The Manning verdict

No, obviously Manning did not intend to “aid the enemy.” That charge was gross prosecutorial over-reach.

And no, there is absolutely no possible excuse for the torture to which Manning was subjected in the brig. Those actions will stand as a permanent stain on the record of the Obama Administration, all the way up to the President.

But when Glenn Greenwald tweets, and Katrina vandenHeuvel retweets, the claim that he’s entitled to “a medal and our gratitude,” I have to ask: Whose gratitude? A medal from which country? No government can function without officials being able to communicate to one another without having the contents of those communications published. That’s especially true when the communications include the names of foreign nationals, or Americans resident abroad, providing information or serving as agents of influence, but it’s also true of routine facts about, e.g., which foreign heads of government or senior officials are incompetent, insane, or corrupt.

Bradley Manning didn’t blow a whistle; he merely supplied a core-dump of diplomatic communications, with no assurance about how anti-Semite Julian Assange would handle them, other than the certainty that they would be used to damage the United States as much as possible. (Still looking for the Wikileaks exposes of Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Saudi secrets. The actions of Assange associate Israel Shamir in handing over information about human-rights activists in Belarus to the local tyrant tells you what you need to know.)

No, as Manning’s (and Assange’s) supporters keep repeating, the U.S. government has not published the names of individuals killed by foreign governments or terrorists as a result of being outed by the Manning-Wikileak dump. If you want to believe that the number of such individuals is zero, be my guest. But that number seems to me like a very bad estimate.

If I were the military judge, I’d sentence Manning to “time served” and write a harshly-worded opinion stating that since his torture represented more punishment than any human being deserves, additional punishment would be superfluous.

But does Manning deserve a medal? “Our gratitude”? Not so much.

Comments

  1. Henry says

    Bradley Manning didn’t blow a whistle; he merely supplied a core-dump of diplomatic communications …

    This post might be more persuasive if it had even a word about the fact that Manning revealed U.S. war crimes that Bush and Obama covered up. In a democracy, the people have a right to know about the war crimes that their public servants commit and that they pay for.

    • Donald says

      It wouldn’t be more persuasive, because by mentioning the fact of US war crimes and that they go unpunished he would have pretty much demolished his own argument.

  2. Brett says

    It’s hard to say. If he revealed evidence of US war crimes, then he’s a whistleblower and deserves the protection as such. If not, then he’s just a guy nursing a grudge against the US government.

    • Warren Terra says

      It’s an interesting question. Almost undoubtedly (I qualify it because I’m not a lawyer, etcetera) he did reveal evidence of war crimes. On the other hand, he didn’t selectively reveal evidence of war crimes, nor did he send a nonselective data dump to principled people dedicated to the abolition and punishment of war crimes but willing to show some discretion in how they treated extraneous material. Instead he sent everything he could get to an anti-secrecy activist determined to air not only evidence of war crimes but also anything else he could find, down to catty comments in State Department emails whose disclosure served no purpose other than to embarrass all involved. It rather defies simple categorization.

      • Barry says

        “On the other hand, he didn’t selectively reveal evidence of war crimes, …”

        Thank you for a new excuse to bash whistle-blowers; we can now judge them by their selectivity.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      How about if he revealed some genuine scandal and also indiscriminately dumped a bunch of legitimately sensitive material? That’s about my take. You can be a whistleblower and a thoughtless, unpatriotic jerk.

      • Brett says

        Then he’s still a whistleblower. I’m sure the leaking of the Pentagon Papers had a negative effect on the US war effort in Vietnam, but was that unpatriotic?

        • Mark Kleiman says

          The Pentagon Papers were historical documents. Nothing in them aided the North Vietnamese military effort or compromised U.S. information-gathering. (I’m still not, in retrospect, a fan of the leak, but on different grounds: that if high officials can’t ask for that sort of analysis without having it show up in the newspaper, the analysis won’t get done.) But Ellsburg had a clear political point: the documents showed deception by the White House. Most of Manning’s dump wasn’t about any sort of misconduct. It was just a means of damaging the capacity of the country to carry on foreign policy.

          • says

            Mark, I agree that confidentiality is important. It can also be abused. If the US government wants to keep secrets, it has a much better argument if it (1) doesn’t do evil things in secret, and (2) never classifies its wrongdoing to avoid accountability.

            Since the US government repeatedly fails both tests, I see no reason to morally condemn anyone for spilling secrets. People who expose evil actors such as the perpetrators of murderous US imperialism are, indeed, heroes.

            That said, you are correct that Manning’s leaks were overbroad, and on that basis alone, some criminal culpability is appropriate. Snowden, on the other hand, is an unambiguous hero.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            I see no reason to morally condemn anyone for spilling secrets.

            Then I hope the ghosts of Belarusan activists eventually weighs on your conscience.

          • says

            The US government owes nothing to Belorussian activists. Nor do I believe any claim from the US government about harm caused by Manning or Snowden. The US government never tells the truth unless forced to.

            My conscience is clear. My government is a force for evil, imperialism, torture, and murder in the world. People have a moral obligation to resist it.

          • Barry says

            Actually, they most definitely did; they hurt US morale and will to carry on the war. Wars work better when the people don’t know for a fact that their leaders lied.

            But then again, I do thank you for proving my thesis on you, that you are 100% unreliable when it comes to judging people. And 100% self-righteous about it.

      • RichardC says

        I agree that Manning committed a crime, and leaked a bunch of information that would have been
        better kept secret (together with some legitimate whistleblower stuff).

        At the same time, I think the use of terms like “unpatriotic” and “jerk” obscure the real nature
        of this incident, and the real systemic problem behind both this and the Snowden case.
        Manning is basically a kid, in his early 20′s. And he had a rather unhappy background and
        obviously didn’t fit in well in the military. So why was he put in a position to access
        masses of secret documents ? Who put him in that position ? Who was supposed to be managing and
        monitoring him ? Why wasn’t there adequate security on the sensitive diplomatic cables ?
        Shouldn’t he have been quickly reassigned to peeling potatoes and checking Humvee tire pressures,
        or something equally harmless ?

        It seems we’ve created not just an over-broad military/security complex, but a remarkably
        inept one. If we have obviously inappropriate people like Manning and Snowden accessing
        these secrets, then you can bet your CIA operatives’ lives that the Russians and the Chinese
        already have all this information and more. And we’re only saved from disaster by the fact
        that our currently active enemies, e.g. the remnants of Al Qaida, are feeble in every way,
        and especially feeble in spying.

        Rather than focusing on the hapless Manning, we should be looking at the real scandal of a huge,
        vastly expensive, and apparently horribly badly-managed military/security organization.
        If you don’t fix that, you’ll have a sequence of similar cases of 20-something misfits
        broadcasting all your secrets.

        • Donald says

          This is true. US foreign policy will be much more effectively implemented if US war crimes and other despicable actions can be carried out by mature adults who know how to keep a secret.

          • RichardC says

            The substance of US foreign policy is another question altogether. My preference would be for US forces
            to not be in Afghanistan or Iraq at all, period. But if they *are* going to be stationed abroad, I really
            really hope they’re going to be carefully chosen, well-trained, well-equipped, and well-managed, both
            for their own sake and to ensure that they do as little damage as possible. The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld
            combination of aggressive policy with incompetent planning and execution is actually the worst for
            everyone. Aggressive policy with competent execution would be better; and a less aggressive policy
            would be best of all (but appears to be politically unattainable given that the foreign policy elite
            of both major parties are united in continuing this idiocy, not matter what happens and no matter what
            the voters would prefer).

    • Mitch Guthman says

      Is there nothing in between? I think RichardC’s point about the type of people who are willing to risk a horrific fate has a lot of validity. By nature they are “difficult,” often unbending and sometimes unpleasant people. Which, I guess, makes Manning and Assange flawed heroes but heroes nonetheless.

      More importantly, I think the focus on the messenger’s flaws allows people like Mark to dismiss the importance of the message.

