Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Manning Up

Attention, Edward Snowden: This is how you do it and maintain the higher ground.

FT. MEADE, Md. — Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was convicted Tuesday of violating the Espionage Act and faces up to 136 years in prison, but his acquittal on the even more serious charge of aiding the enemy was hailed as a victory for the press and the Internet against the government's crackdown on leaks of classified information.

Manning's leak of more than 700,000 State Department cables, terrorism detainee assessments, combat logs and videos was the largest breach of classified secrets in U.S. history. Among the information was a now-infamous 2007 video of an Apache combat helicopter attack in Iraq in which U.S. soldiers fired on civilians and killed 12, including two Reuters journalists.

Manning becomes one of only two people ever convicted under the Espionage Act for making classified data available to the public; the other, Samuel L. Morison, a government security analyst convicted in 1985, was pardoned by President Clinton on his final day in office.

I would expect President Obama to do something similar on his way out the door, and Manning will not have to rely on the kindness of totalitarian dictators to eke out a survival existence, the constant threat of either retaliation by the US government or continuous monitoring by his “host” ever looming in the background.

The Manning verdict seems pretty fair: found innocent of aiding and abetting an enemy of the United States, but convicted of stealing and releasing classified information. We may agree with the spirit of what he did (or not), and we may welcome the exposure his information has gotten, but the law is the law. At least Manning, this frail looking Marine, stood up and took responsibility for what he did.

Which is why I’m persuaded to believe that Obama will end up pardoning him. It’s the right thing to do.