co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. In June 2011, he refused to testify about WikiLeaks before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia.
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 the WikiLeaks case we have going on now provides Obama’s DOJ ample opportunity to continue this attempt to politically regulate the U.S. media.” [includes rush transcript]
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 by Wired 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.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to my conversation with David House at the Frontline Club in London. David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, recently testified before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. I asked him how he came to be on the visitors’ list for Bradley Manning when he was imprisoned at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.
DAVID HOUSE: Around August of 2010, I was in Boston, again working with MIT and doing what I could to help out the support network online. A friend of Bradley Manning’s, who was visiting him in confinement, came to me and said, "Well, I’m going down there on the weekends to meet with him. I’m going Saturday and Sunday, and it’s a three-hour meeting each day. And I have a very hard time keeping up conversation for that block of time. Do you want to come with me? Because you can talk the ear off anyone." And I said, "OK, fine, I’ll go with you." And because I had met Bradley earlier that year, it was OK for me to be on the visitors list, something about you had to have met him prior, something like that. So I was put on, and then early September was my first visit to see Bradley Manning in confinement at Quantico.
After that first visit, the friend who had introduced me to the visitors list said, "OK, for legal reasons, I kind of need to halt my visits for now. Will you please keep visiting him?" And I said, "Of course." And then an arrangement was worked out for me to keep going down from Boston once every two weeks to visit Bradley and make sure he was doing all right. So, that’s kind of how I fell into it.
At the time, there was no media attention surrounding Bradley Manning. I mean, this was September 2010. From September to December, all the media attention was surrounding Julian Assange or WikiLeaks. And so, it was very surprising to me, in December 2010, when all of a sudden the media attention scaled up, and then the question became, "Well, how did you get on the visitors list?" The answer for a time was anyone could be put on the list; it’s just that, for some reason, no one was applying.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly how Bradley Manning was arrested and where he was.
DAVID HOUSE: I have no idea how exactly he was arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: And where he was.
DAVID HOUSE: I believe he was in Iraq, and he was transported to Kuwait after his arrest, but I have no details about his arrest.
AMY GOODMAN: And in Kuwait, what happened to him? Did you talk about it with him?
DAVID HOUSE: I’ve talked to Bradley about his confinement in Kuwait, but it’s something I’ve agreed not to disclose to the press.
AMY GOODMAN: How long was he held there?
DAVID HOUSE: In Kuwait, I believe he was held in Kuwait from late May until early August, at which point he was transferred to the Quantico confinement facility.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, he still hadn’t been charged.
DAVID HOUSE: That’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Describe what happened to him at Quantico. How many times did you visit him there?
DAVID HOUSE: I visited him 12 to 13 times at Quantico. And it was very interesting, actually, trying to compare his initial state, when I started visiting him in September, to how he was over time, eventually, in my last visit in February: very different people, actually. When I first started visiting him, I mean, he was still, I would say, normal, to a very high degree. He was someone you could have a very in-depth conversation with. He didn’t seem exhausted. He seemed very vibrant, very alive. As time progressed, around December 2010, he had deteriorated to a state where it was very hard to have a conversation with him, where he seemed utterly exhausted, fatigued all the time. And then January 2011 was the point at which he was the worst. It was almost impossible to really talk to him at all, and he looked—he looked like someone who had been held in solitary confinement for some months, you can imagine. It was this odd emotional roller coaster for me, because not only is this my friend, right, who’s being held in confinement, but also you’re actually watching him undergo this deterioration over time, like watching your friend waste away. And I think that seeing him like that and seeing this being an ongoing process was my main motivation in continuing activism for him, going into early this year.
AMY GOODMAN: Did he explain to you what they were doing to him at Quantico?
DAVID HOUSE: To a degree. Our conversations were monitored to a very high degree. And, of course, he was very—
AMY GOODMAN: How did you know?
DAVID HOUSE: Well, when you go in the facility, they tell you, and you sign a paper that says you’re being monitored, and there’s a sign in the room that says you’re being monitored, and there’s a microphone in the ceiling. So, all these things. Also, you know, when I’m talking to him, we’re talking through bulletproof glass. There’s the little bitty hole cut to like kind of yell through. And there are three very large Marine guards standing not 10 feet behind him, just staring me in the eyes the whole time. So, I mean, it’s very obvious that the eyes of the state are upon you when you’re talking to him, so...