      • RichardC says

        I think someone else made that point, not me. My main point was that a system that gives Top Secret/Sensitive
        Compartmented Information clearance to an obviously unhappy, confused, and unstable 22-year-old like Manning -
        and then allows him to keep that security clearance after he has flipped out on several occasions – is a
        really messed-up system that is never going to be capable of keeping any secrets from anybody.

        What seems to have happened, as far as I can see, is that the US military/security complex has fallen in
        love with technology, and especially the relatively new technology of loosely-structured databases capable of
        integrating documents, audio, video, and anything else. And they’ve funneled all their data into such
        systems, and then they’ve found that many of the people with the necessary technical skills to use them are
        a) very young, b) in sympathy with the open-source nothing-should-be-secret movement, c) somewhat hostile
        to authority. The consequent massive leaks are entirely predictable, and very likely to continue until
        the people in charge of this mess get a clue about how they’re managing their sensitive data and who they’re
        hiring to do the actual work.

        Manning is mostly a confused idiot, like most 22-year-olds in stressful situations. I think he had good
        intentions, but I don’t think he was a hero. But the people who deserve the lion’s share of the blame
        are those higher up who should have known better than to build a system that allows a bunch of
        inadequately-vetted stressed-out 22-year-olds to access huge amounts of sensitive information.
        The stupidity of that is much more dangerous than Manning’s crimes.

      • J. Michael Neal says

        I’m sorry, but I can’t think of someone who helps the government of Belarus to stomp on its dissidents as a hero. It takes world view that is profoundly tilted towards thinking that what happens in the U.S. is more important than what happens anywhere else to reach this conclusion.

    • Brett says

      Several people pointed out in that post’s comment thread that Assange had agreed to go back to Sweden if the UK government would guarantee beforehand that they would block any extradition to the US by the Swedish government, something he has every right to fear considering that the Swedes had dumped people to the US to end up in black site prisons before. So he’s not dodging the rape issue – he’s trying to avoid getting the Bradley Manning treatment, or worse (at least Manning was a US national, which ultimately offered some protections).

      • J. Michael Neal says

        How convenient for him, then, the Sweden’s refusal to ignore its international treaties also allows him to dodge the rape issue.

        • Cranky Observer says

          Kidnapping, rendition, and torture are also violations of international law.

          Cranky

        • Mitch Guthman says

          The question of Sweden’s obligations under international law is more complicated than you are making it out to be. Also, if either Sweden or the UK wanted, they have the ability under both international law and EU treaties to give binding assurances that Assange wouldn’t be extradited to the USA. The giving of such assurances is well recognized in law and would not in any way violate a duty under international law.

          The refusal of either country to offer such assurances is what has lead many people (myself included) to suspect that there is some kind of an understanding that has been reached for Sweden to send Assange to the USA for trial. Given way that this country treats its captives, can you really blame Assange for not wanting to go to Sweden? Is it reasonable to expect him to do so under the circumstances? I don’t think that it is; particularly in light of America’s “devolving” commitment to human rights and international law.

          On the subject of international law, Sweden’s refusal to place limits on extraditing Assange to the USA is troubling for another reason, namely, that international law forbids rendering prisoners to states where political prisoners are likely to be tortured or will not be give trials. The treatment of Bradley Manning and several other captives strongly suggests that it would be a violation of international law for England to send Assange to Sweden without assurances that he wouldn’t end up in America.

    • Henry says

      What difference does it make whether Assange is an anti-Semite? He’s not asking us to vote for him. His anti-Semitism is as relevant to his release of documents as Wagner’s is to his operas.

      If Assange committed rape, then that is irrelevant too, except perhaps to one’s view of whether Britain should send him to Sweden.

      • Keith Humphreys says

        It matters to me when anyone is an Anti-Semite. And in the particular case of Assange, he is the subject of a good deal of naïve hero worship, and it might help some of the sheep snap out of it to know what their hero is like.

        • Therapsid says

          Whether or not Assange is anti-Semitic is irrelevant. Wikileaks isn’t about to inspire a new pogrom.

          Considering that Jewish people in the West are among the wealthiest demographic groups in the world, ritual accusations of anti-Semitism increasingly serve the same purpose as official secrets – to insulate the powerful from criticism and accountability.

          • Warren Terra says

            Please tell me this comment was a deliberate and subtle parody. No-one is really this into autodefenestration, are they?

          • Mitch Guthman says

            Well, the Jews of Western Europe were, on the whole, quite an economically comfortable, reasonably well assimilated group until they suddenly weren’t so I don’t really see what point you’re making.

            I do agree that the charge against Assange is both poorly supported and totally irrelevant to the question of Manning’s conduct in making public evidence of shocking atrocities by this country; atrocities that had been classified as state secrets to protect the perpetrators and shield America from being deservedly shamed before the people of the whole world.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            . . . Manning’s conduct in making public evidence of shocking atrocities by this country . . .

            What you don’t seem to be grasping is that Manning’s actions were not limited to making public evidence of shocking atrocities by this country. Limiting your scope to just that means that you are assigning zero value to what happens in other countries. If Manning had taken those diplomatic cables, found only those that pertained to the point he wanted to make and handed over those cables, and only those cables, then you would have a point.

            Of course, he didn’t do that. He handed over everything to Julian Assange. By so doing, he assumed responsibility for Julian Assange’s character when it came to how he would deal with all of the cables, not just the ones you want to focus on. So the charges about Assange are very relevant to assessing Manning’s actions.

        • Mitch Guthman says

          Interesting. I feel the same way about the naive hero worship of Pres. Obama.

      • Mark Kleiman says

        Bradley Manning decided to hand over tons of information to Julian Assange and his colleagues, such as Israel Shamir, to use as they saw fit. That is, he decided to give them power. Is evidence about how they might be inclined to use that power somehow irrelevant to judging Manning’s actions?

    • Mitch Guthman says

      I hope you don’t mind my mentioning it but the RBC seems to have a standard for civility and respect which is a bit confusing. This seems, at first glance, to be somewhat at odds with your previous proscriptions on the subject of name calling.

      • Keith Humphreys says

        Commenters should not call each other names, nor the bloggers. Public figures enjoy no such protection, either here or in general.

        If you are referring to Theraspid’s views about rich Jews, I probably should delete that comment…but I also thought it would be educative for those want to defend Assange’s comments about the Jewish conspiracy to see what company they are keeping.

        • Freeman says

          Commenters should not call each other names…

          Except Brett Bellmore. You can call him anything derogatory, and I’ve not once seen anyone scolded or a comment taken down for it.

          …nor the bloggers. Public figures enjoy no such protection, either here or in general.

          Hmmm… Some of the bloggers here (OK, at least one) get more press and grant more interviews than Julian Assange. Does that make them “public figures” who enjoy no such protection? Just wonderin’ ;)

          • Warren Terra says

            Since you linked my comment, I’ll advise you to read it. I indicated that Brett’s commenting behavior fit a pattern – the words I used were that “[Brett's] repeated propagation of frequently debunked talking points defines who and what [Brett is]“; I acknowledged that to describe him accurately would be a violation of the commenting rules; and I suggested that the normal commenting rules should be suspended to permit accurate description of Brett’s behavior. I did not do so, save for implication, and contrary to Brett’s apparent ignorance of the meaning of “ad hominem“. The reason i didn’t do so – or at least one reason – is that the commenting rules were not so waived. But the commenting rules are there to maintain this space as a place for civil debate; when Brett time and again regurgitates proven nonsense, and the same proven nonsense at that, or when he repeatedly drops in to celebrate the death of young Mr. Martin, he defines his character. I continue to believe that it would be a violation of the commenting rules to describe that character, and I continue to believe that with years of a track record it may be appropriate to make an exception to those rules.

          • Freeman says

            Go back and read the comment I linked to? This one?

            I’m suggesting that it should be appropriate to engage in personal abuse against Brett on this site, in violation of the normal commenting rules. Nothing more, and nothing less. Because I think a willingness to repeatedly deceive deserves no better.

