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Bradley Manning Takes "Full Responsibility" for Giving WikiLeaks Government Data (wired.com)
102 points by cyphersanctus 1603 days ago | hide | past | web | 125 comments | favorite



I can't deny that he violated the trust placed in him by the military. That's a scary game, and one that I can't honestly take a position in, as I've never served.

However, I feel that service is more than to your branch, commander, or unit. What is a soldier? Someone willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater, to defend those who can't defend themselves, to bring honor to their service. A US soldier serves the people first, the government second. Manning realized the risk he was placing his life in, and like a true soldier, he didn't let that knowledge deter him. In taking responsibility, he's holding his head high, not cowering behind attorneys and HTTP proxies.

I can't say if he's right or wrong, but I can say that he showed courage befitting his title.


If a soldier thinks something is wrong, he might talk to a reporter and even provide classified examples if necessary to prove his point.

That is not what Bradley Manning did. He did a full dump of information regardless of whether or not the information was related to his cause. That's not a courageous protest: that is playing God with other's lives on the line. In his delusion of Godhood, he literally committed treason.

Sorry for the harshness of this, but it genuinely outrages me that people see heroism in this guy. His behavior is outside even the most liberal interpretations of the concept of non-violent protest or civil disobedience.


> If a soldier thinks something is wrong, he might talk to a reporter and even provide classified examples if necessary to prove his point.

> That is not what Bradley Manning did.

Did you even read the article linked?

" Manning said he first tried to take his information to the Washington Post, the New York Times and Politico, before contacting WikiLeaks."

"Manning said he tried to talk to an unnamed Washington Post reporter to interest her in the Iraq and Afghanistan documents, but “I did not believe she took me seriously.” He left voicemails with the public editor and the news-tips lines for the New York Times and heard nothing. A blizzard, he said, kept him from driving to Politico’s office to discuss the documents. According to Manning’s account, only after his attempts to give the documents to mainstream media organizations fail did he consider giving them to WikiLeaks."


"Tried". "A blizzard kept him from ... discussing".

Half-heared efforts to contact three media outlets are not cause for dumping intelligence unrelated to this issue you are trying to bring to light.


Why did Manning need to speak to anyone? Why couldn't he just send data discs to all the papers mentioned with the classified data? If his true motivation was whistle blowing you'd expect him to leak the data to as many media outlets as possible.

Instead he sent them to Wikileaks?


If someone applied for a job with the attitude Manning showed for publishing this information, would you even bother giving him an interview?


I've heard this claim before (he put other's lives in danger), but I haven't seen it backed. As far as I know, even the military operations documents leaked were old (relatively). I haven't come across any sort of news relating to people dying because of these leaks. Or any sort of military or government personnel being put in danger.


I'm genuinely curious about this as well. I do recall seeing reference to wikileaks documents (in general) potentially endangering US allies / sources / informants / partners. However, I can't recall specifically whether or not the information was sourced from the documents Manning leaked.


"that is playing God with other's lives on the line."

That's the same pseudo-argument that keeps coming up again and again. Whose lives did he play with? Please don't answer with some hypothetical "aiding the enemy" crap.

Wasn't it the U.S. military that originally played with lives aka "collateral damage"?


Manning had Gigabytes of secret documents and cables. He didn't know what was in them. Even if no one died, he sure as heck didn't know that when he gambled on releasing them. Therefore he was playing God.

Second, if you search through this entire comment thread you will find links to NYTimes articles about them actual damage caused.


Nope you won't, but you will find a quote from the Pentagon saying no damage was caused.


He did a full dump of information regardless of whether or not the information was related to his cause.

...to a journalist, to vet and release as appropriate. It's not like he just uploaded it to The Pirate Bay or something.


Getting disgruntled and indiscriminately dumping whatever you find on sensitive internal networks, in violation of the military law you agreed to be governed by when you VOLUNTEERED for the US military, is not an honorable self-sacrifice.

If we believe that, then we should believe that any employee of any startup has an honorable sacrificial duty to leak that startup's code along with a dump of its databases.