AMY GOODMAN: And so, the description of what was happening to him, being strip-searched.
DAVID HOUSE: Being strip-searched and all that, that description did not come from me. That came out via his attorney. What I related to the press in December was the fact that he was being—had his access to exercise limited, that he was undergoing this psychological and physical deterioration, that he was held for 23 hours a day, and that essentially he was denied access to newspapers and other forms of media that would be—that one would expect prisoners to have, I think, in confinement. Glenn Greenwald actually followed up with an article that was very good and kind of pushed this out to the mainstream press. And then the lawyer David Coombs began releasing documents, kind of verifying that Bradley Manning had been mistreated in confinement, had been strip-searched, and had been punished by his Marine captors, going into January and February of that year.
AMY GOODMAN: Did this surprise you, that he was strip-searched?
DAVID HOUSE: You mean that he was made to stand at attention nude every morning and things like that?
AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, explain what you came to understand, even if he didn’t tell it to you himself.
DAVID HOUSE: Right. So, as I understand it, there was a protest outside the Quantico Marine Base in January 2011. And based on this protest, the Marine guards became very upset with Bradley Manning. They began to harass him more frequently, and there was an event that happened a few weeks later in which they decided to actually remove all clothing from him and make him stand at attention nude every morning, kind of this humiliation tactic. This is after he had been in solitary confinement for some six months.
So, I mean, that was very alarming for me to hear, obviously. I’m someone who grew up in Alabama. You know, I’m an Eagle Scout. I’m someone whose parents are, you would say, very conservative. I never thought the state would actually go to these ends to punish someone, like a political person, or I would hear about this and always think that it was just, you know, an insane antiwar activist making things up. To actually go through the process of watching a friend deteriorate in solitary confinement and actually witness firsthand what the state is capable of doing to someone that they want to punish politically has been a very eye-opening process for me. And yeah, I never would have expected it would come to this, but now that it’s happened, I don’t know how I could have been so blind beforehand.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, describe his deterioration in the meetings you had with him.
DAVID HOUSE: To do so, I would need to give an accurate assessment of his mental and physical capacity over time, something I’ve been asked not to do by his attorney. So, unfortunately...
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what he was charged with, what he has been charged with and when he was charged.
DAVID HOUSE: Right. He was charged with—there was an initial charge sheet released upon his arrest, as I understand it, in May 2010. And then another charge sheet was released in February 2011 that levied a host—I believe 53 new charges against him, including a charge for aiding and abetting the enemy. This charge carries possibility of the death sentence, and while the prosecution has said they will not recommend the death sentence, it is actually up to the judge over his trial to determine whether or not he will actually receive the death penalty, if he’s convicted of this charge.
So, it’s very worrisome now, because you have this situation where a whistleblower, Bradley Manning, has been held in solitary confinement by the U.S. government—this alleged whistleblower—and if he is convicted, he faces the possibility of death for allegedly blowing the whistle on military crimes. So it’s very worrisome actually to—even as someone like who’s an American citizen to see someone held under these conditions and facing this punishment, you know, I thought this is something that China would do, maybe, but never my own government.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about why he was moved from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth.
DAVID HOUSE: Bradley Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has stated that the move from Quantico to Leavenworth was made possible by political pressure from the United Kingdom—in particular, calls by a House of Commons member of Parliament named Ann Clwyd, who is from Wales. Of course, Bradley Manning is said to hold dual Welsh and U.S. citizenship. And this MP, Ann Clwyd, caused considerable pressure after bringing up in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons that Bradley Manning was indeed a Welsh citizen and deserved to have consular access while he was in confinement at Quantico. This after several months of news media about his conditions of confinement. So David Coombs said this pressure from the U.K. was fundamental in actually getting him moved to Fort Leavenworth.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen him in Fort Leavenworth?
DAVID HOUSE: I have not seen him in Fort Leavenworth. I don’t know anyone that has, except for potentially one family member. And the attorney and that one family member aren’t giving much information out about how he’s doing, so of course I’m very worried about how he may be doing at Leavenworth.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s backtrack and talk about what has happened to you with the government since the day they knocked on your door, the Army and the State Department at—
DAVID HOUSE: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: —in Cambridge.
