Apparently this thing called trending on Twitter tells you what the collective world conscience is thinking about. And I just checked with our CAAFlog twitter page (@CAAFlog) and it looks like “Bradley Manning” is trending right now. A closer look at those trending tweets reveals most are organizations calling the sentence appalling and similar sentiments.
So maybe this is the counter conscience argument, but I’d like to think of it as just my $.02.
First, this is not a civilian prosecution. This is a court-martial of a US Army intelligence analyst (Military Occupational Specialty 35F) that entered the Army in October 2007. He was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division and deployed to Iraq in October 2009. His job was to protect classified information and use it to aid US forces in fighting our nation’s (and our Coalition partners’) enemies in Iraq. Regardless of whether anyone actually died as a result of the releases Manning made, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the charges he was convicted of run directly contrary to what he was supposed to be doing in Iraq.
Second, PFC Manning was convicted and sentenced for leaking classified information to a website in May 2010 after contacting various news organizations about leaking the information to them. I have not heard anything in the narrative about the case that Manning ever attempted to take his concerns to his superiors, an IG, a member of Congress, or anyone else with the power to actually change US policy. Instead he publicly aired those concerns, which centered around, from what I can best tell, documenting “the true cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” and righting various wrongs with US policy decisions relating to our allies and various unspecified frustrations with the backdoor nature of diplomacy around the globe. While PFC Manning may have been frustrated with all of this, he took an oath to set those things aside, obey orders, and protect our nation. He need only have listened to the sage words of Viper to know what to do in this situation, “[W]e don’t make policy here, gentlemen. Elected officials, civilians, do that. We are the instruments of that policy.”
And, lastly, while I think deterrence could probably have been served with a shorter sentence, in the 10 year neighborhood, I think the one thing even critics of the sentence should acknowledge is the skill with which Judge Lind appeared to handle this court-martial. While the proceedings ended in a harsh sentence, Judge Lind appeared in control, efficient, and fair in administering justice in the case. I have no doubt there will be appellate issues raised by Manning’s lawyer(s), some of which may even hinge on Judge Lind’s rulings and end up being meritorious. But my sense is that PFC Manning cannot complain that she deprived him of due process or that he was somehow railroaded by a court-martial system driven by the military judge’s bloodlust or vengeance.