Wikileaks Wasn’t a Threat

December 28th, 2011 at 10:19 am | 44 Comments |

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As 2011 draws to a close, treat the issue of Wikileaks disclosures remains to be resolved – a breach of trust to some, stuff the right to know to others.

However, pills if one examines the record, it’s pretty hard to see much of a  threat to American (or intentional) security, in the disclosures by Wikileaks that has embarrassed allied governments.

In some ways, Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden on accusations of rape and sexual assault, has performed a considerable service by revealing  “leaked” analyses of what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most graphic revelations seem to be that high command has covered up or sanitized certain unpleasant facts – more or less confirming what many journalists have suspected, speculated, and written about.

Wikileaks has probed extrajudicial killings in Kenya, abuses at Guantanamo Bay, dumping of toxic waste off Africa, the release of diplomatic cables that embarrass governments. And so on.

New Gingrich has called Assange “an information terrorist . . .an enemy combatant.”

Amnesty International and others regard Assange admiringly.

Much of what Wikileaks has “revealed” is in the public’s interest – a network that relies of whistleblowers. It is mindful of Daniel Ellsberg, the U.S. Defence Department guy who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and was variously regarded as both a traitor and a folk-hero. So it is with Assange. Sort of.

There’s been little (if anything) that reveals the identity of undercover agents or spies, or details that jeopardize lives. Most of what’s been disclosed is information that the enemy –i.e. the Taliban and al-Qaeda — were quite aware.

Julian Assange does not seem very admirable, but nor he doesn’t seem much of a threat to security. One wonders if charges against him are real, or if they are manufactured to punish him for daring to use leaks?

Put bluntly, Wikileaks seems to have contributed to the military’s oft-declared policy of openness and transparency, which is often more rhetorical than real.

The case of army intelligence analyst Private Bradley Manning is another matter.

Manning is facing court martial in the U.S. on charges of aiding the enemy and wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet by downloading thousands of classified military files, and funneling the data to Wikileaks.

If it’s hard to see the harm done by Mr. Assange and Wikileaks, it’s also hard to see why the book should not be thrown at Private Manning. He’s the treacherous one –the one who betrayed his oath, and the army.

The army is justified in being upset that its emails and information it considers classified or secret, are illicitly copied and funneled to unauthorized people.

If found guilty, Private Manning could face life-imprisonment. If so, few tears will be shed. Meanwhile Assange should escape charges that involve espionage.

Private Manning’s lawyers think their client was so obviously emotionally troubled with curious behaviour problems, that his army superiors are at fault for not recognizing dysfunctional symptoms, and revoking or cancelling his security clearance.

As a defence strategy, that seems a hopeless – rather like the late Clifford Olson blaming the RCMP for his murder of several young people in British Columbia. because they didn’t arrest him sooner than they did.

Manning apparently tried to hide what he was doing by pretending on line that he was a  woman – Breanna Manning. To his apologists this indicates gender confusion, and a possible explanation for his treason. Rubbish.

Recent Posts by Peter Worthington

44 Comments so far ↓

  • LauraNo

    Pretending to be a woman could only speak to personal mental health issues if it is part of some elaborate delusion, it seems to me. Other stories of his demeanor and behavior do seem to point to a troubled personality who should not have had any kind of clearance, this is where Wikileaks might prove to have real value. Does the military not vet people before assigning them sensitive positions? Think Fort Hood. If the military won’t use good judgement just because they should, may be they will if they are mindful of Wikileaks…

    • ladyfractal

      Some of this may be a function of the desperation the military is having getting or keeping qualified people. My security clearance came a quarter century ago but I recall it being terrifyingly exhausting. They went back as far as my kindergarten teacher. When I joined, I went in delayed-entry to get the training slot I wanted. That meant that the Army had a full year to run an investigation on me. At the time I was a senior in high school, that summer I got a job at McDonald’s. This was *after* I had already filled out all of the paperwork and references for the clearance check. They went and spoke to people at McDonald’s that I didn’t know at the time I filled out that paperwork. They asked for these folks by *name* so they had some way of knowing who I was hanging out with. I’m not sure how Manning slipped through but, again, I suspect that the Army has gotten desperate. Certainly my sister (who retired in ’05) and my son (who is currently serving) as well as a younger coworker who just got out have told me stories of soldiers that, realistically, have no business being in uniform but they got in because the military is having trouble getting top-tier recruits.

