By Christopher B. Daly
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning — who has admitted that he was the source for the Wikileaks disclosures of classified information — now faces a court martial on charges that he violated the Espionage Act, and he found out yesterday that the judge in his case will not drop the charge that he “aided the enemy.”
I do not know if he had the intent to do so, and I take no position on that.
But I do fault the news media for covering that decision and accepting the charge at face value. News reporters are supposed to pursue the 5W’s (who, what, when, where, and why — along with their pal “how”)
In the Manning case, there are some unasked questions:
WHO? In 2009, when Manning made his leak, who was “the enemy” of the United States? We had not declared war on any nation. We were conducting hostile actions against two entities: Al Qaeda, a criminal gang of religious fanatics who can barely mount an operation, and the Taliban, which is a political movement in certain parts of South Asia that sometimes uses terror tactics against the U.S. military (only because it is occupying parts of South Asia) and others. So, what “enemy” did Manning supposedly give aid to?
HOW? How did those disclosures help any state that is an enemy?
It could well be that military prosecutors have evidence of answers to those questions, but I have not seen any, and I am disappointed that the news media have not demanded answers.
4 responses to “Did Bradley Manning aid the enemy?”
“Al Qaeda, a criminal gang of religious fanatics who can barely mount an operation”–I guess Al Qaeda did not get your memo before its very successful and sophisticated breakout of hundreds of prisoners in Iraq yesterday: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/07/22/world/middleeast/22reuters-iraq-violence.html?ref=world
This is not to say that Manning sought to aid them, or in fact did (with the same applying to reports that Bin Laden had Manning’s leaks in his computer. Rather, as several hundred of your Boston neighbors would attest, downplaying the risks of terror in 2009 or 2013 is not supported by the facts. Similarly, drone opponents are on firmer ground when they argue that drone attacks may breed future terrorists than when they confuse the lack of terrorist attacks while drones are attacking and extensive surveillance operations are mounted with a likelihood that attacks would not be be mounted if the terrorists were freed from the attacks and surveillance.
As for the Taliban, I have been struck by how many people who castigated the lack of a prompt military response to the massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc think there should be no action taken against the Taliban, despite their long history of massacring girls for going to school and every infidel they get their hands on.
My point was that these hostile forces are not traditional states and therefore don’t rise to the level of an “enemy” as it was understood in 1917 when the Espionage Act was adopted. Obviously, we should destroy those thugs, but not by putting Manning in prison for life.
I think you are confusing the importance of your “who” and your “what”–had Manning given details of the security plan for the NYC water supply or the Pentagon to Al Qaeda, I doubt then arguing that he was not covered by the Espionage Act because of the “who” would be his best bet; here, I think what he passed on may prove a stronger defense.
As it happens, the US had experience before 1917 with foreign terrorists who were not traditional states–pirates, Pancho Villa, the Boxers,etc–and arguably the confederacy and insurgent movements in the Phillippines and Latin America (not all of which were our noblest hours). I would want evidence that the Espionage Act was as limited in intent as you assert. As with so many laws, I imagine there is a lot of scholarship (especially around the Rosenberg and Ellsberg cases) showing how vague and even contradictory portions of it are, so there may not be a clear answer.
Good points, as usual. But on the Espionage Act, that was written and passed specifically with the Great War in Europe in mind, anticipating war against the big nation-states of Germany and its allies.