The case of Bradley, Ellsberg et al
In olden days the expression ‘take a leak’ meant something. Now leak could be very confusing. Morally I mean. In modern parlance it would mean whistle blowing. Some blow! Some job!
Cpl. Bradley Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and was charged in March with 37 counts relating to the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks from secure US databases that he allegedly accessed while working as an intelligence officer at the Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad. The documents included Afghan and Iraq war logs, a trove of US embassy cables from around the world and video footage of a US helicopter fatally firing on a group of civilians in Iraq including two Reuters employees.
It was the largest leak of US state secrets in history and Manning faces a maximum sentence of life in custody with no chance of parole. Technically he could also face the death penalty on the count of “aiding the enemy.”
This brings to memory of another cases where the government in its zeal to make the charges stick did just the opposite. Daniel Ellsberg after serving in Vietnam while employed by the RAND Corporation, precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers.
In 1967, he contributed to a top-secret study of classified documents regarding the conduct of the Vietnam War that had been commissioned by Defense Secretary McNamara. These documents, completed in 1968, later became known collectively as the Pentagon Papers. It was because Ellsberg held an extremely high-level security clearance and desired to create a further synthesis from this research effort that he was one of very few individuals who had access to the complete set of documents.
Little did his top bosses know he was disaffected with Vietnam War and was attending anti-war events while still remaining in his position at RAND. He experienced an epiphany attending a War Resisters League conference at Haverford College in August 1969, listening to a speech given by a draft resister named Randy Kehler, who said he was “very excited” that he would soon be able to join his friends in prison.
“And he said this very calmly. I hadn’t known that he was about to be sentenced for draft resistance. It hit me as a total surprise and shock, because I heard his words in the midst of actually feeling proud of my country listening to him. And then I heard he was going to prison. It wasn’t what he said exactly that changed my worldview. It was the example he was setting with his life. How his words in general showed that he was a stellar American, and that he was going to jail as a very deliberate choice—because he thought it was the right thing to do. There was no question in my mind that my government was involved in an unjust war that was going to continue and get larger. Thousands of young men were dying each year. I left the auditorium and found a deserted men’s room. I sat on the floor and cried for over an hour, just sobbing. The only time in my life I’ve reacted to something like that.”( Thomas, Marlo; et al. (2002). The Right Words at the Right Time. New York: Atria books. pp100-103)
Due to the gross governmental misconduct and illegal evidence gathering, Judge Byrne dismissed all charges against Ellsberg and Russo on May 11, 1973 after the government claimed it had lost records of wiretapping against Ellsberg.
Is Cpl. Manning a hero or a traitor? It all depends on which side you are on.
No nation has a leash on to man’s freedom of choice. You pull him and find he resists in a manner least expected. The cases of Karl Fuchs, Ellsberg and Bradley Manning prove just that. Pontius Pilate could not with all the might of Imperial Rome make Jesus of Nazareth turn away from a deliberate choice he had taken. Then as now conscience of man has never been silenced against his will.