This clip has been making the rounds last night and today, but it’s not new — it’s actually from a clip featured by Wikileaks, for obvious reasons, last January. Still, it’s not as if the parameters of the Bradley Manning case have changed significantly in the last eleven months, or at least not in any way that mitigates Manning’s alleged crimes. The enlisted soldier transmitted a vast trove of classified government communications, primarily diplomatic cables but also some internal military information, and sent it to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. Jazz Shaw has a good update on the case on the front page today, for those who haven’t followed it closely. Bear in mind that Ron Paul wants to become Commander in Chief, which raises all sorts of questions about how a President Paul would safeguard classified information:
So if we have an American citizen, and he’s willing to take it, uh, take the consequences and practice civil disobedience, say “This is what our government’s doing!” Should he be locked up and in prison? Or should we, you know, see him as a political hero? Maybe he is a true patriot who reveals what’s going on in government.
We’ve heard that a lot from Manning’s apologists, that he’s a true hero and not a criminal, but this is absurd on many levels. First, the disclosures didn’t pertain to some objectionable course of action that Manning couldn’t abide; he released everything he could grab to Assange and Wikileaks regardless of the topic involved. There was no discrimination at all. That’s not the profile of a whistleblower, but it does fit the profile of someone harboring a grudge, and wanting to lash out only to inflict damage.
Next, as anyone who has held a clearance can attest — and I’ve held a few myself — a clearance doesn’t give one the right to declassify information. Anyone who has a clearance knows exactly what consequences will follow from exposing classified material, regardless of the reasons for the disclosure. Furthermore, as anyone who has held a clearance also knows, processes exist to communicate violations of the law or ethics discovered in classified material. Those processes include using your own chain of command, contacting an Inspector General’s office — or even contacting a member of Congress, like Ron Paul himself. The options most certainly do not include passing classified material to journalists, American, Australian, or otherwise. There is no evidence at all that Manning ever tried any other option — because Manning is nothing more than a disgruntled nut, not a whistleblower of any kind.
Besides, if Paul thinks Manning was “willing to take the consequences,” why not just let him? The consequences of deliberately stealing and exposing classified material are a long prison sentence and a pretty miserable life. That’s because exposing classified material isn’t “civil disobedience.” It’s theft and espionage, a difference one would presume that a Congressman and a man who wants to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate would know.
Finally, consider the fact that the responsibility for protecting classified material lies with the executive branch — up to and including the President. Paul’s declaration that we should be celebrating a man who deliberately exposed that material because of the supposed eeevil done by the American government sounds like a man who’s more interested in his own paranoid fantasies than he is in conducting the duties of the Commander in Chief. The clip may be a year old, but there’s no reason to think that Paul has gotten a year wiser.