1,005 Days Later


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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235 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    He’s not just some ordinary gentlemen on the street. When you sign up for the military, you sign up to judged by a different set of rules. When you agree to be granted a security clearance, you sign up for yet another additional set of rules. We don’t have a draft – signing up for both military service and access to classified information is totally voluntary. And he did both well after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in full swing, and the notions of their nobility or even efficacy had long been extremely questionable notions.

    The funny thing is, he probably wouldn’t have got caught if he didn’t brag about it. The information dumps he provided literallyjoebiden over 1 million people had access to. (and oddly enough, not a single one of them thought it necessary to betray their oaths for some greater good).

    But the stupid shall be punished.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kolohe says:

      Everything you say is correct, and yet nothing you say makes me disagree in the slightest with what Burt wrote above.

      If I were elected president, my very first act after taking the oath of office would be to pardon Bradley Manning. Cases like his are exactly what the presidential pardon was designed to accommodate. We are all better off for his having broken the law.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I dunno, Jason. Bradley Manning might have acted from the best of motives. Doesn’t change the nature of his crime. Do the crime, do the time. People like me and the tens of thousands of people who have clearances like mine — don’t cross that line into oathbreaking territory. It’s just a different world, once I don’t expect you to really understand, which isn’t your fault, really. And I’m hoping I’m not coming across as condescending in saying so.

        You’re a reasonably honest man, you have your rights as a citizen to speak the truth. But if you were military — well, it’s different. For one, you would no longer protected by the constitutional rights of First and Fifth Amendments. You’d be subject to UCMJ and the lawful commands of your superior officers.

        Don’t want to lose your First Amendment rights? Don’t take the oath. It’s your right not to take the oath. But for those of us who took that oath and took it seriously, there’s a categorical imperative at work. Loose lips sink ships. Ships full of men whose lives you found less important than other considerations. It’s a line I will never cross.

        Bradley Manning belongs in the brig. He deserves to be treated humanely. He knew the price of his actions. He wouldn’t be alone in being willing to pay that price: other people have leaked important national secrets. But there are other ways of dealing with injustice in the military than committing a crime yourself. The chain of command which gives you orders is also responsible for the consequences of those orders. You are always at liberty to talk to CID about violations of the law of land warfare or other ethical considerations. I did it. I didn’t get in trouble, either, beyond the hornets’ nest I stirred up when I did. But I didn’t betray secrets and my command structure stood firm. Several very serious wrongs were righted. The military justice system doesn’t always work, I’ve seen where it didn’t. But it did for me.Report

        • Avatar Pub Editor in reply to BlaiseP says:

          But if you were military — well, it’s different. For one, you would no longer protected by the constitutional rights of First and Fifth Amendments. You’d be subject to UCMJ and the lawful commands of your superior officers.

          I can’t tell how much weight the word “lawful” is pulling in that last sentence. I understand that the First Amendment applies differently in the armed forces, but it doesn’t disappear entirely. Nor does the Fifth Amendment. The right against self-incrimination continues to apply, and is specifically protected by Article 31 of the UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 831. Likewise, members of the armed forces still have the right to counsel (although maybe not in all the same circumstances or at the same point as in a civilian criminal investigation).Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Pub Editor says:

            Yes, I’m aware of how Article 31 works. But for practical purposes, and indeed all legal purposes, you’d need to be an attorney with JAG experience to explain the differences. Furthermore, without such an attorney, you might as well appear pro-se at your court martial. Such attorneys are very difficult to find.Report

          • Avatar SteveB in reply to Pub Editor says:

            “lawful” is heavily weighted – it is a Very Big Deal.

            Every member of the uniformed military, regardless of rank, is responsible for determining if an order is lawful or not and acting accordingly.
            Further, they’re responsible for preventing others from executing unlawful orders – including higher ranking individuals.
            There are no justifiable circumstances for standing by. Of course, get it wrong and you can end up in prison for life – even executed.
            That’s a pretty big weight for a 17 year old. Well, it’s a serious business wearing a uniform – Welcome to military service.

            So what do you do if you SEE something but couldn’t prevent it? Or after the fact?
            You report it through the legal channels that DO exist. Releasing classified information may seem morally justified to some, in particular civilians, but is not legally justified in the military and everyone in uniform knows that – or more properly, is personally responsible for knowing it.
            I can’t speak to all the services, but I know there are exactly zero Army soldiers who have not been trained on this.
            It’s inconceivable that anyone with any level of security clearance can claim they didn’t know the consequences and WHY there are consequences.

            So thank you for bringing our attention to this Bradley, here’s your blindfold.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to BlaiseP says:

          “Do the crime, do the time. ”

          Bullshit. When Wall St criminals’ bodies line the street of NYC, it won’t be, but until then, it’s bullshit.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to Barry says:

            (sorry to be harsh on you, but see my later comment)Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Barry says:

            The problem with this is that the Wall Street people you’re referring to mostly did not commit crimes. All of the laws and regulations that might have made what they did crimes were overturned by publicly elected legislators and administrations, in large part to allow them to do what they did.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Holding the global economy hostage to getting their paycheck? I’d call that blackmail, or something a bit stronger.

              If people were of a mind to lean on these folks, I’m certain a case could be made.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to BlaiseP says:

          From: http://www.wnd.com/2011/05/298545/

          “Dr. Terry Lakin was released today from Ft. Leavenworth, where he served almost six months of prison time for refusing orders over his doubts about Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president, and told WND that he is going to focus on his family first, then his church and medical career.”

          This man requested deployment so that he could refuse it, and incited to mutiny in time of war (when you publicly claim that the Commander in Chief is not lawful, there can be no other reason).

          He should have been hanged by the neck until dead. Instead, six months.

          It there’s one thing that our society does not believe in, it’s ‘ Do the crime, do the time.’Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Barry says:

            If I was Lakin’s superior officer I would have simply given him an Article 15, a reduction in rank and assignment to a retraining brigade, in that order.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Barry says:

            Making a martyr out of him would have accomplished precisely nothing, and the Obama administration was quite smart enough to know that. He got the precise sentence he earned and faded into wingnut obscurity. (And, I presume, he’s now a felon. That will follow him around forever.)Report

            • Avatar Barry in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Two things – first ‘don’t do the time if you can’t do the time’.
              Second, he also served as an example that very severely criminal conduct would not cause problems which would deter a reasonably committed person.

              Now, it’s true that hanging would have been perhaps unwise, but 5-10 in Leavenworth would have been much better, and he’d have a lot of chance to slip into obscurity.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Do the crime, do the time.

          Is there no room at all in your view for any presidential pardons? Not just in Manning’s case, but in any case at all?

          That’s a view one could plausibly take, of course, but I’m unclear whether it’s yours. Are you saying “Never ever,” or is it “Not here, not now”?

          As some further groundwork, I entirely agree with you that Manning appears to have committed a serious crime. What he did also helped to expose some other crimes, of an equally grave nature, or more. He must have known that he was likely to face punishment, and future individuals in the same category can’t depend in any reliable way on a presidential pardon.

          But the law remains a blunt instrument, and at times I think mercy may be called for. Here is one of those times, I would suggest. The law won’t always get everything right, and sincere whistleblowers do us all a great deal of good.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            No, not really. Lincoln issued many pardons for cowardice but he didn’t pardon spies or guerrillas. I don’t know all the circumstances of Bradley Manning’s crimes. I have previously said the security on the systems he used were badly organised. He should never have been allowed access to State Department traffik: he was Army. Need to Know was breached and opportunity made Manning’s leak possible.

            The law is not as blunt an instrument as all that. It’s got a sharp edge. It renders verdicts as surely as a band saw cuts up steaks.

            Wringing your hands over Bradley Manning — do you have any conception of how many people’s lives he put in danger? You’re thinking like a civilian. The people he endangered, good people, doing the nation’s business. You suggest mercy. Tell that to the people behind the freshly carved stars on the wall at CIA Langley. It angers me to consider a pardon for Bradley Manning.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to BlaiseP says:

              He ought to get due process nevertheless. In a way, the serious nature of his crime makes that even more imperative. Whatever sentence is ultimately handed down on him will be attainted by the methods used to reach it, however just that sentence might otherwise have been in comparison to the gravity of his crimes.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I recall having seen claims that he did not endanger covert operatives, and that this claim, while initially believed, was false.

              My opinion would change if it were clear that he had.Report

              • We have to live with a degree of uncertainty about this. It’s appropriate that we in the general public do not know, one way or the other, whether Manning’s actions endangered or cost the lives of others.

                It’s also appropriate that we in the general public adopt an attitude of skepticism towards those who claim to know and assert so — one way or the other — because part of actually being in the know involves swearing an oath to not discuss what is known.

                The people who really do know aren’t saying, and they aren’t supposed to say. If they did say, well, that would be rather a lot like what Manning now admits he did, wouldn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

                *yawn* With infinite manpower, even the slightest slip is incriminating.

                All these blokes had to do was obscure the data enough that it would be more productive/efficient to find the spies through other means.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko says:

                It’s the same with Jonathan Pollard. Why was his plea bargain rescinded and a life sentence imposed? Because he’s did terrible, terrible damage, but the details are classified. Really as bad as John Walker, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen and worse than Harry Gold? (Crickets.) Was the life sentence because you thought that the guys Ames and Hanssen betrayed were Pollard’s fault? (More crickets.)Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                pour l’encouragement des autres is a totally valid claim when people are in this particular line of work.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                You really don’t get this, Jason. Everything in a pipeline reveals something else. Information doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You don’t know what’s of value to an enemy. Even our friends spy on us. Those friends have friends.

                Look, I don’t have time to teach a course on OPSEC here. Here’s what matters most, Jason. Bradley Manning was only a symptom. He’s only a manifestation of a far larger problem, one in which some people think it’s okay to break open the pipeline like so many Nigerian petrol thieves.

                There you are, The law won’t always get everything right, and sincere whistleblowers do us all a great deal of good.. Who are you to make such a judgement? You’re no better than Bradley Manning, yourself. Who made you God in this situation? Do you think, with your vast experience in data security and military opsec policy enforcement, that you’re the guy who’s going to properly declassify all those cables? Good and evil are funny things, Jason. The worst evils are done with the best of intentions.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Would we be better off if we very carefully made sure that those who commit war crimes are always able to do so in secret?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                War is itself a crime, Jason. I just don’t seem to be getting through to you. The Nazis murdered 6 million Jews — for being Jews. We murdered many more Germans — for being Germans — with indiscriminate fire bombing of their cities. We set off two nuclear weapons over populated cities, the only nation to do so. Prisoners of war were murdered in every war we ever fought. Nobody was ever prosecuted for those war crimes. That’s because we were winners. We set up our own kangaroo court at Nuremberg and hanged a bunch of people, makin’ that shit up as we went along.