DAVID HOUSE: Sure. So, apart from the initial meeting where they knocked on my door and tried to get a sense of who I was—so, coming into the Chicago O’Hare Airport last November with my girlfriend Valerie, we were stopped immediately getting off the plane. Our passports were checked, and after our passports were checked, the people checking our passports ran ahead and kind of prepped the customs area. It was very obvious what was going on. When we arrived to the customs area, we went through customs just fine. We were admitted into the country, and then we went to the bag search area, where both of our belongings—all of our belongings were searched very thoroughly. They had picked up my computer, made note that it was warm, went through all of our books, found a copy of the book Hackers by Steven Levy and asked my girlfriend Valerie at length about the book Hackers, why she was reading it, etc.
So, I was leaving the border search area. I was approached by two individuals who identified themselves initially as Department of Homeland Security agents. These two individuals told me I was compelled to surrender all my belongings, including my electronic belongings, so my computer, flash drive, cell phone, video camera. After they took my belongings to the back, they led my girlfriend Valerie and I back through the customs area—so it’s like white cubicles, only people have guns instead of office pens, things like that—took us back to an interrogation area, where we were interrogated for about an hour, I would say.
AMY GOODMAN: Separately?
DAVID HOUSE: At points, yes. Ended up missing our connecting flight. And I was asked, first and foremost, to surrender my password to my laptop computer, as well as password to an encrypted media they have on me, a request which I refused, obviously, as any American should when asked to do such things. But it was very odd, and the questions they asked me were primarily focused around the Bradley Manning Support Network, whether it was true I had built the website for the Support Network, whether it was true I had been to visit Manning in prison.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you build the website?
DAVID HOUSE: Yes, I did. At the point, I had helped build the website. They have a new one now.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you help build the new one?
DAVID HOUSE: No, I didn’t, no. But it was very odd, because it seemed like I was being targeted just for my activism for Bradley Manning and like my computer was being seized not because it posed any real threat to national security, but because it may provide them some insight into the inner functionings of the Bradley Manning Support Network, a legal group in the States of legal advocates working for Bradley Manning’s defense. So the ACLU filed a lawsuit recently, based on this computer seizure, in hopes of creating a policy that keeps the government from actually executing these warrantless search and seizures at our borders based on legal U.S. advocates. So, that’s what happened with the computer seizure.
And that was very hard for me, because it—you know, I lost two weeks of code for MIT, so I was economically disfranchised. I didn’t have my computer. It was taken from me. And they did not return it within the legal amount of time required for them to return it in. It took them 45 days, and they only returned it after they received a demand letter from the ACLU demanding its return. So, yeah, it was a very odd process to go through. But I’m not the only one who had my computer seized; there have been others, as well. I was just the only one who made it to the media.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to Jacob Appelbaum?
DAVID HOUSE: Jake Appelbaum—
AMY GOODMAN: And do you know him?
DAVID HOUSE: I know of Jake. Jake Appelbaum is a public figure in the hacking world. He’s a computer security expert, quite well known and quite well liked. And he gave a talk at the HOPE Hacker Conference in July 2010 in which he kind of came out as a WIkiLeaks volunteer and delivered the keynote address at HOPE for WikiLeaks in Julian Assange’s stead.
AMY GOODMAN: Because Julian Assange was invited to the conference but didn’t go?
DAVID HOUSE: Well, yeah, this was in the middle of all of the investigations going on, and as I understand it, from what Jake said at the talk, Julian couldn’t be there because of the federal presence at the conference. And there was a huge federal presence. I mean, I was—where I was sitting in the conference, there was a Fed sitting next to me.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you know?
DAVID HOUSE: Well, he had a BlackBerry that was one of those old versions that has the little—has the screens that have the black film over it so you can’t actually see it when you tilt it. He was texting the whole time. He had New Balance shoes on, white socks, khaki pants, and a hacking T-shirt. They all get the same email before the conference saying this is how a hacker dresses, and so they all wear the same, right, descript stuff. And he had his hair—his head shaven like an Air Force pilot or like a Navy pilot or something. Very obvious. And during the screening of the "Collateral Murder" video, you know, it was obvious he was a Fed. So I leaned over to him, and I said, "What you’re doing supports this kind of activity." And he looked at me very surprised and said, "Why, yes, it does." And we had this kind of very brief interaction, so that’s how I know.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, "Yes, it does"?
DAVID HOUSE: Well, he said, "Yes, it does," in terms of, "Yes, what I’m doing, I work for the Army." He’s probably Army CID or something. And, "Yes, what I do do—what I do supports the killing of these people."