    • armstp


      You and 60 Minutes are doing a hatchet job on Manning. It is irrelevant if he has sexuality issues. What does that have to do with anything? I know the defense is trying to use his personal issues as a defense, but that is irrelevant.

      How about simply that Manning felt that the world needed to know of these government secrets and this information?

      “can there be any doubt about the similarity in motives between the two leakers. Just as Ellsberg repeatedly explained that he could not in good conscience stand by and have the world remain ignorant of the government lies he discovered about the Vietnam War (a war he once supported and helped plan), so, too, did Manning repeatedly state that these leaks were vital for informing the world about the depths of brutality, corruption and deceit driving these wars (including one war to which he was deployed as a soldier) — all with the goal of triggering what he called “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” In the purported chats he had, Manning described how the intense worldwide reaction to the video of an Apache helicopter shooting unarmed civilians and a Reuters journalist in Baghdad “gave me immense hope”; that’s because: “i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” That is as pure an expression as possible of exactly what motivated Ellsberg as well.

      Just as Ellsberg came to realize the evil of the war of which he was a part and felt compelled to act to expose it even at the risk of his own liberty, so, too, did Manning (in the chat logs Manning purportedly said: “im not so much scared of getting caught and facing consequences at this point… as i am of being misunderstood”). The Army Private also explained in the chat logs that he began to realize how heinous the Iraq War was when he discovered that “insurgents” being rounded up and imprisoned by the U.S. Army were doing nothing more than issuing “scholarly critiques” of the Malaki government’s corruption — only to find that his Army superiors ignored his discovery when he brought it to their attention. Both Ellsberg and (allegedly) Manning then did the same thing: turned over the information they discovered to a third party to select the parts that should be published to the world (The New York Times for Ellsberg and WikiLeaks for Manning).”


      Why are governments around the world so secretive? Shouldn’t we as citizens what much more open government? Government secrecy only results in government abuse. Our government has become far too secretive.

      “In deciding which problem is larger — excessive secrecy or excessive disclosure — consider this year-end list from Electronic Frontier Foundation entitled: “2011: The Year Secrecy Jumped the Shark,” which details just some of the most extreme secrecy abuses of The Most Transparent Administration Ever™. Jay Rosen once said: “The watchdog press died; we have [WikiLeaks] instead”; one could just as accurately say: meaningful transparency died; we have Bradley Manning instead.”


      I for one 100% support Manning and believe he is a true patriot.

      “There is one other glaring irony that should be noted here. If Manning is indeed the WikiLeaks leaker, then he did not only reveal critical truths to the world, but also achieved enormous good: exactly the results the purported chat logs reflect that Manning sought. Even the harshly anti-WikiLeaks former NYT Executive Editor, Bill Keller, credits the release of the diplomatic cables with helping to spark the Arab Spring by exposing the true depths of the region’s dictators, including in Tunisia. By highlighting atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Iraq, the diplomatic cables prevented the Malaki government from granting the legal immunity Obama officials were demanding in exchange for keeping troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline and thus helped end the Iraq War. Ironically, it’s often the very same people who most vocally celebrate the Arab Spring and the end of the Iraq War who simultaneously support the imprisonment of an individual who helped bring those events about (the WikiLeaks leaker), while cheering for a government (the Obama administration) that propped up many of those Arab dictators and tried desperately to extend the Iraq war.

      If he is the WikiLeaks leaker, history will judge Manning as kindly as it has Ellsberg — and will view his persecutors just as unkindly as Nixon officials are viewed today for what they tried to do in the face of the Pentagon Papers leak.”

      • LauraNo

        But I don’t think his sexuality has anything to do with anything, either. If he is an unstable personality, as some reports have suggested (regardless of his taking a female name on the internet – which has zip to do with sexuality anyway) he should not have access to anything the military will worry about if it is disclosed, was my point. I support him too, and think his being detained indefinitely and in solitary is inhuman. Which is what this country has come to.

