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  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 11:28pm

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning is a US soldier who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified military material to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Assigned to an army unit based near Baghdad, Manning had access to databases used by the military to transmit classified information. He was charged with 22 offences by the US government, including those of communicating national defence information to an unauthorised source and aiding the enemy. A military judge on July 30 2013 acquitted Manning of the most serious charge against him, aiding the enemy, but convicted him of most of the other charges including espionage, theft and computer fraud.

CommentInsight & Opinion

A need to weigh the rights and wrongs in dealing with whistle-blowers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 5:24am

Bradley Manning is among the most polarising of all whistle-blowers. That the former US soldier is a criminal there is no doubt, but his theft of more than 700,000 classified documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and his passing of them to the website WikiLeaks also makes him to some a hero, to others an enemy of the state. Consequently, the 35-year prison sentence he has been given by a military court on charges including theft and computer fraud is viewed as either too harsh or overly lenient. For his cause - to seek the truth - there has to be sympathy, although no matter how justified a belief is, if lawbreaking is involved there also has to be a cost.

The question, then, is whether Manning deserved the harshest sentence ever handed down by a US judge for leaking government secrets. That he was the biggest-ever offender in terms of the scale of his crime there is no doubt. Prosecutors argued he put lives at risk and chilled diplomatic relations with US allies. But there was also worth in much of what he revealed, military wrongdoing and incompetence uppermost. Among the disclosures was a video of a helicopter gunning down unarmed civilians, including children and journalists, in Iraq.

Previous sentences for military whistle-blowers are dwarfed by that given to Manning. Documents he revealed would have been declassified after 25 years; his jail term is a decade longer. With Edward Snowden continuing to release National Security Agency secrets in an arguably more damaging case, deterrence is obviously in the US military's mind. But with 92 million documents being classified each year and four million Americans having security clearance, similar incidents are inevitable.

It comes down to whether authorities are seen as having too many secrets. Manning and Snowden have stirred much-needed debate. They knew the consequences of their actions, but still felt strongly they were right; whistle-blowers have a valid role in society, after all. Governments, therefore, must find the right balance in weighing the crime against the benefits.


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I would be more inclined to see the sentence as reasonable if there were trials for the others involved in progress. This includes murder and conduct unbecoming a soldier for the helicopter gunship crews, and accessory after the fact and dereliction of duty for those service-personnelle who saw the videos but did not report it to their Commanding Officer, and dereliction of duty for Commanding Officers who were told but did nothing. Bradley Manning might have endangered lives, but the apparent culture of disregard for innocent life and concealing warcrime evidence within the US military is far more damaging to world society and US interests.
PCC's comments are logical and make good sense. Can't argue with them. Well put.
The sentence was officially due, but in my opinion should be suspended. After Bradley Manning, Wikileaks and Mr Snowden action, the world of politics and internet start to be perceived differently. While many, all over the world, comment about the US spy programme, I am quite startled that no one is pointing at countries where daily and total control and spying is daily routine since the start of Internet. We need a reassesment of concepts like "privacy", and a respected code of conduct followed by any government.


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