On May 2010, Private First Class Bradley Manning was arrested while on duty in a military base near Baghdad. It would eventually be revealed that the 22 year old intelligence officer had managed to release 260,000 classified cables detailing US activity in Iraq, Afghanistan, and US embassies from around the world to the pro-transparency organization Wikileaks. In the coming months, five major newspapers from around the world would chronicle the troubling contents of these cables to the world and an American public kept purposefully in the dark by their own government as to its action’s abroad. Among the many revelations found in the quarter-million highly classified documents is evidence of US meddling in the internal affairs of foreign democracies such as Haiti and India, the use of American diplomats as spokespeople and spies for corporations such as Monsanto and Boeing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on American diplomats to spy on their UN counterparts, and the US military covering up the deaths of two reuters journalists shot by an American gunship. Manning’s trial is scheduled for sometime between February 4 and March 15 of next year, where the former intelligence officer faces a possible life sentence.
Ever since 9/11, the American government has shown a dangerous increase in the level of obfuscation, willingness to violate US citizen’s civil rights in the name of national security, and complete lack of accountability for high ranking officials. Whereas in 1991 the US government classified 6 million documents, by 2010 that number had ballooned to 77 million. Information in these secret documents has been shown to contain blatantly illegal activity by the US government such as the NSA’s warrantless and indiscriminate wiretapping of US citizens (a fact itself disclosed to the New York Times by a government whistle blower). All of this has developed despite the fact that pre-9/11 intelligence was already aware of a planned attack on the world trade center.
The charges against Manning include aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, transmitting national defense information and theft of public property or records. However, despite the charges high ranking US officials such as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Vice President Joe Biden, have downplayed the damage of the leaks, with Mr. Biden going so far as to say, “I don’t think there’s any damage. I don’t think there’s any substantive damage, no.” in a televised interview with MSNBC’s Adrea Mitchell. With such high ranking insiders, one is forced to ask not only how Mr. Manning aided the enemy (and if the ‘enemy’ includes the American public), but as to why the information was classified in the first place.
Lost in the debate has been not only that no one has been reported to have been harmed by the leaked cables, but on the obviously altruistic motives displayed by Manning, common to all whistleblowers. Fellow whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, famous for his release of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war has come to Manning’s defence stating that the release of the cables was “exactly the right thing to do”. It is for these reasons that President Obama should pardon Bradley Manning, and I believe the argument on why to do so is best expressed by Manning himself in his conversation with the man who turned him into the government, “I want people to see the truth…regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public”.