Manning gave his information to one person. That person gave the information to millions of people. Journalists have some legal protections, and there is some Supreme Court precedent that appears to give reporters some leeway that others don’t have. The First Amendment remains a strong force. But still: If leaking secrets were truly a problem, actually harmful to national security, then journalists would be touchable. The worst the government can do — and it is bad, at times — is get a judge to jail us for not divulging our source. Even though WE committed the act of disclosing information too — arguably, the act that led to people knowing about it — we’re untouchable.

I’m glad the government doesn’t go after journalists in the way they do the leakers. Actually, it’s unfair to one category of leakers: the category of government employees who are LEAST likely to leak. Those are the grunts, the worker bees, the men and women who get stuff done. They very rarely disclose classified information inappropriately, which is one reason why Manning’s case was so significant. But every government counter-intelligence program aimed at leaks focuses on these people. I sometimes think it’s a way of pretending to punish leakers to satisfy Congress while leaving for themselves huge avenues for them to shape policy or perception by leaking.

There absolutely is a double standard. And it may be a necessary one (from the standpoint of the executive branch), in that leaks and the control of secrets often help grease the wheels of some of the more seamier parts of democracy.