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Banning Chelsea Manning: The Dubious Tests of Character

National security advocates have been crotchety ever since the release of Chelsea Manning for a sentence they hoped would go the full, crushing 35 years. Her sins were intimately tied up with making WikiLeaks the publisher of fame, less than fortune: the disclosure of 750,000 classified diplomatic and military documents which revealed, to various degrees, the inner workings of the US military industrial complex. But a moment of enlightenment prevailed, and President Barack Obama deemed her case suitable for commutation in one of his last executive acts.

While the idea of a celebrity whistleblower is rife with problems (the stereotype is usually that of an insecure, inconspicuous figure, a persecuted shrinking violet), Manning has managed to become one since her release in May 2017. Identity politics has been grafted upon the political necessaries of exposing injustices and atrocities. Data security has been paired with transgender politics.

In Australia, joined (even chained?) to the hip of the US imperium, not all are revelling in Manning, the spiller of secrets big and small. The simple conclusion they reach is that she should be barred from entering the country. She was a military intelligence analyst gone bad, and for those reasons, should be treated as such. “Despite the media breathlessly describing Manning as a whistleblower,” penned a sceptical Rodger Shanahan of the Lowy Institute, “she is far from that. In fact, if she thought she was a whistleblower she could have availed herself of the 1988 Military Whistleblowers Act.”

For Shanahan, being a whistleblower requires you to be an ascetic person of scrupulous credentials, and free of confusion. Most of all, you must be bureaucratically minded, a team player who uses internal channels laid out by the managers. Manning was not aggrieved by US military practice, he surmises, merely “downloading material from the classified system for onforwarding to WikiLeaks” within two weeks of her first deployment. (How unprincipled!)

Shanahan’s attempt to demolish Manning’s credentials are typical of an individual who believes in the constipated restrictions imposed on the meaning of whistleblower. The first is a charmingly naïve assumption that the Military Whistleblowers Act somehow immunises the discloser from prosecution, casting a cordon of ironclad protection from venal employers. Even more importantly, there is an assumption that internal disclosures made by the morally worried and concerned work, a cynic’s ploy to pretend to be an idealist.

What matters in that approach is to keep abuses within the corrupt family, to exclude prying eyes and, most importantly of all, to let matters of redress and reform drift into splendid inertia. Actual changes and means to hold agents responsible for abuse tend to happen from the outside, the shock of the new. Little wonder, then, that such catalysts – in this case, Manning, and then her provision to WikiLeaks – are treated as such crass and vulgar acts, disruptive and therefore in need of containment.

What is problematic for Manning is that certain records speak volumes to immigration officials. They are not to be considered in context; what matters is the fact of a conviction, not the extenuating circumstances that could excuse, or at least mitigate, the reasons for it. Good character, to that end, is ever slippery, but officialdom demands certitude.

Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) permits the minister power to refuse a person a visa on grounds of character if they have been sentenced to prison for one year or longer. The bar is low, with a visa refusal possible if the minister “reasonably suspects that the person does not pass the character test; and the person does not satisfy the Minister that the person passes the character test.”

The notice from the Department of Home Affairs to Manning notes how it “holds information about your criminal history listed at the end of this notice, which indicates that you have a substantial criminal record within the meaning of that term as defined in s. 501(7) of the Migration Act”. The character test, for that reason, was not satisfied.

Digital Rights Watch chairman Tim Singleton Norton, on peering into the crystal ball of decision making in the home ministry, smells the intrusive hand of power. The ban was “nothing more than a political stunt designed to appease the current US administration, and an unnecessary imposition on the movement of a world-renowned civil rights activist.”

Not all in the Australian political classes are comatose to Manning’s broader contributions. The Australian Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale and Labor equality spokeswoman Louise Pratt have lobbied the Morrison government on the subject of providing Manning a visa. The organiser of her speaking tour, Think Inc., has been particularly keen that immigration minister David Coleman and home affairs minister Peter Dutton apply their “ministerial discretion to allow Ms Manning entry into Australia.”

Think Inc.’s application seeking re-evaluation of Manning’s visa application argues that, “she poses no threat to members of the Australian community. Think Inc. believes Ms Manning is entitled to freedom of expression and political opinion which are the foundations of a free and democratic society and fundamental human rights.”