        • armstp

          There is zero evidence of an “unstable personality”. The only thing that has been repeated over and over is his confusion of his sexuality.

      • ladyfractal

        It may play out as you state but it may not. Again, if what he did was so heroic and if he’s a ‘true patriot’ (I wonder if you think all of us who kept our oaths are also true patriots) then why not take his lumps?

        • LauraNo

          The question is what happens when one aspect of your oath conflicts with another? Who gets to decide which as the best decision? And why is a lifetime of torture a proper consequence?

        • ladyfractal

          False choice. No one should endure a lifetime of torture or five minutes of torture. For the record, both my sister and I were *enraged* at the soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib totures. In fact, my sister, who was an Army lawyer, resigned because she had her twenty and said, quite accurately, that it was vanishingly improbable that anyone above the rank of Staff Sergeant was going to burn for this. It’s not what our military is for and it’s not what our military should do. WE don’t torture.

          As far as your question re: oaths, I don’t know. That’s why it’s called a conundrum. There isn’t a right answer. There isn’t even a good answer. Lacking other evidence–and hopefully more evidence will be forthcoming–I have to return to the fact that Manning violated his oath and should be prepared to take the consequences of that. In mounting a defense and pleading not guilty, he is rejecting those consequences and I find that disturbing. I do not think we should be sanguine anytime someone violates military secrecy because sometimes there are real lives on the line.

        • armstp


          All individuals have to make their own choices. The country is full of historic examples of people standing up for what they believed and doing what they think is ethically right, even if it gets them in trouble.

          This was completely different than say revealing secrets to say to the Soviets for personal financial gain.

          This was an ethical choice. One individual deciding that he did not like what his government was doing or stood for.

        • ladyfractal

          Okay and, again, if that is the case then he should be prepared to face the penalty. If his intentions were noble then he should be entirely prepared to go to prison.

          My parents were law-abiding, patriotic Americans. My father volunteered to join the US Army right after Pearl Harbor was attacked even though he was not able to vote in the nation he fought and bled for until 1968 for no better reason than the color of his skin. He joined the Army *knowing* that he would not be able to vote when he came home.

          I bring that up to give you some context for what comes next. My parents believed that America was wrong about race. They believed it enough that they were willing to be arrested and beaten and have dogs set on them. My father carried a scar on his left leg where a police dog was set on him. They both spent time in jail because of their involvement in the movement. They went out there knowing these risks and believed in the cause strongly enough to put their bodies on the line.

          Private Manning knew that he was breaking the law. He may have had perfectly good reasons for doing so. His argument, if that is indeed the argument he is making, would carry quite a bit more water if he simply dropped his defense, pleaded guilty, asked for the indulgence of the court to make a statement, and then said “I did this. I did it because I love my country too much to let her behave this way. I know I am going to go to prison for most of the rest of my life and if that is my fate, so-be-it. I did what I knew to be right and I could do nothing else.” THAT would be heroism.

        • ladyfractal

          I’m curious, if someone during the Cold War had given secrets to the Soviets not because they wanted the money but because they believes the Soviets should win the Cold War would you think that person had done the right thing? I’m not sure that not asking for money is the touchstone we want to use when talking about treason.

          If I’m understanding the logic you’re deploying here, you would argue that, for instance, Kim Philby–who was Soviet mole inside of MI-6–was a hero because he didn’t spy for the Russians for the money, he spied because he believed in the Soviet cause. If that is the logic you’re using, I think that is somewhat shaky.

        • armstp


          I think you need to do some more reading about Manning.

          In the famous “chat logs”, which the entire governments case is based on, Manning in fact says, as I quote above:

          “im not so much scared of getting caught and facing consequences at this point… as i am of being misunderstood”

          I suggest you take the time to read the full chat logs, as they give insight into why he did what he did. Then make up your mind.

          They are available here:

          Here is an interesting question for you, which applies to your second comment above and the question you pose:

          Who, exactly, is “the enemy” Manning is accused of aiding?