                You want to make this about War Crimes? Information pipelines keep wars from happening. They reveal our enemies’ intentions, inform our commanders. Very few war crimes stay hidden for long. Soldiers talk. The SP4 Pat Tillman story couldn’t stay buried. These things do get out, despite every effort to hide them. Swearing an oath of allegiance didn’t require surgery to remove my conscience.

                The greatest war crimes aren’t covered up. They’re front page news, state policy, harum-scarum about WMDs, Two Minutes Hate sessions conducted on prime time television.

                People have died to obtain the information in those pipelines and many have died to keep them secure. The precious cargo carried in those pipelines is often ignored: if we had acted on the information we knew was true about Al Qaeda’s 9/11 operation, we’d have never fought these wars.

                In the heart of CIA Langley, in one of the operations bays, there’s a calendar on the wall. It reads 9/12/2001. That’s the mentality of the people who run that place. Their job is not to cover up war crimes and I deeply resent the implication they cover up war crimes. They don’t.Report

              • Avatar Barry in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BlaiseP, you *are* getting through to us. We just don’t agree with you.

                ” Their job is not to cover up war crimes and I deeply resent the implication they cover up war crimes. They don’t.”

                Bullsh*t. Black sites, anybody.

                At this point you’ve been caught flat-out lying to us.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The Nazis murdered 6 million Jews — for being Jews. We murdered many more Germans — for being Germans — with indiscriminate fire bombing of their cities.

                If “more” means “in addition”, fine. But not more than 6 million. (And a better number fro the Holocaust, including Slavs, Roma, gays, and other enemies of the state is 13 million.) Total German civilian war deaths were fewer than half that, and Japanese civilian war deaths less than half that. Soviet civilian deaths were 13-15 million (some of this at the hands of their own government, but the vast majority at the hands of the Axis.) No false equivalence.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Funny thing about those Black Sites. Notice how someone along the line saw fit to let that out the door? Know who did it? Someone in FBI, we’re pretty sure.

                See, FBI had a lot more Arabic speakers than CIA and they were on loan to CIA. Cheney’s Boys were all for torturing and FBI was dead set against it, having interrogated a few crooks and knowing how this process worked. FBI was also at Gitmo where they also complained about torture.

                CIA is a lot more compartmentalised than FBI. CIA was completely out of its league dealing with AQ once they’d gotten a few of them in custody. They were really good about finding AQ but worthless when it came to getting any useful intel out of them.

                FBI wasn’t the only one complaining about the torture. DIA was also complaining about torture but Cheney was leaning on them so hard, the goons took over armed with POTUS orders.

                Black sites weren’t the problem. The torture was the problem. And the moral of this story, Barry, is that the Black Sites were exposed.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                the worst crime bush was culpable for was decimating our civil service. Particularly the Cia/fbi and particularly decent, principled conservatives (no big surprise, the liberals live in other wings of gov’t).

                A picture is worth a thousand words, and I have no doubt that if they bothered putting out pictures of what happens in these black sites, there’d be more than a few folks shouting.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well, as Stalin once is reported to have said “One death is a tragedy, a million, a statistic.” Bombing civilians from the air is a crime, not one iota more justifiable than AQ’s justification for taking down the WTC.

                Our military operates under a completely different legal system. That’s why we have the Law of Land Warfare, the Geneva Conventions, all that stuff. We let them kill people under very specific rules. One of those rules is the bombing of civilians. That’s why the USA isn’t a signatory to the Rome Conventions (thank Bolton for that) because we do bomb cities.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I know what’s of value to Japan. They send their spies to read our scientific and industrial journals. They’re quite confident that they can outengineer us, so why steal?

                I don’t see you bitching and moaning so hard about google publishing spy satellite imagery, and I can assure you that told a whole lot of people what we found interesting in Africa.Report

            • Avatar Barry in reply to BlaiseP says:

              “No, not really. Lincoln issued many pardons for cowardice but he didn’t pardon spies or guerrillas. ”

              I must have missed the mass executions of Confederates – last I hear treason and murder were crimes.

              “Wringing your hands over Bradley Manning — do you have any conception of how many people’s lives he put in danger? ”

              One one-thousandth of the number which Bush deliberately put into danger, for political, pyschological and monetary gain?Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            You are my second-favorite CATO guy.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            I entirely agree with you that Manning appears to have committed a serious crime. What he did also helped to expose some other crimes, of an equally grave nature, or more.

            I’ll put my libertarian hat on for a minute…

            BlaiseP seems to be arguing that the safety and security of US operatives was endangered by Manning’s document dump, and that the safety and security of those operatives is of primary importance.

            Jason seems to be arguing that the lack of safety and security of innocent people targeted by the US was increased by the document dump, and that the interests of those people is of primary importance.

            I’m inclined to agree with Jason’s argument here, that the safety and security of people who aren’t members of the US “security” apparatus is the morally compelling position, since US operatives assume personal risk voluntarily.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

              Ooops. Jason seems to be arguing that the lack of safety and…Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

              So in your opinion, their lives are of lesser importance. And the lives of their informants are of lesser importance.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I don’t think anything justifies assassination of journalists. I place journalists’ lives of higher importance than informants and spies. (I also think there’s a question of degree and intent here — any deaths he caused by releasing this stuff he was actively trying to mitigate and prevent.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                If everybody’s life is of equal importance, then changing an institutional structure which kills innocent people at the expense of risking the lives of people within that institutional structure can be justified. Whether the facts bear that out – there’s gonna be some sort of utilitarian-type calculus weighted against principles and pragmatic concerns given the number of individuals at risk – is another matter.

                I’m just saying that Jason’s view that increasing the risk of people who’ve already assumed an institutionally imposed risk in order to minimize the risk of innocent people who aren’t members of that institution cannot be dismissed out of hand. In fact, I don’t see how if can be dismissed except on either pragmatic grounds (the increased risk of our operatives is doesn’t justify decreasing the risk of innocent people for pragmatic reasons X, Y, Z…) or on absolutist grounds (that any increase in risk to US operatives is unjustified come what may).

                By now, I’ve gone long past summarizing Jason’s argument and into new territory. But in general, I fall on Jason’s take of things.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

                Therefore, may I infer from this curious calculus that intelligence operators do no good in the world, that they murder people with impunity, that there is no oversight of their activities? Your pragmatism seems to reduce our intelligence gatherers to so many plastic pawns on a chessboard.

                If this is the summa of your argument, at the risk of begging questions, it seems their lives do not matter, nor does the information they gather save any lives. Maybe you and Jason need to go back to the drawing board. I find your equations a bit simplistic. The best war is the one we do not have to fight.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                may I infer from this curious calculus that intelligence operators do no good in the world, that they murder people with impunity, that there is no oversight of their activities? … The best war is the one we do not have to fight.

                Intelligence operators don’t do any good in the world at all except insofar as the aims of intelligence gathering are good ones. I think lots of people dispute those aims or dimensions of those aims. (And for very good reasons, I might add.)

                But notice: your argument in the above comment doesn’t preclude the possibility that actions taken in the name of “national security” (or whatever) are unjust. If your argument is that on balance our intelligence apparatus does more harm than good, then you’re essentially conceding the argument I’m making here and suggesting that for pragmatic reasons the moral calculus justifies whatever actions are taken to accomplish the institutional goals (because on net we get “good” outcomes).

                Maybe I’ve been misreading you, but it seemed to me you were arguing that increasing the risk of US operatives is never justified, and that’s why Manning’s actions cannot be justified. Personally, I think that view follows from the accepting the internal logic of the institution itself. If it’s possible to pass judgments on institutional actions, tho – which I think is the case – we can only do so by viewing things from outside institution and institutional logic, and that requires evidence and some sort of calculus by which the judgment is determined (moral values, principles, laws, pragmatics, consequences, etc etc.)

                My only point is that exposing unjust institutional practices can be justified even if doing so increases the risks of members of that institution. It’s an open question, it seems to me, and needs to be. We shouldn’t be prevented from asking or acting on that question out of a principled commitment to the institution in question.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

                That’s a very big Except, Stillwater. A few of those Very Good Reasons can be countered with other Very Good Reasons, none of which seem to enter your calculus, even now.

                9/11 could have been prevented. We know that now. There’s no disputing that fact. Hundreds of similar incidents have been prevented by CIA and FBI. If we are to talk of Innocents, how many deaths have been prevented?

                I am a Consequentialist. People who call themselves Pragmatists usually aren’t: They’re Un-Pragmatists. they want to apply their own precious theories to practice in the course of justifying the unjustifiable.

                The weakest point about being a Consequentialist is the understanding of how intent deviates from what may be reasonably predicted. For this reason, I have often said the best intentions lead to the greatest evils. The Wise Man evolves in the face of just such ethical disasters. To this end, we have policies which limit the control of information. If you have a problem with that, your objection is axiomatic and further debate is pointless.

                You want to save the innocent? Perhaps you should consider the fact that our intelligence operators go in search of what has not yet come to pass. There are people in the world intent upon doing us harm. They do not play nice and we do not gather information about them without imperilling intelligence operators. What angers me most in all this, and it really does burn my bacon in ways I can’t quite adequately describe — is that your Exposing of Unjust Institutional Practices is justice of your own devising. That our intelligence operators are also innocent people, that their families are innocent people, that they go in search of trouble on behalf of a nation of innocents, a world of innocents, never enters into your thinking. At least not yet, from what I’ve seen.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

                You mean half our informants aren’t illegal immigrants? (well, in america, at least). I’d hardly call that innocent, though it’s well well under the threshold of felony in my mind.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

                Gnomic Kim strikes again.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

                Yeah, Blaise, I’m just calling bullshit on the idea that informants are “innocent”. It’s unlikely to be true, even if you aren’t blackmailing them.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

                Many informants are guilty as hell. That’s why they inform. As for you calling bullshit, it’s like dealing with a snarling, toothless little dog.

                Mostly harmless.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

                Kuro Neko says nyaaaah.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                BP, ‘ obviously not being clear. I’m saying that it’s possible to question the decision-making, actions and underlying purpose of the national security apparatus. I don’t see how giving blanket immunity to individuals employed within that institution follows from anything you’ve said, nor does the conclusion that that apparatus accomplishes no good follow from anything I’ve said.