So if a volunteer army is committing mass atrocities in the name of protecting state secrets, nobody should blow the whistle because they volunteered for the position before they knew what they were going to be doing?

I'm just wondering where the line is drawn here.


Someone mistaking video journalists when they are peaking around a corner with a video camera as enemy combatants that recently shot at a convoy, is not "mass atrocities". Lets draw that line.


I am making no implications or analogies; I am simply asking a hypothetical question in response to the parent post. Why does volunteering to follow some code make it morally wrong to blow the whistle?


Not really a fair comparison. Unless the start-up was tax payer funded, and was doing objectionable things like selling customers credit card/personal information to third parties, and you knew about it, maybe then you would be lauded for exposing it. However no one would label you a hero for releasing a companies IP for the sake of it.

MAYBE if it was some company making bucket loads of money off of GPL code they were deliberately and knowingly abusing the license!


Sacrifice by definition must be voluntary, otherwise it's just servitude, so saying he volunteered is not a good argument against calling his service sacrifice.

Likewise breaking the law is not necessarily wrong, and what's legal and what's moral don't always overlap. Consider slavery.

As for the last part, it could be a duty to leak code if your startup is doing something highly immoral. No one's arguing for what you said; it seems like trolling.


If that was an employee of Enron circa 2000, yes I think she or he should be celebrated. It's not like Manning "indiscriminately dump[ed]" documents from an organization that was clearly honorable and honest -- quite on the contrary, it seems.


If that startup is killing civillians, absolutely.


Homeland, the TV series, is based on a similar premise and, whether you like the show or not, it works.


In taking responsibility, he's holding his head high, not cowering behind attorneys and HTTP proxies.

You might be reading too much into this (or not). In the context of a plea bargain in the United States, "accepting responsibility" is a keyword. It triggers a significant reduction in your sentence.


Well said.


Full responsibility. Let's break that down.

Full responsibility, on the surface, means that Manning is taking full responsibility under the law, and is not shying away from the legal consequences of his actions. He knows that according to the laws and the power structure, he's accountable for his actions which threaten said laws and power structure. Those self-interested parties will react in the appropriate way to defend the status quo.

Full responsibility to history means something else entirely.

Full responsibility to history means that Manning doesn't shy away from the responsibility he has in challenging a corrupt power structure, and fighting for the rule of law. He's accepting responsibility for standing up for truth, in spite of the legal consequences. He's accepting full responsibility for being part of something bigger than himself.

Salutes


> the responsibility he has in challenging a corrupt power structure

What's the corrupt power structure and how did he challenge it?


... you can't be serious. What exact part of that sentence are you taking issue with? The corrupt-ness of the US military and/or government, or the fact that releasing this information was a challenging act?


Bradley Manning is probably going to spend the rest of his life in prison. He's only 25! Holy shit that's a long time.

He intentionally and indiscriminately released thousands of classified documents in direct violation of his duties.

What specific instances of corruption did he uncover that justify what he did?

Look, he was clearly unhappy. From what I've read it sounds like he was lonely, confused, and unstable. But he was given significant responsibilities and he violated that trust in a _very_ serious and criminal way.

If he was unhappy there are many, many other things he could have done than release those files.

What I see is this thread is just a bunch of platitudes. Yeah! he stuck it to the man! But what did he actually achieve? All I see is a fucked up young man making a _huge_ mistake.


Manning was just a kid, playing games, never thought he was doing something that these skeletors of society would pursue him in the future for.

And again, something that had no consequences gets a kid to suffer the rest of his life, just to keep military and courts and other "serious people" all of which that could also be seen as criminals of bigger crimes such as inflicting pain for a living (military instead of farmers and abundance, lawyers and judges instead of friendship and disputes in games and drinks). And these military go to war with the mote to spread freedom and democracy, what for ? to arrest kids for life ?

Skeletors of the world... grow up, relax, have a beer and life for the swords to plow shares or tanks to tractors, or drones to aerial seed planters!


Today a criminal... in 100 years a hero.


He's already a hero to many.


A hero to the stupid maybe. He is scum and a traitor.


