A Simple Question For Bradley Manning Fans

If Bradley Manning had blown the bin Laden Operation, would the HamWaldians still be advocating his release? It’s a fair question, because when Manning (allegedly) put those hundred thousand-plus cables on his thumb drive, he certainly had not read them all. In fact, it’s pretty certain Manning had no idea what was in them — and no clue how many potential OPs might get blown by their release.

If he had blown the OP and allowed bin Laden to get away, would he still be a hero?

My answer: Manning was NEVER a hero. He betrayed his oath and his country. He did not do it for any humanitarian principle, but because he was mad about a policy (DADT) that has since been reversed. Manning is no better than Christopher Boyce, Robert Hansen, or Aldrich Ames, three spies who were arrested and convicted in my lifetime. His fate will resemble theirs, and ought to.

About Matt Osborne

Veteran blogging the culture wars from Alabama. Video journalist, mash-up artist, aspiring novelist, and metalhead. Expect bunnies, geekery, dark humor, and snarky empirical analysis to annoy idealists of all stripes. You can follow me on Twitter, but be ready 'cause it might get loud.
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  • http://extremeliberal.wordpress.com/ Extreme Liberal

    Bravo Matt!

  • http://twitter.com/EdwardLCote Edward L Cote

    Excellent point.

  • http://twitter.com/xenothaulus Xenothaulus

    I fully support the concept of Wikileaks, and I believe there is a fine line between whistle-blowing and spying or espionage when it comes to what it encourages. But Manning’s case is neither; it was childish spite, in my opinion.

  • http://www.osborneink.com OsborneInk

    I admit to having some mixed feelings about WikiLeaks. First, because anyone who hangs out in a /b/ thread for five seconds will know Anonymous isn’t heroic. Second, because WikiLeaks has also released lots of intel on American banks and corporations. I’ve defended the organization, even in this instance. Points well-taken!

  • Gileddb

    Two thoughts:

    1. Manning may not have known the individual substance of every cable in his possession but it might be a fair to assume that someone with his training might recognize that a lot of things at the classification level the cables were at was excessive in relation to their contents.

    I do a fair bit of data processing/collating and usually after a while you get the gist of how/why things are organized the way they are. But I could be wrong.

    2. Is it really realistic to boil Manning down to some anti-DADT caricature? A petulant child whose first and only reaction was to hurt “Mom and Dad” because he way gay and angry that it was frowned upon?

    Perhaps it is more realistic to suppose a person who is already frustrated about something the government/military does and then sees a culture of secrecy that he feels is detrimental to his perception of principles about the US and so on and so then decides to give his information to Wikileaks? Maybe his work was more the final blow rather than strictly the apparatus of his revenge?

    Manning will ultimately take responsibility and/or be punished for what he did but given some of the revelations exposed I am willing to concede his actions might be illegal (if his actions are ultimately judged to be wanton and without merit as a whistleblower) but I am not sure they are immoral. What is immoral and illegal is punishing a man who is not yet convicted beyond the limits set in the Constitution and UMCJ. That part seems to have righted itself, we will see what the law says about the rest as time plays on.

  • http://www.osborneink.com OsborneInk

    On point (1), my reply is that “SECRET NOFORN” is about as exciting as beer bottles in a bar. I’ve handled much higher classifications in the routine of my Army service because I held a higher clearance than Manning.

    On point (2), Manning signed the same paperwork I did and was informed that he could go to prison for releasing classified information. How he felt about a “culture of secrecy” is irrelevant. There are laws against betraying your country; he (allegedly) violated those laws and then BRAGGED TO STRANGERS ON THE INTERNET.

    On point (3), I will give you a cookie if you can find ANY evidence that Manning has been “punished” or treated any worse than anyone else arrested for espionage. In fact, I’ll give you $100 if you give me a source that isn’t Manning’s lawyer or someone using his lawyer as their source. Know what it takes to get put on suicide watch at any jailhouse in America?

    STAFFER: Have you considered hurting yourself at any time in the last two years?

    DETAINEE: Yes. (or even “maybe”)

    That’s it, and you can confirm this by asking any jailer. So as far as I’m concerned, this nontroversy comes from the Army’s defense counsel playbook and a few self-promoters playing the antiwar movement for suckers. To me, THAT is immoral.

  • Gileddb

    I feel like your 1st point reinforces my personal chain of thinking that if the level of classification was so trivial, then the relative level of threat (which is used to assess the level of betrayal) is minimal. I feel like there is a disconnect in the dialog between what he has allegedly done and its relevance of impact and the level of betrayal that exhibits. If the disclosure of any piece of information from the lowest form of classification to the highest all leads to treason that seems on the order of excessive to me. But, again, I could be wrong.

    The point that the bar for suicide watch is low and, IMHO poor and counter-productive, does not make it “right” or “good”. Similarly many things are “illegal” but that does not make the law “just”, “fair” or any other number of adjectives that can go any number of directions be they positive or negative. I think the Patriot Act makes a lot of things legal or illegal but I will stand my ground and say that I think a lot if bends credulity as being moral or right when compared to my (and others’) perception of American ideals. Love it or hate it the interpretation of our laws do so often hinge on the state of mind and motives/values of the person accused. Manning could be an idiot for bragging but still not be committing treason. There is a difference between releasing things to the press and selling it to the Russians or the Saudis. That difference by the way would be the difference between Ellsworth and Ames. No one has to like it but the distinction is there.

    To be clear, I think Manning should take responsibility for his actions. If he signed a contract, a waiver, made an oath or whatever then he should logically be held accountable for his actions. I do think that if the nature and description of his incarceration in Quantico is true than it seems like he is being punished before conviction, a tempting thing to do against those who have violated their creeds or oaths but still not how we are supposed to play the game in this country. Trial first. Punishment second. Again just strikes me as a little heavy handed, especially if the information he had access to was so trivial.

    What reinforces my issues here is Manning’s supposed treatment in Leavenworth versus Quantico. I’ll never get my cookie or my money because if one of the issues about Manning’s time in Quantico was limited access then who could we verify the information against other than his lawyer or Manning himself (since I would assume we would not trust his family and lose friends to whom he described his treatment). Especially since no other agency or group appears to have been given access to the guy? I am sure we can all justify reasons why he should or should not have handlers in meetings with external groups like Amnesty International or the UN so I think it counter-productive to debate why those meetings didn’t happen. Ultimately Manning was locked out of sight. Minds on all sides wander and wonder at what was going on.

    What I find fascinating, is that Manning’s captivity went from footnote to headline and suddenly he went from solitary to gen pop. If the evidence existed that he was a serious threat and that was the valid medical concern I would like to believe the DOD and its various apparatuses that control prisoner detention would be more interested in his well being than the perception of politics but perhaps I am naive and Manning will any day now tie himself up by his shoestrings, or perhaps all that time in solitary naked gave him time to contemplate his life and he wants to live and they let him out. I am being both glib and serious, many things could be true but some things seem more likely to me than others.

    To me the Manning things stinks. Just like Iraq stank. Just like Afghanistan and a bunch of other things stink. The government is secretive by its nature and sometimes to a fault. So I guess what I am driving at ultimately is until it all airs out (if it ever really does) I am just as willing to hold what the government claims with what I feel is an appropriate level of doubt until the trial comes and is resolved, and by extension not stake Manning out and shoot him or condemn to prison until he’s had a chance to defend himself.