                More specifically, I’m saying that it’s an open question which requires evidence and argument to be closed. It seems to me you’re arguing that it’s not an open question, that it’s (necessarily?) closed.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

                It seems to me, and here I may be taking liberties with your argument, in which case I pre-emptively beg your pardon — but I can only work with what you’ve written here — okay enough polite wriggling —

                I contend, with very considerable justification, that good intelligence prevents wars. This goes to more than national security. It is a matter of the furtherance of human dignity and justice. Many innocent lives are saved in the course of what is done in secret.

                You have done more than question, it seems to me. Jason has done considerably more than question. He has said:

                I think due process, even more so than secrecy of sensitive information, is part of what makes America strong, and part of what makes America great. Manning hasn’t been getting it. And no one seems to give a shit about it.

                Due process has not been forthcoming for Bradley Manning. It has taken years to assemble a case against him. The magnitude of his crimes, the sheer mountain of evidence, beggars imagination. I use his leaked information to write these interesting little things about Mali. Did you see my links? I kinda pride myself on being informative. Thanks, Bradley! Good going! Now I know exactly what Embassy Bamako was saying about those hostages. I also know about the US military’s involvement in the training of Malian troops.

                I also know those leaks got people killed. As a private citizen, I’m quite pleased to see all that information, very informative. As ex-military, still keeping secrets, I am horrified to see it.

                Bradley Manning has blood on his hands. Some of you understand that fact. Others are living in denial about that fact.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        He allegedly leaked not just videos of what he believed to be war crimes (after taking I don’t know what steps to pursue accountability internally without leaking classified material against his oath and thus the law), but additionally tens of thousands of classified documents and other materials unrelated to such crimes. I’m not sure exactly what in your view is implied when you say that his case is exactly what the pardon was designed to address – whether you think he should be prosecuted but then pardoned, or simply that the government is acting wrongly when it prosecutes him for blatant lawbreaking even in the case where what he viewed as war crimes were in fact war crimes. We may be better off for his having broken the law, but it can still be the case that the way he did it is such that we can’t hold him out as an example of what everyone holding positions like the one he did should do. And if he received a full pardon for his actions, it seems like that would be exactly what we’d be doing. After all, he clearly did break the law in a rather massive way. If he had justification for doing so, it would have to be quite a compelling justification to countervail his duty to uphold the oath he took. And if that were the case, it would seem to me that anyone in a similar position (which thousands of people with security clearances are in) would have a similar duty to act as Manning did.

        We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say that we’d like people who have the obligation to comply with the oaths they took to be allowed to receive classified information to act as Bradley Manning did insomuch as to reveal scandalous information (that much being something we should want, and which, in theory, people in that situation do enjoy protections for), but to do so in a way that shows more discretion as to just what information that is and not release more classified info than Bradley Manning did, while at the same time saying that Bradley Manning didn’t do anything that should be punished, which a full pardon in this situation would do. Manning didn’t show that discretion, and pardoning him would say that what he did is what others in his position should, even must, do.

        Obviously I can’t claim that had Manning shown the due discretion in what materials to release, that he wouldn’t face prosecution (since for the military not to prosecute him for releasing evidence of war crimes would amount to an admission of war crimes). But in the event as it unfolded, Manning undermined any protections he might have received in a hypothetical course of events where he did show that discretion by not doing so. Because of that, if he is convicted of more or less what he is accused of, I don’t think it would be responsible for a president to give him a full pardon. Perhaps you don’t propose that he receive a full pardon.

        Obviously, none of this excuses his mistreatment during, nor the length of, his pre-court-martial dteention.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Michael Drew says:

          I don’t think the President should pardon Manning. I think a full pardon goes too far.

          But I would definitely advocate commuting the sentence once the court proceedings are served. Time already served, or something close to, especially in light of the abusive treatment and torture he was subjected to.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to M.A. says:

            I’d be for a pretty lenient sentence, though not as little as time served, I don’t think. Something in the neighborhood of 5-10 years with sympathetic consideration for early release. The mistreatment should be dealt with as a separate matter, as it constitutes a crime, or in any case a question in need of serious accountability, in itself if it was as severe and unjustified as advocates for Manning insist it was.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Michael Drew says:

              The mistreatment should be dealt with as a separate matter, as it constitutes a crime, or in any case a question in need of serious accountability, in itself if it was as severe and unjustified as advocates for Manning insist it was.

              The victim of the mistreatment was Manning, and it was a severe violation of his constitutional rights (he was subjected to torture, cruel&unusual punishment, and extrajudicial punishment with a thinly veiled pretext that was correctly ruled by the court to be only a pretext). In what way do you suggest restitution be offered?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to M.A. says:

                Lawsuit, I suppose.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to M.A. says:

                …Also, as a matter of discretion under the pardon power, I agree that that could rightly come into play. I was thinking in terms of what the formal sentence should be.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to M.A. says:

                …In any case, the judge has apparently made the determination that it should bear on the sentence. That’s fine; I didn’t mean to say it shouldn’t; just that it should primarily be dealt with directly as a question of misconduct by the jailers, and that I think Manning, if he is convicted of doing more or less what he’s widely understood to have done, should not be granted his freedom at the moment of his final conviction. He should face a handful of years of imprisonment beyond that, which should be subject to sympathetic review for early release.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Michael Drew says:

          “He allegedly leaked not just videos of what he believed to be war crimes (after taking I don’t know what steps to pursue accountability internally without leaking classified material against his oath and thus the law),”

          Accountability? In the US government? For crimes beloved of the elites?Report

      • Avatar Just Me in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I have to say I am shocked. I don’t know any of you really that well, I don’t spend enough time on the blog to be able to say I do. But I am shocked that you would advocate Bradley Manning be pardoned. What kind of signal would that send to all of the other men and women in the Armed Forces who see classified information every day? Are these the people who we want determining what information gets put out into the public square? I know at 19 with a top secret security clearance I didn’t have all the knowledge to make the right choice as to whether the information I saw should be told to the public in general. Forget the age I was, I did not see the big picture that someone who actually analyzed all the information did. I could see a small tidbit and not know the context of it or the ramifications of what else that information being released could do to other operations. Manning said he believed that what he released would not affect any ongoing operation. To that I say whatever. He did not have enough time in to make that decision. To say we are better off for his having broken the law therefore he should not be punished for breaking that law just makes me shake my head and I admit bang it a few times on the table as I type.

        I have had this discussion with my significant other. I feel that if you believe as a country we are doing something so horrible it requires you to break your oath then man/woman up and live with the consequences of the choice you made to break that oath. Just like some men and women believe fighting for their country is so important that they may give up their life then him giving up his freedom should be a price he is willing to pay.

        If you feel strongly that what he did was right, then change the policies and laws that govern military members stealing secrets and releasing them to the public. But then be willing to live with the consequences of every Joe Blow thinking it would be cool if people knew this information then releasing whatever they want.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Just Me says:

          As I said above, I don’t think a full pardon is warranted.


          There’s a remarkable catch-22 in effect here. Manning saw what he believed to be videos of war crimes as well as other evidence of war crimes. He had, unfortunately, no way to trust that reporting it up the chain would result in anything because this stuff had come from the top down already.

          The word “lawful” does a hell of a lot of work in the whole “obey orders” clauses of the oaths. In fact, I’d say it does the entirety of the heavy lifting.

          Spot-on to the point here: “As Hamilton Action for Social Change has noted “Under the Nuremberg Principles, you have an obligation NOT to follow the orders of leaders who are preparing crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. We are all bound by what U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert K. Jackson declared in 1948: [T]he very essence of the [Nuremberg] Charter is that individuals have intentional duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.” At the Tokyo War Crimes trial, it was further declared “[A]nyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent commission of the crimes.

          It’s an incredibly fished-up situation we put people like Manning in, and between that and the knowledge that the US Military violated the constitution (cruel and unusual incarceration and torture both applied to Manning) in this case, I am absolutely comfortable with discussing the appropriateness of a commutation of sentence.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

            Dangit, I messed up my /em tags. Could someone fix?Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to M.A. says:

              Gotcha covered.Report

            • Avatar Just Me in reply to M.A. says:

              If all he leaked was the video than I might agree. What war crimes was he show casing when he released a quarter million diplomacy cables? I don’t even think he read what he released. He knew what he was doing, he knew he was mass releasing classified information and he had no idea what ramifications releasing them could have.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Just Me says:

                On the contrary, he knew precisely what he was doing. Making a big fucking splash.

                As to what ramifications? With the proper doctoring, there’s not much in terms of life and death (no spy names revealed). So, what, he gigantically embarrasses the united states?


              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kim says:

                Proper doctoring would have simply been releasing materials that contain evidence of wrongdoing, and not others.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

                I wonder about that. Bradley Manning’s only meaningful defence lies in the fact that he didn’t fully understand the scope of what he was doing.

                Proper doctoring, my ass. Your total ignorance of how intelligence is gathered and applied just boggles my tiny little mind. Why don’t you just fire up a terminal and issue the commands man chmod and man chown for a little enlightenment in this regard?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Not sure who this is directed at, but in any case, he didn’t do any such doctoring; he relied on the recipient to show that discretion. Which defeats the whole point of classifying info in the first place. (The process for which certainly needs massive reform from where it currently stands in the U.S. military and intelligence service. But any single officer or enlisted person is in no position to gainsay such actual reform.)Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                We don’t know how much of the doctoring was actually “proofed” by him.
                I don’t see much wrong with turning to a security professional to ask: “how much of this should be released”?
                But obviously someone needs to check the damn code!

                (I’ve done HIPAA work. The idea of redacting that many documents by hand is ridiculous. He does bear a moral responsibility for “finding a good algorithm and making sure they arent’ screwing shit up”)Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Are you maybe getting Bradley Manning confused with Julian Assange?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Okay, let’s have a little lesson in *nix security. There is no such thing as “redacted” information. You can’t remove enough clues to keep the “secret” secret. Ever. Either the entire information pipe is safe or it is all compromised.

                You ought to presume your enemy knows everything you do, everything, that is, except your Access Control Lists.

                You say no one person can gainsay such reforms: that is not true. Every file has an owner. UGOA. Users, Groups, Owner, All Others. For people in the Windows world, where security is essentially nil, and third-party software is required to clean the Microsoft elephants’ dung off the parade route, such notions are foreign concepts. For this reason, our little buddies over in China routinely exploit Windows security.

                Bradley Manning’s workstation was running Windows. Almost all computers on SIPRNET run Windows. That’s how he was able to get access and write to external devices such as SD cards. Windows cannot be effectively secured. Though every operating system can be compromised with enough trouble, Manning’s ability to write to external devices and take them back to his apartment was the actual problem.