            I’ve read a great deal of nonsense on this blog repeated over and over again, and I’m not talking about Brett’s comments. Demanding to call someone a liar because you disagree with him has nothing to do with “civil debate”, nor does accusing him of “celebrating the death of young Mr. Martin” when you know damn well he has done nothing of the sort. If I’m wrong, link to it. If you’re wrong, man up and admit it.

          • Warren Terra says

            Really? You think it’s hard to find Bellmore celebrating Martin’s death?
            Variations on “the right guy ends up dead”
            In the context of discussing Florida law, the idea that “justifiable homicides” are good

            More generally, and the general tone matters here, Bellmore’s entire commentary on the issue has been a consistent demonization of Martin, and valorization of Zimmerman. Bellmore consistently insists on a certainty that Zimmermans actions were beyond reproach when he was assaulted by the “wayward” Martin, and Bellmore is glad Martin is dead (except when he occasionally concedes it might be nicer for people not to die – not that Bellmore is willing to go one step further and debate the suitability for self-defense of an item manufactured for the sole purpose of killing human beings).

          • Freeman says

            WT: More generally, and the general tone matters here, Bellmore’s entire commentary on the issue has been a consistent demonization of Martin, and valorization of Zimmerman.

            Ah, I see. Flip that and we’re all happy here, eh? In any case, I didn’t see that. I saw Brett’s evaluation of the available factual evidence which led him to believe Zimmerman’s account of events. Your evaluation of available facts differ from his, and so does mine, but you haven’t pointed to any demonization, valorization, or celebration of killing that I could find.

            Bellmore consistently insists on a certainty that Zimmermans actions were beyond reproach when he was assaulted by the “wayward” Martin, and Bellmore is glad Martin is dead…

            Not one link where Bellmore “celebrated” or said anywhere that he is glad Martin is dead. Instead I found a few statements to the contrary. From your first link (which I would describe as variations on “the physical evidence supports Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense” — not the same as “the right guy ends up dead”):

            Actually, I don’t find it convenient, the ideal for me would have been a security camera with sound recording the whole affair. Even better would have been testimony from both because Martin didn’t die. ‘Cause I really do care what the truth is, and with very few exceptions indeed, I prefer people to not die.

            WT continues: …(except when he occasionally concedes it might be nicer for people not to die – not that Bellmore is willing to go one step further and debate the suitability for self-defense of an item manufactured for the sole purpose of killing human beings).

            Oh, I see the statement I quoted above doesn’t count, according to your slant on it. And when you add the accusation that he won’t debate “the suitability for self-defense of an item manufactured for the sole purpose of killing human beings”, well sure, I see now how that justifies the idea that “it should be appropriate to engage in personal abuse against Brett”.

            The statement at the second link merely states that he prefers justified homicide to unjustified homicide. Do you disagree? In that thread, you might notice that I took Brett to task repeatedly for his views on concealed carry restrictions and stand your ground laws and even criticized his debating style, and I somehow managed to do it without developing a strong self-defeating urge to engage personal abuse.

            I just don’t get what you imagine you might gain from an “exception to those rules” meant “to maintain this space as a place for civil debate”. You’d just end up looking like the guy who ran out of rational arguments resorting to ad hominem. And yes, accusations of Brett’s ignorance notwithstanding, that is the meaning of the phrase.

      • Mark Kleiman says

        I think Mitch means that “civility” means we shouldn’t call an anti-Semitic rapist and friend of tyrants an anti-Semitic rapist and friend of tyrants. I don’t recall any objections to calling Dick Cheney a war criminal, which we have done and will do again. The point of the rules is to keep the discourse on the site from degenerating into a cat-fight, not to protect scoundrels from criticism.

        • Mitch Guthman says

          Alleged rapist and Jew hater, surely? I love reading Private Eye but I think it’s fair to say that their track record is mixed, at best. I’ve always thought of it as the Oxbridge version of the Daily Mail but without the hot babes. As for the rape, shouldn’t you wit for the trial first? And don’t forget that Assange has said that he would go to Sweden if only he would be given assurances that he wouldn’t be sent to America for torture and a shoe trial.

          • Keith Humphreys says

            See Warren Terra’s comment below: Assange has already confessed to what he is accused of by his Swedish victims.

          • Freeman says

            It’s interesting to note that neither WT nor KH opted to actually describe what it is Assange has been accused of and admitted to. The way I understand it, it amounts to consensual sex without a condom. It seems a bit of a stretch from what most of us normally think of when we hear the word “rape”.

            And yeah, I found the anti-semite accusations to be pretty thin soup — as in one thin chicken bone in a big pot of boiling water. Googled “Julian Assange anti Semite” and every post I could find (pages and pages of articles) cited the same single story in Private Eye (including the NYT article Mark linked to). One unsubstantiated accusation does not a fact make, no matter how much it bounces around the echo chamber.

            Not defending Assange, mind you. Just not a big fan of smear campaigns, and this smells like one to me.

          • Warren Terra says

            As I recall, he was specifically refused permission to have sex without a condom. He engaged in consensual, protected intercourse, and then the two of them went to sleep. She woke up much later to find he was having sex with her sleeping body, without a condom. Thus: he initiated the act with a sleeping partner he barely know, without specific permission (exceedingly dodgy behavior at the very least), and deliberately did so in a manner she had previously specifically indicated she did not consent to. These facts are, I believe, not contested. The remaining questions are (1) whether they constitute nonconsensual sex; (2) whether such would be appropriately punished as rape; and (3) whether this is really about rape, or about extradition to the US or elsewhere. I would suggest the answers to the first two questions are both “yes”, and plead ignorance to the third. You?

          • Freeman says

            warren, what you’re describing doesn’t sound anything like consensual sex to me, but I’d have to qualify that by saying I don’t find “as I recall” and “I believe” as convincing as a link to a verified statement by Assange confessing to having had sex with an unconscious partner “in a manner she had previously specifically indicated she did not consent to”. I’m going to reserve my judgment for now due to lack of evidence.

        • Barry says

          “I think Mitch means that “civility” means we shouldn’t call an anti-Semitic rapist and friend of tyrants an anti-Semitic rapist and friend of tyrants. I don’t recall any objections to calling Dick Cheney a war criminal, which we have done and will do again. The point of the rules is to keep the discourse on the site from degenerating into a cat-fight, not to protect scoundrels from criticism.”

          “… and friend of tyrants.”

          When you’ve pissed off as many tyrants as Assange has, you’ll have earned the right to sneer at him.

    • RichardC says

      The evidence for both the “Anti-Semitic” and “rapist” accusations seems very very thin to me.
      It does seem quite clear, from various accounts, that Assange has some unusual, and often
      unpleasant behavior. It also seems clear that he is quite brilliant in some ways. And I’m
      quite sure that if his brilliance was displayed in being an artist or a movie star – or
      perhaps a high-ranking military officer like General Petraeus – his eccentricities would be
      viewed very differently.

      Anyhow, the usefulness, or damage, of wikileaks is rather distinct from Assange’s personal
      behavior, so I think the name-calling is a distraction.

      • Mark Kleiman says

        On the anti-Semite question, see my comment below.
        On rape: After a woman told Assange that she didn’t want to have unprotected sex with him, he penetrated her while she was asleep. Any more questions?

        • RichardC says

          On the anti-Semite question, your comment below is merely guilt-by-association, in pointing
          out that one of Assange’s associates has made anti-Semitic comments. That isn’t evidence,
          let alone proof, of Assange’s own views.

          On the rape question, firstly, all accounts seem to agree that the sexual encounters were,
          broadly, consensual. I’m not claiming that gave Assange carte blanche, but it’s worth noting.
          Since then the accusations come down to arguing the grubby details of precisely who did what
          and who said what when and whether Assange might have had reasonable cause to believe that
          his partners had consented to whatever happened.
          It would take an X-rated trial, and a detailed cross-examination, to figure this out.
          If you call him a slimeball, I won’t argue, but “rapist” seems too unequivocal unless and
          until the accusers have been cross-examined.