Yeah, you're right. How dare a guy risk his own life for the sake of doing what's right and telling us about the injustices of the United Stated Government we otherwise would have never been told or heard about. How dare someone like Bradley Manning stand up for the people, how dare he stand up for the truth... If the Government are killing innocent people and leading the public astray unless they tell us, we don't have the right to know the truth, right? This guy is only looking at spending the rest of his life in prison for the sake of letting people know what was happening, no big deal.

I'll be back later, just going to turn on my TV and watch some Fox News. You like that channel too? So informative and they always tell us the truth, who needs Wikileaks when we have unbiased televised news? Maybe we can watch it together sometime, eat some genetically modified corn, polish our military grade automatic guns and sip on fluorinated water, it'll be great.


Any thoughts on the Afghan civilians that US patrols were keeping a protective eye on because those civilians were doing things that would make them Taliban targets if the Taliban found out (such as cooperating with the Afghan government, or helping girls go to school). The reports of those patrols contained the names, addresses, and GPS coordinates of those civilians. Manning's leak basically gave the Taliban a target list of such people.

How about human rights workers and democracy activists in repressive regimes like Iran, who rely on keeping anonymous to avoid jail, torture, and execution? Some of them secretly asked US diplomats for help. Well, secret until Manning released diplomatic cables concerning those requests.

The above people were already in danger--educating girls in Afghanistan, or working underground against Iran is risky business--so we can't say for SURE that any deaths of such people since the leaks were due to information from the leaks, but the odds are pretty damn good that some were.

What specific things in the leaks do you think were important enough to justify endangering and very likely killing innocent people such as those Afghan civilians, or freedom fighters in repressive regimes?


Any thoughts on continuing to use this rhetoric despite a lack of any reports that any one of these supposed people got so much as a papercut in the aftermath, despite all the fear mongering suggesting that those people might be "in serious trouble soon" shortly after the release?


http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/taliban-study-wi...

But it's also common sense, right? It is not controversial that the Taliban operate death squads. If you want to say NATO does too, fine, but that doesn't change the implications of the document dump. It does in fact create a list of specific people subject to reprisal killings by a group that is world famous for targeted reprisal killings on a scale even the US Army (in your least charitable interpretation) would have difficulty rivaling.

Still another response to your criticism is that you've set an unreasonably high bar. How many Pashtun residence of Paktia province do you know? I don't know many. How well reported to you think Ghazni province is compared to LA County? You're suggesting that we not take harm seriously until an extremely thin layer of journalists can document that harm carefully. Well, that's never going to happen. 60% of every Pashtun person identified by the document dump could already have been murdered and we wouldn't know.

History suggests that this concern is more than legitimate. How good do you feel the accounting has been for death squads in South America?

Julian Assange is alleged to have sat in a room full of journalists and said "Well, they're informants. So, if they get killed, they've got it coming to them. They deserve it." That seems like an easy claim for some journalist who was at the table to have knocked down. Has that happened, or is it likely that Assange actually said that? The journalist who made that allegation was David Leigh, investigations editor or The Guardian. FRONTLINE ran the claim in their documentary. Do you think FRONTLINE didn't fact-check?


The link says they are "scouring the reports," not documenting incidents. I'm wondering if the Taliban would be able to scour thousands of documents in English fast enough to catch anyone before they left town? Unlikely.

I also remember we were warned they were coming before they actually came.


Almost 10% of Afghans speak English. Pretty sure the Taliban can read the doc dump.


The question at hand though, is can they read it fast enough? In a negative amount time?


> http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/taliban-study-wi....

Although you didn't say that this link contradicts my point (being, there are no reports anyone was hurt), I assume that is why you pasted it. I will point out that it also contains no such reports, and doesn't contradict my point.

> But it's also common sense, right? It is not controversial that the Taliban operate death squads. If you want to say NATO does too, fine, but that doesn't change the implications of the document dump. It does in fact create a list of specific people subject to reprisal killings by a group that is world famous for targeted reprisal killings on a scale even the US Army (in your least charitable interpretation) would have difficulty rivaling.