          Revealling to the world perceived U.S. government wrong doing is a little different than giving specific secrets to the Soviet Union. That is the difference between being a “whistle-blower” and a enemy spy.

  • Graychin

    The hysterical reaction of our government to Assange and Manning is classic misdirection.

    What kind of messed-up security apparatus allows a Private First Class – who is barely 21 years old and has a history of behavioral problems – to access huge volumes of classified information totally irrelevant to his assigned duties ON A MACHINE THAT ENABLES COPYING ONTO PORTABLE MEDIA!!!!!

    Rather than face up to their humiliating negligence, the full weight of our federal government is determined to 1) demonize Julian Assange as the most dangerous terrorist since bin Laden, and 2) pin all of the military/intelligence community’s blame on the lowest-ranking person in sight.

    As usual, most of the “shocking” revelations in the Wikileaks fiasco turn out to be secrets that they would prefer to remain secret – not from foreign enemies, but rather from the American people

    • LFC

      “What kind of messed-up security apparatus allows a Private First Class – who is barely 21 years old and has a history of behavioral problems – to access huge volumes of classified information totally irrelevant to his assigned duties ON A MACHINE THAT ENABLES COPYING ONTO PORTABLE MEDIA!!!!!”

      Agreed. The systems and procedures put in place to secure this data were obviously woefully inadequate and point to a real failure of the military when it comes to protecting information. The neocons howled about the cancellation of the F-22 boondoggle. Maybe they should cut a few more useless weapons systems and hire some decent IT people.

      • ladyfractal

        Part of the reason why Manning had such access is that the Pentagon–rightly or wrongly–decided that the ‘stove piping’ of information was making analysis too difficult. When I was in, everything was in its own little silo and you could have problems getting access to stuff from a different *command* much less from an entirely different agency. This was, rightly in my opinion, changed in recent years. However, Manning should have been under more tight surveillance. Him having access wasn’t the problem, being able to download that volume of material without it raising a red flag *is*.

        • Graychin

          “..being able to download that volume of material without it raising a red flag *is*.

          …and then being able to copy what he downloaded onto portable media! That’s just asking for trouble, and has nothing at all to do with eliminating barriers to information sharing between agencies.

          (I believe that “stovepiping” refers to sending selected raw intelligence directly to decision-makers without proper context, and not to compartmentalizing intelligence data within one agency.)

  • balconesfault

    First, I never expected to find such a realistic assessment of Wikileaks and Assange here at FrumForum. Thank you Mr. Worthington.

    Second, I agree that Manning deserves punishment. If you believe he was acting heroically, as many do … there is no heroism if there is no risk. Someone doesn’t get to act outside the law and escape consequence simply because you like the end result. This follows along with my belief that torture may only be permissible if directly authorized by the POTUS, and any POTUS who authorizes torture should be subject to trial and punishment for the crime once their term in office is complete (unless Congress or the AG determines that the authorization represented a significant and ongoing threat to the civil liberties of American citizens, in which case impeachment or prosecution would be warranted to stop the threat).

    We expect out fighting men and women to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve our freedoms and our nations integrity. I believe that a President who sanctions torture against the rule of law should face a penalty for violating the rule of law so that a principle that such violations are acceptable is not established (for what it’s worth, it would not have bothered me to have seen Clinton tried after his Presidency was over for his perjured testimony). And I believe that Bradley Manning should suffer loss of freedom for having made decisions that his ethics trumped those of the Army’s, even at the same time that I am glad that he did so.

    There is a reason to contend that Manning has been treated in an abusive manner by the military, either to make an example of him, or simply for punitive purposes. That I do object to. Manning’s punishment should also follow the rule of law, and should not be made extreme.

    • Nanotek

      “First, I never expected to find such a realistic assessment of Wikileaks and Assange here at FrumForum. Thank you Mr. Worthington.”

