Would Bradley Manning Face The Same Charges If He Leaked Same Info To NYTimes Instead Of Wikileaks?

from the questions,-questions dept

Pre-trial hearings for Bradley Manning, the guy accused of leaking State Department cables (and other info) to Wikileaks, are kicking off this week, with many assuming that he's clearly guilty and will spend the rest of his life in jail. Of course, reports suggest that many thousands (and perhaps hundreds of thousands) of people had access to the exact same documents, and we're still waiting for any proof of any harm from the leaks. That said, the most interesting question about the Manning trial comes from Gautham Nagesh, who asks if Manning would even have been prosecuted if he'd leaked the exact same info to the NY Times, rather than Wikileaks (even though the eventual publishing of the documents went through the NYTimes and others).

And that brings up an interesting point. Is this really a trial of Manning... or a trial-by-proxy of Wikileaks itself?

That said, I'm not convinced it would have made a huge difference, but the overall attention level might have been different. If we went back a decade, perhaps it would have been an issue. However, starting under the Bush (the younger) administration and certainly ramping up under the Obama administration, the federal government has been pretty aggressive in going after whistleblowers -- even when they are going to the press (including some specific cases involving the NY Times).

Where I think it might have made a bigger difference is in how the case finally works out. There seems to be this presumption that Wikileaks is obviously "evil" and therefore anyone working with them must be trouble by association. The concern if the leaks had merely been to the NY Times perhaps wouldn't have been nearly as strong.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:30pm

    I think you're right on how it'll play out. NYT is a "classic" news agency and would probably afford him much better protections as a whistleblower.

    Wikileaks tends to "look and feel" dirty to many people and has a much more negative view. It taints the case in many ways as a result of that view.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:42pm

    Unfortunate timing....

    Given what appeared today on CNN, it's shaping up that the answer to your headline might well be "yes"....

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/06/politics/white-house-leaks/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:43pm

    Unlike the NYT, Wikileaks doesn't consult the government before posting classified material, nor does it redact information that may lead to people being killed. Assange is an egotistical shit-stirrer, not a journalist. So it's no surprise that Manning's treatment will be affected on who he put his trust in to protect him as a "whistleblower" or traitor as the case may be.

     

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  4.  
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    gorehound (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:43pm

    Re:

    And if our Government has its way there would never have been a Watergate.It would suit the whole lot of Corrupt Constitution Breaking dicks in our Political system.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:43pm

    Re:

    *by who*

     

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  6.  
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    PW (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:51pm

    Re:

    In other words, Wikileaks isn't an arm of our gov't.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:52pm

    Re:

    So now the first amendment only applies to people the government thinks are not egotistical?

     

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  8.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:52pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, that's an awfully fun little game of semantics. If whistle blower protection can be stripped not by what the whistle-blower does but by how the government defines who he/she interacts with, then the way for government is clear: simply redefine anyone an annoying whistle-blower whistleblows TO and you can prosecute anybody, thus negating whistleblower protection to begin with.

    How fun....

     

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  9.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 12:55pm

    Re:

    Unlike the NYT, Wikileaks doesn't consult the government before posting classified material,

    I don't remember 'consulting the government' being a requirement to the First Ammendment.

    nor does it redact information that may lead to people being killed.

    Fearmongering. There is no evidence to support that anyone was killed as a result of the leak. And again, the First Ammendment does not have a requirement to redact any information just because someone might get killed.

    Assange is an egotistical shit-stirrer

    Irrelevant.

    not a journalist.

    Who decides what constitutes a journalist?

    So it's no surprise that Manning's treatment will be affected on who he put his trust in to protect him as a "whistleblower" or traitor as the case may be.

    Just because its not a surprise that the government may treat someone differently based on which type of media they leak information to does not mean it is the correct, or ethical, course of action.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:01pm

    Here's my question: Why should leaking info to Wikileaks be any different than the NYTimes?

    Is it because we can expect one to heavily censor it compared to the other? Is it because NYTimes is still bound by US law and can be easily told what they can and can't publish while Wikileaks can't?

     

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  11.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re:

    It's rather ironic that Nixon was impeached while the government nowadays is doing the exact same thing.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:17pm

    Re:

    It's not a matter of US laws that keeps NYTimes on a leash.

    It's access - Invites to press meetings, semi-authorized leaks, permission for reporters to visit war-zones, etc.. These are the Scooby-Snacks that the WH uses to keep the mainstream press tame.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:23pm

    Re:

    NYT can not "be easily told what they can and can't publish" as a result of the 1st amendment.

