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Pull the Plug on HBGary Robo-Trolls: Subpoena Air Force General Schwartz. Free Bradley Manning.

By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 15 March 2011

You've got to wonder who they are.  Even my friends on the right wing of the spectrum, in discussing Bradley Manning, grudgingly admit that he has yet to be convicted of anything and cannot be punished before he is tried.  "So try him then put him away, but yea, you are still innocent before found guilty, ok, so what?" -- is a typical small debate victory, before going on to the rest of the work of trying to explain why Bradley Manning is a hero who was doing exactly what, in 2005, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said:

“It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member [in Iraq], if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to try to stop it.”

But online one can get the eerie feeling of a disconnect:

"Bradley Manning is a traitor, he deserves what he is getting..." and different versions of this over and over.  Excuse me, did you hear me?  He has not been convicted.  Are we having a conversation?

The anonymity of the Interwebs is a two-edged sword.  Posting one's opinion anonymously has a long and valid tradition in this country, from when Madison, Hamilton, and John Jay  authored the Federalist Papers as "Publius."  This forces the audience to treat the arguments on their merits by separating them from who is doing the writing.  

But the danger of infowars waged by would-be Wizards of Oz who pull the levers of numerous sock puppets, in order to create an illusion of consensus, has always been obvious.  Now it turns out the Department of Defense is illegally, unethically, and perhaps treasonously already in this game.

"Air Force ordered software to manage army of fake virtual people, HBGary Federal among bidders"

In the continuing saga of data security firm HBGary, a new caveat has come to light: not only did they plot to help destroy secrets outlet WikiLeaks and discredit progressive bloggers, they also crafted detailed proposals for software that manages online "personas," allowing a single human to assume the identities of as many fake people as they'd like.

The revelation was among those contained in the company's emails, which were dumped onto bittorrent networks after hackers with cyber protest group "Anonymous" broke into their systems...

the software would require licenses for 50 users with 10 personas each, for a total of 500. These personas would have to be "replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent."

Hang Bradley Manning, Manning is a traitor, if there is a sock puppet army paid for with your tax dollars, how convenient for the generals who were embarrassed when Wikileaks, and allegedly Manning, revealed that they allowed peaceful Iraqi dissidents to be tortured by the Maliki government for following the money trail, for millions which were supposed to be used to give Iraqis clean water, trash pick-up, and working sewers.  

Soon after deployment to Iraq, Chase Mader writes, Manning:

   "soon found himself helping the Iraqi authorities detain civilians for distributing “anti-Iraqi literature” -- which turned out to be an investigative report into financial corruption in their own government entitled “Where does the money go?”  The penalty for this “crime” in Iraq was not a slap on the wrist. Imprisonment and torture, as well as systematic abuse of prisoners, are widespread in the new Iraq. From the military’s own Sigacts (Significant Actions) reports, we have a multitude of credible accounts of Iraqi police and soldiers shooting prisoners, beating them to death, pulling out fingernails or teeth, cutting off fingers, burning with acid, torturing with electric shocks or the use of suffocation, and various kinds of sexual abuse including sodomization with gun barrels and forcing prisoners to perform sexual acts on guards and each other...

    Like any good soldier, Manning immediately took these concerns up the chain of command.  And how did his superiors respond?  His commanding officer told him to “shut up” and get back to rounding up more prisoners for the Iraqi Federal Police to treat however they cared to..."

Manning also found a video and an official report on American air strikes on the village of Granai in Afghanistan’s Farah Province (also known as “the Granai massacre”).   He also brought to light the cold-blooded murder of wounded on the "battlefield," in the Baghdad 2007 Wikileaks video.

Manning wrote to Adrian Lamo that after finding his superiors were complicit in Iraqi torture:

"I had always questioned [how] things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where I was a part of something… I was actively involved in something that I was completely against…“I just couldn’t let these things stay inside of the system and inside of my head,"

Manning allegedly wrote to Lamo that his biggest worry if he were caught was to:

"Try and figure out how I could get my side of the story out, before everything was twisted around to make me look like Nidal Hassan (the Fort Hood shooter.)"

After nearly ten months in isolation, prohibited from meaningful exercise, and being given God-knows-what that he is told are "anti-depressants," Manning friend David House reports that Bradley appears near "catatonic."  He may now never be in condition to get his "side of the story out."


Trollish comments about Manning range from insisting that he gave away important state secrets (he didn't, anymore than Daniel Ellsberg did when he leaked the Pentagon Papers) to stealing government property.  But let's not pretend we don't know what this is about.  Rumsfeld/Cheney/Bush stole $2.3 trillion from the Pentagon on the day before 911, announcing it could not be accounted for and of course it was never mentioned again after the next day.  If the CEO of your company just announced $2.3 trillion was gone, the FBI would be all over his offices the next morning and hauling out files in bankers boxes, and he would be up at the very least for violation of fiduciary responsibility.  Cheney's office revealed the identity of a covert agent against the Covert Agents Identity Protection Act and no one went to jail.  George Bush lied to congress about Saddam trying to get uranium from Niger, nothing happened, although lying to congress is a crime.

Who gets prosecuted for "stealing?"  A private who was reporting war crimes.

What Bradley Manning did was reveal the ugly face of war, which will help turn opinion against these wars.  It is especially important because since Vietnam the media is censored and sanitized, you don't see pictures of little girls on fire anymore which elicits a normal human reaction of horror and disgust and helps end the war no matter what the generals say.  Bradley Manning is a hero.

Doubtless there are real people who are challenged enough intellectually to be unable to differentiate between allegation and conviction, who cannot understand that the rights they are gleefully shredding are their own.  But the very fact that the military is even considering a contract for the described sock puppet armies with HBGary shows that it has no problem with fraud, misuse of taxpayer dollars, and subversion of the civilian form of government.  As one blogger said:

"I don't know about you, but it matters to me what fellow progressives think...I consider all views. And if there appears to be a consensus that some reporter isn't credible, for example, or some candidate for congress in another state can't be trusted, I won't base my entire judgment on it, but it carries some weight."

Now a group of House Democrats has shown dangerous signs of a pulse in a call on Republican leaders to investigate HBGary and a prominent Washington law firm and two other federal technology contractors, who have been shown by Anonymous to be discussing, in hacked emails, dirty tricks such as a "disinformation campaign" against foes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  This happened after HBgary declared war on Anonymous and but got his hash settled by Anonymous instead.  The letter from Hank Johnson and colleaguesreads:

“We are deeply concerned by evidence that intelligence contractors may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to target American citizens on behalf of powerful corporate interests...We believe a full Congressional investigation is warranted to determine whether laws were broken and whether existing laws are sufficient to protect Americans from high-tech dirty tricks.”

Co-signers are Bruce Braley, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Bob Filner, Barney Frank, Raul Grijalva, Mike Honda, Luis Gutiérrez, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Shelia Jackson Lee, Hank Johnson, Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, Chris Murphy, Tim Ryan, Pete Stark, Ed Tow, Betty SuttonMaxine Waters, Peter Welch.

The letter was sent to Reps. Darrell Issa, Lamar Smith, Mike Rogers, and Howard McKeon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

The investigation should be expanded and a subpoena issued to Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz, who should be called upon to explain his service's intrusion into what amounts to fraud in the civilian sphere and subversion of the democratic process he is sworn to uphold:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..

Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121 (24/7)

Rep. Hank Johnson

Rumsfeld: $2.3 trillion of taxpayer money just "gone"


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