      + 1

  • ladyfractal

    I used to have a job very much like Private Manning’s. I was in SIGINT when I was in the Army at the tail-end of the Cold War. I was ‘separated’ from the military in 1989 after I was caught up in an anti-gay witch hunt. At the time accusation was guilt and someone had accused me of being a lesbian so I was gone. According to the logic on display on the Left, I should have walked into the nearest Soviet embassy and spilled my guts about everything I had seen and heard while I was at Fort Meade, MD. I didn’t, however, because not only do I love my country I took my oath very seriously. Even now, twenty years on, I will not talk about those things that I could not talk about then. My very best friend in the world was a NCO supervising young soldiers like Private Manning in his duties as an intelligence analyst. When we talk about the Iraq war, he will confirm my speculations up to the point where I delve into classified areas. At which point he will just give me a smile and then tell me that he can’t answer to that. He is retired now but he took his oath seriously as well.

    I have a problem with Private Manning being elevated as some kind of hero or martyr. He broke his oath and he broke the law. It may be the case that he had very good reason–or at least perceived that there were very good reasons. However, if what Private Manning was doing was out of some kind of noble impulse, it would go a long way in establishing that was his motivation if he did not fight the charges but instead said something along the lines of the following: “Yes, I betrayed my oath and disclosed classified materials. I know that this is a crime. I believed that this material needed to be revealed to the public and I believe it so strongly that I am willing to face prison for the rest of my days.” That would be heroism. My suspicion–and I never met this kid–is that Manning thought that leaking these materials would be a quick ticket out of the Army.

    Manning deserves to be punished for his crimes. He should not be tortured but he should be tried and if convicted (and it would be miraculous if he walked) should spend a great deal of time in prison. Manning committed espionage against his own nation in a time of war. That is the operational definition of treason.

    I am one of those Liberals who reads Frum Forum because I want good, solid thinking on matters even if I disagree with the opinions expressed. I am disgusted, but not surprised, that people on the Left are defending Manning. They are doing so because he tweaked the nose of the military and many on the Left will applaud *anything* that causes upset in the Pentagon no matter how treasonous it is.

    • Nanotek

      “I am one of those Liberals who reads Frum Forum because I want good, solid thinking on matters even if I disagree with the opinions expressed. I am disgusted, but not surprised, that people on the Left are defending Manning. They are doing so because he tweaked the nose of the military and many on the Left will applaud *anything* that causes upset in the Pentagon no matter how treasonous it is.”

      what is your informed view of people on the Right.. who repeatedly defend and advocate for Jonathan Pollard’s release?

      • ladyfractal

        They are displaying a level of hypocrisy that can only be considered heroic in its audacity. Pollard, like Manning, broke his oath and spied for another country. That this country is an ally of the United States changes nothing at all. One test I try to run if I think I might be about to get lost in the weeds is to take my position and put it in the mouth of my ideological opposite. If, for instance, I would defend Manning but damn Pollard then I should probably check myself because I am likely taking my position for reasons *other* than principle. If I’m going to condemn Manning because he broke his oath then I had damn well better be prepared to do the same with Pollard.

        I like to joke–and wish I were over-the-top when saying it–that if a liberal Democrat rushed into a house to save a child, that action would be condemned because it robbed the child of the choice to be burned alive. Maybe the parents *wanted* their child to die in the fire. What business is it of Big Fire Department to ‘rescue’ children? If, on the other hand, a conservative Republican did the same they would be praised as exhibiting singularly American and Christian values and it would be suggested (if not stated) that only in this nation would someone run in to save a child. Such is the state of our politics.

        • balconesfault

          If, on the other hand, a conservative Republican did the same they would be praised as exhibiting singularly American and Christian values and it would be suggested (if not stated) that only in this nation would someone run in to save a child.

          And, for what it’s worth … it would be suggested (if not stated) that only conservative Republican Christian would ever have ever performed such a feat.

        • Nanotek


          thanks …

          btw … animated fractals amaze me… I envy Hausdorff and Mandelbrot if that is what they witnessed with their mind’s eye

    • Garve


      If he said said something along the lines of the following: “Yes, I betrayed my oath and disclosed classified materials. I know that this is a crime. I believed that this material needed to be revealed to the public and I believe it so strongly that I am willing to face prison for the rest of my days.”