                The Chinese, no fools they, have a good port of Linux called Red Flag, which uses SELinux, a precious gift to the open source community from the NSA. The Chinese do not put Windows machinery in front of their operators, except the guys who write the rootkits and run the breaching tools. It is time we followed the Chinese example.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I meant moral position. No officer can just use his opinion that a certain piece of classified information wouldn’t be classified in a (in his view) properly reformed classification system as a justification for sending it out the door.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                yeah, probably.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Yes, of course we should be using unix. or at least not windows.

                If you know the entire population (or near enough), you can certainly determine how much information you must redact to make any given record non-unique. That’s, naturally, called doing it the hard way.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I wonder about that. Bradley Manning’s only meaningful defence lies in the fact that he didn’t fully understand the scope of what he was doing.

                Proper doctoring, my ass. Your total ignorance of how intelligence is gathered and applied just boggles my tiny little mind. Why don’t you just fire up a terminal and issue the commands man chmod and man chown for a little enlightenment in this regard?

                What are you saying here? That there was a technical limitation in place that prevented him from releasing any less information than he did?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …In any case, I wasn’t saying that “proper doctoring” (not my phrase) would necessarily have been sufficient for him to be legally or morally in the clear for making a release. I really don’t know. I was just saying that it would have been necessary.

                Still not really sure who you’re addressing in all this.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Drew says:

                There is no making this simple, Michael. The pipeline is what matters. We built the pipeline so it won’t leak. Leaks defeat the purpose of the pipeline.

                You want your own information to be secure. Some of it is, some of it isn’t. Well, folks, in this world of sin and error, information is bought and sold. Some of it is about you. You have Fourth Amendment rights, sorta. Your lawyer-client privilege, your doctor-patient privilege — these you like well enough. Insist on them as a matter of fact. If your lawyer or your physician breached his confidence, you’d sue his ass off, get him disbarred, no end of outrage on that front.

                But somehow, when it comes to your government, all that’s irrelevant. Anything you want to see, regardless of your need to know or the consequences of revealing that information or more importantly, its sources — well, gosh, now cometh Joe Public before the court of public opinion to demand access to anything he wants to see and tell anyone he wants to tell.

                You’ve got the right to request information about yourself or pretty much anything you want to ask under FOIA. You’ve got the First Amendment. But if you don’t understand the need for privacy for your own government, just think about your own need for privacy. This ain’t Hollywood, people. Lacking the perspective to understand the consequences. Not even the wise can see all ends.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                The way I figure, people ought to get prosecuted for misuse of data. not simply getting the data itself. Puts a bit more of the burden on the person saying “that’s wrong” if you know what I mean.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I don’t know what you mean. I very seldom do. He who acquires stolen data is a thief. If I went through and pulled your data off an EDI 837 and sent it to myself, you tell me where the crime was committed.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

                it comes from an emphasis on Harm, that underlies the idea of Steal. If I obtain data that you also still have, have I harmed you?
                The answer is no, not at that moment. I could certainly harm you by setting up a business to use that data to put you out of business (which certainly ought to be prosecutable). I could also harm your customers, etc etc.

                But the point is not: “I got yer data!” (unless you do in fact use bombs to remove my data from me, in which case, yeah that’s stealing/wanton destruction — thank you space marines).Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Kim, it’s pretty obvious to me you don’t understand HIPAA security. If you can’t tell me what law has been violated in me copying your 837 and sending it into an external file system, you have no business working around HIPAA data.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Bizarre the things you think I’m saying here or that I don’t appreciate, Blaise. I don’t know where you get the impression I don’t understand the need for government to maintain secrecy with respect to many of its activities, especially in war. OTOH, there is a duty on the part of officials in certain circumstances to blow the whistle over very serious wrongdoing. In absolutely no instance, from Daniel Ellsburg down to Manning, do I claim to be in a position to be able to judge whether someone who has blown the whistle was right to think he had to do it. But it does seems to me that even if Manning was right, he didn’t satisfy the basic degree of discretion that’s incumbent on any whistleblower who’s taken an oath to protect classified information to reveal no more than is necessary to effectively blow the whistle. Notice, that doesn’t even say whether he was right to blow the whistle. Many observers have said that the videos of engagement in Iraq he revealed simply portrayed actions pursuant to the ROE of engagement in place at that time, which were more or less publicly vetted apart from the disclosure. Again, I don’t claim to be in a position to be able to judge the justification of Manning’s belief that some disclosure was necessary, but I do think it’s clear he showed disregard for any need for discretion about what to release, which makes his action unjustifiable.

                Not sure how I can make my position any clearer, and if this still makes me one of the clueless people who doesn’t recognize any need for government secrecy, so be it, because clearly in that case you’ve just decided it’s the case and won’t hear anything I say as anything but a manifestation of that, even if it says nearly the opposite.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Look, Michael, I said there’s no making this simple. My complaint was not addressed to you, but to Kim, parts of which you saw fit to put into em tags. At no point have I implied you didn’t understand the need for secrecy. I have whacked Kim for saying dumb things about data security. You were never my target. In passing, an EDI 837 is a medical billing claim and it’s illegal to copy it in transit under 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164.

                Here’s what I’m saying: if you want this in full fisking mode.

                You asked an interesting question: That there was a technical limitation in place that prevented him from releasing any less information than he did? Yes there was. It was easier to gather everything with “*.*” than to gather the files one by one.

                Wikileaks has not released all of Manning’s trove. There’s an enormous, encrypted file on the net, containing the famous Insurance File, insurance.aes256. It’s thought if the USA ever goes after Wikileaks in any significant way, insurance.aes256 will be opened and all hell will break loose. It’s about 20 times the size of all the rest of what Wikileaks has released to this point.

                Manning was not a man of conscience, he was a troubled boy, the sort of thrill-seeker who takes his Daddy’s gun to school. The fact that he copied out entire directories and not just the things which troubled him — hell, it’s taken over 1000 days to get this case ready for trial. I find this Due Process complaint from various and sundry the height of silliness: just preparing the evidence for submission was a herculean endeavour.

                The first bombshell Manning leaked: that helicopter video where that poor cameraman was mistaken for an RPG gunner? There’s a reason why such an artifact would be hanging around for Manning to find: This incident was already under investigation. It was a public relations disaster. It was going up the food chain. Killing a television crew was very bad for business: that’s an important ROE when you’re running a war or a conspiracy for they are synonymous.

                When Ellsberg “leaked” his history of the Vietnam War, he was entirely within his right to do so. Daniel Ellsberg was a civilian. The only secrecy applied to the Pentagon Papers was mainly to keep it out of the hands of anyone but the historians: they were supposedly classified “Top Secret – Sensitive” which means only “Serious Fuggup Lies Within” but were not so classified by military censors. Furthermore, to prevent any classification complaints from arising, 4100 pages had been entered into the Congressional Record by Senator Mike Gravel. The Pentagon Papers didn’t contain meaningful operational data: it was a history of deceit. The history of every war is a history of deceit. ROEs are not justice in action. They are arbitrary limits imposed on warfare by commanders, not judges.

                You want clarity? Here’s a question for you, then. Which part of “War is a Crime” don’t you understand? I will not be hectored on this subject. You want to sort this out into your own little jus in bello categories? I don’t observe any such distinctions: they don’t exist. The nature of conspiracy is secrecy, a plot to harm: therefore wars are conspiracy by definition. If war is to work, properly sealed information pipelines are a baseline requirement. And yes, bad things will be covered up with things you might find less reprehensible. And we would hope men and women of conscience would act on these evils, both from within the intelligence community and the military — and where they don’t, that such people would expose that information. Don’t like that? Don’t think the process works? I would prefer a scheme where intelligence acts in the prevention of wars, where factual information guides elected officials towards wisdom and not ideological madness and the rush to war. But that’s just me. Mr. Consequentialist.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                As I’ve said all the way through, I haven’t been clear who you’ve been addressing. It sounds like I’ve been responding to your responses to Kim, not to responses to me. ‘Nuff said then, perhaps.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Bradley Manning’s only meaningful defence lies in the fact that he didn’t fully understand the scope of what he was doing.

                Well, he pled guilty already, so even he admits he doesn’t have a meaningful defense for some of his actions.

                If there’s a general defense out there it seems to me it would be some variation of the whistle-blower theme: he was morally justified exposing crimes even if doing so was illegal.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to M.A. says:

            There’s a criticism of the Nuremburg Trials, that they were basically victors’ justice. With the current attitude in the USA towards torture and casual slaughter of civilians, I think that a lot of people in the USA really harbor the same attitude (i.e., that orders can not be illegal).Report

          • Avatar Just Me in reply to M.A. says:

            I’m trying to imagine what unlawful order he could have been given that he didn’t follow. Was there an unlawful order not to steak classified documents?Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Just Me says:

          I look at it as a guy who knew some horrible injustice was occuring across town and rushed to stop it by jumping in his car and zooming through traffic, running over and killing a half-dozen innocent bystanders along with way, including some school children crossing the street. Then he jumped out of his car and shoved his way through a crowd, shooting a couple of people in the head when they didn’t clear a path for him.

          Whatever the injustice was, it was a pathetically bad and illegal way to stop it, and a lot of innocent people died as a direct result of his actions.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to George Turner says:

            The government claims that he killed bystanders.
            I am skeptical.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim says:

              Yeah, this is one of those times when I’m skeptical.

              However, it’s certainly possible that he *could* have. I do doubt that he read everything he dumped.

              On the other hand, “everything he dumped” didn’t immediately make its way out into the public, either. Everybody forgets that the Wikileaks folk redacted a bunch of stuff for a year. I’m dubious that operational security was impacted.

              The guy does deserve punishment. How much, that’s up to a judge.

              But Burt’s post (with which I most wholeheartedly agree) is about judicial process, not Manning’s guilt or innocence.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’ve done data redaction before (Hipaa related). By the time even a simple algorithm gets finished, you’re down to the “Hey, I remember the red tie wearer at that event! — he’s a spy???” level. Yes, with infinite manpower, you might could find a few people this way. In the Real World, it’s just not worth it.

                (I also think most people overvalue the word spy. Your slightly-smarter-than-usual Pakistani dundicut farmer could be a spy. And just pass along basically gossip. And, more importantly, talk to anyone who pays).

                Whatever the real sentence, I think he deserves his sentence commuted down to something like… a year. Enough to make it costly, but…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                But Burt’s post (with which I most wholeheartedly agree) is about judicial process, not Manning’s guilt or innocence.

                Indeedy. And since I don’t have anything specific to say about that process other than that it was generally contemptible, I do recall having lots and lots of discussions with Obots who steadfastly denied that Manning’s treatment was anything other than perfectly legal and proper. All the evidence presenting a case that he was mistreated or unjustly held without charge, etc, was accounted for as a deliberate smear against Obama.