AMY GOODMAN: And just explain for a moment the July 2007 video.
DAVID HOUSE: The "Collateral Murder" video is a video of two Reuters journalists, amongst other individuals, being gunned down by an Apache helicopter gunship in Iraq. This is a video that caused considerable controversy when it was released in April of 2010 by the WikiLeaks organization. The video itself had been requested by the Reuters news agency several years prior but was denied by the U.S. government. So WikiLeaks released the video in April 2010, and it caused quite a public outcry.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll come back to our conversation with David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, in a minute. We’re speaking in London.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to our conversation with David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
DAVID HOUSE: I am stopped. My electronics are usually—asked to power this up, make sure it works, etc., weird stuff like that. They haven’t seized anything electrical since that November affair, but I am asked about my connections with people, where I’ve been traveling to, at points my views on the Iraq war, Afghanistan war, about my association with Bradley Manning, etc., etc. And these questions have gotten less and less over time, which is good. But it’s—
AMY GOODMAN: Do you answer the questions?
DAVID HOUSE: It depends on what the question is.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you answer, then, when they ask you what are your views on the Iraq and Afghanistan war?
DAVID HOUSE: I tell them it’s none of their business, usually. It’s not any of their business. And when they ask me who I’ve been staying with or where I’m going, again, it’s none of their business. I mean, these are questions that they’re asking you to volunteer information at the border. And as a U.S. citizen, I don’t believe we have the obligation to answer the questions of CBP at the border searches. I think that if they want information, they can obtain a subpoena or obtain a warrant, but they don’t have either of those at the border, and this authority to actually question individuals about their legal associations, political associations, is claimed by the U.S. government. It was not granted to them. So I don’t answer these questions.
AMY GOODMAN: Have the authorities ever seized your laptop again?
DAVID HOUSE: No, they have not.
AMY GOODMAN: They have never taken it out of your possession?
DAVID HOUSE: No, no. And I would know if they did. I maintain pretty much uninterrupted physical control of my computer at all times, to make sure that it’s not compromised by the government in any way. So, yeah, they don’t take it.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, David, about what Julian Assange said in the conversation I had with him this July 4th weekend in London. He talked about the grand jury.
JULIAN ASSANGE: That grand jury involves 19 to 23 people selected from that area. Now, why was it in Alexandria, Virginia, six kilometers to the center of Washington, that that grand jury was placed and those people drawn? Well, it has the highest density of government employees anywhere in the United States. The U.S. government was free to select the place, and they selected this place in order to bias the jury from the very beginning. This is, in fact, wrong to call a jury. This is a type of medieval star chamber. There are these 19 to 23 individuals from the population that are sworn to secrecy. They cannot consult with anyone else. There is no judge, there is no defense counsel, and there are four prosecutors. So, that is why people that are familiar with grand jury inquiries in the United States say that a grand jury would not only indict a ham sandwich, it would indict the ham and the sandwich. And that’s a real threat to us.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Julian Assange critiquing the whole grand jury system. You went before the grand jury. Can you talk about it, David?
DAVID HOUSE: So, the grand jury, as I understand it, is investigating the associations between Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, the alleged associations between them. As I understand it, it was convened around November of last year and has been running ever since. Recently, subpoenas have been issued to members of the Bradley Manning Support Network and others in the Boston area. I, myself, have been among these people that had a subpoena issued. And so, I had to go to the grand jury on June 15, 2011, just a few weeks ago, because they—
AMY GOODMAN: In Alexandria?
DAVID HOUSE: Right. And I was commanded to testify before the grand jury everything I knew about Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks, even Jacob Appelbaum, people of that sort. During the grand jury, I refused to answer any questions aside from my name and address, pleading the Fifth Amendment—well, the Fifth, First and Fourth Amendments, to whichever the question that was asked during the grand jury. And it was quite a controversy, actually, because despite the fact that the six AUSAs, assistant U.S. attorneys, that were present were very upset by this, they were also very upset at my note taking and tried to get me to stop taking notes the entire time, saying things such as, "I would like to state for the record Mr. House is not answering the questions and is instead taking notes," and kind of ridiculing me openly for doing that, saying, you know, "Oh, did you get the last question? Did you get everything down?" da-da-da-da-da, right?