    It is only illegal for those trusted with classified information to spread it. It is not illegal for random Joe to spread it (as he should not have it, nor is he in any position to judge whether it is or is not classified).

    Whistleblower laws are intended to be an exception to it being illegal, although they're largely ignored and heavily subject to interpretation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    I think the point of this trial isn't so much to establish Manning's guilt (or innocence, you never know...), as much as to discourage other Americans from airing their government's dirty laundry. We can't have evidence of government illegality being made generally available- it's far too potentially politicizing, especially given the economic divisions in the US...

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    It's OK to do it in the open

    Nixon resigned over the cover-up, not for the act of burglary itself, with which he directly had nothing to do.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

    History...

    Children... please look up the Pentagon Papers incident. History repeats.

     

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  17.  
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    Ezra, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:49pm

    It shouldnt matter WHERE he leaked it to, he should be sentenced to death for treason

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 1:53pm

    "Would Bradley Manning Face The Same Charges If He Leaked Same Info To NYTimes Instead Of Wikileaks?"

    Nope, probably would have been intimidated by someone, before the evidence was destroyed.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Re:

    not WH specific...all administrative offices, public and private operate the same way.

    Remember, you didn't hear it from me.

     

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  20.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:06pm

    Re:

    Actually from what I heard around the time the whole thing was going down, wikileaks actually asked the government/military to go through and point to anything that would potentially put lives at risk.

    The response: Nothing, nadda, zilch. The military/government did not think it was important enough to put effort into such an endeavor.

    Assuming it's true, it would completely blow their 'the leaks put lives at risk!' argument, since they had the chance to negate that risk but didn't.

     

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  21.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think AC's point is it's a lot harder to do that with an, ahem, 'respected' entity like the NY Times.

    Your point is certainly valid, but I think the difference if it was NYT instead of Wikileaks is that the NYT wouldn't have released the trove, but sanitized snippets, thus perhaps limiting the exposure of Manning since the entire world wouldn't have seen the incriminating evidence the gov't doesn't want seen.

     

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  22.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re:

    I don't remember 'consulting the government' being a requirement to the First Ammendment.

    I think the idea isn't ask permission, but ask the Gov't if they maybe have a comment on what we're going to release.

    Prior to 9/11 I believe there were extremely rare cases where the gov't did request stuff not be published, but they really couldn't stop it due to the constitution.

    Since 9/11, the constitution has substituted for toilet paper and isn't as effective unfortunately.

     

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  23.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

    Re:

    I wasn't aware 'making government officials look stupid' was treason, must have missed that particular interpretation of the law.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:13pm

    if the government didn't have something to hide in the first place, there wouldn't have been any need to release the info via any outlet. it's only condemned Wikileaks because it was given the damning evidence of wrong doings and let the cat out of the bag. any news source worth it's salt would have done the same. Manning was/still is the scapegoat and the government should be ashamed of what it has done to him to try to cover up it's massive failings

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Precisely. And I make no case for traitor vs. whistleblower, though I believe that the mere disclosure of classified material, the volume and indiscriminate nature edges him closer to the former. There are certain special responsibilities associated with a top secret security clearance, which will prove the core issue.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:41pm

    The answer is no, it's called the pentagon papers.

    Daniel Ellsburg only got away with it because Nixion broke a hell of a lot of laws in illegally gathering evidence against him, which caused the whole case to get thrown out. Had Nixon not been a crook doing things like sending people to break into Ellsburg's dentists office the man would have spent the rest of his life in jail.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:53pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Clinton was impeached as well and all the Dems still think he's a god

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:53pm

    Re: It's OK to do it in the open

    Other than ordering it.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Precisely. And I make no case for traitor vs. whistleblower, though I believe that the mere disclosure of classified material, the volume and indiscriminate nature edges him closer to the former. There are certain special responsibilities associated with a top secret security clearance, which will prove the core issue.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Re:

    everyone also conveniently seems to forget that wikileaks *did* go through them, together with respected news agencies, and redacted out data that would endanger lives before releasing. In the end, because some of the news agencies messed up, they decided to release everything that was left, because it was out anyway.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "and indiscriminate nature"

    Wikileaks did pre-screen information before leaking it. The most significant difference here is that Wikileaks didn't prescreen content for information embarrassing to the government. Besides perhaps Bin-Laden, provide me with a shred of credible evidence that anyone was hurt due to Wikileaks.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 3:37pm

    What is the core issue?

    Seems to me that when you are entrusted with classified material, you agree that you will not disclose to those without a need to know.