                Ahh, those were fun times.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Are we all comfortable having wikileaks personnel decide what should or should not be classified information?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Just Me says:


                (I was just noting for all of the vilification of Mr. Assange, he did not in fact just dump-publish raw data the day after he got it, which is how most people think it went down.)

                On the other hand, I’m not entirely comfortable with the U.S. government’s classification of what should and should not be considered classified information, either.

                Personally, I think there should be a tradition of declassification at the start of every new Administration. Not of everything, mind you, of course.Report

              • Given that we know Assange did periodic leaks to several media outlets, can we be in fact certain that he didn’t sell some of the data to less..scrupulous parties?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Yes. You realize that he (probably) still hasn’t released the names of folks who have swiss bank accounts, even though he’d stand to make millions from blackmail or simply selling the data?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Just Me says:

                Because they’d do a worse job than the people who usually decide that?Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Because they have people who know the big picture. Who know that a mention of so in so in this cable may lead to the other so and so somewhere else being killed. Intelligence is about putting together little innocuous pieces of data together and finding out a much better picture. I’m sorry I had family and friends fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, thankfully the last one just came home last week. I have friends and family stationed overseas and I don’t need some little twerp thinking that he knows the ramifications of every piece of data he puts out there. I would not be so harsh if he leaked something he felt was just so horrid he had to tell the world. That entails limited information, not data dumping hundreds of thousands of records.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Just Me says:

                I’m sorry, where in an entire year and thousands of pages of documents do you think Assange didn’t have “People Who Know The Big Picture”?

                An entire year is a lot of computing time.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Just Me says:

                So they took all the documents in the entire Military Intelligence complex? Pretty sure they have more than under a million documents. Pretty sure that there is a bigger picture, a picture that has been developing for many many years than what was in his dumps. Maybe I’m wrong and he had access to everything from the time of the great beyond to that date.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to Just Me says:

                Quick question too. Does wikileaks employ intelligence analysts?Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Just Me says:

                No, they employ the equivalent of Kim Kardashian and Carrot Top, except Kim and Carrot probably wouldn’t approach the task with such blind bias, ignorance, disregard, and sanctimonious naivete.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Just Me says:

                Just Me,
                I think it would be in the government’s best interest to tell Assange what would be dangerous to publish. Now, just because I’m saying that doesn’t mean he was able to find a few “sources” to poke and prod.

                But there’s “Big Picture” and then there’s “Big Big Picture”…
                (again who the fuck complains when google posts spy satellite imagery on google earth? That shit is far more revealing, in far less time).

                Big Picture is what we’re keeping an eye on, what we’re concerned about. That sort of shit is both easy to pick up on, and what we want other people to know about.

                We want Iran knowing that we’re concerned.

                Wikileaks does employ intelligence analysts. Now, we can take it for granted that they aren’t Government Intelligence analysts. But that just means that they’re looking at things with fresh eyes.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Just Me says:

                Lookit Curious George, busy flinging feces.

                I’d hardly think that someone who escapes, through deliberate action, being assassinated counts as naive.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Just Me says:

                So wikileaks only employs people who’ve survived assassination attempts? I knew getting groped was par for the course, but their job interviews must be stranger than I thought.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Just Me says:

                No, George. Most of them are smart enough to, um, not be Julian. (who is about as much of an asshole as Moore. A brave asshole, but still an asshole).

                The State has been trying to bully/bludgeon/lockup/and assassinate Assange. Perhaps under the theory that it would send a lesson.

                Maybe it would?Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Just Me says:

                Which State? He pissed off a whole bunch of them. I think the Russians and some of the Middle Eastern royal families are the most likely to succeed in killing him, but the list is so long that everyone would have pretty good deniability.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Just Me says:

                Which state/s is a very good question. One that I don’t know the answer to. Someone else is trying to try him for rape, of course.

                But America’s a good bet for “tried to assassinate” him.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Just Me says:

                For what it’s worth: I think they tend to do a better job than Anonymous, which is fond of larger scale document dumps with less vetting.

                I think you’re asking two questions:
                1) Are they professionals capable of doing the “job” right? (aka not endangering people’s lives unnecessarily, giving a minimal amount of risk). Yes, I’d say so.

                2) Are they more/as/less responsible than the government folks?
                Think of this in four categories:
                a) Cover Your Ass Classification — Area 51
                b) Ohshitwedidwhat? Classification — “actual bad shit”, like LSD or crystal coke.
                c) Oh Shit THEY did what??!? Classification — grassy knoll, it wasn’t our fault but we’d better cover for who really did it.
                d) Umm… we don’t want you to know about that.

                While some stuff in D) may be harmful, I havent’ seen anything too terribly “earthshattering” be released. [5 people dead is One Thing. a new smarter than human race is a Different Matter].Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

            The government prosecutors will probably name people who died as a direct result of his actions, such as 70-year old Khalifa Abdullah who was taken from his home and executed, his killers leaving a nice thank-you note to Wikileaks for revealing him. Bradley Manning gave the Taliban a list of thousands of people opposing the Taliban, along with their family information and location. The Taliban, who said they were pouring over 92,000 incident and contact reports that Manning leaked, of course vowed to hunt down and execute anyone who was cooperating with the US, and they went right to work at it. Even Bin Laden was using Manning’s leaked documents.

            Of course Julian Assange dismissed such victims as traitors for cooperating with NATO and said their lives were outweighed by the importance of releasing the information (and making himself famous, which was certainly the main thing).Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to George Turner says:

              I thought the main thing was Romney’s Amnesty?

              Smart folks got out of pakistan years ago.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

              So it’s okay if only “not smart” people are dragged from their homes and executed by religious fanatics as a result of his leak, along with their inbred idiot wives and daughters, all for being guilty of opposing a fundamentalist theocracy bent on building a state where they can execute women for showing too much ankle?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

                George, you seem to be taking a pretty hard pro-state line in comments on this thread. Usually your all about criticizing the state for abusing its monopoly on the use of force. What gives?Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                What gives is that most of the people he harmed weren’t part of our state apparatus, but either low-level military people like himself who had to walk patrols (his release included lots of low-level information about our operational patterns), or people cooperating with the US for the betterment of their own societies.

                It would be like a whistle-blower trying to expose corruption in the FBI by posting the names and addresses of everyone in the FBI witness protection program on the web, causing many to get axed by the mafia, gang lords, and drug cartels.

                Given that releasing such detailed information was totally unnecessary, I say hang him for reckless disregard for human life and gross self-absorbed stupidity.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to George Turner says:

                Do you know how easy it is to change low-level operational patterns?

                If the government hasn’t already planned for these things to be leaked, at some point, well, that’s dumb too. And our military is Not That Dumb.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                And do you know how easy it is for a shipping convoy to change course? That still doesn’t mean transmitting their operational routes to Nazi U-boat command would be an okay thing to do. In fact, it would’ve gotten someone the death penalty in 100% of cases.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to George Turner says:

                You’re still making this rhetorical argument, which is chock full of emotion and utterly devoid of reason.

                “This is clearly a traitorous act” via intent to transmit to enemies of the state.

                This other thing, which is the equivalent of passing out rough drafts to all the editors on the floor? NOT TREASON.

                As to how easy it is for a shipping convoy to change course? Immaterial. The odds of anyone being so stupid&powerful as to sink a US ship? miniscule. There’s blame, and then there’s revenge/justice.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Um, when our convoys were sailing to Europe, they were being sunk by U-boats, which is why anyone who willingly told the Kriegsmarine where all our convoys were going would’ve been executed. (disclaimer: One of my cousins was a U-boat commander executed in the Nuremberg trials for killing merchant seamen from the Greek ship Peleus who were floating in a lifeboat.)

                When Manning dumped millions of secret communications onto the web for the entire world to see, US soldiers, allies, and ordinary Afgans who were helping us were being killed by Taliban attacks. The Taliban were given access to the data that Manning released by the simple act of posting all the data on the web, which Al Qaeda and the Taliban can access, making it trivially easy for them to know specifically who to kill or where to strike to inflict the maximum damage. And thus Bradley Manning is in jail, and probably will be for decades, if not for the rest of his natural life.

                If he’d have stopped at just releasing the equivalent of the Abu Ghraib videos of the Danny Bonaduce look-alike posing with whips and cigars, I’d agree that he shouldn’t be overly punished, but he didn’t stop there. He dumped the whole enchilada onto the web because he’s a drama queen who should never have ever been allowed anywhere near classified information.Report

              • Avatar Just Me in reply to George Turner says:

                I still can’t believe that someone who was slated for discharge in basic ended up with a TS/SCI security clearance.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to George Turner says:

                Scrubbed data is what he released. You don’t get names, you don’t get addresses, nor even the city. This is NOT a trivial matter to decode into “who was the spy”.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to George Turner says:

                “…I say hang him for reckless disregard for human life and gross self-absorbed stupidity.”

                Thats a crime now in Washington?

                Somewhere in a secret bunker Dick Cheney is laughing.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to George Turner says:

                Again, on the one side we have The State, willfully attempting to murder journalists for daring to publish things critical of the government (or, perhaps more importantly, of billionaires…hmm…?) The State, who willfully publishes (through the “free press”) an informant’s screams as his daughters die — when he was informing for them. When he dared to stand up to the fundamentalist theocrazy where he lived. (Yes, I speak of two different states. They are allies).

                On the other, we have professionals doing their levelheaded best to publish without killing folks. To disseminate some knowledge that is too dangerous to be from any given person.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                I think your source might be a bit out of date, and was trying to argue that a person murdered within days of the Taliban saying they’d be killing elders (the Taliban quickly sent personal death threats to 70 elders named in the leak) wasn’t within their promised 5-day window before they’d start killing elders, and thus couldn’t have been related. Perhaps Khalifa’s last words to his killers were “…but you promised!!!” The author also didn’t find a direct connection to the leak, even though a note left at the scene apparently thanked Wikileaks for the tip.

                There were thousands of names and locations in the leaks, making the Taliban’s job of killing or intimidating tribal leaders and influential figures all too easy. Arguing that the Nazis were killing Jews anyway really wouldn’t sway me about a US private who’d sent them Anne Frank’s attic address in a pique of moral indignation about Allied bombing.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to George Turner says:

                Fair enough.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Oops. The above comment was supposed to be under Patrick’s comment below. I blame Manning.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to George Turner says:


              The timing of the Wikileaks release and the death of Khalifa Abdullah lead me to believe that it is likely the two are not linked.

              Although Khalifa may have eventually been executed because of the Wikileaks posting, he was likely killed for other reasons entirely.

              This doesn’t make what Manning did dangerous, as I’ve said elsewhere on the thread. But I really doubt that the things that are attributed to the leak are actually attributable to the leak.

