Chelsea Manning

How Bradley Manning Changed the War on Terror—and Politics—For the Better


As the military trial of Bradley Manning begins, The Daily Beast's Eli Lake has a great piece explaining how the guy who leaked 700,000-plus documents to Wikileaks has changed the way the U.S. government functions.

Manning faces the possibility of life in prison without possibility of parole for aiding the enemy. Writes Lake:

The Manning leak…ushered in a new era within the Obama administration to crack down on leakers and what they deemed the "insider threat," a term that historically referred to spies who sold or shared secrets with foreign governments. On Nov. 28, 2010, as WikiLeaks was doling out the diplomatic cables Manning leaked to selected partner news organizations, including The New York Times andThe Guardian, Jacob Lew, then Obama's director of the Office of Management and Budget, issued a memorandum (PDF) to all government agencies that generate classified information to reform systems for protecting those secrets….

Earlier this year, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 lesser offenses in relation to WikiLeaks of mishandling information he was required to protect. But the government has continued to press its topline charges, while Manning has denied that he did his leaking to aid an enemy of the United States or in any way violated the Espionage Act. In an audio statement that surfaced in March from one of his pre-trial hearings, during which he admitted to the leaks, Manning said he was moved to disclose the information to spark a wider debate about foreign policy. He observed that a 2007 video he leaked captured from a helicopter before an air strike in Iraq showed that his fellow soldiers "dehumanized the individuals they were engaging in and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as 'dead bastards' and congratulating themselves on their ability to kill in large numbers."

"With Manning's offer of a plea bargain, which carries up to 20 years in jail, this satisfies the imperative to reinforce to those in uniform that they have a solemn responsibility to protect the national interest," said [former State Dept. spokesman P.J.] Crowley on Sunday. The former spokesman said he believed Manning harmed the national interest with his leak. But he also said the prosecution ran the risk of taking the case too far by seeking to imprison Manning for the rest of his life for the crime of aiding the enemy. "My apprehension is that as the prosecution begins to present its case tomorrow, it risks making Bradley Manning into a martyr," he said.

Read the whole story.

As Manning's willingness to plead guilty to various charges attests, he plainly broke various laws. Leaving aside the various legal issues, there's no question that Manning's actions helped force precisely the sort of conversation about how government actions that he said he was after. By helping to usher in an age of radical transparency—whether wanted or not, this is something that governments and corporations and other organizations will have to deal with—Manning has truly altered the ways in which politics, policy, and business will be conducted. As an addendum, his treatment at the hands of the Obama administration showcase how slow those in power are to understand and react to these changes except by cracking down in ways that underscore why Americans should be in favor of greater transparency.

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  1. Be that as it may, Kardassia has determined he is guilty, so his trial can now begin.

  2. [cue baying hounds]

  3. Why did Bradley Manning make the AM links late?

    1. We don’t need no stinking links!

      1. Weiner swells with pride

        A sausage link, as it were.

  4. helping to usher in an age of radical transparency

    Hey, what is the Obama administration, chopped liver?

    1. He also ushered in an era of breaking a contract. Well, maybe he didn’t usher it in.

      1. America was founded by traitors and contract breakers.

  5. I’m not feeling bad for Manning.

    1. What a fucking surprise battlecry guy.

      1. what a fucking surprise that someone unable to see what a screen name means would make a silly comment.

        1. Go Dawgs!
          Boo Auburn …
          (Or maybe still completely off base)

          1. “America’s Most Versatile Boat Company”

        2. You do have “war” in your screen name. Pardon my ignorance.

        3. Uh, the first hit that comes up when you google your handle is a boat company. Number two is some sports team thingy. Number three is a fishing lure company. Honestly, it’s kind of obscure. Your perpetual oversensitivity about this only invites abuse.

          Shorter: Get over yourself.

  6. I don’t want to sound like Mr. Warmonger here, but the former Marine infantryman in me wants to strangle this kid, while the civil libertarian in me wants to shake his hand.

    the video shows combat helicopter dehumanizing their targets and congratulating themselves on their kills? Isn’t this exactly what combat helicopter pilots are supposed to do? I’ll just say this- if you’re in a role where you are faced in combat with the enemy, and you know you must kill them, you HAVE to dehumanize your enemy if you ever want to sleep at night.

    Do I blame the pilots or the Army for this? No, this is what they do to win wars. What I do blame is unleashing the hounds when they clearly did not need to be unleashed. The Army is not a fuzzy-wuzzy police force.

  7. Something PFC Manning wouldn’t know anything about, because he’s a pencil-necked POG who never had to serve a day in the field.

  8. Manning owes his loyalty to the American people or maybe he owes his loyalty to humanity in general. He definitely doesn’t owe the war machine.

    1. of course, he owes the machine. He chose to join it, even took the oath that the club requires of new members.

      1. I understand you. He’s no traitor to his country or humanity is all I’m saying. He done good. Boy’s a hero.

        1. The boy deserves to spend the rest of his life in a federal pound me in the ass prison. Betraying military secrets DOES NOT benefit the American people. It puts them in danger.