          • Keith Humphreys says

            See Warren Terra’s comment below, he has already admitted doing what is accused of.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            On the anti-Semite question, your comment below is merely guilt-by-association, in pointing out that one of Assange’s associates has made anti-Semitic comments. That isn’t evidence, let alone proof, of Assange’s own views.

            It may not be proof of his views, but it does tell us about who he is willing to employ (Shamir is more than just an associate) in a capacity to handle sensitive diplomatic cables and deliver them to thuggish governments.

        • RichardC says

          Anyhow, can’t we be big enough to realize that Assange might be a slimeball in his
          sexual behavior and a bigot, and yet also perhaps be correct about excessive
          government secrecy ? If you want to criticizing the leaking, then criticize the leaking,
          rather than going into unrelated personal flaws.

          • RichardC says

            To Keith Humphreys: I think Warren Terra’s comment is oversimplifying, and I have no doubt
            that Assange would mount a vigorous defense if it comes to a trial. Though, as observed
            elsewhere, current Swedish law about rape is unusual and (according to Amnesty International,
            not just me) somewhat problematic.

            To J Michael Neal: Well, the wikileaks philosophy seems to be that everyone should see
            everything. So the fact that someone with noxious views is included in the “everyone”
            doesn’t add much. If you don’t like the leaking, criticize the leaking. The other
            mudslinging seems to be irrelevant.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            Well, the wikileaks philosophy seems to be that everyone should see everything.

            Yes, and this philosophy makes them complicit in evil. I don’t care how high minded you make it sound, their actions are wrong.

            Of course, I’d also characterize it differently than you do. Israel Shamir didn’t just release the cables. He specifically went to Minsk to show them to the Lukashenko government. Wikileaks was not a passive participant in this process: they decided that, among all of the world leaders, one of the ones that they had to deal with directly was this thug.

            And their claim to believe in transparency simply can’t survive that decision. They are very selective about it. And the people whose lack of transparency they choose to support are among some of the most repugnant in the world. They chose their allies and it tells us a lot about them. Every time they talk about justice or transparency, whoever they are talking to should hang this around their necks. Julian Assange and Israel Shamir are frauds.

  3. Mike says

    Yeah, there would need to be some new medal issued for this. But we need whistleblowers more than ever, so maybe we should.

    Personally, what I think we need is some accountability for what was revealed. Like with the Snowden revelations, the dominant media seem focused on shooting the messenger, than in dealing with what they should have been doing instead of cheerleading for endless war on a noun. Nope, they’re not going there. They’d rather be able to encourage the same lack of accountability in the future.

    BTW, the “rape” issue is a definitional nightmare. Swedish law is quite peculiar and the circumstances of the incident raise questions that are probably best not settled by calling Assange a rapist. Whatever he is or may have done, it pales in comparison to the crimes brought to light. Again, I’d be more convinced there’s a basis for offing the paperboy for putting out the front window if someone bothered to read the paper first.

    • J. Michael Neal says

      Please explain how exposing the “crimes” of Vladimir Neklyayev is something I should applaud in any way.

      • Mike says

        J. Michael,
        I’d just say you can cherry-pick anything involving government and find and example of things gone wrong. I’d say that judging by NY Police stop-and-frisk standards, whatever errors might be made are, well regrettable. Then there’s that whole drone thing, which doesn’t make much more than a token effort at avoiding killing the innocent, let alone the unconvicted.

        Then there is that deal in Iraq where Uncle Sam used his Apache’s to kill journalists and those who came to their aid, then covered it up — he thought. Isn’t that where we came in?

        Yeah, war is ugly and doing something about it usually imperfect. I’d still say that Manning did the best he could when confronted with a difficult moral choice, certainly far better than the folks did who thought sweeping it all under the rug was the way to deal with the sorrows of empire.

        • J. Michael Neal says

          How does revealing cables about Belarus constitute the “best he could” do with regards to a war in Iraq?

          • Mike says

            J. Michael,
            You’re obviously barking up the Manning Was Too Irresponsible To Be a Whistleblower Tree. Instead of questioning the fact that the release may have caused some inadvertent harm to someone, it might be worth balancing that against the fact that the US government as a whole is obviously and systematically irresponsible in its use of secrecy to protect itself against embarrassment and to cover up crimes, both of which are specifically prohibited by law as a misuse of classification authority. At the same time, the government used secrecy to cover up far worse than that that it did intend, both to commit and conceal.

            Odd, that you should pick out one instance, surely inadvertent and not intended, of Manning’s missteps, while being tolerant of the fact that our government is more than willing to cover a pack of lies and obscure the truth about policies, practices and incidents that fundamentally call into question the our government’s use of force and subversion to achieve questionable policy goals, as well as systemic abuse of classification authority to avoid review by proper authority within and without the US government.

          • prognostication says

            I have this idea in my head that the average comment here used to be better, but maybe I’m wrong. It does seem like a shocking number of threads get derailed by zealots these days. These people are literally arguing that the ends justify the means without even acknowledging that’s what they are saying. There’s no point arguing with that.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            Mike:

            Sorry, but taking the actions that Manning took means assuming the inadvertent and unintended consequences. Saying that you didn’t realize that there might be stuff in those cables that shouldn’t have been made public doesn’t cut it. You should have realized that before you started.

            And the reason that I focus on this particular aspect of the inadvertent consequences of Manning’s actions is because it’s the best documented.

            As I said above, it takes a profoundly U.S.-centric world view to think that uncovering some lies by our government justifies effectively handing people over to the secret police of a totalitarian regime. What you proclaim over and over, without realizing it, I think, it that Belarusans don’t really matter.

          • Mike says

            J. Michael,
            In the end, Manning was part of the US government and faced his responsibility as a citizen and a soldier of it to expose its crimes. He’s not responsible for what Belarussia does.

            On the other hand, I’d be more inclined to consider your point on Belarus if you were at all concerned about the US bombs that go astray and kill kids, about the drone strikes that are far less “surgical” than claimed, about the many, many other mistakes the US government makes…well, nevermind, you’re OK with covering those up. In fact, you insist on that as a first principle and that those who “break the seal” and expose them are the real problem.

            In fact, If I was the Belarussian government, I’d want you on my side. All the better to keep those pesky dissidents under control if we’re all clear it’s those who rock the boat who are the problem…and not the government.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            He’s not responsible for what Belarussia does.

            This is rank sophistry. He is very much responsible for what the Belarusan government does with information that he provided to them.

            On the other hand, I’d be more inclined to consider your point on Belarus if you were at all concerned about . . .

            You apparently don’t have the slightest idea what I am and am not concerned about. You are treating my comments in this thread as if they are the totality of my beliefs. From that ellipsis you proceed to make a series of allegations that you have no support for beyond an absence of comment in this thread.

    • Keith Humphreys says

      @Mike: I agree that the best way to settle the rape question is through a trial in a court of law. What a pity Assange does not deign to face his accusers, but that’s on him and not the rest of us.

      • Mike says

        I guess we’ll have to disagree on the significance of this.

        It is indeed a pity that Sweden can’t afford a plane ticket for their investigator to fly to London and question Assange there to develop a substantive basis on which there might be grounds to extradite him nor grant assurances that this whole affair is not simply a stalking horse for the US and that any legal action in Sweden would be restricted to this case and not extradition into a legal system that now feels it must pre-emptively promise to not execute or torture those it seeks custody of internationally through extradition.

        • Warren Terra says

          Well, given that Assange has in his court filings admitted the actions of which he is accused (while denying they constituted rape, and insisting the Swedish prosecution is a stalking horse for the Americans to get their hands on him), I think Sweden can save money on the plane fare, don’t you?

          • RichardC says

            I think it is a mistake to take any document drafted by lawyers, and expect to read it as
            plain English and understand it. It almost certainly doesn’t mean quite what you think it means
            (and it may well be carefully crafted to give one impression, while allowing a legal parsing
            that means something quite different).