              Well, except political blowback. That’s certainly attributable to the leak. But it doesn’t seem to have damaged our ability to engage in diplomacy much.Report

      • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        or he could just commute the sentence a la Scooter Libby


        Not that I agree with commuting either.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

      Funny how nobody ever got around to prosecuting the people in SP4 Pat Tillman’s chain of command for the lies they told.

      See, when it’s a senior O grade type telling the lie or doing the leaking to WaPo or NYTimes, nobody goes to the brig. Fishing ringknockers always get a pass.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to BlaiseP says:

        “Funny how nobody ever got around to prosecuting the people in SP4 Pat Tillman’s chain of command for the lies they told.”

        And torture is not a crime, save for lower-ranking enlisted schmucks dumb enough to take pictures.Report

        • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Barry says:

          Having followed it closely in the mid 00’s, the amount of stuff being fed through the right wing propaganda machine to throw doubt into torture was obscene.
          All you had to do was click on Drudge every morning to see what would be in the headlines in other papers and blogs and what would be on rightwing radio.Report

      • Avatar Bob2 in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Also funny how the Pat Tillman followup story would’ve probably gotten buried if his mom and the rest of his family hadn’t gone around making a stink about it being a lie.
        I know people who still think he died from enemy fire. Sigh.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

      I never suggested other than that Manning deserves punishment for his crimes. I did say he deserves due process along the way there. The guilty are as entitled to due process as are the innocent.

      Nor am I indicating agreement with his message or his methods. His methods were, as we all agree, contrary to law. His message, as you correctly point out, is subject to reasonable question.

      Jail and prison are not supposed to be pleasant places. They are places of confinement and punishment. Neither, however, are they supposed to be torture chambers.

      And I agree that Manning is subject to the UCMJ which is in some ways different than the kinds of criminal laws and procedures that civilians are subject to. But the procedures under the UCMJ are not all that different than the procedures applicable to civilian criminal cases. And due process is a universal concept, one which does apply in a UCMJ case.

      1,005 days is too long to wait for resolution under any reasonable standard. And no one should have to have proxies publicly shame the prison system in order to be treated with humanity.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Inadvertently, though, he revealed some things about our justice system.

    One of them, at least. Right?Report

  4. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    The BBC says he could get 20 years for what he’s already pled guilty to. Does the 1,000 days count against that 20 years?Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Too often it seems that examination of the proceedings of our justice and imprisonment systems are predicated on the righteousness of the individual being discussed. Most people don’t care about prison rape if it is the pedophile with multiple victims who is being raped, to the point that many people hope this fate upon him. Many people think Manning is a traitor, and perhaps they are right, which thus means his treatment doesn’t raise an issue because, hey, he’s a traitor.

    It disgusts me, really. Abuses in the justice system are just that, no matter who it is that comes to be abused.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

      Thank you for saying so.
      I agree wholeheartedly.

      Further, it occurs to me that it is often not the characteristic act, but an uncharacteristic act, with which we find fault.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

        Can you elaborate on your second paragraph there?Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

          I was trying to think of a good example, and here are a few that come to mind.
          1) Violations that have to do with accounting practices; e.g. tax violations, reporting requirements for political fundraising.
          If you make one mistake, it might as well be ten. An inadvertent error is treated the same as someone who schemed for years to do it.
          2) Parking violations.
          Someone that parks like that all the time gets the same ticket as the guy that just left his vehicle for two minutes.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Will H. says:

            For 1, the punishment is only severe enough to prevent people from gaming the system. You’re essentially charged a bit more than interest, so that you don’t “not pay taxes” and instead make a PROFIT in stock market.

            Because if they let you do that, many folks would.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

            Got it. On point 2, I’ve actually read of people who routinely park illegally because the uneven enforcement makes it cheaper than paying to park legally. I don’t know how well this actually works and I’m sure it’d vary by city; my experiences in most of Manhattan tell me you can’t get away with ANYTHING.

            Anyway, I get what you’re saying. There are a lot of perversions within our various systems of rules. I was arguing this over on a post Burt had on NaPP regarding IP (not the topic of the post) and how we often create systems that punish rule followers more than habitual rule breakers.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

              Da Ruskies used to park illegally to thumb their noses at the American capitalists. Diplomatic immunity ya know?Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

              It was like that in Nwahlins the last time I was down there, the way you describe Manhattan.
              Parking enforcement is high priority police work.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                I’ve heard it said that the meter maids keep the city in the black. As someone who has gotten several tickets there, I can attest to this. Their biggest scheme/scam is the fire hydrants. I believe they require a full 20 feet on either side of the hydrant, more than any other city I’ve encountered. And they don’t paint yellow curbs. AND it isn’t uncommon for such areas to have parking signs indicating you can park there but which are technically only indicating the space surrounding the excluded zone; but the sign is physically within the excluded zone. A lot of out-of-towners park as they would locally, leaving about a spot or spot-and-a-half to the hydrant and get slammed with a big ticket.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:

      Very little else I can add to this, save that it’s likely the mistreatment was deliberately designed to force a confession or guilty plea (which they have now extracted).

      The system is broken. Long live the system. 🙁Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to M.A. says:

        Yes. Who of us, after 3 years in ‘special treatment’ in a military prison, wouldn’t be saying whatever we were told to say?

        For those who doubt, read ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, chapter 7 (or 8), on – not ‘torture’, because the Soviet system didn’t ‘torture’ people, but on their methods for rather quickly gaining the cooperation of a prisoner.Report

  6. Avatar Will H. says:

    This is the sort of thing that bothers me:
    The justification of the treatment was “prevention of injury,” on the theory that he might attempt suicide. After the scandal about his prison treatment conditions erupted, he was transferred in June of 2011 to the principal military prison at Fort Leavenworth and has had social interactions with other prisoners and has not attempted suicide at all.

    It’s the innumerable ones where scandal have not erupted which concern me most; the faceless people without any manner of celebrity appeal.Report

  7. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    Moreover, the great apathy with which the American public has considered his case is a conviction of us all.

    This is very true, I think. It is what we allow to happen that truly defines us as a society, as a civilization.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      Your last sentence is certainly true in cases where we have some control or influence over the subject matter at hand.
      However, as our control and influence recede, so do our culpability in the matter.

      I’m not arguing the merit of the statement, but rather its contours.Report

  8. Avatar RTod says:

    I suspect that the refrain from national outcry against Manning is similar to the shoulder shrug about targeting US citizens.

    I think when people in any country decide you’re a traitor, you’re pretty much toast. Maybe – MAYBE – child molesters are considered worse by society, but that’s about it. The way he was treated in custody by military personnel strikes me as exactly the way cops would have behaved had they taken Dorner alive.

    I’m not saying that Burt isn’t right about how unacceptable any of this is, but I think its a mistake to draw a bigger picture when you’re talking about treason. It just touches parts of our brains that other crimes don’t.

    One of the reasons I haven’t seen the enemy-combatant controversy as a step backwards (which I know puts me in the minority here) is that I see it as progress that we know what we do. To see it as an erosion of liberty requires me to believe that previous administrations, when being made aware of citizens taking arms against the US for, say, the USSR, they wouldn’t have been quietly killed without a trial. This beggars my belief.

    Previous generations had their Bradley Mannings, and those people got speedy, public, kangaroo trials and were put to death. I don’t like what I’m seeing with Manley, but I’m not he convinced it isn’t still a step forward.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to RTod says:

      There are aspects of his case that are both unacceptable and totally routine, not just for treason cases but for all manner of infractions–mos notably the use of long-term solitary confinement. I’ve been basically convinced that this constitutes torture, and there are about 30,000 people held in solitary throughout the US.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to RTod says:

      Treason is very serious crime and it merits very serious punishment, no doubt.

      But whether it’s a parking ticket or murder or anything in between, the due process clause applies.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I’m skeptical about calling Manning’s actions treason.

        And, yes, I know the definition.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

          Agreed. I think the aiding the enemy charge is pretty strained. The main issue would seem to be the law governing disclosures of classified info by people with security clearances, perhaps some other statutes I’m not aware of. Given the extent of the disclosures, I would think that there should be plenty of punitive force under just that avenue to allow for a sentence of sufficient severity to serve as a deterrent to similar actions in the future.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to RTod says:

      “One of the reasons I haven’t seen the enemy-combatant controversy as a step backwards (which I know puts me in the minority here) is that I see it as progress that we know what we do. To see it as an erosion of liberty requires me to believe that previous administrations, when being made aware of citizens taking arms against the US for, say, the USSR, they wouldn’t have been quietly killed without a trial. This beggars my belief.”

      Actually, the US has conducted actual trials for actual treason.

      And I’m, ah – hesitant about allowing bizarre ‘legal’ things to be done, under the guise of it’s better than lynching.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Barry says:

        I think if you go back and re-read what I wrote, you’ll see that I am neither excusing or condoning these actions.

        I’m simply making two points:

        1. I have a sense that the way we handle this issues is inching toward a better place than where we once were, not a worse place. To use another hot-button as an analogy, I think DOMA is an inexcusable piece of garbage that needs to be overturned – but I don’t lose sight for a moment that the very controversy that allowed it to be passed is a sign of evolution, not erosion, of the rights gays were allowed in previous generations.

        2. I think it’s a mistake especially problematic to extrapolate from how societies deal with traitors a critique of that society’s entire justice system. This is in no way meant to excuse how societies deal with traitors, it’s simply an acknowledgement that we’re pretty universally hardwired to be viciously uncivilized with the person that betrays the herd. Should the rule of law carry the day? Yes. Should we try to address and change this through reason? Absolutely. But is it also a unique symptom of our country’s individual flaws, and a sign that our entire justice system is broken – maybe even to the point of needing to be scrapped (as I’m reading elsewhere in these threads)? I think not.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Barry says:

        “Actually, the US has conducted actual trials for actual treason.”

        Yes. Four times during the entire four decades of the paranoid, espionage-laden cold war, in fact. (FTR, that would be the Rosenbergs in the 50s, Boyce in the 70s, and Harper and Walker in the 80s.) This would suggest one of three possible realities:

        1. It only ever came up about once a decade.

        2. There were a bunch of people the government decided were spies/Soviet agents, but they had to shrug their shoulders and say, “Due process. What are ya gonna do?”

        3. The handled things in a less than public way, not worrying too much about due process.

        I suspect we all have different opinions about which of these is more likely.Report

  9. Avatar Barry says:

    Burt: “The justification of the treatment was “prevention of injury,” on the theory that he might attempt suicide. After the scandal about his prison treatment conditions erupted, he was transferred in June of 2011 to the principal military prison at Fort Leavenworth and has had social interactions with other prisoners and has not attempted suicide at all.”