      From the chat logs with Adrian Lamo.
      (1:13:10 PM) bradass87: i just… dont wish to be a part of it… at least not now… im not ready… i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as boy…

      I’m not American and don’t know the details of the oath he swore, but I believe that part of it is a pledge to uphold and protect the Constitution. If you believe that crimes are being committed against the Constitution, then you have an obligation to act. If by acting you will break another part of your oath, then anyone would find themselves in a quandary. Perhaps the defence is building up to pointing out that what would be a difficult decision for a stable, mature person becomes an impossible one for a confused, unstable youngster.

      • ladyfractal

        Garve, the military oath is pretty simple “I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

        Now, here’s the interesting bit–in the UCMJ there is a clause that states that if we are given an illegal order (go into this village and kill every third child you see) we are not only obliged to disobey that order but we are also obliged to relieve the officer giving that order of his command and turn him in to responsible parties. (I forget the precise text.)

        I understand why you put the chat text in but, quite honestly, it is easy to say “I wouldn’t mind going to prison…” it is another thing to actually go to prison. I stand by my statement that if Private Manning didn’t fight prosecution, simply said “Yes, I did it and here is why” I would consider that an act of bravery. I might still have a problem with his actions and I would take a very dim view if he had leaked operational details that might put my son or one of his buddies at risk. But at least it would solve the question of whether or not Private Manning was standing on principle. That he is fighting prosecution makes me think that he actually *does* rather mind if he goes to prison and it makes me question what his motivations were. I want to make it clear that I don’t think that his motivations were anything other than selfish. I am *not* saying that he was an Al Qaeda sympathizer or was trying to line his pockets. I think he wanted out of the military and thought that this would be the quickest ticket back to a civilian life. I am unconvinced–but am willing to *be* convinced–at present that he deserves to be called anything other than a traitor and an oath-breaker. But I am willing to have my mind changed on that score.

        • Garve

          As I understand it, Daniel Ellsberg didn’t simply plead guilty, but history seems to accept that he was correct to do as he did. Manning was clearly aware of the possible consequences, and I am sure there are easier ways to get out of the army. I can’t see any other explanation for his actions other than that he believed the American people should know what was being done in their name.

          As you are an American, I can completely empathise with your fear of US soldiers being placed in danger, but from a more neutral viewpoint, the lives of innocent Iraqis and journalists are equally valuable. If the Collateral Murder video has made US troops more careful about who they shoot, then its release will have saved lives and must surely be seen as a service to humanity in the long run.

          You cite the example of being given an illegal order, but what is the position when you become aware of illegal orders after the fact?

  • Graychin

    “…many on the Left will applaud *anything* that causes upset in the Pentagon no matter how treasonous it is.”

    No one commenting here is applauding or even defending Manning so far, although Baconesfault is glad that Manning did what he did.

    Who are these “many on the Left”? Methinks a straw man alert may be called for.

    • ladyfractal

      Hie thyself to Daily Kos and read what is being said about Manning there. Look at what is being written about Manning on Huffington Post or Alternet or Common Dreams. All of those sites have posts that are glowing in their praise of Manning. I’m not saying that anyone *here* is praising Manning. Whatever else Frum Forum may be, Left-leaning is not it.

      On other sites, however, I am reading post after post, comment upon comment, that Manning deserves a medal, that he is an American hero, that he shouldn’t be undergoing criminal prosecution what-so-ever. Not a straw man in the least.

      • Traveler

        Best piece Worthington has posted. Nice to see father in law rise to the occasion.

        I agree 100% with your posts and perspectives. According to our leading commenters on the far right (thinker, Spring, Fart, Jimboob etc.), most of us are nothing but a bunch of Libruhls. I agree that the left leaning posts can approach, but not match, the self delusion of those on the right. The former are pathetic, the latter are downright scary and evil.

  • jakester

    Why would they ever let a freaking private have access to such data? I do think this harmed us

  • TerryF98

    This is the same Army, with the same shortfalls that McCain, Lieberman and Graham pushed as deserving the right to arrest and detain Americans on American soil in secret and for indefinite periods of time.