      • Mitch Guthman says

        Assange has said that he would be prepared to face his accusers if he could be sure that he wouldn’t be shipped to the United States to receive the Bradley Manning treatment (if he was lucky and treated comparatively gently by his captors in comparison with others held at Guantanamo Bay or federal prison; perhaps once the glare of publicity has faded he might be disappeared to one of our former KGB hellholes in Eastern Europe). If the British and Swedish governments were genuinely interested in vindicating the rights of the alleged victims, they would call Assange’s bluff and give exactly those ironclad guarantees. The failure of either government to do this has persuaded me that the real objective is to send him to the United States for what we laughably call “justice”.

      • Barry says

        “What a pity Assange does not deign to face his accusers, but that’s on him and not the rest of us.”

        With rendition and torture, that changes. Would you submit yourself to a highly corrupt justice system which has proven that covering up the sort of crimes you’ve publicized is more important than – well, pretty much everything?

  4. Brett Bellmore says

    I agree, the verdict appears appropriate. He illegally revealed classified information, his actions resulted in the deaths of innocent, even heroic people.

    Just having a bit of trouble distinguishing him from Obama on this score.

  5. Anonymous says

    On a blog supposedly devoted to fact-based thinking and public policy, it seems a little out of character to
    a) assume that revealing secrets has led to the death of individuals, when the largest and most powerful organization in the world, with every incentive to identify such individuals, has failed to identify any;
    and b) to take the position that as a matter of policy government secrecy should be assumed to be justified and good until positively shown otherwise; I would think that the history of government secrecy would indicate the opposite to a neutral observer.

    • Keith Humphreys says

      The incentives to reveal who was killed are not necessarily there. Imagine the Iranian government tortures and kills five peace activists mentioned in a cable that Manning released, one of whom was a U.S. operative. Revealing which was which could put other people at risk, for example the families of the person who was the operative.

      And what you said on secrecy is attacking straw man that does not actually respond to what Mark said. Your attack is no more fair than saying that someone who is a critic of secrecy wishes that the Manhattan project had provided regular updates throughout to the Japanese and Germans.

      • Bloix says

        Well, we know for a fact that Dick Cheney revealed secrets that may have led to the deaths of American operatives.

        http://www.democracynow.org/2005/10/25/nyt_exposes_cheneys_role_in_cia

        And we know that the Obama administration is a master of selective leaking.

        see, e.g., http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/06/all-leaks-are-illegal-but-some-leaks-are-more-illegal-than-others/276828/

        When Dick Cheney is put on trial for treason, I’ll be a little bit more persuaded that what Manning did was worthy of spending the rest of his life in a box.

        Until then, I’m going to continue to suspect that the government selectively prosecutes leakers, not in order to protect US operatives in hostile countries, but to engage in practices that the American people would not support if they knew about them.

        • J. Michael Neal says

          If you’re expecting anyone one this board to defend Dick Cheney, you’re going to be waiting a while.

      • Mitch Guthman says

        What would be your view of a German who leaks the details of the Shoah but also reveals (perhaps inadvertently) the hiding place of Anne Frank?

      • Mitch Guthman says

        Why make such assumptions? Do they have any basis in fact? If not, why not assume that Manning’s leaks harmed nobody? Isn’t that assumption equally valid in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary?

        • J. Michael Neal says

          We don’t assume they harmed nobody because we know of some instances where they did. What you are assuming is that, sure, they may have hurt some Belarusans, but they couldn’t have hurt anyone else. As I’ve said repeatedly, your capacity to blind yourself to the consequences inflicted in places other than the U.S. is striking. There really are other people in the world.

          So, given that we know of one case (with multiple individuals) where there were negative consequences, why should I assume that there were no other cases?

          • Mitch Guthman says

            With respect, it is not that I have a disregard for the lives of Belorussians but rather that I have no knowledge of the events you are describing and you have provided no basis for me to evaluate whether or not what you say happened did, in fact, happen. From what little I know about Belorussia since the breakup of the USSR, I agree that the state is a particularly brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people in some horrible ways. The nature of the present regime is something about which I think we agree.

            What I question, however, is why Lukashenko would need any help from Wikileaks in tracking dissidents. From what I’ve heard,the KGB there has a very well deserved reputation of both brutality and efficiency. My assumption is that they would surely have been well aware of the contacts between the dissidents and the American diplomats and, indeed, were probably were and listening in on any conversations involving American diplomats or journalists. It is for this reason that I ask you to substantiate your charge.

            If it’s true that Wikileaks provided this information to the KGB, that was deplorable but Assange should be called to account for what his organization does and its poor judgment in making an alliance with the KGB and not whether Assange has a friend who hates Jews.

            At the same time, there is an interesting juxtaposition of your justified concern for the fate of Belorussian dissidents with your lack of concern for Americans who are willing to brave torture and long prison sentences under horrific conditions to expose war crimes and other abuses of human rights by the American government.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            Mark provided a link to information about the episode way back in the original post. Again, you seem to have skipped right over that very important part of the thread.

      • Barry says

        “The incentives to reveal who was killed are not necessarily there. Imagine the Iranian government tortures and kills five peace activists mentioned in a cable that Manning released, one of whom was a U.S. operative. Revealing which was which could put other people at risk, for example the families of the person who was the operative.”

        1) Then the US government talks up the killings of the five activists, without mentioning that.
        2) Allegedly many, many secrets were compromised; the point being made is that the US government hasn’t claimed that about *any*. If they kept quiet on 995, and talked up the 5, we’d have no way of knowing about the 995.

        Can’t you come up with something better?

      • Anonymous says

        “Imagine the Iranian government tortures and kills five peace activists mentioned in a cable that Manning released, one of whom was a U.S. operative. Revealing which was which could put other people at risk, for example the families of the person who was the operative.”

        Well, if I’m going to imagine that, then let me request that you imagine that the Iranian government abandoned plans to torture and kill five peace activists because their names were mentioned in a cable and now they were too well-known and high profile to anonymously disappear without some kind of official or unnofficial US/European reprisal. Is Manning now a hero?

        Again, is this the ‘Reality-based community” or the “Speculations About Something that Maybe Could Have Happened, But Certainly Didn’t Because the U.S. Government Would Have Spared No Expense to Tell Us About It, Community”?

  6. Don says

    John Henry Faulk once said that official secrets exist to protect official liars. There are occasional counterexamples, but by and large I think Faulk was right, and that secrecy is less often about preventing damage to the country, than it is about protecting the people who run it from embarrassment. Certainly the burden of justifying secrecy is on the government, for the next several generations at least.

    I think we’ve spent far too much time talking about Bradley Manning, and too little talking about the secrets he revealed. Our government committed war crimes, crimes that remain unprosecuted. The organization that carried out these war crimes has zero moral authority to prosecute Manning, or even to condemn his actions. In a sane world, they would be begging for our forgiveness.

    What Manning did was his duty, and he did it at great personal cost. This is what the Medal of Honor is for.

    • Freeman says

      In a sane world, they would be begging for our forgiveness.

      In a sane world, the populace would MAKE them beg for our forgiveness. But in the world we have, the issue is all about Julian Assange and anti-Semitism at “Reality-Based” communities all over the world, with not ONE WORD about the war crimes Bradley Manning provided evidence of.

      • J. Michael Neal says

        . . . with not ONE WORD about the war crimes Bradley Manning provided evidence of.

        Oh, bullshit. If you think that there has been not ONE WORD about those war crimes on this blog your reading has been astonishingly selective. The front pagers may not have blogged about them recently but that’s another case where they’ve long since been hashed out and there wasn’t much disagreement about them. (Whether the current administration should have invested a lot of effort in trying to prosecute them given the difficulties involved along with the likelihood of acquittals certainly provoked more disagreement but there really hasn’t been much new on that front in a long time.)

        Between this and the drug discussions I have a feeling you would be much happier commenting at a blog where the front pagers spend a lot of their time making posts that all of their readership already agrees with so that you can all congratulate yourselves about your agreement. You aren’t going to find many of those posts here and, frankly, the ones that do fit into that category (mostly Mark posting nasty though true things about Republicans) are among the least interesting posts at the site. But if that’s what you want, there are plenty of places you could find it.

