Bradley Manning – What the President Should Do

The AP reports that prosecutors aver Bradley Manning, who released sensitive military material to wikileaks, “Dumped classified mlitary info into the enemy’s hands”; his defense attorney says, ‘Manning was “young, naive, but good-intentioned….”‘ and ‘selectively leaked material he believed could make the world a better place, mentioning an unclassified video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack that killed civilians, including a Reuters photographer.’ I believe Manning should be pardoned, but this is not simple: I’m a believer in the necessity of military intel, and some classified intel; complete transparency is not possible in this world. Not yet. And Manning *violated laws* and I’m also a believer in rule of law. But suppose you’re a soldier in combat and your see your sergeant commit an atrocity. What’s the right thing to do? Bust the guy or worry that it might help the enemy to bust him?

Vigorous prosecution of Manning could have a chilling effect on situations of that kind. Soldiers could feel even more pressure to look away from a war crime, pretend it didn’t happen, even cover it up. Manning believed he was exposing war crimes, and in some instances he certainly was.

Ultimately, out of respect for the concept of classified intel and out of respect for rule of law, I think he should be convicted, and then he should be pardoned or, more likely, his sentence commuted to time served, since clearly he was exposing a war crime or crimes, and acting on good conscience. Probably only the President could do that.

The political cost would be high…


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