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Democracy Now! Exclusive: David House on Bradley Manning, Secret WikiLeaks Grand Jury, and U.S. Surveillance

 
 
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  On the eve of the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange in London, we spend an exclusive hour with David House, who co-founded the Bradley Manning Support Network after U.S. Army Private Manning was arrested for allegedly releasing classified U.S. military documents to WikiLeaks. House refused to testify last month in Alexandria, Virginia, before a grand jury hearing on WikiLeaks and the disclosure of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Democracy Now! spoke to House at the Frontline Club in London about the significance of WikiLeaks, how he helped found the Bradley Manning Support Network, his visits with Manning at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, the federal surveillance he and his associates have come under, and his experience before the grand jury. “In my mind, this reeks of the Pentagon Papers investigation,” says House. “Richard Nixon’s [Department of Justice] 40 years ago attempted to curtail the freedoms of the press and politically regulate the press through the use of policy created around the espionage investigation of the New York Times. I feel that the WikiLeaks case we have going on now provides Obama’s DOJample opportunity to continue this attempt to politically regulate the U.S. media.” 

 

 

AMY GOODMAN: On the eve of the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange in London, we will spend an exclusive hour with David House, who co-founded the Bradley Manning Support Network after U.S. Army Private Manning was arrested for allegedly releasing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks. David House helped publicize the oppressive conditions of Manning’s solitary confinement at the Quantico Marine Corps Base after he was allowed inside the prison to visit Bradley Manning. Manning’s conditions at Quantico were described as tantamount to torture, and it was being investigated by Juan Méndez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture. Last month, David House refused to testify before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia. House cited his right against self-incrimination and said the Obama administration is using Nixonian fear tactics to dismantle WikiLeaks.

Well, Democracy Now! caught up with David House in London over the July 4th weekend, when we went to London to moderate a discussion with Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Today, we spend the hour with David House as he discusses how he founded—co-founded the Bradley Manning Support Network, talks about the federal surveillance that he has come under, his experience before the grand jury, and his visits to Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where Manning was held in maximum-security confinement before being transferred to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I spoke to David House at the Frontline Club in London, which was founded to honor journalists killed on the front lines of war.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re in London, England, and I’m joined by David House. He’s the co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

DAVID HOUSE: Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you found this network? When did you do it?

DAVID HOUSE: Well, I knew Bradley Manning in Boston in January 2010. And when the news of his arrest broke in May 2010, I was one of several friends of his in the Boston area who decided to get together to ensure that Bradley’s due process was not infringed upon in the course of the U.S. government’s investigation into his alleged involvement in the WikiLeaks disclosures.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you know Bradley?

DAVID HOUSE: I met him at a computer science event in the Boston area in January, a free software event. He was in attendance with some other friends from Boston, and we met very briefly, at the end.

AMY GOODMAN: Was this before or after Iraq?

DAVID HOUSE: Before or after Iraq?

AMY GOODMAN: He served in Iraq?

DAVID HOUSE: I’m not sure. I think he was on leave when he came to the event in January.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn what happened to Bradley Manning?

DAVID HOUSE: I was in my Cambridge residence. One of my friends came over and said, "Have you seen the news?" I said, obviously, "What news?" And we went over to my laptop. He opened it up, pulled up the Wired article by Kevin Poulsen, and there was a headline, something similar to "Adrian Lamo Turns in U.S. Intelligence Analyst," and a picture of Adrian Lamo and a picture of Bradley Manning. And my first thought was, you know, "Oh, my god! I know both of these people." And my second thought was, "Well, we have to do something to make sure this guy’s due process is not infringed upon." So, that was kind of the beginning of what would become the BMSN, at least in the Boston area.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you know Adrian Lamo?

DAVID HOUSE: Adrian Lamo is a pretty well-known figure in computer circles, at least online. He makes himself very accessible to individuals. I think I met him online two or three years ago through a mutual friend from Alabama, of all places. So he was someone that’s always kind of been on the internet and communicating with people that were very public in the hacking community for quite some time.

AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us what happened, or at least how you came to understand what happened to Bradley Manning.

