Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Manning -- Justice or Just Desserts?

At approximately 10:15 EDT Bradley Manning was sentenced. The entire court martial process, including discovery, investigations, depositions, motions, and other delays took about 3 years.

The sentence took less than two minutes to recite. Manning was quickly cuffed and remanded into custody.

Manning was eligible for a sentence of 90 years. The prosecution aimed for 60 of those years. The defense plead for 25.

What Manning received was 35 years, pre-trial confinement credited towards time served, eligible for parole in approximately 11 years. However, the sentence doesn't end there.

Manning was also reduced to the lowest enlisted grade:  "prisoner". Technically, he is a Private/E-1. However, there are riders on that rank when incarcerated. He is denied many of the courtesies, honors, benefits, and other things true Soldiers value rather highly. He is not allowed to salute or be saluted, for example. A salute is considered a "respectful wave 'hello' between honorable warriors". Manning has lost the privilege. He also will face conditions and discipline far more stringent than his Basic Combat Training experience. In short, Manning is about to spend at least 10 years in hell.

[Here is an annecdotal side-note for new Lieutenants in the US Army. If a senior NCO salutes you -- RETURN IT! It means he is extending you respect that you may not yet have had the opportunity to earn. That senior NCO HAS EARNED that returned salute. Render it. There are a few officers out there who can relate horror stories about what happened when they failed to return a CSM's salute.]

Manning also forfeit all pay and allowances for a time. He'll eventually get "prisoner pay" which is far less than a PVT/E-1 makes. However, his supporters will be able to buy his work, from UNICOR.

Other than the incarceration, Manning will receive a DISHONORABLE DISCHARGE. That is the lowest classification of discharge. It means his record is branded. Most employment opportunities have been barred to him. Even some food service (part-time, minimum wage, unskilled labor) employers won't hire individuals with dishonorable discharges. They are not necessarily an automatic disqualifier for employment. However, they do tend to lead employers to file applications in the special bin (that makes confetti out of sheets of paper). A "Big Chicken Dinner" (Bad Conduct Discharge) is higher in rank than a Dishonorable. Even a BCD results in loss of many/most Veterans' Benefits.

Many may not be happy with the prison sentence. On one side, those who do not understand the dangers that revealing certain information could present to our national security and the lives and welfare of our military members, ambassadors, and independent citizens are screaming that Manning should not serve any time. Perhaps they need a better education on how the world works.

Conversely, many people, including those from the military intelligence community, think the sentence too lenient. In the proper perspective, it isn't. This article compares Manning to others who leaked or sold information in the past. 35 years, eligible for parole in 11 (after credit for time served) is reasonable. His name is ruined. He's proven he cannot be trusted. All of the remaining portions of the sentence see to a punishment that may end up lasting a lifetime.

The remaining question, however, that the court martial did not satisfactorily answer, is why did Manning join the military and the military intelligence corps in the first place. If he so greatly opposed the classification of information and securing of certain elements for national security, then he should not have applied for the clearance. That is, he should not have unless he did so with the intent of eventually leaking it and damaging our national security. If he truly were a "conscientious objector" of military intelligence operation (and other military operations), he should never have joined. The fact he did join and did freely enter the USA MI Corps indicates that he was more than a "conscientious objector". He was an infiltrator.

He didn't get off as easy as some may perceive. However, he may have gotten off a little easier than he deserves. Only after his time is served and he is released will time and circumstances tell how just the sentence is.