No one should be surprised that Bradley Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy. Proving in court that such a violation took place is very difficult.
Besides, Manning had already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was found guilty of multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act when he disclosed classified information that was published on the Internet and made accessible to the enemy.
There is no question that Manning broke his oath, betrayed his country and endangered the lives of many brave men and women in our military. WikiLeaks, by posting the information Manning disclosed, provided the enemy we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan with crucial strategic and tactical information. Almost half a million battlefield reports, for example, could help them not just counter our military operations, but make killing American troops easier. For that reason alone, Manning deserves life in prison, and he is looking at potentially many decades in prison for the guilty verdicts that have been rendered against him.
[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the NSA.]
As prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein said, Manning was on a "personal quest for notoriety" and fame as a leaker. When he turned over his first cache of classified documents to Wikileaks, he attached a note saying "this is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war, and revealing the true nature of the 21st century asymmetric warfare." Manning clearly had no concern whatsoever about how his leaks would harm Americans who were fighting tough battles against terrorists, extremists and fanatics.
The evidence produced in the trial does not support the claim that Mann was "well-intentioned" or that he simply wanted to "spark a worldwide discussion" as claimed by his defense lawyer, David Coombs. Even if that were true, anyone with any common sense would have known that the documents he was leaking would harm our counterinsurgency fight.
If Manning disagreed with our war policy against terrorists, he could have applied for conscientious objector status, left the military, and spoken publicly about his disagreement without revealing classified information. But that course of action would not have given him the worldwide fame he wanted or made him a hero to the anarchists and others like Julian Assange, one of the founders of WikiLeaks, who hate America. Manning has gotten exactly what he deserves for his illegal behavior.
- John Malcolm is the Director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
- Hans von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in U.S. News & World Report "Debate Club"