So, a very odd, very frantic atmosphere within the grand jury. And adding to the franticness was the fact that outside the windows of the grand jury you could see the WikiLeaks truck driving by every 15 minutes or so. This artistic van that had the giant WikiLeaks logo on the side and said, "WikiLeaks Mobile Information Collection Unit," would drive by, and the grand jury would kind of crack up a little bit. So, a very odd atmosphere, but I felt pretty good about it, because I had given no information away, and I had gotten a list of questions that they were trying to [inaudible].
AMY GOODMAN: What were the questions that they were asking you?
DAVID HOUSE The questions centered around Bradley Manning’s time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in January 2010, who he had associated with there. And then questions about Jacob Appelbaum, oddly enough, and other security researchers in the U.S. And I have worked with my attorney to provide these questions with the attorneys of other individuals being investigated in this case.
AMY GOODMAN: So you’re not cooperating?
DAVID HOUSE Oh, of course not, no, no. It was unconscionable to cooperate with this grand jury. The grand jury is obviously politically motivated, and it’s—I can’t imagine a principled activist for Bradley Manning or for WikiLeaks cooperating with this investigation in any way. And it’s been said by others in the Boston area that they will not cooperate, even if they are compelled to testify before the grand jury. So it seems to be this is like a commonly held belief in the Boston area.
In fact, the day that I was actually called to testify, there was a protest happening outside the Alexandria court house and also in Boston against the grand jury and the politically motivated investigation of WikiLeaks currently happening in the States. And in my mind, this kind of reeks of the Pentagon Papers investigation. I mean, Richard Nixon’s DOJ 40 years ago attempted to kind of 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 the WikiLeaks case we have going on now provides Obama’s DOJ ample opportunity to kind of continue this attempt to politically regulate the U.S. media, and so I’m very worried about this happening. And I think this grand jury is a step in the process.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the Boston University tech center, BUILDS?
DAVID HOUSE BUILDS is a—what some call a "hacker space." It’s really just a place for computer-savvy youth, or people who want to become computer-savvy, to gather and learn more about the computer trade in general. So it kind of operates on this open-door policy, where if you want to know how to solder electronics, and you don’t know how, you can come into BUILDS, and we’ll teach you. If you want to how to build a robot or program or even do something artistic, we’ll teach you. So BUILDS is kind of one of these open spaces that we hope will help empower people through the use of technology. And it’s very indicative, I feel, of the culture in Boston: people and youth who are empowered through their use of tech, both socially and otherwise. So, that was the kind of foundational aspect of BUILDS that was very important for me in the Boston area, and I think Bradley Manning was attracted to BUILDS for that very reason, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: So did you spend a lot of time with Bradley in—or was it a brief time?
DAVID HOUSE No, it was only very brief, actually, which is very odd as why I was targeted so much when the Army CID came to Boston in June. It was as if anyone who had had even infrequent contacts with Bradley Manning were being targeted. That’s why it was very bizarre to me.
AMY GOODMAN: Has BUILDS come over—come under the government microscope completely?
DAVID HOUSE Oh, yes, yes, it sure has, and it’s completely ridiculous. I mean, the government wants a very easy-to-digest media narrative about the whole WikiLeaks investigation out there. So, the FRONTLINE PBS piece, for example, tried to infer that the BUILDS hacker space had somehow helped Bradley Manning leak or traffic documents or something like that. Completely ridiculous, completely erroneous stuff, right? He was there for one night. But because it fit the predetermined narrative, because BUILDS has the word "hacker" associated with it in some way, it’s kind of been spun out by the U.S. government as if this group is somehow responsible for what they would call espionage.
So it has been very hard, you know, dealing with a group of students in Boston who were interested primarily in learning and in exploration and in doing what they feel is best for student culture, not coming under attack by the U.S. government in a very ham-fisted investigation. It is very sad, very bizarre. And I think it shows really how frantic the U.S. government is to link Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. I mean, they will do anything and railroad over any organization they can in order to make this connection, and I think it’s very unfortunate. And it’s a sign of weakness on their part.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you come to know Bradley a good deal in these visits that you’ve had?
DAVID HOUSE Remarkably, yes. It’s funny how—I mean, our conversations are limited, right, so we can’t talk about WikiLeaks. We can’t talk about things relating to the case, because we are being recorded. So we have to talk about philosophical ideals or things in the abstract or mathematics or computer science. And so, through this, we’ve developed quite a strong intellectual bond, and he’s a very intelligent young man. I think that when and if he is released from prison, he may have a career as a professor or a career as a statesman ahead of him. He’s that level of intelligence, and I’m glad to have known him.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the possibility he will be released? And when is there going to be a trial?