        • Freeman says

          Oh bullshit yourself! Prove it! My Google search for “bradley manning war crimes site:samefacts.com” came up empty of any blog post here about the war crimes exposed by Manning. There was only this post, two posts on the subject of Manning’s torture in which the front pagers did not mention ONE WORD about revealed war crimes, and one unrelated post about Romney that hit because of commentary about Bush’s war crimes and Manning’s torture.

          Between this and the drug discussions I have a feeling you would be much happier commenting at a blog where the front pagers spend a lot of their time making posts that all of their readership already agrees with so that you can all congratulate yourselves about your agreement.

          LOL! You just described your relationship with Keith Humphreys. My observation is that it is you who tries (and succeeds — Congratulations!) to be teacher’s pet by sniping at anyone who disagrees with the front pagers. I can’t recall any instance when you’ve actually seriously disagreed with any of them on any subject, particularly Keith and Mark (Matthew Kahn might be an exception). And what do you suppose you’d end up with here if you succeeded in convincing dissenters that “if that’s what you want, there are plenty of places you could find it.”?

  7. says

    > “with no assurance about how anti-Semite Julian Assange would handle them”

    Wow. I don’t think I’ll read any farther than that.

    Such nonsense doesn’t belong on a blog calling itself “The Reality-Based Community.” You’ve concluded that Assange is an anti-Semite based on some unsubstantiated accusations by some guy who doesn’t like him, which Assange himself, in the very article you linked to, denies outright.

    If you’re going to pick on real-life heroes like Manning and Assange, you might want to bring a bit of integrity with you next time.

    Yes, IMO, Manning deserves our gratitude, a medal, and a life-time supply of his favorite candy. Perhaps free beer, hookers and drugs too.

    • says

      The notion that Mark is upset that Manning leaked documents with “certainty that they would be used to damage the United States as much as possible.” is just… absolutely absurd. In what sort of warped world must a mind be in to make such a statement?

      If you care at all about this case, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyKIb3f1qk8

      Listen to the earnest quote by the gay American soldier at the end of the video who shouts to the crowd:

      “BRADLEY MANNING! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO AMERICA! AND TO THE WORLD!”

      Who is damaging the United States? Was it really Manning? Or was it every single person who:

      - Supported the invasion of a sovereign nation based on lies
      - The countless American soldiers who massacred and continue to massacre civilians abroad

      Is it Assange, who acts as the antidote the world needs to the NSA and government secrecy, or is it the military industrial complex who thrive and prosper through the misery they inflict upon the world?

      This article, IMO, comes precisely from the loony-realm of twisted and broken reasoning that’s at the heart of what does the most damage to the United States.

      • says

        The United States should be grateful it still has people like Manning.

        From the reactions that I’ve seen around the world, people in other countries are grateful for what Manning did. Manning’s actions demonstrate to them that perhaps while America’s leaders are psychopaths, at least its people aren’t (yet) 100% repulsive.

        Manning, Snowden, et. al. are a boon to the United State’s PR. They show that *within* the United States there still exist people who are just as upset at the actions of their own government as the people who have to actually live with the consequences of those actions.

        • Mike says

          Greg,
          Good points.

          We also shouldn’t forget that our politicians have at times justified our bombing other nations because their people weren’t choosy enough about picking their leaders. It’s a darn good thing GW Bush was president of Bananaville when he pulled his preposterous invasion of Iraq or he — and we — would have heard the bombs dropping long ago.

          • Mike says

            That should have been “It’s a darn good thing GW Bush was NOT president of Bananaville…”

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Wow! An anti-Semite denies being an anti-Semite! I suppose that question is settled, then. No doubt some of Assange’s best friends are Jews.

      Here’s the Wikipedia on Assange’s associate Israel Shamir,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Shamir,
      who also denies that he’s an anti-Semite having written this:

      “The rich Jews buy media so it will cover up their (and their brethren’s) misdeeds. The Jews in the media are giving protection to the rich Jews. … In the US, even in Western Europe, no view can be proposed to the general public unless approved (after being vetted and corrected) by a Jewish group.”

      • Mitch Guthman says

        And what does this have to do with the morality of Obama’s having had Manning tortured and now probably imprisoned for life because he leaked the proof of American atrocities in Iraq?

        • J. Michael Neal says

          Uh, nothing? Perhaps that’s why Mark separated them way back in the original post that started the thread.

      • says

        With respect to Manning’s story, I find it fascinating what people tend to focus on, and the questions they like to ask:

        - Did Manning “aid the enemy?”
        - Was there “prosecutorial overreach” in his case?
        - In what ways did Manning “harm” the United States?
        - Is Assange an anti-semite?
        - Is this associate of Assange’s an anti-semite?
        - Does Assange have have any Jewish friends?
        - What would be a “just” punishment for Manning?

        Mark, if you decide to shift your focus on some other topics related to this cases, other than the above, please let me know or write a post here and I’d be happy to read what you have to say.

        If, upon eliminating those, you find that you’re suddenly all out of ideas, here are some friendly suggestions that might provide inspiration for your writings:

        - What are the names of the murderers in the Collateral Murder video?
        - Where are they now?
        - What are they up to?
        - What did they do last Saturday, and what was Manning doing on that day?
        - Find a few quotes from the lovers/wives/girlfriends/mothers/fathers/friends of the people they gunned down. What are they doing now?

        I think that given enough thought, someone with your writing skills can come up with a truly worthwhile piece.

        • says

          Oh, sorry, how silly of me, I forgot a few other gems that were asked here:

          - Does Manning deserve our gratitude?
          - Does Manning deserve a medal?

          Unbelievable.

    • says

      Given his politics, Assange is most certainly for the establishment of a Palestinian state, this is not evidence of his being an anti-Semeite although it gets tangled up into same by people who do oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.

  8. Sebastian H says

    Manning and Snowden vex me because I want to believe I live in a country where I can trust the government to behave appropriately on national security issues, but they point out that I don’t.

    An ideal whistleblower would reveal only secrets that need to be whistle blown and no more. And in a nation where we protected whistleblowers, I could be satisfied. The problem for me is that both the Bush and Obama administrations have ratcheted up the secrecy norms so much, and increased the prosecution of leaks so much, that the risks of being a narrowly targeted whistleblower have gone up immensely. This leaves important revelations to come only from people who really don’t understand what they are getting into, or the marginally attached who can run away.

    I want to be madder at Manning and Snowden, but Bush and Obama have put me in a United States where I can’t.

    • Brett Bellmore says

      “The problem for me is that both the Bush and Obama administrations have ratcheted up the secrecy norms so much,”

      Just to put this in perspective, in less time in office than Bush had, he has prosecuted more leakers than every previous administration in US history combined. Admittedly the sample size is small, but it does kind of suggest Obama’s “secrecy norms” are not merely an extension of Bush’s.

      • Mitch Guthman says

        I agree. Also, more targeted killings and attacks on wedding parties than Bush. Also, the first president to claim the power to permanently arrest or even kill American citizens on his whim based on secret evidence. Never renounced what Bush claimed was the president’s power to order captives (including innocents) tortured and murdered.

        Now it looks like it was Obama who expanded both spying on Americans and the power of the deep state well beyond Dick Cheney’s wildest dreams.

        • J. Michael Neal says

          Also, more targeted killings . . .

          You know, if the alternative to more targeted killings is more untargeted killings, as we had with the last administration, the choice seems pretty clear to me. It may not be great in an absolute sense but it definitely provides a reason to prefer this administration to the last one.

          You know, when I made all of my comments above about assigning zero value to the outcomes for people outside the U.S. I was trying to do so in a way that gave the impression that you didn’t really do any such thing but had simply fallen into a trap of not thinking about Belarusans because of your outrage about the American government. This comment suggests to me that I was wrong. You really do seem to base your outrage entirely upon the consequences for Americans.

          There is an order of magnitude, roughly speaking, fewer actual foreigners who die due to targeted drone strikes, even as they increase, than there were under the mass killing policies of the Bush administration. That this doesn’t resonate with you at all really speaks poorly to your humanitarian evaluation of the outcomes.