The organisation is attempting to win the argument on the ideas front, wonderful if those listening care for them. “Ms Manning,” claims the director Suzi Jamil, “offers formidable ideas and an insightful perspective which we are hoping to bring to the forefront of Australian dialogue.” These include “data privacy, artificial intelligence and transgender rights.” Hugh de Kretser of the Human Rights Law Centre has been blunter: “She’s generating vital debate around issues like mass surveillance of citizens by governments. The visa should be granted.”

Jamil, perhaps prudently, avoided those other ideas that have stuck in the craw of establishment toadies: that Manning represents the oft-needed instability caused by openness and transparent shocks of information to those fanatical about secrecy.


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  1. paul walter

    If we banned on character, just about every politician would be living offshore.

  2. Christopher J Ward

    You have no concept of national security, therefore, your views are invalid. Manning was subject to clearances and abused them. Release from jail is an American question; a visa to come here and spruik is another. Manning, Snowden and Assange have cost lives.

  3. Adrianne Haddow

    Christopher Ward. Would that be the same as the lives of the people who stopped to help a wounded man and were attacked by the US air forces shown in the footage from Wikileaks?.
    Or the untold civilian lives lost in Afghanistan, Iraq and other middle eastern countries which interfere with the fortunes of American oil moguls.
    Nobodies’ views are invalid, just different to yours, apparently. Even Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones are entitled to their views, sad and divisive as they are.

  4. John

    Meanwhile well known war criminals such as Kissinger, Bush, Tony Blair and Obama too are given red-carpet treatment.

    And of course our own home grown war criminal known as the Lying Rodent was given the “freedom” medal for services rendered to the coalition-of-the-killing and promoting the globalized Amerikan killing machine. Check out some of the other benighted ghouls who were awarded the same “freedom” medal – the all-Amerikan psychopath Edward Teller for instance.
    Meanwhile what about the wall to wall sickening horse manure eulogizing the all-the-way-down-the-line despicable John McCain.

  5. diannaart

    Here we go back to the white picket gulag of the big “C” conservative. Ban anyone a bit suspect. Anyone can become a bit suspect very easily, however Chelsea Manning has the chutzpah to slather on dubious with a shovel.

    Chelsea Manning (in no particular order):

    Is intelligent





    … and many more suspect characteristics no doubt. More than enough to scare any neo-con who would rather listen to the drivel served up by such as:

    David Irving anti-semite/neo-nazi holocaust denier – sometimes he is allowed egress to Australia, sometimes not

    Irving Blanc – well his “how to pick up women” seminars were banned, however Irving was permitted to walk upon Australian soil.

    The supporters of such right-wing nutters and/or misogynists demanded their inviolate right to “free speech” which is as follows:

    “Some Free speech is Freer than others”

    With apologies to George Orwell.

  6. vicki

    I am sick to death of politicians telling ME who I can see, let alone who can come here because “they” feel it is not in our best interest or so called bullchit Nation security as they know BETTER than US, and Adrianne Haddow you are spot on.

  7. New England Cocky

    Excellent analysis. It is most important that “The Establishment” remains beyond accountability so that they may continue screwing the system for their own personal pecuniary benefit. Just look at the Australian banks as a recent example.

    Presently Australia is being screwed by the Morriscum LNP misgovernment with “policies” that will make Australia a 19th century colonial outpost for any foreign owned multinational corporation, or parasitic capitalist USA (United States of Apartheid), a vassal state required to purchase third rate military equipment to prop up the overlord economy without any risk of effective military threat.

    Then communist PRC wants the minerals without the population, just as they did in 1940s … remember Kokoda??

    But all that is OK because it was determined by the Club of Rome back in the late 1970s.

    @Christopher Ward: Sometimes the US NE military industrial complex ignores every rule of decency and every person is required to say “NO!!!” very loudly. Remember the Vietnam marches that our generation used to fight corrupt politicians in the 60s and 70s? That time is coming again, unfortunately.

    Manning did the world a great service, and as the US NE military industrial complex continues to inflict enormous disaster on target populations for profit not politics, when you are the only person left when they will come for you also.

  8. Barry Thompson.

    That would be access Diannaart. Egress is the action of leaving a place.

  9. corvus boreus

    As the aves awaited their turns at the font, the egress of the the egret allowed access for the ibis.
    Hope that helps. 😉

  10. Kaye Lee

    Chelsea Manning gets banned but Milo Yiannopolous and Gert Wilders are invited by our politicians to come and spread their sick views.

