Saturday, March 02, 2013

Bradley Manning and the war on whistleblowers

By Frank Moraes 

These really are the times that try men's souls. And I wonder whether the liberal apologists for this administration will continue to think cheery thoughts while basic levels accountability are abandoned. The sunshine patriot will shrink from holding his country accountable; only those who demand transparency, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Bradley Manning has admitted to releasing classified documents. But he is claiming innocence regarding the more serious charges like aiding and abetting the enemy. This all ends badly for a young man who is the very definition of a whistle blower. The problem is that the United States takes all of this stuff very seriously. And sadly, under Obama it has gotten even worse. What is it about people who become president that they go crazy over secrecy? Such behavior should cause them to be disqualified for the job.

Instead, the government manages to focus all of its power on relatively powerless men like Bradley Manning who just want to get the truth out. Reading parts of his 35 page testimony, it is clear that he is a typical whistle blower: a once true believer who was crushed to find out that the shining city on the hill was a mirage. He tried to get his superiors to act on various aspects of the disinformation campaign that the government seems to think is their primary function. When that failed, he tried to get regular news agencies to listen: Washington Post, the New York Timesand Politico. And like the corporate lackeys we know these outlets to be, he got nowhere.

And that brought him to WikiLeaks. Where the major media in the United States are primarily concerned about helping the government, WikiLeaks doesn't care who they embarrass. And that's mostly what this is all about. The Manning leaks embarrassed the United States government. There were important stories in the documents, of course. They showed many cases of the government denying actual crimes and generally trying to finesse the news. But there are no troop movements here. There is nothing that should have been classified. 

Even the charges that Manning has admitted to could keep him in jail for decades. But the government will almost certainly try to prosecute him for the more insane charges. Yochai Benkler wrote yesterday in The New Republic, "The Dangerous Logic of the Bradley Manning Case." His basic argument is that this isn't about Manning; it is about sending a single to whistle blowers everywhere: we would have prosecuted Death Throat if we could have. He wrote:

It makes the Manning prosecution a clear and present danger to journalism in the national security arena. The guilty plea Manning offered could subject him to twenty years in prison -- more than enough to deter future whistleblowers. But the prosecutors seem bent on using this case to push a novel and aggressive interpretation of the law that would arm the government with a much bigger stick to prosecute vaguely-defined national security leaks, a big stick that could threaten not just members of the military, but civilians too.

This is a case we should all be very interested in. Will Obama supporters continue to claim that everything is fine as long as such a good and noble president is in office? Will they imagine Obama will pardon Manning before leaving office? If they do, then the Obama administration must be passing out some very sweet Kool-Aid, because these people are guzzling the stuff. 

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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