PFC Bradley Manning

I have held off on commenting on Wikileaks and PFC Bradley Manning’s alleged involvement in some major leaks largely because, while i have followed the story closely, I had yet to see the entire chat log of the conversation between Manning and Adrian Lamo the person who turned him in. I have held off commenting many times despite the claims that Manning did this because of his pending discharge under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I have held off despite the obvious political & sexuality components to this story because I didn’t have enough information. But after reading much and concluding with the full logs posted online by wired.com here are my thoughts and my conclusion.

Manning betrayed his Top Secret Classified clearance and for that there should be a punishment. This has happened in the past with varying degrees of punishment, from the Rosenthals to Daniel Ellsberg. Manning did not sell secrets to China, nor did he give the soviets the bomb, he saw travesties being committed and was smart enough to do something with them. This puts him strongly in the Daniel Ellsberg side of the spectrum and here’s why.

As a soldier Manning took an oath to defend the United States from enemies both foreign and domestic, in gaining his Top Secret Classified clearance he was sworn to secrecy. Typically these two are inline with each other. However, in this case I don’t believe they were. As someone who has had to decide which of two supposedly identical beliefs to follow when they diverge I can deeply sympathize with Manning’s plight and his decision. I understand how he could have looked at both sides and decided which deserved the greater fealty.

I do not believe that Manning allegedly delivered the Top Secret Classified documents because of his sexuality or because of his planned dismissal under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at all. After reading the full logs it is clear that while he clearly was distressed and isolated, the motive behind any alleged leak would have been motivated by the horror’s he witnessed that he rightly felt should be given the light of day.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that the Iraq logs & the Diplomatic Cables haven’t cost a single life and so any argument that Manning’s alleged actions cost lives or damaged the United States seriously is ridiculous.

Wikileaks itself presents a unique wrinkle on this story. Daniel Ellsberg delivered the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, a respected news organization that published them with discretion and an eye to censoring out content to protect lives in Vietnam. Wikileaks is no New York Times, it is no Guardian either. It is a site devoted to providing a safe harbor for whistleblowers and hackers alike, anyone with damaging data can submit leaked information and then they can do what they please with it. There would be a case to be made if Wikileaks had simply posted the diplomatic cables online for the public to see, but instead they shared the data with 5 newspapers of great report with the Guardian then sharing it with the New York Times. These organizations published the information in the same diligent manner as the New York TImes did with the Pentagon Papers. Because of the diligence of Wikileaks to release this data responsibly Manning’s alleged involvement again shifts closer towards Ellsberg’s side of the spectrum.

What is disappointing is Adrian Lamo. According to the logs provided by Lamo, Manning reached out to him as someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off. Near the beginning of the logs, Lamo states that “I’m a journalist and a minister. You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of legal protection.” Manning must have been assuaged by this, and the friendship and trust that builds over online chat conversations because Manning told Lamo a lot. According to the logs, Manning told Lamo “i’ve totally lost my mind… i make no sense… the CPU is not made for this motherboard” meaning his brain is not built for his body and “im (sic) trying not to end up with 5.56mm rounds in my forehead … that I fired.”

Sometime between Manning stating “if you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?” and Manning’s discussion about what he actually had information on and what he has allegedly done with it, Adrian Lamo decided to betray the trust of PFC Bradley Manning and turn over the logs to the FBI. Early in the conversation Lamo had said “I could have flipped for the FBI … I held out … I know what being in a little room having U.S. Code & its consequences explained to you by people who don’t smile is like” to assure Manning that his secrets were safe. Clearly they were not.

It was just recently, 30 years after the fact and after his source had died, that Bob Woodword revealed who his source, nicknamed “Deep Throat” was. Over 30 years! Where is there decency in journalism anymore? No wonder someone with access to diplomatic cables and the iraq war logs wouldn’t feel comfortable going to the New York Times but instead to someone devoted to making sure even he doesn’t know who the source is.

  • Mike

    Fact check this article:  PFC Manning — if he is the source of these documents — did not release any information that was classified Top Secret.  The highest level was classified “Secret.”  

    Also, Ellsberg was never actually formally punished because the Pentagon Papers case against him was thrown out of court.  Why?  Because government misconduct had “irrevocably tainted” the judicial process.  A strong parallel could have been made with PFC Manning, in that, he has received punishment through over 10 months in solitary confinement, forced nudity, removal of eyeglasses, etc

    • Thanks Mike, I have adjusted the Top Secret to read “Classified” above to encompass everything that PFC Manning may have released.

      I was aware that Ellsberg was never convicted and so used the term punishment in terms of the spectrum from the Rosenthals to Ellsberg but you are right that, if Manning did deliver the information, he has had a strong punishment already.