  11. Terence Mills

    To be fair, Mr Dutton hasn’t had time to review and perhaps overrule the ban by his department on Chelsea Manning visiting Australia for a couple of days.

    Mr Dutton has been very busy engineering an overthrow of a sitting prime minister, he has been flat-out manipulating a factional takeover of our democracy : do you expect this man to walk and chew gum at the same time, he is after all one dimensional ?

  12. wam

    happy september.
    Loved the cartoon of the soldier telling Afgfan interpreter that he now his au pair. That might work for chelsea an au pair visa?

    Dianaart: It might be possible to egress pommieland to australia? Whatever the poms should declare him NFFE (not fit for egressing) and take his passport away???

  13. phiil

    where’s that shouting protector of the ‘right to free speech’ (as if such a right existed in Australia) Andrew Bolt?

    deafening silence from Australia’s arch hypocrite on free speech

  14. corvus boreus

    The pearl-necklaced anti-wimminist called Milo Yiannopolis was invited into our federal parliament by Mr David Leyenhjelm.
    I don’t suppose anyone took the time to ask the ‘slut-shaming’ senator if he shared some of his guest’s expressed views?
    For instance, does the Lib-dem senator share Milo’s lassez-faire opinion that sexual consent is an over-rated concept, and that adult males perpetrating sex acts on under-age males is not only acceptable but laudable?
    If not, then why choose to invite that perverse creep into the chambers of our National Parliament?.

    Ps, I won’t weigh into the denial of visa to Mz Manning. There are doubtless legalistic intricacies in such decision-making processes that I neither fully understand nor care enough about to conduct sufficiently informed research.
    I was going to suggest that Chelsea apply to au-pair, but wam beat me to it.

  15. Kaye Lee

    The same suggestion was made about the Afghan interpreter that was refused entry.

  16. Kyran

    This may seem a distraction, but, as always, you need to compare apples with apples. At the time of enlisting, Bradley Manning swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the US, being an oath to defend the freedoms guaranteed under that Constitution to the people of that country. He did not, at any time, swear an oath to defend the military establishment anymore than he swore an oath to protect the political establishment. Like every other member of the armed forces in America, he was under obligation to the people, not the establishment.
    He was not charged or convicted in a civilian court. He was charged in a military court, which has a completely different set of underpinning requirements both in terms of charges, evidence and ‘judgement’.

    “Bradley Manning, like every other member of the military subset of those officers, took this same oath to uphold the Constitution. He fulfilled that oath by disclosing war crimes. Those who have imprisoned and court-martialed him stand in violation of their constitutional oaths.”

    “Manning is essentially charged with serving the higher good of the people rather than the omerta policy of the military apparatus designed to keep their dirty secrets. The military has decided that their omerta policies trump the interests of the broader public. The military was given an opportunity to defer its own conflicting interests in secrecy to the people’s higher right to know. It failed. It redefined espionage as telling the truth to the American voter about misdeeds the militiary prefers to hide. The remedy is now for Congress to amend the Military Justice laws to provide that whistle-blowers must be tried in a constitutional court and not be punished under the guise of a military disciplinary proceeding. The military has lost its credibility to try such cases.”

    How the Manning Trial Betrayed the Constitution

    As a further aside, this is not the first time the American military law and the governments of our respective nations blatantly disregarded any notion of natural justice to promote military and political ambitions beyond those of the very people they were meant to be serving and protecting. Does anybody remember David Hicks?


    He was, undoubtedly, a stupid person, a disenfranchised person seeking to ‘belong’. If stupidity is going to be a crime, let me be the first to recommend charges against every politician in our nations capital. Hick’s was ‘purchased’ by the US government and subsequently tortured. These ‘misdemeanours’ were overlooked by the respective governments. He was a poster boy for the military courts, to the exclusion of any semblance of natural justice.
    Perhaps the greatest insult to any reasonable mind in Dr Kampmark’s article, however, is this;

    “The bar is low, with a visa refusal possible if the minister “reasonably suspects that the person does not pass the character test; and the person does not satisfy the Minister that the person passes the character test”.”