    What I want to know is, did we hire actual Soviet psychiatrists to do that, or American ones who worked from Soviet manuals?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Barry says:

      Knowledge about how to manipulate a prisoner’s psyche through mistreatment goes back farther than the Soviets.

      While there can be little doubt Manning’s treatment would have been even worse had he been in a Soviet jail in, say, 1975, we ought not define our standards of “acceptably humane treatment of a prisoner” with a bar set by the KGB.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Barry says:

      Would that count as insourcing?Report

    • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Barry says:

      They probably just grabbed a few that didn’t get jail time for Abu Ghraib barry.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Barry says:

      I like how everyone can diagnose mental health issues without meeting a guy. Taking lessons from Dr. Frist?

      (and nobody ever ‘gets better’?)Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kolohe says:

        I’m not sure I see anyone here diagnosing. They’re simply repeating what was claimed.

        I recall having read that Manning made a grim joke about how even despite being on suicide watch, he could always hang himself with his underwear.

        That was apparently a bad move on his part, because that’s when they took away the rest of his clothes.Report

  10. Avatar zic says:

    The whole thing is sorry and sad.

    What Manning did was wrong; he is paying the penalty for that, and his treatment was outrageous.

    That said, he also revealed the growing horror of state secrets; the abuse of classifying information that should rightfully have been open to us about the actions of our government.

    As a reporter, I covered businesses doing business with the US military. Sometimes, sources would really be unclear about what was classified, what wasn’t — something they were working on was classified here, but not here. So much was swept up into the ‘classified’ world that what wasn’t classified could not be easily discerned. Instead, we got distracted by economic woes, tax cuts, sequesters, debt ceilings. Those things matter, too. But the information that our government can keep secret from us matters. We dropped the ball, yet again.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to zic says:

      “That said, he also revealed the growing horror of state secrets; the abuse of classifying information that should rightfully have been open to us about the actions of our government.”

      The *actions* of our government, in the diplomatic front, are fairly open. What is not open is what we know about other governments, nor should it be.

      Otherwise, our international diplomacy will only consist of two things – inaction or bombs away.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

        I always figured that latter two choices were a feature, not a bug, of Neoconservative diplomacy.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kolohe says:

        So all he downloaded were diplomatic cables; is that what you’re saying?

        We know he downloaded diplomatic cables because some diplomatic cables were released. We do not know all that he downloaded; that’s likely classified, too.

        I had to deal with it for dozens of stories I wrote — the people who were sources often felt that they could not tell if information was classified or not classified because too much was classified by too many differing agencies; the default was to slap a classified restriction on it. This is a conversation we started having with Manning and Wikileaks, with NSA and bank wiretapping. And it’s a conversation from which we got distracted; personally, I think to our detriment.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    This is nothing new. A brief timeline of the McMartin School trial:

    9/83: Ray Buckey arrested
    3/84: Ray Buckey indicted
    6/84: Ray Buckey denied bail
    7/87: First trial begins
    2/89: Ray Buckey released on $1.5 million bail
    1/90: First trial ends in hung jury (7-5 to acquit)
    7/90: Second trial again ends n hung jury (10-2 to acquit)Report

  12. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I’m sure some folks have commented on this upthread, but the core tension in the Bradley Manning case isn’t transparency or justice or even breaking the law. Those are all pretty obvious ways to frame certain aspects of the issue that warrant reflection on our parts and may lead to institutional changes. And I think that’s what is really at the bottom of the tension we all feel in about this, phrased as a question: what actions are justified to promote institutional change?

    In a democracy, institutional change is typically achieved via the electoral and legislative process as well as the courts. Certain departments of the executive, however, are largely immunized from the reach of the democratic process. It’s only the extra-political exposure of those practices that will engender change (and maybe not even then). Investigative reporters do the hard work of exposing certain types of injustices, sometimes with the help of whistle-blowers, as a method of constraint. Sometimes, and I guess this is my point, that’s the only method to enact certain types of desirable changes.

    The military, it seems to me, quintessentially exemplifies institutional insularity from democratic checks and balances. Often (usually?) the only democratic mechanism acting as a check on the exercise of military prerogative is found in the briefings to members of various congressional committees where information asymmetry is the order of the day. Such briefings have led – either directly or indirectly – to all sorts of unjustified and perhaps unjust actions which are to a very great extent unilaterally determined by the Executive. Additionally, the executive appears to have the unilateral power to classify information or seal it under State’s Secrets privileges and so on. And maybe that’s as it should be.

    But if so, then what actions are available to a person within that institutional structure to remedy obviously illegal or morally wrong practices? Whistle-blowing is certainly one that comes to mind. But if what I wrote upthread is correct, then it’s the only mechanism to act as a check on certain types of institutional decision-making.

    If this makes any sense, and I believe it!, then I agree with Just Me that if Manning had limited himself to providing information of only clearly unjust practices (the helicopter attack on reporters, say) there is a compelling argument that he was morally justified in breaking the law. All the other stuff he sent to Wikileaks – the cables and whatnot – would fall outside the scope of a whistle-blower scenario where exposing a pressing and specific moral or legal violation is justified. On those grounds, he ought to not be accorded any special moral considerations.

    Nevertheless, I agree with Jason K that exposing all the other stuff served a legitimate and in my mind necessary end. How else can we check an institution that exists to a great extent outside the democratic process?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

      Credit him N years for exposing the crimes off the 20 (I’ve read) he’ll get for the rest, and commute the sentence to 20 – N. I think this balances the different incentives sensibly.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

      The twenty years is just what he pled guilty to. The prosecutors will be seeking life in prison.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

      “The military, it seems to me, quintessentially exemplifies institutional insularity from democratic checks and balances”

      There’s two sides to that coin. The upside of insularity from democratic processes is that you don’t want your military (or really any state weapon of violence) to be a political creature. You want your weapons of state violence to be tools, and only that – under the command and control of the elected representatives of the sovereign people.

      The other thing to keep in mind that Manning’s primary motivation was disagreement with US policy positions

      The cable published on 13 January 2010 was just over two pages in length. I read the cable and quickly concluded that Iceland was essentially being bullied diplomatically by two larger European powers. It appeared to me that Iceland was out viable options and was coming to the US for assistance. Despite the quiet request for assistance, it did not appear that we were going to do anything.

      From my perspective it appeared that we were not getting involved due to the lack of long term geopolitical benefit to do so. After digesting the contents of 10 Reykjavik 13 I debated whether this was something I should send to the WLO. At this point the WLO had not published or acknowledged receipt of the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables. Despite not knowing that the SigActs were a priority for the WLO, I decided the cable was something that would be important. I felt that I would be able to right a wrong by having them publish this document. I burned the information onto a CD-RW on 15 February 2010, took it to my CHU, and saved it onto my personal laptop.


      When a soldier takes upon himself to dictate the policy of a government, directly against the intentions of the duly elected executive and officials appointed by him or her to actually make policy, it’s called a coup.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

        When a soldier takes upon himself to dictate the policy of a government, directly against the intentions of the duly elected executive and officials appointed by him or her to actually make policy, it’s called a coup.

        I think the issue is a bit more subtle than that. For one thing, this is a purely formal condition on what constitutes treasonous behavior, and it begs the question I’m trying to get clearer on. So the distinction is between the purely formal aspects of following order, obeying military law and promoting the formal interests of the country. I grant all that. My worry is that the formal process can be used to prevent any evaluation of the material conditions which flow from and are justified within those formal structures, conditions that might otherwise be viewed as morally, principally, legally or pragmatically wrong.Report

  13. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    At first I was surprised not to to see Jaybird weigh in on this, but then I realized how hard it would be for him to defend a Manning.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I’m torn to the point where I have nothing interesting to say. (Yes, I caught it.)

      I don’t know that Manning knew what he was releasing into the wild. He (and we, I suppose) are lucky that it was stuff that was on the level of diplomats vaguely disapproving of how much philandering the Italian Prime Minister was (is) capable of rather than stuff like “logistics, tactics, strategy”.

      Were his intentions to actually commit damage to the US? To commit treason? We certainly have enough evidence to try him for that and, indeed, had that much evidence within a couple of months of arresting him.

      The fact that he pled guilty should be enough for most folks to say “well, that’s that”. Had he done so two months after being caught, it would be enough for me. The government is doing a good job of over-reacting to a situation where a reasonable (if not Constitutional) reaction should be enough to deal with the crime that had been committed.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        We might also want to consider the idea that the strategic info got scrubbed before release.

        As to Berlusconi — no accident he visited UPitt when the G20 was here…Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Perhaps this was addressed, but is Manning afforded any whistleblower protections?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

      Security clearances complicate application of whistleblower protections. A lot. I said “complicate,” not “trump,” but it’s far from clear to me that they would apply to Manning even under the most ideal set of variables.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Burt Likko says:

        With the additional complication that the entire government has a strong political interest in making sure that none of these things come to light, or are acknowledged.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Kazzy says:

      On the same note, does anyone know what procedures there are for government whistle-blowers in the US? Is there an equivalent of the Ombudsman’s Office?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to James K says:

        If they haven’t committed any actual crimes while engaged in whistleblowing, they wind up with pretty righteous wrongful termination suits. Lawyers compete with one another for suits like that.

        And in no small measure because of the expense of those lawsuits, people really do get sacked for retaliating against whistleblowing — not enough to strongly deter such retaliation, to be sure, but also in appreciably greater-than-zero numbers.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James K says:

        (just about?) every cabinet department has an Office of Inspector General at multiple levels. (the Army certainly does) How one contacts them is on a poster in every (office) working environment, normally placed together with other personnel information items, like for instance EEO policy and complaint procedures.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

      By completely short-circuiting the whistle blowing process from the get go, he is likely not.Report

  15. Avatar Kolohe says:

    If y’all really want to know what harm Manning caused it’s all on the second order or above.

    Now, unless you’re of a isolationist/non-interventionist mind (which is not a bad place to be), you must recognize that the US is going to be an player on the world stage. Now, it can be a stupid player, always playing the same cards in the same way. Now, if you’re mostly holding trump cards, this will work most of the time.

    Or, you can be a smarter player and be able to utilize several different card combinations and playing styles to win. (of course, you still need to hide your cards from your opponents, but that’s not where this analogy is going. Actually it stops right here, and a different one starts)

    ‘Smart power’ requires a ‘whole of government’ approach to international relations. (another buzzword ‘full spectrum’. The lifeblood of is information, which like any blood, must be circulated.

    The rise of information sharing across government agencies was suddenly swatted down after the Manning affair.

    Leading to a dumber government.

