After 16 hours of deliberation, military judge Army Col. Denise Lind convicted pfd. Bradley Manning on 19 of 21 charges for his participation in the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, but his conviction on six counts of violating the Espionage Act, five counts of theft, one count of computer fraud, and other lesser infractions, has him facing a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison. With the sentencing phase of the trial now underway, Manning is expected to be sent to prison for the rest of his life. That prospect should disappoint no one, save those who have spent the last few years casting Manning as a "hero."
Despite how his apologists characterize him, Manning, a mentally disturbed individual, was on the verge of being discharged from the military after only six weeks of basic training when he perpetrated his crime. He did so in order to attack his country before it showed him the door. While stationed in his first post at Fort Drum, NY, Manning was referred for mental health counseling following a number of outbursts, and an email he sent one of his superiors containing a photo of himself dressed as a woman. After being sent to Iraq, Manning's behavior remained erratic, and he was eventually demoted a rank after throwing a temper tantrum and striking a fellow soldier. After that he was sent to work in a supply room, but the damage resulting from the inexplicable maintenance of his security clearance throughout this tumultuous period had already been done. He had already sent more than 700,000 classified documents that included State Department cables, combat videos, and terror detainee assessments to the secret-sharing site, WikiLeaks.
In a series of email exchanges with California computer hacker Adrian Lamo, who eventually turned Manning over to authorities "because it seemed incomprehensible that someone could leak that massive amount of data and not have it endanger human life," Manning reveled in his crime. He was less concerned with exposing alleged wrong doing than with the level of chaos he was at liberty to unleash. He attempted to impress Lamo regarding his access to a "database of half a million events during the iraq war" and promised him that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and finds an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format to the public[.]"
Manning also boasted about how easy it was to steal the classified information. "I would come in with music on a CD-RW labelled with something like 'Lady Gaga' … erase the music … then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing ... [I] listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history."
In the courtroom, however, it was a different story. Manning's defense team, led by attorney David Coombs, made every effort to present his client as a victim. Manning was portrayed as a small-town Oklahoma boy who joined the Army with the best intentions, only to become disillusioned by alleged government misconduct that he felt compelled to share with the world. Coombs also insisted Manning was consumed by the emotional turmoil of being a gay soldier who couldn't serve openly due to the military's former "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Even when Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 21 charges leveled against him earlier this year, he spoke about the need to release the classified information because the war in Iraq "depressed" him.
Manning’s courtroom portrayal was preformed in tandem with a long campaign perpetrated primarily by the anti-military, anti-American left, for whom Manning’s status as a victim of American “evil” made him a hero. Glenn Greenwald, who has championed a similar effort on behalf of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, referred to Manning as "a whistle-blower acting with the noblest of motives," and a "national hero." The city of Berkeley, CA considered passing a resolution declaring him a hero until it was tabled. The Nation's Chase Madar referred to Manning as "patriot" who has "done his duty" and "complied with it to the letter." The New Statesman's Peter Tatchell called him a "humanist and a man with a conscience."
Manning was also the beneficiary of celebrity solidarity campaigns and an attempt to name him as the grand marshal of San Francisco's gay pride parade. A week before his conviction, the New York Times ran a full-page ad headlined, “WE ARE BRADLEY MANNING” that included the signatures of several well-known leftists, including Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Joan Baez, and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. And in a testament to leftist delusion, the man who endangered countless numbers of his fellow Americans, out of sheer self-absorbed vindictiveness, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
These supporters, like Manning himself, couldn't care less about the enormous damage Manning has done. His release disclosed the names of U.S. intelligence assets, military tactics and operations, secret and sensitive diplomatic exchanges, combat videos, and terror detainee assessments, every one of which has gravely damaged America's national security. Writing for the National Review, jurist John Yoo warns that in the "covert war against al Qaeda, a stateless enemy which conceals itself as civilians to attack innocents by surprise, intelligence is the most important weapon." It is a weapon Manning was more than willing to provide them.
The desire to instigate this kind of grand-scale destruction is undoubtedly what led Manning to a website whose founder, Julian Assange, has stated goal his to “bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality -- including the US administration.” Manning admitted to "regularly monitoring" Wikileaks beginning in November or December of 2009 and was aware that it had published hundreds of thousands of messages. It stands to reason Manning knew exactly with whom he was dealing, and what would occur with the material he sent to them.
What resulted was that America's enemies were fed precisely the kind of ammunition they need to do us harm. We will never know how many people have been put in danger because of Manning's actions. If we are lucky, we will find out after the fact, such as when Navy SEALs recovered some of the classified documents leaked by Manning when they raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011. This is to say nothing of the informants who might have otherwise stepped forward to help America prevent the next terrorist atrocity, but now will not do so because of the prospect that our nation's security apparatus can be so easily compromised.
And make no mistake, Manning is extremely lucky. Section 2 of Article 104, "Aiding the Enemy" states that anyone who knowingly gives the nation's enemies information "directly" or "indirectly; shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct." Lind should take that reality into consideration when Manning is sentenced. He deserves nothing less than the maximum allowed by law for his perfidy.
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