This is not a discussion about whether the US Army or the Taliban is worse. I'm not really interested in taking a position on that. You're kind of creating a straw man there.

> Still another response to your criticism is that you've set an unreasonably high bar. How many Pashtun residence of Paktia province do you know? I don't know many. How well reported to you think Ghazni province is compared to LA County? You're suggesting that we not take harm seriously until an extremely thin layer of journalists can document that harm carefully. Well, that's never going to happen. 60% of every Pashtun person identified by the document dump could already have been murdered and we wouldn't know.

I feel like although this makes sense, you didn't actually think about what you are suggesting. Yes, I do believe that in order to claim that someone is responsible for people getting hurt, you need some indication that it actually happened. Speculating about what horrible things could have happened is essentially an unbounded thought experiment that has no relevance. We have enough actual problems to worry about, let's not waste resources over hypothetical problems.

Note that I didn't even set a bar - I'm just pointing out that there hasn't even been a whisper of an actual papercut from a friend of a friend. Nothing. Given the propensity of people on both sides to exaggerate in order to further their agendas, the fact that there was nothing reported speaks volumes to me anyway.

Sure, it's common sense that they're going to look for traitors in the documents, but it's within the bounds of reason that one could take the position that they had a high probability of getting out of harms way, relative to the greater good that said person feels would come of releasing the documents. Of course, this is taking a chance, and reasonable people can disagree about whether or not that was acceptable risk. In this case, however, the "for releasing" position would have been correct as far as anybody seems to know.

> Julian Assange is alleged to have sat in a room full of journalists and said "Well, they're informants. So, if they get killed, they've got it coming to them. They deserve it." That seems like an easy claim for some journalist who was at the table to have knocked down. Has that happened, or is it likely that Assange actually said that? The journalist who made that allegation was David Leigh, investigations editor or The Guardian. FRONTLINE ran the claim in their documentary. Do you think FRONTLINE didn't fact-check?

What does a statement made by Julian Assange have to do with this?

I'm saying it's invalid reasoning to continue making serious attacks based on what "might happen", especially when the time during which said incidents would likely occur has now passed, and it never did happen as far as anyone seems to know.

The particular claim that I am addressing charges that his decision potentially caused unacceptable collateral damage. I am not taking a position on whether or not releasing the documents was justified or whether or not Assange is an egomaniac who doesn't shower. If one's position is that he should not have released these, it's bullshit to justify that position with this particular claim.


These points are fair game, but you entered the thread by asking why 'tzs would continue to use the "rhetoric" of harm from the document dump, and so the goal line here is "reasons a reasonable person would believe the document dump would be harmful". And so those reasons include:

* The Taliban is likely to kill Afghans with minimal provocation, having done so on innumerable occasions in the past.

* Even if the Taliban had done so hundreds of times directly in response to the Wikileaks dump, it's likely we would never have heard about it.

* The poor harm minimization concern was one expressed by many journalists, including those ideologically close to Wikileaks.

* The leader of Wikileaks has been reported as ambivalent to the concern, which calls into question the diligence with which anything they published was redacted.

These are reasons a reasonable person might evoke harm from the document dump. They are not dispositive of harm having occurred. It would be difficult in any circumstances to dispose of that question one way or the other.

The comparison between the Taliban and the US Army was itchy trigger finger debate tactic stuff from me. Sorry.

Apropos nothing: I really do not like Julian Assange. But I can't think of a way anything he did was criminal (extremely unethical: yes) and I would be offended and upset if he was the target of reprisals from the US Government. Weirdly enough, given how sympathetic Bradley Manning seems to be to people, I have no trouble at all understanding how he could be a criminal. He dropped a gigantic collection of documents he could not possibly have read or likely even understood to an anonymous third party on the Internet. Most of what we know today about Wikileaks (and the basis for most people's opinions about the Manning leak) are based on the result of the leak, and weren't known in January 2010.


I covered this. To repeat, we probably won't ever get proof of any particular death from the leaks, but we knew the leaks included information on groups of people that we know bad guys were actively seeking out for jailing, torturing, and killing, and so the odds are high that some are or will be killed from the leaks.

