I’ll be honest: I’m glad that Bradley Manning was acquitted on the charge of Treason. I’m also glad that he’s going to jail for his irresponsible release of sensitive army files. He endangered lives and operations; some of the documents he forwarded to Julian Assange included information from which troop placements and movements could have been derived, and that is criminal. He is not, however, a traitor. The fact is that no one can be a traitor under US law, because we are not engaged in a declared war. We have not been in a war since 1945.
“What about Korea and Vietnam?” you ask. Not wars. Police actions, the same with every military action taken by American soldiers in the last sixty-eight years. We’re not even in a military engagement at this time. Our soldiers are simply occupying territory (a concept that is much more dangerous than actual warfare, since they are subject to attack from unknown quarters). Just as you can’t be a traitor without a war (or at least a rebellion) you can’t have a war without a Congressional Declaration of War. Period.
So he’s not a traitor, but I hesitate to call him a whistleblower. While the data he sent to WikiLeaks did contain a surprising amount of evidence regarding US military abuses that had been handled summarily or swept under the rug, they did not justify the bulk of the classified information he sent. The military can count themselves lucky that Assange cherry-picked the items that were published in WikiLeaks and didn’t just dump the whole chowder.
Speaking of Assange, by what right is the US pursuing a foreign national living on foreign soil for violating a US law? I know our government has nursed a few black eyes due to documents published on WL, but tough shit. Unless the Department of Justice is ready to turn everyone over to North Korea who’s called Kim Jong Un (and his father and grandfather) as crazy as a bag of cats, we don’t really have a leg to stand on (especially in light of recent revelations regarding our own intelligence-gathering activities).
Which, of course, brings us around to the source of those revelations, Edward Snowden. As I write this, President Obama is in a giant snit about Russia’s decision to grant Snowden provisional asylum. He even cancelled a summit meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Now, if you’re old enough to remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall, I want you to pause and think about this a moment. Did you even in your life conceive of a time when an American President would cancel a meeting with a Russian President because the Russians refused to deliver an American dissident for prosecution? If you were born on the day the Soviet Army upheld the popular mandate that the Supreme Soviet had tried to ignore, you could not rent a car on the day that our President gave the late Leonid Brezhnev a run for his dissidence-suppressing money.
And if it was only Snowden, who, admittedly released a lot of classified information, that would be bad enough. President Obama—the man who, on the day before his inauguration, swore that his Administration would be the most transparent in decades—has passed his entire Presidency pursuing and discrediting whistleblowers of all sorts. The ink was barely dry on his Oath of Office, when Obama’s administration summarily fired Inspector General Gerald Walpin for doing his job (investigating and ensuring the prosecution of an Obama crony who was mishandling government grant funds in hilarious ways).
The Obama Administration has prosecuted more people for violations of the 1917 Espionage Act (the law that makes leaks of classified and sensitive government information illegal) than all other previous administrations combined. This while openly and arrogantly violating the Constitution (by murdering American citizens without due process), international law (the insertion of the Stuxnet virus into Iranian computer systems comes immediately to mind) and plain common sense (“I could have been Trayvon” really, Mr. President? Did you forget your oath to uphold the Constitution, including its provisions regarding a fair and just trial?). This, then, is the “new dedication to transparency.”
I have friends who are afraid that Obama is turning America into a Soviet-Style Socialist state. I don’t have such high hopes. President Obama has already turned the White House into a Chicago Ward Office. Any day now, the text on the Great Seal will be changed from “E Pluribus Unum” to “Snitches get Stitches.”