    And probably a more deadly one – blue, red, and white forces included – on the international stage for the indefinite future.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

      Information is not lifeblood. Information is muscles. Information is power. Information is not circulated around in some silly-ass Windows shared drive. That’s a recipe for disaster.

      Power is not shared. Information is only of any use to the people who need it. In anyone else’s hands, it’s just dangerous.

      But hey, you’re right about one thing. We are becoming a dumber government.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Of course, the guy who knows everything already knows what he needs to know. But the wiser person realizes that what one needs to know is itself unknown, and seeks it out. Particularly in the modern context where both problems and the solutions are multidisciplinary.

        And that’s putting aside all the collected data, some collected at great risk, that’s simply put on a virtual or literal shelf uncorrelated for all eternity. (or until that shelf of stuff gets thrown out randomly, because nobody knows what’s on it)

        Information isn’t power. Power is power, executed through channels and by rules set prior. But you’re right that power, and more pointedly authority & accountability are not shared.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

          These with a thousand small deliberations
          Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
          Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
          With pungent sauces, multiply variety
          In a wilderness of mirrors.

          Information, as I have said, is power and power is not shared. Power is concentrated and turned into work by those with mandate, hopefully guided by intelligence. This nation has enemies, both known and unknown. It has no friends. It has allies of convenience. In its sovereignty, it has no master nor does it obey rules not its own. Nothing of novelty to any intelligent person.

          You seem to want information “sharing”, some hodgepodge where anyone can grep through millions of files to find some useful titbit. Have you ever used a data warehouse? Do you know how such a thing is organised? Everything in a data warehouse is geared to the people who must use that data to their mandated ends and much is excluded from each such carefully constructed view.

          Raw information is useless. It’s dangerous. It leads people to make bad decisions. Until a thing is seen in context, it is merely one of a thousand small deliberations, leading into the wilderness of mirrors. Multidisciplinary? That’s good for a laugh. Integration is best left to the subject matter experts, not to every private first class with a CAC card, a policy you seem to believe is superior to the process of interpretation. You want information integration? Institute liaison officers and interprocess communication. Nobody has the whole picture but they do own their own part of the picture. But you knew that, too.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Because staff sergeants spring forth fully formed from the head of the IC, like latter day Athenas. Who the heck do you think is doing to interpreting? That was actually Manning’s frickin job. Why should everyone else change because he’s a no-talent ass-clown; he’s the one that sucks.

            “Man, I just knew too much going into this operation” said nobody ever.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

              You’re joking, of course. Some MOS35F at division level is reading State Department traffik? Every SITREP coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq? Everything on JWICS? Let’s come to an understanding here, Manning’s commanders recommended not sending him at all. Every no-talent ass-clown with that MOS was deployed.

              A MOS 35F is an aggregator. He’s not a consumer. He produces IPB briefings. He doesn’t interpret them, that’s for his commanders and the S2. He’s a fishing clerk. He had no business any farther afield than his own division.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Perhaps that the difference between the Army and the Navy. We don’t expect our ISs and CTs to be dumb ignorant rocks, we expect them and train them (and every other rate) to provide intelligent and forceful backup to the chain of command. And furthermore, expect some of them to eventually become senior enlisted, and be training the Ensigns and jg’s on the whys and wherefores.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                This has nothing to do with branch-of-service. This is an information systems problem. It has everything to do with roles and responsibilities.

                The Navy might organise things differently. If I could do it all over again, I’m sure I would have gone USMC and not Army. I can’t speak to today’s military beyond what I’ve done as a military contractor over the ensuing years. This much I do know, the problem we’re describing has nothing to do with being a dumb ignorant rock or the Director of CIA beyond roles and responsibilities, none of which were in place on JWICS.

                JWICS was horribly architected. It just said “Oh, you have a TS, here’s what you can see” with no regard for need to know or mission criticality or any other consideration. That’s just bad design. JWICS is serviced by a horde of contractors and I know a fair number of them. It’s a mess, okay? And it has nothing to do with branch of service and everything to do with confungulation.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

                You don’t know, otherwise you’d understand the PKI aspect.

                The other thing you don’t grok is that we don’t have the money anymore for everyone to have their own functionaries and fobbits. Really, we never did.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                You need to quit tossing around terms you don’t understand. PKI is only a cert. It’s only a starting point for further access. It’s on your CAC card. Clearly Manning was granted far too much access.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

            To add though, the Army’s (in particular) culture of accountability and responsibility in the middle ranks is a complete shitshow, from personal close up observation. Manning isn’t the first junior enlisted his command has set up for failure, and he isn’t going to be the last.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

              This wasn’t an Army problem. If it were, how did Manning get access to State Dept. traffik? Ask someone around you, surely you can find someone in your command, to explain the JWICS clusterfugg.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

                If you were half as smart as you think you are, you would know already that I know goddamn well what JWICS is.

                And if you bothered to ever reflect that you don’t actually know everything, you would also have learned along the way, sometime in the last 1000 days, that Manning didn’t burn anything off of JWICS. But your act has long been transparent to me, though it convinces everyone else well enough.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                Clearly you don’t or you wouldn’t be making ignorant Multidisciplinary noises. Any old PFC with a CAC card can read State Department traffik and you’re just fine with that.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                And I’ll say this in passing, when the argument becomes about me, I know you’re out of argument. This isn’t the first time you’ve gotten to this point. In this case I do know what I’m talking about. You stick to what you know. And that isn’t data security.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

                What I do know is I’ve met too many people like you in my time. People that were super smart and knew a metric shitton, maybe more than anyone else, but totally unwilling to listen to any other point of view oozing contempt at anyone who was not them. People of the sort that let to the downfall of at least one ISAF commander.

                You’re the jackass that always starts scorn when anyone dare to disagree with your confabulations. “But hey, you’re right about one thing.”

                Good day. And that’s the last thing I’ll say about that or to you ever.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                So it is about me. I strongly suspect you have met a lot of people who know more than you. If the contempt you demonstrate for what I’ve had to say is any indication, physician heal thyself.

                None of it bothers me, particularly. I’m a contractor. I get paid whether or not the people above me have a clue. The military did prepare me for taking orders from assholes and not take it personally. I salute the hat. Or in this case, the guy who signs my timesheet. It’s a question of mind over matter. I don’t mind. You don’t matter.

                Truth is stranger than fiction, Kolohe. If you never say another word to me, the entire place will improve. None of us will have to put up with Newspeak like Multidisciplinary. JWICS is exactly what I’ve said it is.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                As for Manning and JWICS

                02:14:36 AM) Lamo: So you have these stored now?
                (02:14:54 AM) Manning: i had two computers… one connected to SIPRNET the other to JWICS…
                (02:15:07 AM) Manning: no, they’re government laptops
                (02:15:18 AM) Manning: they’ve been zerofilled
                (02:15:22 AM) Manning: because of the pullout
                (02:15:57 AM) Manning: evidence was destroyed… by the system itself
                (02:16:10 AM) Lamo: So how would you deploy the cables? If at all.
                (02:16:26 AM) Manning: oh no… cables are reports
                (02:16:34 AM) Lamo: ah
                (02:16:38 AM) Manning: State Department Cable = a Memorandum
                (02:16:48 AM) Lamo: embassy cables?
                (02:16:54 AM) Manning: yes
                (02:17:00 AM) Manning: 260,000 in all
                (02:17:10 AM) Manning: i mentioned this previously
                (02:17:14 AM) Lamo: yes
                (02:17:31 AM) Lamo: stored locally, or retreiveable?
                (02:17:35 AM) Manning: brb latrine =P
                (02:17:43 AM) Manning: i dont have a copy anymore
                (02:17:59 AM) Lamo: *nod*
                (02:18:09 AM) Manning: they were stored on a centralized server…
                (02:18:34 AM) Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?
                (02:18:36 AM) Manning: it was vulnerable as fuck
                (02:20:57 AM) Manning: well, it was forwarded to WL
                (02:21:18 AM) Manning: and god knows what happens now
                (02:22:27 AM) Manning: hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms
                (02:23:06 AM) Manning: if not… than we’re doomed
                (02:23:18 AM) Manning: as a species

    • Avatar James K in reply to Kolohe says:

      I get that, the reason I asked about the whistleblower procedures is because typically in government, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do something and woe betide you if you do it the wrong way. Mind you, that still leaves the question of what to do if your government is committing atrocities and no organ of government will do anything about it, but that’s not a question you have to answer until you’ve exhausted your legal options.

      In principle, military personnel who violate a security clearance to share classified data with unapproved parties deserves a criminal sanction, I can get behind that. The problem here, aside from once again the absurd sentence on offer (20 years, seriously?), is that he has been keep in conditions that should be considered torture. At this point, if I were the judge I would reject Manning’s guilty pleas on the grounds they may have been coerced.

      Equally, I can’t see any way for there to be a safe conviction against Manning now because of all the abuse.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to James K says:

        To be fair, he has apparently been treated acceptably since his transfer to Ft. Leavenworth.

        To be snarky, Justice Scalia would opine that two weeks after torture has ended, a prisoner is no longer subject to its coercive effects. But that’s a who other story.Report

  16. Avatar Kolohe says:

    It’s also been over 1200 days since Nidal Hasan was taking into custody. Unless he pleads guilty his trial isn’t going to be over until late summer.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

      No kidding. I thought he pled out, but no, that’s wrong. He wanted to, but a court-martial will not accept a guilty plea in a case where the prosecution seeks the death penalty.

      I also notice that it took more than a year for his Article 32 hearing (the equivalent of an indictment). Is this kind of speed SOP for military cases?

      If there are any JAG or military lawyers out there, I’m curious about this because it seems positively lethargic to me.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I can’t speak to current conditions with any authority but I do know this much: to convene a court martial, unit commanders and IIRC the defendant’s chain of command have to appear. Getting everyone in one place takes considerable time and effort. When I was a witness to a court martial, pretty small stuff in the larger scope of things and very long ago: fencing stolen government property, it took several months to get that case in order. And we weren’t at war then, strictly speaking.

        My guess is, what with the war going on, the current case backload is enormous.Report

  17. Avatar Damon says:

    Not that super up on my military rules, but IIRC, every soldier takes an other to “defend the constitution”. Far as I’m concerned, that takes priority over obeying illegal orders, etc. He exposed very clearly a lot of our actions and policies around the world, stuff that is classifed not because it’s NEEDED to be classifed, but because it’s convenient to be so; having it exposed allowed the public to see what our servants are actually doing. He exposed a glimpse of what real war is like and what we are / did do in Iraq. It was a moral act. The laws of man are irrelevant. It’s a net net good. We need more of that.Report