          • Mitch Guthman says

            In the first place, the “targeted killings” under Obama don’t seem to be any better designed to avoid killing innocents than the ones done by Bush. Obama has simply manipulated the definition of “terrorist” so that anybody older than 12 who is killed by us is ipso facto a terrorist. So this is a pretty thin reed for preferring Obama to Bush.

            By no means am I unconcerned about the possible complicity of a Wikileaks person in the murders of people in other countries, particularly when the alleged victims are supposedly members of my own center-left, democratizing tribe. My point is that your glee in seizing upon this seems to flow less from a genuine concern about the murder of innocents than a desire to use very poor documented evidence about such transgressions to trash people who are harming Obama’s image. If there is reliable information, it should be brought out in the international press. If it’s true that this information was given by Wikileaks then that would certainly diminish their support on the non-Communist left (and probably even among the Communists in Western Europe). But I do not see these changes being established with good evidence by you or other Obama supporters. Neither do I see you criticizing President Obama for his own inadequacies in dealing with Belorussia and his lack of support for the dissidents who cause you seem to champion only for the sake of convenience as a weapon to use against those who criticize Obama’s deplorable record on civil liberties and human rights.

            In short, your invocation of humanitarian concerns seems to flow less from a genuine interest in such matters and more an attempt to deflect criticism of the Obama administration. It reminds me of Tony Blair’s invocations of similar humanitarian justifications for the invasion of Iraq.

          • J. Michael Neal says

            Boy, you are really good at ignoring the elephant in the room, aren’t you? Has Barack Obama invaded another country, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of local civilians?

  9. Bloix says

    BTW, the penalties for whistleblowing are so great that no normal person would engage in it. The Washington Post magazine section last week had an article about a number of whistleblowers whose actions were far more modest than either Manning’s or Snowden’s. Their lives are ruined: prison, unemployment, bankruptcy, wrecked marriages, loss of contact with children, loss of friends and colleagues.

    Normal people with an ordinary lives don’t blow the whistle. They either STFU and keep on working, as Manning was told to do, or carefully extricate themselves from the job and get into some other line of work. You going to go up against the US Army, the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA? I don’t care who they killed, I wouldn’t do it. They’re scarier than the Mafia. And like the Mafia, the government counts on people being self-preservationists when it decides to commit crimes in the plain sight of its employees.

    Look at Assange – this is a guy from Australia, way out of the line of fire, with mad skills that would have made more money than he could ever hope to spend. He could be flying around the world in private jets telling armies of people what to do, and sleeping with as many women as he could find time for, if that’s his thing (like every rock and sports star we idolize). Instead, he chose to live a solitary and virtually homeless existence with a few supporters, doing things that were guaranteed to bring down the power of the greatest empire the world has ever seen down on his head. Not a normal guy.

    People who become whistleblowers are not normal in some way – they’ve got emotional problems, they’re self-aggrandizing, or paranoid, or otherwise neurotic.

    Then, when they go ahead and blow the whistle at a personal risk and cost that us normal types would never contemplate, we condemn them for being weird and fucked-up. Works out pretty well.

    • Barry says

      “BTW, the penalties for whistleblowing are so great that no normal person would engage in it. The Washington Post magazine section last week had an article about a number of whistleblowers whose actions were far more modest than either Manning’s or Snowden’s. Their lives are ruined: prison, unemployment, bankruptcy, wrecked marriages, loss of contact with children, loss of friends and colleagues.”

      For once I agree with you. And I eagerly await the day that Mark goes into Amity Schlaes’ lectures and calls her out for the liar and fraud that she is.

  10. RichardC says

    Kleiman’s use of “unpatriotic” above has been nagging at me for a while, and I think is really evidence
    of a generational divide. Because it feels that he intends “unpatriotic” to be fighting words, but
    to me I just shrug my shoulders and think he must be an old guy (botn 1951 according to wikipedia, so about
    62, right ?).

    I’m a little younger than that, but work in the tech industry, and thus spend my days in a group of about
    12 people with about 8 different nationalities, of whom natural-born US citizens are a small minority.
    And that’s just the people physically present in the same office in the USA – I’ve also worked on
    developments with groups on two other continents. What is “patriotism” supposed to mean if your peer group
    is globalized ?

    Now let’s look at the timeline of Bradley Manning’s life, and some historical incidents relating to leaking
    and, arguably, “patriotism”:

    1987 born in December
    1991 age 3 – Gulf War 1
    2000 age 12 – SCOTUS decides election on partisan 5-4 vote
    2001 age 13 – moved to Wales
    2003 age 15 – Plame identity leaked
    2004 age 16 – Abu Ghraib torture photos leaked
    2005 age 17 – Scooter Libby indicted for Plame leak
    returned to USA
    2010 age 22 – Manning leaks

    So basically, this is a young guy with an American father and Welsh mother,
    now divorced, who lived abroad in Wales from age 14-18, in formative years
    when parts of the US military, and parts of the US government, engaged in
    shameful behavior. How “patriotic” would you expect him to be ? What is
    “patriotism” supposed to be ?

    As I say, I think this is a generational issue. The boomers were the sons and
    daughters of the Greatest Generation, and had good reason to feel pride and
    allegiance to what that generation did in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, in
    fighting truly bad guys, building the richest society in history, and eventually,
    tentatively, dismantling the Jim Crow system of oppression, and spreading the
    benefits more widely with the Great Society. People of Manning’s age mostly have
    had a very different experience, and it just isn’t clear what “patriotism” does,
    or should, mean in a globalized world where we’re using Facebook on our China-built
    iPhones to keep in touch with people in Beijing and Moscow and Amsterdam.

    So I think “patriotism” is pretty much gone. And I also think that may be a good
    thing.

    • Barry says

      RichardC,

      A few modifications, perhaps:

      Libby gets convicted of multiple felonies related to blowing a CIA agent to help keep it from being more widely known that his bosses lied us into a war; sentence commuted.

      Abu Grhaib – nobody above squad leader did time.

      • RichardC says

        Indeed. If “patriotism” is pride in your country and its system of government,
        then I find it completely unsurprising that the generation which went through
        adolescence roughly between the Lewinsky affair (1998) and the end of GW Bush’s
        presidency (2008) would feel such pride. And discussion of “patriotism” seems
        especially unhelpful in a case which involves someone half-Welsh, an Australian,
        and a Swede.

        The “unpatriotic” accusation seems to come down to the fact that Manning wasn’t a good
        soldier in the US military. And how very very true that is. He was a *terrible*
        soldier: he flunked basic training, didn’t fit in, skirted the boundaries of the
        “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, and of course eventually committed crimes. I find
        all of that utterly unsurprising and largely predictable from facts which were
        entirely apparent before his enlistment. If other people have been recruited and
        trained and (un)vetted and (mis)managed as Manning was, you can expect more cases
        like this. Getting all steamed up about Manning’s personal failure is missing the
        systemic issue nobody like that should have ever have been given a security clearance.

  11. burnspbesq says

    Deterrence is a legitimate goal of criminal law, and behavior like Manning’s should be deterred to the greatest extent possible.

    A sentence that ensures that Manning will only leave Leavenworth in a box is appropriate.

    • Mitch Guthman says

      It seems to me that Manning revealed a great deal of very specific evidence of serious atrocities such as the murder of innocent civilians and journalists by American forces in Iraq that had been classified to protect the perpetrators of these crimes and not for any legitimate reason of national security. Is the revelation of atrocities against civilians and the murder of journalists really something to be deterred? Shouldn’t it actually be promoted as a moral good?

      I also question the appropriateness of Manning’s likely sentence of, essentially, life imprisonment. Manning will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for the crime of revealing the atrocities committed by the Americans in Iraq. Yet, nobody has ever been sent to prison for the murders and other crimes committed that would never have been brought to light but for Manning’s act of self-sacrifice. And looking at the broad range of the murders and rapes of innocent civilians committed by Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that the Obama administration has dealt with the perpetrators of these heinous crime in an astonishingly lenient way.