          This kid IS NOT a whistle blower. He didn’t do this to expose any wrongdoing. He did it because he disagreed with policy (rightly or wrongly). He is most certainly, NOT a hero.

          There is a difference between military secrets and classifying data to cover up wrongdoing.

          1. (Provided he’s found guilty, that is.)

          2. Since there’s no evidence that anything Manning released put anybody, especially “American people,” in danger, and since what he did release exposed law breaking by the government, it seems a tad hasty to suggest that he should be raped for the rest of his life.

            1. Um. What lawbreaking?

          3. And there’s a difference between releasing military secrets because the info needs to be kept secret for operational reasons and releasing military secrets that are secret because they’re mildly embarrassing (like the helo pilot gun camera stuff – I mean anyone with half a brain knows that shit goes on with *all* combattants, we just like to pretend that our soldiers don’t enjoy winning) or shouldn’t have been secret in the first place.

            I’m still uncertain what info he leaked that rises above the level of NoForn or official Use Only stuff.

  9. OT, and it’s an old article, but this was one of my soldiers back in 06 –

    I’d like to see Reason cover WTU’s at some point if possible. Good idea, horrible execution, shameful results. Talk about “that which is seen and that which is not seen”.

    1. Jesus fucking Christ this just ruined my day. ARGH! FUCK!

    2. Fuck that. Evil fuckers.

    3. Wow. Bonus for combining War on Drugs mindlessness with ignoring an injured vet. Testing positive for amphetamine likely means he took Adderall – a drug prescribed to children for ADHD. In the NFL Richard Sherman tested positive for Adderall/amphetamine and received sufficient process to prove a chain of custody problem and escape any punishment. In the WTU, this guy received no process and was punished by denying him needed surgery. Lovely.

      1. The mentality of these units is one I’ve seen in Transient Personnel units all across the Navy – you’re at that unit because you have duties that require you to be absent often enough that you’re a drain on your parent unit (whether that be because you’re recovering from and injury, waiting to meet up with your unit, or awaiting disciplinary action) so you’re sent to these units so we can get some work out of you while you take care of business.

        They’re *supposed* to recognize that whatever you got sent to the TPU for is your primary duty and everything else gives way to it, in reality they make it difficult to do your job in favor of whatever bullshit make-work project they’re doing.

        Its doubly sad (and infuriating) that the WTU’s are run with the idea that these soldiers are deadweight skaters trying to get out of real work.

  10. The real travesty of this mess is the delay. He should have been executed as a traitor if found guilty or let go if found innocent years ago. There is no valid explanation for the length of time from when alleged offense was discovered to date of trial.

    The only reason to have the death penalty for treason is to serve as a deterrent. It only is a deterrent if applied swiftly upon discovery of the offense.

    1. It only is a deterrent if applied swiftly upon discovery of the offense.

      How does that work?

      “Golly, I was thinking of committing treason, and I guess I will because it took them years of solitary confinement to get around to trying Manning!”

      I believe the actual intent of the death penalty per the Constitution is to make a point about how serious treason is, not to be a significantly greater deterrent than life imprisonment.

      (You can’t really deter an dedicated ideological traitor, the more important type…)

      If death is a deterrent, the immediacy of its application is of only secondary import.

      (Especially true with other crimes, such as are committed impulsively or in the heat of emotion.

      You don’t “impulsively” download and then send WikiLeaks a pile of files. That takes forethought and time, at least a little of it.)

    2. 1. releasing classified info is not automatically treason.

      2. The death penalty is not mandatory for treason.

      3. In the military the death penalty would be reserved for cases of misconduct that put a great number of lives in real jeopardy and actually got people killed – we don’t even kill people for sleeping on watch anymore (though we do threaten it!)

  11. “…his fellow soldiers ‘dehumanized the individuals they were engaging in and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards’ and congratulating themselves on their ability to kill in large numbers.'”

    There is no such thing as a humane war. Killing the enemy is the name of the game. Anything that is called a war in which an enemy is not targeted and eliminated, is not a war. Soldiers do what they must to put themselves in a frame of mind to kill the enemy with the greatest efficiency and at minimum risk to themselves. This serves a similar purpose to the gallows humor exhibited by homicide detectives and others who must deal directly with death in civilian life.

    A complaint that our troops are not giving our enemies sufficient respect and are not acknowledging their humanity could only come from the mouth of someone who has never been to war.

    1. “Not being nice” is not much of a War Crime, no.

      (I also find it amusing that people make such a fuss over that – and admittedly much of it is poor form – while simply ignoring that the US military has the most protective (of civilians) rules of engagement you could ask for, and consistently both investigates and punishes abuses by soldiers all on its own*.

      * Remember Abu Ghraib? What was leaked to the press was the fact that the DoD was already investigating the abuses. The system was working, and the abusers got sent to Federal prisons.)

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