Obama Signs 'Whistleblower Protection Act' The Same Day That Whistleblower Bradley Manning Is In Court

from the funny-how-that-works dept

We’ve discussed the Whistleblower Protection Act in the past. The bill provides somewhat greater protections for government employees who blow the whistle on government wrongdoing — though it’s not as strong as it could be. After a couple years of various Senators blocking the bill, it finally was approved and signed into law by Obama on Tuesday. Of course, it seems like there’s a fair bit of irony that, as Obama signed the bill into law, one of the most famous whistleblowers out there, Bradley Manning, was in court to deal with the latest hearings for his actions. And, yes, I know that Manning’s critics insist that he was no whistleblower, but it seems that the line here is very fine indeed. From Manning’s statements, he clearly believed he was blowing the whistle on illegal activities by the US government. But he gets no protections at all. Instead, there’s a decent chance he’ll spend his life in jail.

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Comments on “Obama Signs 'Whistleblower Protection Act' The Same Day That Whistleblower Bradley Manning Is In Court”

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54 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Bradley Manning isn’t just a whistleblower though. If he had just shared the bad stuff we were doing, I would be behind him 100%. He didn’t though, he shared every single thing he could get his hands on. Information that embarrassed the US and its dignitaries at best, or put people’s lives in danger at worst.

Boojum (profile) says:

Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

Ok folks, a Court Martial is not the same thing as a federal court. Bradly Manning is being court martialed and may, indeed, end up in jail for the rest of his life… but the president would have to change the Uniform Code of Justice to affect that case.

To the best I can find out, the law that covers Bradly Manning is 10 USC ? 1034 ( http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/1034 ) Please note that this doesn’t let you talk to whomever you want to, it limits you to the chain of command, the inspector general, and congress.

You can see more information on this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Whistleblower_Protection_Act and browse through the references. It’s interesting reading.

Boojum

Boojum (profile) says:

Re: Re: Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

The answer is never. The Uniform Code of Justice always applys. This is also the rules that allow a superior officer to shoot you for dereliction of duty or failure to obey a command during a time of war.

Honestly, I’m rather surprised that Mr. Manning wasn’t charged with Espionage given that he stole classified documents and passed them to a foreign national. Given how many documents there were I doubt he had time to read them all and make sure they didn’t have any military secrets or anything that would endanger troops.

But here is the thing.. If I choose to break the law because my moral code says it needs to be broken, then I expect I will also be charged with a crime. We do not normally allow an individuals moral code to allow them to break the law, there are to many variances to consider that a good way to promote justice.

If my moral code says it’s ok to driver faster than the speed limit it doesn’t get me out of a traffic ticket. If my moral code says it’s ok to shoot a girl for going to school on a bus it doesn’t get me out of murder charges. If my moral code says it’s ok to use harsh capital punishment on my child it doesn’t get me out of child protection laws being used to put me in jail.

At some point, I.. like every other human being.. has to decide where it’s important to take a stand and where it’s not. Bradley Manning found his point and chose to make his stand there. This doesn’t get him out of punishment for how he went about doing it.

I know that I don’t want political parties sifting through classified documents and deciding what to whistleblow on to best get their candidate into office.

To me, the best answer is to change how we classify documents and make government more open. But under the laws now I can’t see how Bradley Manning can avoid some level of punishment to prevent worse results later on.

Boojum

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re: Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

Oh, I fully expect that Manning will get punished for his actions under the code.

The code, and any other law, however, is not inherently moral. Just because it’s official procedure doesn’t make it morally correct.

What law allows the United States Government to cover up murder? I’m sure there are a few. It doesn’t make it morally acceptable. If the legal or military system demands that you take immoral action and you follow orders, you are morally culpable for doing so, ala the Nuremberg trials.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

typically speaking illegal materials are confiscated and not subject to protection by the law… so here information on illegal activities was revealed. Somehow because it’s only information it’s protected by law?

You’ll notice too that the ones persecuting this guy aren’t exactly his peers. No they are his “superiors” that were hiding information on illegal activities…

I mean you’ve got the original guilty party acting as the law enforcement here. Seems like a highly questionable conflict of interest to me.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

Bradly Manning is being court martialed and may, indeed, end up in jail for the rest of his life… but the president would have to change the Uniform Code of Justice to affect that case.

A hypothetical question for anyone familiar with the UCMJ.

If Manning believed that information he passed contained constitutional violations by the government, wouldn’t it follow that the orders to keep the information secret would be unlawful? And if that was the case, wouldn’t Manning be obliged to disobey that order, since following an unlawful order is also a court martial offense?

Boojum (profile) says:

Re: Re: Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

If Manning believed that information he passed contained constitutional violations by the government, wouldn’t it follow that the orders to keep the information secret would be unlawful? And if that was the case, wouldn’t Manning be obliged to disobey that order, since following an unlawful order is also a court martial offense?

It depends on the order. If the order is not to tell the inspector general, congress, or someone in his chain of command then it would be an unlawful order. If the order is to not give the secret to a foreign government or foreign national, then it would be a lawful order. You can’t just stop at ordered to keep it secret. You have to include keep it secret from whom.

