It's hardly a surprise that a bunch of people who have been fed a load of bullshit about what Chelsea Manning did years ago are now quite angry over President Obama's decision to commute Manning's sentence. But I don't think any are quite as painstakingly wrong as Senator John McCain. Someone should call up the Guinness World Record folks, because the wrong-per-sentence ratio of McCain's angry statement might just set a new world record. Let's dig in.
President Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence is a grave mistake that I fear will encourage further acts of espionage and undermine military discipline.
Wait. Really? Manning has been in prison for seven years, with a significant portion of that being held in solitary confinement, sometimes being made to strip naked before being able to sleep. This was called "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture" by the United Nations. You would think, of all people, Senator John McCain, who similarly was held in solitary confinement and tortured for extended periods while being held captive for 5 and a half years in Vietnam, would recognize that "only" 7 years of such treatment wouldn't exactly encourage more of Manning's behavior.
To put it more directly: who, in their right mind, is going to leak a bunch of documents thinking "oh, perhaps after going through literal torture, character assassination and basically hell on earth, it'll be okay, because maybe some other President will commute my insane 35 year sentence to just 7 years? No one. The idea that this commutation is going to lead to further leaks is ridiculous. If anything will lead to further leaks it's Manning's courage in seeing something wrong in the system and actually doing something about it.
In fact, it was things like Manning's courage that helped inspire Ed Snowden and other whistleblowers to step up. They didn't do it on the idea that they might "only" suffer 7 years of torture.
Second, what Manning did was not "espionage" and for McCain to suggest it is, means McCain either has no idea what he's talking about, or is lying. Manning leaked diplomatic cables and related information exposing vast wrongdoing by the US, to Wikileaks, who partnered with a number of respected press outlets to reveal the wrongdoing. That's not espionage. That's classic whistleblowing. And, yes, in case you've forgotten, Manning's leaks revealed a hell of a lot of wrongdoing by the US government.
It also devalues the courage of real whistleblowers who have used proper channels to hold our government accountable.
Oh come on. We've highlighted repeatedly how the "proper channels" claim is a complete joke. The "proper channels" have a long history of retaliating against whistleblowers such that everyone now knows the best way to destroy your life is to use the proper channels.
It is a sad, yet perhaps fitting commentary on President Obama’s failed national security policies that he would commute the sentence of an individual that endangered the lives of American troops, diplomats, and intelligence sources by leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive government documents to Wikileaks, a virulently anti-American organization that was a tool of Russia’s recent interference in our elections.
First of all, Manning did not endanger the lives of American troops, diplomats and intelligence sources. During Manning's sentencing hearing, following her conviction, the US military admitted no one died because of Manning's leaks. So why does this myth still persist? Mainly because it's politically convenient to lie and pretend that whistleblowing leaks must "cost lives."
Thousands of Americans have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq upholding their oaths and defending this nation. Chelsea Manning broke her oath and made it more likely that others would join the ranks of her fallen comrades. Her prison sentence may end in a few months’ time, but her dishonor will last forever.
This has been pointed out over and over again: the oath that people take is to defend the Constitution. And a big part of that is calling out unconstitutional behavior by "this nation." Which is exactly what Manning did. Manning clearly felt that part of defending our nation and upholding her oath was to reveal wrongdoing by the US government. Furthermore, once again, the US military itself admitted that Manning didn't cause anyone to die.
Finally, as Marcy Wheeler correctly points out, McCain isn't just completely wrong with most of his statement, he's a total hypocrite as well. After all, McCain has been one of the most vocal supporters of General David Petraeus, a man who was convicted of giving classified information (much more serious than anything leaked by Manning) to his mistress. When there was talk of demoting Petraeus for this fairly serious breach, McCain said he was going to launch a Congressional investigation. And, more recently, McCain had this to say about Petraeus:
People make mistakes in life, they pay a price and move on.
So, uh, yeah. Compare that to his statement about the commutation (not pardon) of Manning's sentence and explain how McCain is not an utter and total hypocrite. If commuting Manning's sentence after "just" 7 years of torture and inhuman treatment will incentivize more leaks, wouldn't that also mean that Petraeus getting basically no punishment at all for leaking much more serious material will lead to more leaks, since it seems top government and intelligence community officials are clearly being given the message: it's okay to give up the nation's biggest secrets if it means you get laid.