    Peter Dutton – a person devoid of intellect, compassion, decency, morals or ethics. A person devoid of any semblance of character. – is the arbiter of character. Whether this is an obscene absurdity or an absurd obscenity is a matter of pedantic semantics. It is undeniably obscene. It is undeniably absurd.
    Thankyou Dr Kampmark and commenters. Take care
    PS. 84,000 Aussies now think it’s time for Dutton to exercise some character.


  17. corvus boreus

    Thank you Kyran.
    That Manning’s convictions were entirely under court-martial rather than civil courts is very relevant information.
    An entirely different set of rules are applied within military sharia.

  18. Kaye Lee

    The imminent prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer for exposing our government’s crimes should also be remembered. It is not the people that perpetrate the crimes who are punished – it is those who expose them.

    The same thing has happened to countless whistle blowers. They lose their jobs but rarely are the perpetrators held to account. This happened to the policeman that helped expose child sex abuse in the church. It happened to the guy who blew the whistle on the banks. It happened to the guy who blew the whistle on foreign bribery by RBA subsidiaries. Staff on Manus and Nauru are threatened with prosecution if they speak up.
    Many more examples as well.

  19. diannaart

    OK, Barry, should’ve used ‘ingress’.

    Happy now?

    What was the topic about? Oh yes, people bullying others such as the LNP telling the Australian public to conform to their narrow set of what they believe are values.

  20. paul walter

    diannaart, is it like an inflamed ingrown toenail?

    Neatly put, as usual, Kyran.

    With Bernard Collaery/ witness K, it was put a day or two back that Brandis resisted laying charges. The man who replaced him, the odious and oxymoronically named Xtian Porter is to blame here, continuing on from his time at Social Security.

    Witness K, like Snowden on surveillance of the public, The late Dr David Kelly on Weapons of Mass Destruction, the phony pretext for the Iraq oil grab, Assange and most other whistleblowers, was driven by conscience to report a state crime, in this case our despicable attempt to rob the poverty-stricken EastTimorese on behalf of the massive TNC gas and oil giants, for which incidentally, the likes of Lenore Taylor have pointed out, left us with little better than a peppercorn royalty for our share of the Timor Gap fields, a fraction of what Qatar earns for its gas.

  21. corvus boreus

    Saturnalia haiku.

    Ibis, access sought,
    bullying, mercilessly
    egret into egress.

  22. paul walter

    Egrets? I now see how we move to Gordon the unemployed Ibis of First Dog notoriety, with his computer games, funny looking pipe and raids on local dumpsters…he is the Quentin Dumpster of the Avian world.

    How I love postmodern poetry.

    Bullying egrets is a most unworthy preoccupation, but it is to be recalled that Thoth, an Ibis, is the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom.

    This is turning into a red-letter morning.

  23. Geoff Andrews

    C’mon, Diannaart, Barry’s just a whistle blowing pedant with a moral obligation to right the wrongs of a wayward writer.

  24. Geoff Andrews

    ….. wrongs of a wayward writer. Which, in no way, reminds me of the story just starting to leak from Canberra.
    Two weeks ago, Dutton and his fellow conspirators were sitting around a table for four at a well known watering hole. As a waiter walked past he distinctly heard Dutton say, “Look, in this regime change business, there’s only three types of conspiritors: thems that can count and thems that can’t count.”

  25. corvus boreus

    paul walter,
    I beg to digress upon the subject of egrets.

    In a past life I worked for a branch of local government, wearing hi-vis vest inside the cab of a diesel driven-tractor
    Implementing the management practice of slashing the grass grown on land designated as belonging to the crown.
    After the slow orange-flashing parade on the journey twixt mow-sites,
    I would commence to conduct my duty of vegetative barber upon each fresh field

    Midway through the start of the first slashing-run I would spot, from the corner of my eye,
    the landing to stern of a cattle-egret (Bubulcuc ibis).
    If it was sporting ginger nuptuals I would call him ‘old mate’.
    If it was all-white specimen I’d call er ‘me-gal’.
    The first would quickly accumulate company, ending up in a 30+ bird flock of old-mates and me-gals,
    all eagerly feasting on the myriad of insects flushed out as a by-product of my mechanical quasi-herbivoral ,pseudo-grazing
    ithe nvertebrate refugees from the indiscriminate tramp-chew-spew motion of thepetro-chemical fed beast that I rode astride.

