An Army officer writes:
Benkler’s piece about Bradley Manning is deceptive. Manning is being charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice because he is an American soldier who was entrusted with dealing with American intelligence. He’s not being punished as a whistleblower. Do we really want to empower soldiers and intelligence analysts with personal or institutional grudges (as Manning admits he had) with unleashing hordes of classified material that can damage the United States?
It should be noted that the UCMJ’s secondary purpose, in addition to providing a system of justice in the unique jurisdiction that is the military, is to uphold good order and discipline among the troops. As a commanding officer, you can’t uphold good order and discipline in a military intelligence unit, such as Manning’s, if you’re constantly on the lookout for potential ‘whistleblowers’ among your soldiers who’ve been entrusted with national or operational secrets, as Manning was. He should not be compared to a Wal Mart manager who deplores her inequitable salary and job prospects due to her gender and blows the whistle on corporate misbehavior.
I agree. Another reader goes further:
Bradley Manning is not a whistleblower. Whistleblowers expose illegal activities that would otherwise be covered up. Manning is a political activist who went too far.
Even taking him on his word that he reached out mainstream American media to no avail, he still had 500+ plus members of Congress from which to pick any number of whom would have jumped at the chance to properly expose some of what was leaked in order to affect policy change. And had Manning never heard of the Justice Department? If there was a cover-up of illegal activities, the DoJ is the proper authority to investigate and prosecute. What Manning did instead was send bulk US secrets to an organization known for virtual hostage taking – making demands of governments in exchange for the safe keeping of such information.
No matter one’s distaste for our government’s actions in the Middle East, we still have to adhere to some basic rules. For people like Manning and organizations like Wikileaks, there are no ground rules. They make up the rules as they go along. Despite all of its faults, our democracy is still intact. Defending Manning and allowing him to get away with such reckless acts only invites more of the Wikileaks attitude of deciding that “Only we are the supreme moral arbiters and custodians of justice in the world!” Start multiplying that out, and anarchy follows shortly thereafter.
Manning is a traitor not only by rule of law, but to the very notion of democratic and representative government. He should be convicted of these serious crimes and spend a significant amount time in prison for what he did.