    The bill was attached to the defense appropriations bill and it is now law.

    So watch out people. Bachman’s FEMA concentration camps might not be so dumb after all, only difference it’s not FEMA it’s the armed services who will be locking anyone they wish locked up, well and truly locked up.

    How many articles have you seen on Frum Forum on this? Answer zero. I guess it’s a Neocons dream to be able to lock away your own citizens for ever.

    This is our democracy in action, all in the name of the Great War On Terror ™

  • armstp

    “While the Pentagon Papers exposed the lies from American leaders regarding the Vietnam War, the WikiLeaks disclosures have done exactly the same with regard to the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, and a whole litany of other critical events. Here is what Ellen Knickmeyer, the Baghdad Bureau Chief for The Washington Post during the Iraq War, documented about the Iraq War logs Manning is accused of releasing:

    Thanks to WikiLeaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world, as the Iraq mission exploded.

    Is that not exactly what makes so many people view the Pentagon Papers leak as noble and just? Even some of Manning’s fellow soldiers in Iraq have hailed the WikiLeaks leaker as a hero. Beyond that, the diplomatic cables and war logs released by WikiLeaks revealed falsehoods and improprieties from the U.S. government (and other governments around the world) in a wide range of areas: its involvement in the covert war in Yemen; lies told by the U.S. Government regarding horrific, civilian-slaughtering incidents in Iraq; and, in general, numerous acts of abuses, deceit and illegality regarding much of what was done under the War on Terror rubric: exactly as the Pentagon Papers did.”

    “The clear reality, though, is that those who condemn Manning now and want to see him imprisoned for decades are the direct heirs of those who, in the early 1970s, wanted to see Dan Ellsberg imprisoned for life. Those who now condemn both Ellsberg and Manning — like those who support the executive power abuses and secrecy of both the Bush and Obama administrations — are authoritarians to be sure, but at least they’re sincere and consistent in their views; it’s those who support one but condemn the other who are incoherent at best.

    As Ellsberg himself makes clear, everything that is being said now to condemn Manning — everything – was widely said about Ellsberg at the time of his leak. Back then, Ellsberg was repeatedly accused of being a traitor, of violating his oath, of endangering America’s national security, of aiding its enemies, of taking the law into his own hands; he was smeared and had his sanity continuously called into question. Had it not been for the Nixon administration’s overzealous attempts to destroy him by breaking into the office of his psychiatrist — the primary act that caused the charges against Ellsberg to be dismissed on the grounds of government misconduct — there is a real possibility that Ellsberg would still be in a federal prison today. He’s viewed as a hero now only because the passage of time has proven the nobility of his act: it’s much easier to defend those who challenge and subvert political power retrospectively than it is to do so at the time.

    As the Walkely Foundation recognized last month when awarding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange Australia’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize: “the secret cables [] create[d] more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime.” Those who want to see Manning punished and imprisoned for decades are driven by exactly the same mentality as those who wanted to see Ellsberg in prison back then: a belief that the U.S. Government has the right to use secrecy to hide its acts of deceit and illegality, and that those who expose such acts to the world are the real criminals. Just as the Obama administration’s obsessive persecution of whistleblowers has its roots in the secrecy-worshipping mentality of the Nixon administration — in her New Yorker article on the war on whistleblowers, Jane Mayer quotes Gabriel Schoenfeld as saying: “Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon” — those demanding Manning’s punishment are, in every sense, the Nixonians of today. Manning’s critics are made from the same authoritarian cloth as those demanding Dan Ellsberg’s scalp in 1971…”

  • Houndentenor

    The entire argument is one of misdirection. It’s the method illusionists use to distract you so you don’t see what’s really going one.

    It does not matter what the character of any of these people was. (And character assassination from Newt Gingrich? Seriously?)

    The government does from time to time need to keep secrets. Upcoming military plans, for example or the identities of undercover agents. But most of the classified information is kept secret to avoid embarrassing government officials and agencies. They have no right to keep that information a secret from American citizens.