    I would never want do that particular job ever again, but I have few regrets regarding the egrets.

  26. paul walter

    As Frank Sinatra sings, (“My Way).

    “Egrets, I’ve had a few,
    But then, too few to mention”.

    With the thread topic, it becomes obvious that the government is seeking to gain a legal precedent involving Witness K that supercedes Habeas Corpus law, something that nullifies the Dr Haneef debacle.

    I think, time to get very worried if you have any sort of conception of what democracy really is.

  27. Diannaart

    Points to ponder:

    Is the LNP like an ingrown toenail?

    Do egrets ever have regrets?

    Is pernickety better than pedantic? (Thank you for apology, Barry, wherever that apology has gone).

    Cheers to AIM team, luv yuze all.

  28. corvus boreus

    I agree about the authoritarian drift of legislation one area upon which both major parties are relatively collegiate.

    There is the selective clamping down on the right to dissent by publicly informing (whistle-blowing’),
    based on the over-routine citations of excuses based in ‘commerce in confidence’ and ‘national security'(or hybrids thereof).

    There is the recent conglomeration of various ministerial powers into Dutton’s Home Affairs super-ministry,
    which not only possesses it’s own little para-military force,with ground, sea and air capabilities,
    but also effectively controls the agencies responsible for it’s own investigation.

    I would add the recent motions towards broadening power towards and removing restrictions against
    the employment of our kill-trained military into matters previously deemed civil affairs.
    Terrorism was cited as the principal reason, but crowd control was mentioned as cause.

    None which are the kind of toys I’d want falling into the mank-stained mitts of a fish-eyed creep like Dutton.

  29. SteveFitz

    35 years in prison for exposing atrocities perpetrated by your government and then censored by an allied government for wanting to justify your actions. Keep firmly in mind that this is also about transparency and freedom of speech. You have to admire her intestinal fortitude, as she risked it all, to stand up for what she believed was the greater good.

    It’s only by exposing the dark underbelly of corporate run government that we have any chance of moving forward. With the same humanitarian motivation as Chelsea Manning, I wonder how many years I’ll get in prison, for exposing corruption and the dark underbelly of corporate run Australia?

  30. SteveFitz

    So as not to shut down this compelling topic – USA whistle-blower Chelsea Manning has been cleared to apply for a visa to visit New Zealand & quote; “We are a nation that allows free speech, the PM says”.

    New Zealand voted least corrupt country by Transparency International as opposed to Australia at 13th on the corruption index. Corruption driven by one thing and one thing alone – Corporate influence.

  31. paul walter

    Diannaart: ” Is the LNP like an ingrown toenail?”


    An ingrown toenail is treatable.

  32. vicki

    To up HOLD the CONSTITUTION some times means breaking the New LAWS that are implemented by those that wish to HARM the Populace and Corrupt the LAWS and Chelsea Manning is an individual that wanted ALL to KNOW about this Corruption, so that in itself is NOT a Crime against the PEOPLE let alone the State or Nation, if WE start Incriminating the Truth seekers and tellers WE will be left with Nothing but Narcissist Criminals leading OUR Nations..YES we are here at the pinnacle of OUR no going back, WE have to DEFEND those who put their LIFE,s out their for US in the name of TRUTH for US.

  33. vicki

    Spot on SteveFitz, incarcerated for nothing more than the TRUTH! As actually she was the only one Adhering to the their National Constitution and yet those who dismiss or bypass it to commit crimes against the People wanted her Hung because they don’t want the People to Know about this or anything relating to the CORRUPTION that suffocates their Nation and PEOPLE. Yet ALL other Nations know them as the land of the HOMELESS and GREED.

  34. SteveFitz

    With Scott Morrison publicly declaring “We only help those who help themselves” and under the wing of big brother, we are headed down the same path as the USA to becoming yet another country of homelessness and greed. We are sailing into the dark of night, with the Liberal Party at the helm, and the only way to avoid the ice burg ahead is with perception, clear vision and a humanitarian voice. Thank you Vicki and, beautifully put.

    Homelessness in Australia has now reached 1 in every 200 people. People with no human rights protection and people left stranded by the likes of ScoMo and the disgusting people with the same inhuman political doctrines driven by self-serving greed and an “all for me and screw the rest of you” mentality. Bring on the ice burg, I reckon, and lets sink the bastards.

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