DAVID HOUSE That’s absolutely up to the amount of support he gets through the American public. If the American public stand up and demand his release and demand a fair trial for him and his due process, I feel he may actually get a fair trial, and he may not spend very long in prison at all. But if that does not happen, then people like Mike Huckabee, calling for his execution, those voices will speak louder, and he may well be executed, and that’s what’s very alarming.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened with State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley. He came to MIT. Who was he addressing?
DAVID HOUSE As I understand it, P.J. Crowley was addressing a crowd of students at MIT during a semi-private event, and he was asked about Bradley Manning’s conditions of confinement, and he said it was ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid. And when he was asked if this was on the record, he said yes. When this was reported by bloggers that were at the event, it took off in the media, U.S. and abroad. I was in London when I heard about it on Al Jazeera. And then, a few days later, P.J. Crowley was forced to resign by the Obama White House. So...
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of what he said?
DAVID HOUSE Well, I think he was spot on. I think that P.J. Crowley, for that moment, was being very perceptive and was being very honest about his perceptions. And that kind of openness about policy in Washington is very rare these days. Very rare. If the WikiLeaks cables have taught us nothing, it’s that deception is the currency used on Capitol Hill. And so, for Crowley to come out and say something that true and that honest, I think, was quite good to see and quite refreshing.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Bradley Manning was tortured in prison?
DAVID HOUSE I think that he was put under solitary confinement for some eight months, that he underwent sensory deprivation, and he was denied access to visitors and exercise. I think that I feel, as many do, that this constitutes torture, yes. John McCain, the U.S. senator, has said of his time in solitary confinement that it was worse than any form of physical torture he ever had to endure. The E.U. human rights court is currently considering banning extradition from the E.U. to the U.S., based on the fact that the U.S. does implement solitary confinement in prisons such as Quantico and at Leavenworth. So, yes, I feel you can make the case this is torture, and from what I saw of Bradley Manning and his deterioration, I would say definitely what he underwent was torture.
AMY GOODMAN: Does it make you afraid, for yourself?
DAVID HOUSE In what regard?
AMY GOODMAN: The possibility of you being imprisoned like this.
DAVID HOUSE Not really. I think that we’re well past the point where people should be afraid. I think that everyone’s kind of been living under this culture of fear in the States for some time now, been manifesting itself in different ways, most recently in—as citizens giving up our power, ceding our power, to a state that is growing very large and that is threatening to take away even more of our power, if we do not listen to it, if we do not kind of bow down and say, "OK, that’s fine."
This culture of fear is something that must be combated against. And the only way to do that is to take a very firm, principled stand as a U.S. citizen and say, "No, as a democracy, the citizens have rights, and we will fight to defend those rights." I think that if what I’m doing is activism, I have nothing to worry about. And if what I’m doing is called civil disobedience, then I feel that civil disobedience actually does restore some measure of dignity to the people, and thus, in times like this, may be necessary. So, am I afraid? No, not at all. And if I am afraid, it takes managing that fear to move forward. And I would encourage every U.S. citizen to manage their fears and do what they can to take a firm, principled stand here, because everyone is an activist now.
AMY GOODMAN: What has most surprised you over this last year?
DAVID HOUSE How frantic and—what’s the word I’m looking for?—incompetent the U.S. government has been in prosecuting this investigation. Julian Assange said yesterday during the event that silence from powerful institutions is a show of strength, so if you step over ants and you crush a few of them, and the ants protest, you don’t feel the need to address the ants, you keep moving. In this circumstance, we’ve seen the U.S. government do everything it can to kind of tell the media, "No, no, no, we’re the good guys," while at the same time, in the background, torturing Bradley Manning, seizing the computers of activists, and doing all manner of horrible atrocities, to try to cover up the disclosures from WikiLeaks. I think this shows that the institutions that are perpetrating these crimes are in fact weak and that we, as in the U.S. people, have the responsibility to put some pressure on these institutions to encourage them to change their policies and to take a firm stand, because the U.S. government’s ham-fisted investigation shows that it is weak in its prosecution of this affair and that if we push hard enough, things will change.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think WikiLeaks has changed the world?