DAVID HOUSE: Sure. So, in Boston in May, right after we decided we needed to do something, there was a mailing list put together online, and several activists from around the country and around the world got together around this mailing list to toss around ideas about what they could do to best support Bradley Manning. And out of this, the Bradley Manning Defense Fund was founded. And the Defense Fund was founded and is currently hosted by Courage to Resist. And it’s raised over $150,000 for Bradley Manning’s defense.

While all this was going on, all the infrastructure was going up, a big federal presence descended upon Boston. So, I was working at MIT, living in Cambridge, and one day I got a knock on my door, and there were four agents.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you doing at MIT?

DAVID HOUSE: I was doing information economics research with the Center for Digital Business. So, I got a knock on my door one day, and there were these four agents. Two identified themselves as Army CID, and two identified themselves as State Department, which could have been anything. And my roommate at the time was a Palestinian filmmaker at MIT, and so I remember being quite nervous as the agents came in my house, because there was kafiyas hanging on the wall and books about Palestine everywhere, which the agents took particular note of. And during the course of our hour-long conversation, I came to the understanding that they were trying to find evidence about the WikiLeaks leak in the Boston area and other hackers they thought may be associated with the disclosure of information allegedly coming from Bradley Manning. At the very end of the conversation, they offered me a cash reward in order to, as I said, keep my ear to the ground about WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning.

AMY GOODMAN: How much did they offer you?

DAVID HOUSE: No dollar amount was given, just a cash reward. And that’s the point at which I asked them to leave the apartment. Over the series of, I would say, three to four weeks after that, there was very obvious surveillance happening of myself and my friends in the Boston area. And this surveillance presence kind of only emboldened us and gave us more confidence, but it was very odd to walk out of your apartment and to see a black sedan sitting down the street, the same black sedan you would later see outside your place of work. Students in the Boston area were questioned on the street for weeks after this, after this interview.

And so, right when the Bradley Manning Support Network was ramping up and these activists were coming together to figure out how they could help Bradley Manning, as in my case, a friend of mine, we were also under this mass surveillance, and it was quite an interesting experience to have to go through.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the Army, did the State Department descend on others, question them?

DAVID HOUSE: Yes, there were other people in Boston questioned, as well, people I’m not comfortable giving their names because obviously they’re not as public in this affair as I am right now. But there were, I believe, at least four people who were questioned in addition to myself.

AMY GOODMAN: And was it your understanding they said they would not cooperate?

DAVID HOUSE: I’m unsure. What do you mean by "cooperate"?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, they offered you a cash reward; you asked them to leave.

DAVID HOUSE: Like become informants. Ah, I have no guarantee that anyone else refused to become informant. If they did, they didn’t talk about it, so...

AMY GOODMAN: And what was your communication with Adrian Lamo?

DAVID HOUSE: During this time? Adrian and I didn’t talk, at all. I mean, after the Wired chat logs were released via Wired, it was pretty clear that Adrian and I were no longer friends. And this was—

AMY GOODMAN: For the people who aren’t familiar with this case, explain what those chats were that were released byWired magazine.

DAVID HOUSE: Right, so Wired magazine released the alleged chat logs of Bradley Manning, between Bradley Manning and Adrian Lamo.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of them.

DAVID HOUSE: Some of them, right. And these chat logs were purported to show Bradley Manning confessing to having released the WikiLeaks cables to WikiLeaks. But there’s a lot of controversy about the validity of these logs, whether they’re true or not, because the logs, the way they’re made up, it’s actually just like a text document, something anyone can type up. And these were released by Wired.com, partially, during the May 2010 story that broke all of this to the mainstream press. So, after that happened, Adrian lost a lot of friends in the hacking world—I would say most friends in the hacking world—and all of his credibility was completely shot. At the HOPE Conference, the Hackers on Planet Earth Conference, in New York—

AMY GOODMAN: Hackers on Planet Earth?

DAVID HOUSE: Yes, yes. In that July, I mean, people were wearing T-shirts that said, you know, "stop snitching" and things like that. So, I mean, it was a very big cultural backlash against Adrian. So the only real communication I had with him was via like a random Facebook message or something to try to gauge where he was at and get information from him around, I think, end of July. But aside from that, no one really was talking to this guy. It became apparent that he was working for the Feds, and that was a very big deal.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue our conversation with David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. He’ll talk about being stopped at airports and other issues in a minute.

[break]

 

 

Democracy Now! / By Amy Goodman

Posted at July 11, 2011, 5:24am