    Don't forget the government is made up of people just like you and me.

    There is also someting that has been left out of this discussion - discipline in the military. If his behavior is condoned, wouldn't this just encourage the release of other classified material? Ultimately leading to the death of sevicemembers - our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

    I do not want anyone to die because a young and immature individual throws his fellow soldiers under the bus.

    I personally would not be opposed to life in prison for him. Little time to think about it.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 3:47pm

    What the hell does the first ammendment have to do with the Manning case? He gave away state secrets which has nothing to do with free speech. It also doesnt matter how many other people had access to those files. They didnt give them away. He did. It also doesnt matter if anyone was killed because of the treason. It is still treason. If they prove that he did it than he should die as a traitor. All these brave men and women fighting and dying for our country and this son of a bitch stabs them all in the back. Good riddance

     

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  34.  
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    LazDude2012, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re: It's OK to do it in the open

    Actually, if you check the facts, he didn't order it. Not directly anyway. However, when told of it, he did cover it up and lie to the people. That's what he was impeached for.

     

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  35.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Only a minority of Dems think of Clinton in such lofty terms. Most Dems are ambivalent about him.

     

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  36.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 4:12pm

    Re: What is the core issue?

    I personally don't want our government to continue to kill and commit crimes because nobody has the balls to expose the people who make it happen.

    I do think Manning should be punished for breaking his oath. I also think that acting as he did in the face of certain punishment makes him a hero.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 5:20pm

    He would face the same charges no matter who he leaked the information to. The mitigating fact for him would be how much of that information ends up getting used, and how much gets shredded.

    The NYT likely would have looked at it, looked for some gems, ran with them, and contacted authorities about the rest. They likely would not want to hold onto it.

    Manning pretty much will hang for his crimes, and it doesn't matter where the data went.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 6:11pm

    Re:

    I was going to reply to this comment and then I read "state secrets" and I literally started laughing out loud and could not stop for a few minutes. I have the deep suspicion that you would have been a hell of a KGB agent in Soviet Russia, "Halt! State police!" That's the picture I got of you based on what you said.

    So rather than rip apart your comment, I'm going to just say one thing. Treason DOES NOT mean what you apparently think it does. So I'll just quote the part that is in the Constitution. You know, that document that our country was founded on, with that Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights and whatnot. That thing.

    "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.

    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 attainted."

    Now per that definition (which overrules any belief or opinion you may hold regarding what constitutes treason) Manning is NOT guilty of treason. However, it is entirely possible he may be found guilty of sedition or espionage.

    Of course I have to include the related information on "sedition" and "espionage".

    Up first, "sedition".

    "The Sedition Act (officially An Act in Addition to the Act Entitled "An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes against the United States"; ch. 74, 1 Stat. 596) made it a crime to publish "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government or certain officials."

    Hmm. Nope. Since Manning himself published nothing it seems to me that this also DOES NOT apply to him.

    So let's take a look at the part about "espionage".

    "To convey information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies. This was punishable by death or by imprisonment for not more than 30 years or both.

    To convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies when the United States is at war, to cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or to willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States. This was punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or both."

    Hmm. Now I'm obviously no legal expert, nor would I claim to be, but it appears to me that "espionage" seems to be a bit more likely as something that Manning may be charged with and possibly convicted of. Of course, the most important part in determining guilt regarding espionage would be "intent". Was Manning's intent to do any of the previously stated? Unfortunately, I cannot answer that. Suffice it to say, neither can you with any reasonable certainty.

    On that note, thank you very much and have a nice day. Perhaps you should look things up before you go spouting factually incorrect information. I'm sure I could do a bit more research and find more information to further supplement all I've stated here so far, but to be honest I'm feeling a bit lazy. However, since I'm not the person who claimed Manning had committed treason and was a traitor, the burden of proof for explaining why exactly he is guilty of that would fall on you. I'm merely the guy poking holes in your rather erroneous statement, which is nothing but your personal opinion. And as we all know, opinion DOES NOT make fact.

     

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  39.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 6:12pm

    Re:

    nor does it redact information that may lead to people being killed

    Actually, Wikileaks did exactly that. With the SD cables, it redacted exactly that possibly sensitive info.

     

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  40.  
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    Just John (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 11:41pm

    Re:

    So should all the original Americans that revolted against their government (England) have been killed? By your logic, yes, they should have all been sentenced to death.

    You seem to forget our country was founded through civil disobedience. I feel that Manning is more representative of our founding fathers than those like you. He stood up to the government for what he believed in.