    There’s far too much secrecy and it’s time we addressed the fact that our government does things supposedly on our behalf that we would never endorse and then attempts to keep those actions secret. That’s no way for a democracy to operate.

  • camus32

    Without the Wikileaks revelations, there would have been no Arab Spring

    • Traveler

      Good point. I recall seeing something about that but could you elaborate for us?

  • Argy F

    On Assange: Have nothing but the highest regard for his mission with Wikileaks.

    On Bradley Manning: I’m with Daniel Ellsberg & Glenn Greenwald & Kevin Gosztola on Manning – I believ he’s a whistleblower, extraordinaire. I feel tremendous sympathy for his actions.

    Had I not seen the infamous “collateral damage”video I still would have believed that murderous things happened – but now I feel it can not be denied by anyone. That is an important distinction.

    Took over a year and a half to form these opinions. Now they’re pretty much firm.

    Tangentially, those who express extremely negative opinions regarding Assange & Manning -seem to be the same people I never agree with regarding issues of civil liberties, civilian control of the military, ethics in politics, etc…

    • Nomad13

      Actually, that video is what turned me against Assange. When he went on Colbert and pretty much admitted that he edited the video to manipulate the viewer into a negative perception, to help him make money, I was done. The truth is the truth, you may not like it but that doesn’t make it false. However, the unedited video did not show nearly what non-military people like to think it does. The actual event was tragedy enough without the shaping of the message to not show the truth, but portray one party as ‘evil’.

      For Manning, I have a different take. Like Ladyfractal above, I have (and still do) serve. I can understand becoming a whistleblower because you think you are helping to stop something illegal. However, not everything is classified arbitrarily. And some things are classified because release of the information at the time may do harm. While the expiration date on classifications may be excessive in some cases, at one time or another, someone thought it through and decided the information needed to be protected (it’s FAR easier to deal with unclassified than classified documents, nobody would classify stuff for no good reason, and the trend since 9/11 has actually been to go the other way). Manning couldn’t have known everything he was taking off the system, and he couldn’t know if it would have caused harm. SO in my book, he’s smells pretty traitorish. If he had the noble motive, he should take his lumps (he’s not going to get the death penalty, and it’s debatable how much jail time he would do…plus there’s gotta be the book deals and talk shows). The fact that he’s trying to avoid the consequences of his actions just shows that sometimes, screeners for clearances make mistakes.

      • MSheridan


        You express my feelings pretty well. A person’s word should be his or her bond, but I do not damn Manning that he chose to break his oath for what he considered a higher purpose. Breaking the law, or even one’s word, is a serious matter, but there are circumstances that can justify it. However, I don’t think that any quantity of good intentions should disqualify him from punishment. The law isn’t about good and evil and very often is not even about right and wrong, but is about the maintenance of order, which must be one of the cornerstones of any society. Most of us could probably come up with at least a short list of felonies that might each, taken individually, benefit our country. If we all acted on them, society would collapse.

        What I DO hold against Manning is the sheer arrogant carelessness of his actions and his unconcern regarding possible outcomes. He could not possibly have reviewed all the material he downloaded and handed over. So he made the decision that it was his right to gamble that no lives would be lost, no vital interests needlessly compromised. I’m somewhat agnostic on the charges vs. Assange because I haven’t followed his story well enough to think I should have an opinion, but at least he and/or his Wikileaks crowd showed some discretion. Bradley Manning had no guarantees that handing over a mountain of classified material to foreign nationals would have that result or even if it mattered.

        So yes, I’m very glad we know some of what we know only because of the leaks, but I cannot condone the reckless irresponsibility of the leaker.

  • Raskolnik

    Thank you, Mr. Worthington, for a nuanced and clear-eyed assessment of the Manning affair.

    And thanks also to ladyfractal, both for your service (as well as the service of your family), and your comments.

    • Traveler

      I second that. Worthington really turned out a good piece for which I had no expectation from previous posts. And I was very impressed by ladyfractal’s comments.

  • nuser

    Who were the republicans who openly stated : Assange should be shot for treason?

  • Argy F

    another point of view: the humorous and (to my mind) incisive – rap news take on the leaks: