Bradley Manning found guilty of a lot of crimes, but being a traitor isn't one of them

Bradley Manning found guilty of a lot of crimes, but being a traitor isn't one of them

Summary: Bradley Manning is in a heap of trouble and will probably spend most of his days in jail for his crimes, but the judge says aiding the enemy isn't one of them.


Let's get the details out of the way, first. Bradley Manning has been found guilty of 20 of 21 charges, but has not been found guilty of aiding the enemy. Although the sentencing is yet to occur, it's clear Manning will continue to spend time behind bars, but the military court has determined that he's officially not a traitor in the legal sense of the term.

I'll discuss that point in a minute. For now, let's just look at how the press is parsing this news. Drudge claims "Not a traitor" as it goes on to link to Politico. The Wall Street Journal headlines Manning Acquitted of Aiding the Enemy. Reuters trumpets, Bradley Manning verdict: Judge finds soldier in WikiLeaks case not guilty of aiding enemy as does the Washington Post: Bradley Manning found not guilty of aiding the enemy.

Reading these headlines, you'd think that young Bradley was off the hook, that stealing government secrets was an OK thing to do, and that his supporters were vindicated.

Of course, once you click into the stories, you'd learn the truth, that Bradley Manning is still in a heap of trouble and will probably spend most of his days in jail for his crimes.

I've written a lot about Manning over the last three years and I've described him in almost every case as a "traitor". My reasoning was that he accepted the trust of a nation, stole information entrusted to him, and distributed that information to a foreign actor.

He has, in fact, been found guilty of those charges. However, the judgment issued was more nuanced than that, reflecting the degree of balance practiced by America's judicial system, even in the case of military trials.

There was another factor about Manning. He's a kid. He's old enough to have done something very dangerous and damaging, but after hearing a long and detailed case, the judge determined that Manning was more stupid than evil. Although it's clear the result of his actions resulted in al Qaeda gaining access to some of the documents Manning stole, the judge ruled that Manning's intention was not to aid the enemy.

This is a very important distinction, and it's why America has judges and a court system — and why, in most cases, it works.

Manning's conviction was not a rubber stamp. The government's story would have been a lot easier to tell, especially in light of the Snowden fiasco, if Manning were a convicted traitor. "Steal documents, you're a traitor." It's a clear, simple sound bite.

But Col Denise Lind, the presiding judge on the case, did not provide a sound-bite judgment. Manning was convicted of stealing information, sneaking around security systems, and misusing classified information. That's an almost slam-dunk case. But there's a big jump from what he did to what he thought, what his intentions were, and, apparently, for the record, his intentions were not to aid the enemy.

So where does this put all of us who said that Manning was a traitor, and all of those folks who said Manning was a hero? The short answer is we're not in jail, but he is.

The longer answer is again the celebration of American openness. We're all allowed to mouth off. We're allowed to have our opinions. We're even allowed to be wrong or right (or a mix, as was the case here). We're allowed to be critical of the government and keep our freedoms. Those of us opining on this case (and others, like the Snowden job), will continue to do so.

In the meantime, we can probably all feel a little bit of compassion for the deeply misguided Bradley Manning and the punishments that he's now officially earned.

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Topics: Security, Government, Government US


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • USA Increasingly Authoritarian

    The USA is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Obama's administration is pursuing and treating legitimate whistle-blowers as criminals. This does not bode well for a functioning democracy. Why are they so intent on spying on their own citizens? Well, perhaps once that box is open and a government sees what people really think it shakes them to the core. The day poor people eat the rich inexorably creeps closer. That is the crux.
    • Maybe but...

      The Manning case had little to do with this and more to do with a soldier who took an oath when joining the military and then further signed no-disclosures, the betraying that trust that was instilled in him by we, the people. As long as what you're doing in the military is not illegal (aka, murdering civilians on purpose) then you follow orders.

      A lot of people do not realize how many of your constitutional rights are suspended when you join the military. This is a sacrifice that we (I as a vet) make to ensure we do not create a military state like they have in places like Turkey and now Egypt.

      I think the verdict Manning got was about right. He was not a spy for the enemy, just a moron who will now pay for his stupidity.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • so

        so you want to say that Manning is the only soldier on the right side? ;)

        US gov listens to all our mails, calls, sms, .....
        US gov murdered a lot of US and EU soldiers = lied about mass destruction weapons in Iraq

        you can not trust a word to US gov!!!!!

        WAKE UP!!!!!!!
        • Re: So,,,

          Yep, the last administration really screwed this country up...
          • no no

            no no....this plan is at least 30 years doesn't matter which administration in on board.......and the US presidents are just puppets nothing more

            they have even lower competence than UK prime minister
      • "many of your constitutional rights are suspended"

        " ... many of your constitutional rights are suspended when you join the military."

        I've grown tired of people not understanding that those in the Military have only the rights the Military wants them to have meaning they effectively have no rights.

        Soon as people go down the path of confusing Manning for a Civilian except in uniform they aren't even in a conversation about Manning and have already lost.

        They don't get it but whats sad is they refuse to get it, and are the types who don't allow facts to get int the way.
        Rob Berman
      • There is a big difference...

        ... between defending the U.S. against all enemies and defending a corrupt government who is threatening the well being of the people of the U.S. The government has developed the attitude that THEY are the nation. They're not. We, the people, are the nation. They're supposed to be our employees. These days the U.S. government is more of a threat to this nation than any foreign enemy. The fact that we're seeing more and more whistle blowers exposing the evils of our government supports the fact that they are a threat to the people of this nation. The term "national security" is being used to protect the government, when it is supposed to protect the people. The Bill of Rights, which was supposed to protect us from this sort of government, is being dismantled while the majority of the sheeple ignore what's happening. He wasn't a spy. He was trying to show everyone just how out of control our government security agencies have become. There was a time, long ago, when this nation had a moral compass. Those days are long gone. It's no wonder the rest of the world despises our nation. Our government is out of control and we're doing nothing about it.
        • it's a democracy, right?

          if 51% of people do not mind government spying on them, which they just conveyed via democratically elected representatives, then the government does what the nation has asked it to. if you disagree, call your representative. or, i don't know, buy an island
      • soldiers serving for Gestapo, SS, NKVD,KGB etc

        also were taking an oath. Right.
      • The oath of enlistment specifically states

        "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;"

        [u]Not[/u] the President, [u]not[/u] the Congress, [u]not[/u] the government. The Constitution.

        That was the oath he took, that I took, that you took.

        Personally, I think he did the right thing. What I've seen of what he released is more embarrassing than anything because it lets you, me, and every other American know that our government is (again) lying to us. You didn't want to know that?
        • Lying...

          You are very naive.. The government has been lying to the American people foe a least my life-time; which is over 60 years... I don't want to know everything; and even if in some fantasy world we could have total disclosure; I'm not sure the average American could handle the truth.
      • not taking sides.. but here are some points of interest

        1. after 9/11 everyone asked.. "why didn't they know?". If the next big attack isn't stopped. will it be because you stopped your country from doing the same snooping every other country is doing? The only difference is that we know the US does it.. but are you silly enough to think the other countries aren't?

        2. Manning may have endangered the lives of lots of foreign operatives with his actions. Morals aside, that can't be allowed simply because he wasn't smart enough or knowledgeable enough to know the full repercussions of his actions. He might have killed people, it's possible he did get people killed.

        Food for thought. We asked them to stop the next big attack... how did you think they'd do that considering the 9/11 terrorists were in country for a long while before the attach and presumably communicating with each other about it.
    • Legitimate?

      Where are the crimes he was exposing, or government falsehoods? All he exposed were secret, mostly to our allies danger. No Bradley Manning thought he was being a whistle blower, but what he was was a criminal.
  • Actually...

    He gave away military secrets that were classified, he accessed secure systems that he was granted access to and betrayed everyone that has fought and died for our great nation.. He is a traitor and not a whistleblower as you put it. It continues to amaze me how people think that classified information is public, it is not. This man swore an oath to protect this information. This was not about the government, it was military information.
    • jakenhauser23

      And the Pentagon Papers were what? Is this very different? Because Daniel Ellsberg practically did the same.

      Classified information from the perspective of the government and the law is protected, but when that information reveals wrongdoing, crimes, etc. is morally correct to to show it to the world to see.
      • Pentagon Papers

        Yes, Ellsberg should have gone to jail too.
    • So...

      Basically you're saying that the government that we, the citizenry, elected into office, that we pay for with our tax dollars, and that supposedly exists solely for the purpose of protecting OUR interests, is not answerable to us in any way, shape or form? That all they have to do is stamp something "classified" and it automagically becomes none of our business, regardless of how morally reprehensible, indefensible, or how ultimately *damaging* to our interests it may be?

      People like you are the reason why people like Manning and Snowden need to exist.
      • He is NOT saying that...

        ...You are. We have a republican form of government. Meaning that we elect people to represent our interests as government leaders. So we do have a voice.
        How many of you voted for the incumbents in the last elections? Obviously they are not representing your opinion.
        Why do you keep electing them?

        It's YOUR fault!
  • Tittle tattle mainly

    I don't have much to say about the cables - they really didn't throw any surprises. Although there's talk of some of the content leading to the Arab Spring - if that's true this could be considered a benefit.

    The video of the Apache helipcopter gunning down the reuters reporter and nearby children is something else.

    I can comfortably believe embassadorial communique's can be forthright and therefore potentially embarrassing should they be revealed, but the joyful murder of innocents is something that the world needs to know about and the administration needs to be made to answer for.
    • Exactly

      This is how this blogger described it in a blog that's conveniently linked on this page:

      "Manning (the Army intelligence analyst) did some very bad things. He leaked classified information he had access to as part of job. This information included a video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians."

      That was a US helicopter attack *on* civilians. How you say it makes a big difference.

      And after all. Was that video a surprise to the enemy? To Iraqis in general? To Afghanis? Pakistanis?

      Of course not. The only reason that video was secret was to keep *Americans* from knowing what's going on.

      I'm sorry, but managing Americans' perceptions so you keep their support is not my idea of national security.
      none none