Bradley Manning is accused of leaking classified documents while serving in a position of public trust as an Intelligence Analyst in the US Army.
He has plead guilty to 10 of the 22 charges he faces. That plea did not come with sentencing limits. As it stands, he faces 20 years in federal prison on just those lesser charges he has plead guilty to.
His court martial on the other 12 charges, including "aiding the enemy", is scheduled to start, finally, on June 3, 2013. That charge, if convicted, carries a sentence of life imprisonment.
Given Manning's (now former) job in the military is one with which I have intimate experience, I have a few thoughts about this case.
Several people have been rather outspoken in referring to Manning as a "patriot". He has been heralded and a martyr for the cause of government transparency. Many have even claimed that Manning's First Amendment rights are being violated in his being tried for these crimes in the first place.
Manning is not a martyr. However, he may be a traitor, as many others have alleged.
Treason is the only crime explicitly and expressly stated in the US Constitution as the highest capital crime in our land.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.In even dancing close to violating this portion of the US Constitution, Bradley Manning violated the Oath of Enlistment. He betrayed his fellow Soldiers and stands as a disgrace to the uniform. That is a fact regardless of the outcome of his court martial. His oath was to "support and defend the Constitution of the United Stated against all enemies...". Taking actions that would draw these allegations in the first place is anything but supporting and defending the US Constitution.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attained. (US Constitution Art. III Sec. 3)
The facts remain that Bradley Manning is accused of intentionally leaking classified documents while serving in the Armed Forces in a Combat Zone during a declared war. Allegedly, these documents were later found to have been accessed by enemies of the US. It takes at least two witnesses of any single act. Only the court martial will reveal if that is the case.
In a civilian court, the charges against him may be more limited than those imposed by the military. This is because, while serving in the military and given a security clearance at the level of access entrusted to Manning, he is subject to special rules. He was given special trust by the people of our nation. His actions may be determined, by the court martial, to have betrayed that special trust.
Article I Sec. 8 grants Congress the power to create special rules, laws, and regulations for ground and naval forces. These rules are called the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ. Laws within this compendium apply to military personnel, but not necessarily your private citizen. The UCMJ contains articles outlawing acts such as sedition, insubordination, failure to obey lawful orders, and so on. Among those lawful orders are executive orders, Department of Defense regulations, and US Army regulations concerning the handling, publication, disposition, and use of protected (classified) information.
Disclosure of that information has the same effect as using a weapon of mass destruction. It leads to loss of assets, which make us unable to properly detect threats and act to prevent them from harming our citizens. It leads to compromise of our military forces, placing their lives in more jeopardy than they already are when at war. In short, it is a danger to public health and safety. It is not an act of patriotism. Acts of patriotism protect the general public and their liberty.
It was not Bradly Manning's responsibility or authority to arbitrarily compromise that information, especially in a manner that could harm our country or help the enemy, as the remaining charges against him allege.
Those voicing support for Manning tend to do so from a position of very limited facts. They do so without having the necessary point of view of one who has been mandated to protect this country and those necessary secrets.