      It is the juxtaposition of the punishment of murders and rapists with the drastic punishments given to leakers as enemies of the state that I find to be very offensive and also a damming indictment of Barack Obama’s values as a human being and a political leader.

      • J. Michael Neal says

        It seems to me that Manning provided a small amount of very specific information about a few crimes. Beyond that he provided a fair amount of general information about a general atmosphere of criminality that came as a surprise to absolutely no one. Seriously, do you know anyone who thought that there had been no crimes committed prior to Manning’s leaks that has changed their minds because of them? I don’t. Every person that I know who cares about the war crimes committed already did so before anyone had heard of Bradley Manning.

        And that’s a part of why I’m not on board with lionizing him that much: I don’t think what he did was very important. It isn’t that I don’t care about the war crimes that have been committed (though I’d bet that I have a narrower view of what constitutes a war crime than you do). It’s that I don’t feel like he really revealed all that much about them. So when I look at the harms he has caused I don’t find as much in the positive side of the ledger to weigh against them.

        And I agree (much like Mark did in the original post that you seem to have ignored): I think he’s going to get far more time than he deserves. And I think that the way he was treated early in his incarceration was a disgrace. But just as you argue that Julian Assange’s personality doesn’t much matter in assessing the import of Bradley Manning’s actions, I don’t think the way that Manning has been treated can in any way justify those same actions.

        • Donald says

          What about his actions needs to be condemned? So he didn’t tell us much any sensible person didn’t already suspect or know about our government? So we should all just yawn about the war crimes and the coverups and the lack of accountability for those responsible get back to discussing just how much punishment or lionizing we should do for Manning?

  12. NCG says

    I don’t have enough time to closely follow all this, but I thought that Wikileaks had assigned some of our more responsible news orgs the task of sorting through all that stuff? I think we’re forgetting the amount of time it would have taken Manning to do it himself. I doubt if even our enormous federal government has the resources to really examine all this data it’s sitting on. So I rather count that charge as nitpicking. These days, there’s too much stuff to be “responsible” as in the old days. And whose fault is that? I don’t know.

    The Belarus thing as alleged is horrible. Assange may in fact be a total jerk, but I couldn’t tell from that one linked piece what his level of involvement/approval really was in that incident. It reminds me of Sen. Paul’s issue with his weirdo Southern Avenger friend — it takes people a while to sort out scandals when they involve friends. I hope that’s all this is. Otherwise, it would be pretty bonkers. I can see not liking the US government, but why anyone would like Belarus’ escapes me.

    Plus, I don’t expect Manning to know everything about people he meets online. Sure, maybe he should’ve just sent the stuff to the NYT. I expect he had some sort of reason.

    Overall, I agree with the people who argue that we are spending too much time trashing Manning, instead of trying to deal with the huge distortions 9/11 has caused in the US. It is a misalignment of priorities.

    • Bloix says

      “Sure, maybe he should’ve just sent the stuff to the NYT.”

      He TRIED to send the stuff to the NYT. They didn’t respond to him.

      “[Manning] said in a hearing today that he initially tried to leak to journalists at the New York Times and Washington Post, and only turned to Julian Assange’s shop after they didn’t take him seriously.”

      http://gawker.com/5987634/bradley-manning-tried-to-leak-to-the-new-york-times-and-washington-post-before-turning-to-wikileaks

    • J. Michael Neal says

      I think we’re forgetting the amount of time it would have taken Manning to do it himself.

      It shouldn’t have taken that long, but then I’m coming at it from the other direction. Rather than weeding out all of the harmful things before sending the cables on, he could have picked out the ones that revealed the things he wanted to reveal and just given those to the relevant parties.

      Assange may in fact be a total jerk, but I couldn’t tell from that one linked piece what his level of involvement/approval really was in that incident.

      That’s actually stated. He handed the cables to Israel Shamir, who got onto a flight to Minsk with them and handed them over.

      • NCG says

        No, the piece Mark linked to says this:

        “His subsequent attempts to distance himself from Shamir were undermined when James Ball, a former WikiLeaks staffer, revealed that not only did Assange authorise Shamir’s access to the cables — how else could he have got hold of the documents from this impenetrably secretive organisation consecrated to transparency? — he also stopped others from criticising Shamir even after news of his Belarusian expedition became public.”

        Some guy saying Assange did something doesn’t count as proof to me. It’s an indicator at best. And the entire linked piece is a bit overheated imo. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It means it’s not proof.

        Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re not. But my point about Manning stands — how’s he supposed to know who to trust? He knew who he *didn’t* trust, at that point. I’m not saying he’s perfect either (and I don’t think he does).

        I just think we have to put ourselves in his shoes a little. He’s already being punished. I say, he seems to be a little fish, they should throw him back. And as many point out, people committing *actual* crimes don’t seem to be getting punished at all.

    • says

      Yes, the ones involved with the diplomatic cables were El País, Le Monde, Germany, the Guardian, and the New York Times. As to what Israel Shamir did or did not do, well, leaks go all sorts of ways and unless J. Michael has some proof that Assange meant for Shamir to take the cables to Minsk, he is bloviating.

  13. Mitch Guthman says

    @ J. Michael Neal and Keith Humphreys,

    Not so fast! The point I was trying to make, perhaps not skillfully, was that there are other moral actors in this situation and to draw attention to them and their questionable or even deplorable activities. I question whether Mark (or yourselves) have a principled basis for excluding criticism Obama’s faults and moral choices as irrelevant whilst attacking Manning for the beliefs or actions of people several times removed from himself or a discussion of the merits of releasing this information. If Mark can talk about Assange’s alleged Jew hating to discredit Manning, why can’t I talk about Obama having dramatically eroded American civil liberties with a surveillance state that would make the KGB envious and expanded the limits of permissible executive to include such evils as torture, indefinite detention and the outright murder of Americans?

    • J. Michael Neal says

      You can talk about that all you want. What I object to is your assertion that you can tell what *I* do and do not care about based solely upon what I have not said within the context of a single thread, topped off by making assertions about what Mark believes that flatly ignores things that he explicitly said in the original post.

      The other thing you could search long and hard for me saying anywhere in this thread, and then failing to find, is any assertion that I agree with all of Obama’s policies. The closest I have come is a statement that *relative* to Bush I think he’s a big improvement. I’ll stand by that, but also note that there is a huge gap between “better than Bush” and “good”.

      Oh, sorry. There is something you said in this comment that I have to mock, namely, “. . . why can’t I talk about Obama having dramatically eroded American civil liberties with a surveillance state that would make the KGB envious . . .” You pretty clearly have no idea what sort of surveillance state the KGB ran if you can make this statement with a straight face. None. The rest of that sentence is badly flawed, but this section of it is a howler.

      • Mitch Guthman says

        You seem to think it’s a valid method for determining all kinds of things about my values and beliefs. Why isn’t it equally valid for determining yours?

        As to what kind of surveillance state the KGB ran, I’m actually familiar with it both from a limited personal experience and from stories related by clients and friends during the Cold War. The KGB didn’t record metadata for every telephone call or email, photograph and index every piece of mail, every credit card transaction, every SWIFT transaction and record every telephone call. Not that they wouldn’t have liked to do all these things but they simply lacked the capacity that the vast surveillance state enjoyed by Obama’s organs of state security.

        As for the errorsion of our civil liberties, none of Obama’s predecessors has claimed the right to order Americans arrested on secret evidence, indefinitely detained on secret evidence and executed based on secret evidence. Obama claims the right to do all of those things but he has refused to renounce the right to order innocents tortured. He has invoked the state secrets doctrine more than any other president in history. In all of those specific areas, Obama did not merely continue Bush’s policies he has willingly gone far beyond what Bush did. Obama has become the living embodiment of Nixon’s statement that when the president does it, it’s legal.

        • Barry says

          “Obama claims the right to do all of those things but he has refused to renounce the right to order innocents tortured. ”

          And people who’ve ordered and oversaw torture were promoted; at this point it means that the executive branch permanent management structure is richly speckled with people who have a lot at stake in keeping torture ‘normal’.

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