    If not for acting against an unjust government and informing the public of the governments abuse, we would still be hailing to the Queen.

    Plus the material was redacted when Wikileaks released, so please tell me how it put anyone in danger of anything other than "dying of embarrassment". I have yet to see current troop locations, troop strengths, weak points in Abrams tanks, or nuclear missile locations and launch codes, blah blah blah.
    Please tell us exactly who he endangered.

    And PS: I was an American Army soldier. I was a tank mechanic for the M1A* series Abrams. My family also has a heavy military background, and yet not a single one feels "Stabbed in the back", even my uncle who is currently a private contractor in the war zones installing security systems and occasionally being recalled to active duty.

     

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  41.  
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    Wally (profile), Jun 6th, 2012 @ 11:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Think he's a God

    He had done a lot of things, but Clinton pushed for one law called "The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993". Also helped create the "Freedom of Information Act" which states that Government Enployees working on classified projects for Military use...you know, Area 51 types...Which would immediately declassify the information given for insurance purposes, if a worker had to claim Workman's Compensation..... Those are two laws he signed.

     

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  42.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 12:55am

    How soon we forget

    "That said, I'm not convinced it would have made a huge difference, but the overall attention level might have been different."

    It seems that everyone has forgotten the Valerie Plame incident with the Washington Times. Outing a covert CIA operative seems to be a much bigger deal and Scooter Libby got off with a slap on the wrist instead of life in prison.

     

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  43.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 2:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Only in the sack, man. Only in the sack.

     

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  44.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 2:50am

    Re:

    In that case, so should every Senator and President since Reagan. After all, they gave aid to Iraq during the Gulf War; they're giving aid to Somalia and Afghanistan, and they're giving aid to Pakistan and were giving aid to Syria and Egypt.

    Does that make them all traitors?

     

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  45.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 2:54am

    Re:

    Again, because it bears repeating: by that logic, every Senator and President since Reagan are traitors. After all, they gave aid to their enemies in the first Gulf War, in the War on terror (fully sanctioned by the President, I might add), and are still giving aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

     

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  46.  
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    JMT (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 4:28am

    Re:

    Wikipedia says:

    "Oran's Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as "...[a]...citizen's actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation]." In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aided or involved by such an endeavour."

    I fail to see how what Manning did comes close to these definitions. Did he help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the US? Nope. Did he attempt or conspire to overthrow the government? Nope. It seems a lot of the people so keen to throw out the traitor accusation don't really know what it means.

    Assuming you're American, you should be far more outraged by the exposed actions of the USG than Manning.

     

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  47.  
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    tuna, Jun 7th, 2012 @ 5:09am

    Bradley Manning is in the military. He is not protected by the constitution and is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

     

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  48.  
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    no brainer, Jun 7th, 2012 @ 7:51am

    weakileaks

    And that brings up an interesting point. Is this really a trial of Manning... or a trial-by-proxy of Wikileaks itself?

    Weakileaks is not on trial here for receiving documents, Manning is for turning documents over(.) Even if it was for conscientious objection, Manning still took his chances deciding, by and for himself, for a nation what possible consequences these documents being turned over to an outside entity would or even might have for that nation's security and safety of servicemen when this nation is at war with many who were given instant access to these documents regardless of the contents. If he is that steadfast in his beliefs, then he should have no fear facing the consequences now.

     

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  49.  
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    for the record, Jun 7th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Why would anyone believe Manning would have been protected when he basically blew the whistle on the whole military to an outside agency to begin with. He is bound by a little old book with Uniform Code of Military Justice written on the cover if I'm not mistaken. Most know it as the UCMJ.

     

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  50.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And it was over such a *serious*, important matter. The sort of matter that you'll tend to find the average Newt Limballs guilty of as well, x10.

    Not like ordering an illegal war, no siree...

     

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  51.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 9:07am

    Re:

    Excuse me, where in the Constitution does it say "And this applies to everyone except serving military"?

    I understand soldiers cannot live by everyday rules, but nor can you just suspend Constitutional rights willy nilly.

    I'm pretty sure there's been a lot of changes to the US military due to the appilcation of numerous Constitutional amendments, such as the 14th...

     

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  52.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 7th, 2012 @ 9:09am

    Re: weakileaks

    "Sorry m'lud', every other intelligence agency in the world had access to these documents due to about a million people having authorised access. But because the scummy plebs got to see it and it embarrased Our August Gov'mint, we say he should hang."

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2012 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Re:

    and all that while your biggest actual enemy is the us-vs-them (where them is the other party) lockdown within your government.

     

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