amount of the documents in this case, actually, is the best evidence that he was discreet in what he chose, because if he was indiscriminate, if he was systematically harvesting, we wouldn’t be talking about a few hundred thousand documents – we’d be talking about millions of documents,” Coombs said.

Giving the material to WikiLeaks was no different than giving it to a newspaper, Coombs said. The government disagreed and said Manning would also have been charged if he had leaked the classified material to the media.

Coombs showed three snippets of video from a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack Manning leaked, showing troops firing on a small crowd of men on a Baghdad sidewalk, killing several civilians, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Coombs said the loss of civilian lives horrified the young soldier.

“You have to look at that from the point of view of a guy who cared about human life,” Coombs said.

Coombs has said Manning wanted to do something to make a difference, and he hoped revealing what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. diplomacy would inspire debate and reform in foreign and military policy.

Coombs also countered one of prosecutor Fein’s arguments that attempted to show Manning was seeking fame: A photo Manning took of himself, smiling in front of a mirror while on leave. Fein said it showed a “gleeful, grinning” Manning who was proud to be “on his way to notoriety” he wanted.

Coombs asked the judge to take a closer look at the photo, pointing out that Manning was wearing makeup and a bra.

“Maybe, just maybe … he is happy to be himself for that moment,” Coombs said of Manning’s struggle to fit into the military at a time when he was confused about his gender identity and serving openly was illegal for gays.

After his arrest in May 2010, Manning was held alone for nine months in a windowless cell 23 hours a day, sometimes with no clothing. Jailers at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, said they considered him a suicide risk. Lind later ruled Manning had been illegally punished and should get 112 days off any prison sentence he receives. 

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.