Under the uniform code of military justice, an order is lawful unless there is an exception written into the UCMJ. My understanding is that there is no exception allowing military personnel to leak classified documents of our governments constitutional violations to a foreign national or government.
Boojum

Boojum

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

Yeah they need to drop this case because it’s an obvious exception as he did uncover some pretty terrible and embarrassing shit. Sadly this will probably be the reason he will spend life in prison.

He did the right thing and hopefully he will continue to think that over the years and know there are plenty of us out here that know what he did was right.

If you come across something that is bad enough to make you question whether or not you’re a good person if you just stfu you should let the world know. There is no way in hell I could have just shut up if I came across the documents he did. The military is not above the law like they think they are.

Viln (profile) says:

Re: Re: Court Martial is not the same as Federal Court

The UCMJ also states a serviceman does not have to obey orders which are not lawful.

Boojum already covered this. Lawful is in accordance with the current laws, in this case the UCMJ, which his actions were not. He has the option to refuse to participate in transmitting data he felt represented an unlawful action, or to escalate to an authority on interpreting the “lawfulness” of the order… but neither would authorize him to proactively broadcast confidential data on the internet.

Even diehard proponents of whistleblowing (as I am) have to acknowledge it’s not possible to give people free reign to determine how best to proceed and what un-ordered actions to take in a given situation when you have even the slightest hope of a successful and cohesive organizational structure, much less corporate or national security.

If I deposit a large sum of cash and the bank teller suspects I might be a drug dealer, and the bank president orders them to simply do their job… they do not have the right as a whistleblower to make a webpage with my personal info laden with accusations. There are appropriate and often legally established methods for objecting and attempting to expose corruption. Bradly Manning did what he did, HOW he did, for one reason… he wanted to be a counter-culture leet haxor hero.

The Original Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Civil law is different than military law

Manning is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which in some ways is more protective of defendants’ rights and in some ways can mandate more severe punishment. It was signed into law in 1950 by President Truman. This is not new legislation.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Code_Of_Military_Justice

Everyone who enters the US military is made aware of the UCMJ. Manning knew the risks and lost. If he was standing up for his ethical beliefs, good for him, but he should also be willing to accept the consequences.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Civil law is different than military law

If he was standing up for his ethical beliefs, good for him, but he should also be willing to accept the consequences.

I agree with this even though it effectively countenances injustice, for many complicated reasons. And as near as I can tell, he is so willing. However there’s no reason that we as citizens should be willing to allow him to accept the consequences.

Also, there’s no reason he (or anyone) should be willing to accept his mistreatment prior to the trial.

Anonymous Coward says:

Everyone who enters the US military is made aware of the UCMJ.

They are made aware they are now under the UCMJ, they are not made aware of their rights or what those laws are. Often the first encounter they have with the UCMJ, is an Article 15. No where there are they made aware of their rights either. Article 15s are punitive judgements usually made by the local commanding officer who is more interested that his authority not be eroded than he is out looking for a fair outcome.

Nor are those under UCMJ offered a look at the laws. Requesting to look at them will often bring you under a watchful eye looking for a reason to stomp the ‘shithouse lawyer’ before he gets the chance to stir up the troops with discipline an moral issues. You can see how that effects those under such laws by the treatment Bradley got while in an extended wait for court.

Wally (profile) says:

Ex-post-facto....maybe not, but something I need to say...

It should be noted that Bradley Manning has only been charged with espionage but not convicted. In order for him to be effected negatively in court, he would have to be convicted and in prison already not to be protected under the newly ratifed and signed bill.

In short, since Bradley Manning has NOT been convicted and sent to prison yet, he is protected under the WBPA (Whistle Blowers’ Protection Act).

I would like to note however that, like the Freedom of Imformation Act (signed by Bill Clinton), whistle blowing protection laws like this already existed at a civilian level. Bradley Manning was a Government Worker at the NSA, and until this law was signed, Government Workers’ rights were never protected.

For those who were wondering, The Freedom of Information Act was the first law that involved Government Workers’ rights. Aside from giving civilians the right to request classified documents by the government in case a project went wrong, it also allowed for declassification for insurance agencies and former government workers to get workers’ compensation.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Ex-post-facto....maybe not, but something I need to say...

I’m also under the impression that the reason why Bradley Manning publicallu released the “inner workings” of the NSA, was simply the ethics violations being commited by the NSA. What he revealed had nothing to do with the internal procedure of the NSA, but had everything to do with the ethics the NSA was violating. These ethics are not only set up by internal policy, but are defined by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution if the United States.

He had no choice to do what he did through the channels he chose. The reason behind this is simply that nobody in the Government would listen to him or believe him. In an agency where ethics are supposed to be upheld at the highest level, he saw numerous ethics violations beimg committed. He quite possibly used up all his resources before using the last ditch effort to get the message out that is the internet.

Boojum (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ex-post-facto....maybe not, but something I need to say...