DAVID HOUSE Oh, definitely. I mean, no one will say that we do not live in a post-WikiLeaks world. There was this realization last December, after all this stuff was released, that, you know, "Oh, my god, things are changed forever," for better or for worse. And I think that we are a world walking into a connected age. We are a people, as a species, who have never dealt with this degree of connectedness before in our society. And this is going to do very interesting things, not just to the economic sphere, which it already has, but also to the political sphere, as well. And WikiLeaks is one of the first steps in this process. So, I don’t know. I think that, yes, WikiLeaks has changed the world, but it’s more part of this organic process of changing the world. Technology is taking us to a level we’ve never been at before, and WikiLeaks is part of this. And our democracy will benefit from it.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell me anything about your family?
DAVID HOUSE Sure. So, my grandfather was a detective in Birmingham, Alabama, during the civil rights events happening in the 1960s, and he was one of the only King supporter on the department in the Birmingham Police Department. He was a detective his whole life. And he actually gave the notebooks to King that King used to write Letters from the Birmingham Jail. So my grandfather said that King initially was using the margins of his newspaper to write an essay, and my grandfather noticed this, went out to a drugstore and bought him a notebook, came back and gave it to him to use, that he would later use to write the Letters from Birmingham Jail. My grandfather’s job on the police department was to essentially make sure that the Klan, the Ku Klux Klan, was not hurting King supporters in and around the Birmingham area and ensure that peace was being kept to a very large degree.
And I’ve read through my grandfather’s journals, and it’s very interesting, actually, seeing this principled man who grew up in the middle of Alabama during the civil rights era who actually undergoes this kind of mental transformation while he’s on the department, saying that when King said, "Justice delayed is justice denied," that was very pivotal for him. It was a phrase that caught like fire amongst him and others in the department and really started their support for King in the civil rights era. So, I wear my grandfather’s ring as a reminder to me what people can do when they take a very principled stand. I feel that my grandfather’s actions in the police department were a symbol for others to be King supporters or to treat those more fairly that were imprisoned during the civil rights era. And I hope that I can live up to those principles in my everyday life as a U.S. citizen.
AMY GOODMAN: The Birmingham church bombing?
DAVID HOUSE Yes. My grandfather was the lead investigator in the Birmingham church bombing that killed the four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama. It was a racially motivated bombing. The Klan had planted dynamite under the steps of a Baptist church, and they had thought that they were going to blow up an empty church, but there were four young girls practicing for a choir inside the church that were killed. This was very—had a very huge impact on my grandfather and others in the department.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, they couldn’t have thought they weren’t going to hurt anyone, because it went off Sunday morning.
DAVID HOUSE Oh, really? Interestingly enough. OK, interesting. The line that was in the U.S.—that was in the Alabama media at the time, as I understand it, was that they thought they wouldn’t hurt anyone, right? But there again, the Klan had a very large influence in Alabama during this time. And reading through my grandfather’s notes and all the papers about the case that our family has access to, it’s very interesting actually seeing him go through this investigation. The way he talks about the affairs happening between the Klan and King supporters in the Birmingham area, you get the feeling that it was a city on the brink. It was a city on edge, almost like a war zone, and things ready to break out at any time. And it’s interesting—I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have been in his shoes during that time and actually be a King supporter in the middle of all this, behind enemy lines, as it were.
AMY GOODMAN: Did he have many friends in the Birmingham Police Department?
DAVID HOUSE Oh, he did. He was there for many, many years.
AMY GOODMAN: What was his name?
DAVID HOUSE Maurice House. Maurice House was his name. And I’m David Maurice House, named after him. But yeah, he was a very principled man. He died when I was very young. So I probably projected some of my idealism onto him, obviously, as people tend to do, but it’s been very remarkable reading his stories and actually coming to know him and his principles just through that. It’s been very nice.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m trying to turn this off.
DAVID HOUSE But he really gave me the—he was the one who instilled in me the idea that principles are very important for someone to live their life, you know, because you’re—
AMY GOODMAN: How old were you when he—
DAVID HOUSE When he died? I was 12, I think. But, I mean, he really taught me that, without principles, you don’t really have a leg to stand on, right? And in our government now, you see people—a complete abdication of principles, whatever those principles may be.
AMY GOODMAN: David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, speaking to us in London, England.