Private Private Bradley Manning was a US Army intelligence analyst stationed near Baghdad from November 2009 through May 2010. He had access to top secret documents generated by the State Department as well as the military. He was charged with transferring approximately 380,000 records about Iraq, and 90,000 records about Afghanistan to WikiLeaks.
The case of Bradley Manning is finally going to trial. So far, Pvt. Manning has appeared in front of a military court. He was officially given the charges against him, and a determination will be made by the judge as to whether he should be given a formal court-martial. Basically, all he had to do in last Friday’s hearing was to agree that he understood the charges against him and to indicate whether or not he was satisfied with his representation. He answered, “Yes, sir” to both.
From what I have seen of the records (they were on the web, after all) most of the records seem to show that the US government was doing its job. That is nice to know! US ambassadors and others were giving confidential opinions as well as other confidential information to the Department of State and the Department of Defense. This is, after all, the job they were paid to do. If confidential discussions between two or more members of a government cannot remain confidential, then a government will not be able to function. Who would want to give a potentially offensive opinion about a foreign leader when there is a good chance that it would be leaked.
Mr. Manning, for reasons of his own decided to release these documents to WikiLeaks. This has proven to be embarrassing because these messages are the way that diplomats use when they want to or need to be undiplomatic. They are free to use these channels to tell the Secretary of State, for example that the leader of country “X” is being dishonest, deceitful, preparing to invade a neighbor, etc. In addition to embarrassing the United States, Manning’s release of documents may have compromised US agents, and it certainly compromised US Military plans.
Giving or withholding a security clearance from a young military person is very difficult. Here we have young men and women who have possibly never had any responsibility in their lives. Suddenly they are given a gun and shown how to use it, and, in some cases given a security clearance and are trusted with some of their nations most tightly held secrets. Most of these young men and women rise to the occasion admirably. Some don’t.
Manning had his problems and, in 20-20 hindsight it would have been better if he were not given a clearance but, nevertheless, he is responsible for his behavior. It was horrible!
If he is found guilty, then, in my opinion he deserves the harshest penalty that this country can bestow.