He had no choice to do what he did through the channels he chose. The reason behind this is simply that nobody in the Government would listen to him or believe him. In an agency where ethics are supposed to be upheld at the highest level, he saw numerous ethics violations beimg committed. He quite possibly used up all his resources before using the last ditch effort to get the message out that is the internet.

None of which is protected under the whistle blower law, which is what this article was about. The whistleblower law, and in this case the more important military whistleblower law, clearly delineate what they protect and neither the civilian nor the military laws protect someone giving information to a foreign national.

As the details of the case come out we may well see arguments as to what other options he had available. It won’t stop the destruction of his military career… because he definitely violated the USMJ no matter how well intentioned he was or how few choices he felt he had.

And, of course, this raises another issue. It states that Bradly Manning clearly thought he was informing on illegal actions of the government. But what about the rest of the thousands of documents that didn’t contain information on illegal actions of the government?

Let us say the chief of police in a city commits murder and covers it up.. and the documents are inside a computer at the police station. I can still get in trouble if I grab ALL the information in the police computer (including private information about officers and citizens) and give it to someone else instead of just what is needed to reveal what happened. Of the documents that Bradley leaked, many were embarrassing without showing illegal activity.

He had choices on how he released the information.. some of them might have seen less of a chance that the information gets out (such as reporting it to the inspector general or a congressman he trusted) but even if he did he chose to give ALL the documents to a foreign national. That’s sort of the definition of espionage even if we feel that he was justified about telling someone about specific actions.

And Mesonoxian, please point to the part of the USMJ that says it’s unlawful to order someone not to release classified documents to the public? You will find it allows you to reveal unlawful activities to Congress, your chain of command, and to the inspector general. I think you’ll find that the people charging him DO know the USMJ… you just don’t like what the USMJ says.

Boojum

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ex-post-facto....maybe not, but something I need to say...

“Let us say the chief of police in a city commits murder and covers it up.. and the documents are inside a computer at the police station. I can still get in trouble if I grab ALL the information in the police computer (including private information about officers and citizens) and give it to someone else instead of just what is needed to reveal what happened. Of the documents that Bradley leaked, many were embarrassing without showing illegal activity.”

Manning is not convicted yet….and therefore covered by the new law which covers the USMJ as did the Freedom of Information Act has since its signing.

The embarrassment is in the eye of the beholder. The NSA has a tendancy to cite “embarrassment” a lot when it gets called out for illegal activities likely because they are, A) embarrassed of their own activities not showing ANY evidence of a suspect in general, B) Shows illegal activities and subsequently will cite “Embarrassment” as the reason for their legal issues, or C) Both A and B combined.

Either way, under the Freedom of Information Act, any illegal activity committed by a government agency which deams the documentation of said illegal activities are deemed declassified in USMJ and the US court of law. Since the illegal activities he discovered were in fact documented, deemed classified, and subsequently covered up, those documents, by law, are immediately declassified when a whistle blower releases the information to either an investigative committee or the public. The Freedom of Information Act nullified said classified documents in Manning’s case. The WBPA extends his rights to be protected from any harmful or irreparable damage comes his way.

In short: Manning is COVERED by the Freedom of Information Act and the WBPA.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

They were. But it was up to Julian Assange whether or not to publish that information. It endangered the lives of US ambassadors in the Middle East. What manning is being charged with is totally different as he has been accused of “revealing to the public the inner workings of the NSA”. As much as I dislike him for Wikileaks, it was ultimately up to Assange not to publish the information he was given.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Given that the data was censored before publication I am pretty sure that the danger is not as bad as it would seem unless you really distrust Manning and Wikileaks.

We had a case in Denmark where a former special force guy wrote a book about his experiences in Afghanistan. The case was blown up by Department of Defence who wanted it stopped. It ended up costing several jobs in DoD as they were caught fabricating evidence to support the opinion that the leak was dangerous.

Classification of data is a very dubious practice and it needs a timelimit to make it even tolerable from an oversight level. The crimes you can commit while under classification and NDA is endless…

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Irony

Actually, Whistle Blowing is protected by US law. As annoyed as I am with Obama, he did the right thing by singing the WBPA. The signing of this a t not only EXTENDED the rights of ALL US Government workers in ALL US government agencies, but narrowed (specified the in’s and outs) it down specifically to fit the Freedom of Information Act.

Boojum (profile) says:

That’s right, the government makes the laws that do or do not protect people from revealing their corruption.. and the citizens elect the politicians who make these laws and keep sending them back to washington. Remember, while the citizens respect for congress in general is poor, they are normally quite for their own congressmen.. It’s the REST of those guys who are the problem. 😀

Boojum

Politically Correct says:

Scam City

The new Amerika: be tortured and serve your time before a trial (years and years). Scam City (big time), run by psychopaths who exempt themselves from prosecution of their own criminal activities. They believe saying something is such and such is the same as something being (such and such). Justice? Health Care ($50 per aspirin in a hospital; assembly line amputation of the wrong limbs, etc.)? Education (what a hoot)? Smile, have good hair and nice teeth, avoid the facts, spout the platitudes: You’ll go far in politics.

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