It's similar to the way we can conclude that smoking has killed people via lung cancer, even though it is impossible or nearly so to pin any particular lung cancer death on smoking. People get lung cancer who do not smoke and do not spend time with smokers, and so any particular death might be due to one of those instances of lung cancer.

There's also common sense. The Taliban is known to target people who they discover are committing certain acts that they consider to be offenses (which is why US forces were keeping an eye on those people, and thus why those people turned up in US reports). It seems unlikely that they would consider, say, educating girls, to no longer be an offense if they first learn about it through a leaked US report.


If you don't get proof that someone died, you have to charge him with something other than contributing to someone's death.

The other side can also do thought experiments bounded by "common sense." It's common sense that anyone who was an informant knew that their cover was blown and they got out of harms way ASAP. It's common sense that during the time before the release, when the US Gov was calling up foreign governments to let them know a bad leak was on the way, they also called up their informants.

It's also worth noting that only an extremely small percentage of the content contained identifiable information. Most of it wasn't related to informants at all.

Your claim that the odds are high that some are or will be killed from the leaks would be questionable at the time of release, and now that we have a few years of history, fails even a preponderance of evidence standard of proof. For such a serious claim, I personally feel that it warrants at least that.


News alert to the uninformed about military conflict. Innocent people die when you go to war.

Bradley Manning just leaked one instance of human error that caused innocent people to die. Now he will spend much of his life in prison.

No idea why people call this guy a hero. If you read any history of any war, innocent people die because of human error.


"Sunlight is the best disinfectant" --U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Would we really go to war if we knew the true extent of human suffering? Maybe, but visibility to such suffering at least allows people to feel sympathy, instead of simply being ignorant to suffering.


So we should have updated detailed progress on our investigation of Osama Bin Laden and other criminals? Upload our latest nuclear technology as how-to videos on youtube?

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant" --U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Look a Supreme Court justice agrees with that because I put an out of context quote from him.


He also leaked a trove of diplomatic communications that revealed corruption all over the world. I'd imagine many in Tunisia would consider Manning a hero.


> No idea why people call this guy a hero. If you read any history of any war, innocent people die because of human error.

You mostly don't read about innocent people dying in war. It's expected and nobody really cares. History books talk about how amazing the Roman or British empires were. When did you ever read anything more than vague lip-service about all the killing of innocent people that involved?


drone killings is not war , it is state terrorism.


Why is it "war" if done by humans holding machines and "state terrorism" if done by humans controlling machines from a greater distance?


Why is it "terror" if done with airplanes and "war" if done by humans holding machine guns?


Killing people with airplanes is not categorically known as "terror" rather than "war." Lots of people were killed with airplanes in World War I, but while it was terrifying, WWI is pretty universally known as a war. So I don't take your point.


Didn't he basically just dump a bunch of classified information, without actually going through it to see if it was worth releasing or if somethings were worth omitting from the release?


Yes.


How do you figure that? He gave us access to information that we have a right to, so that we can make our own informed decisions. Do you remember the Pentagon Papers and the effect they had on the Vietnam War? In my mind he's a true patriot.


> He gave us access to information that we have a right to

I've heard this said quite a bit but am way too ignorant about it to form a logical opinion or know where to find more information. Basically, what information from the Gov't do we have a right to? All of it? Some of it?

I know there are classified documents that are kinda essential to keeping people safe that would be better left confidential, but they eventually make it out, albeit heavily redacted. Is there some quick-reference (worth a shot..) or a place of reference I could at least start my journey? There's a lot of misinformation out there, especially regarding this case specifically.


When your tax dollars are paying for military strikes, and you yourself are then made a target by angry foreigners blaming you for supporting your own government, I'd say you have a right to know what "they" are doing.

How much? As much is needed for everyone to have a rationalised discussion. As I write this I realise that with media outlets such as FOX, that makes it pretty hard.

As Bradley Manning said, most military information has a tactical shelf life of 48-72 hours, after that most information can (and should) be released. Perhaps a more transparent/accountable military would be a harder target for fundamentalists to rally support against, but I wouldn't actually know.


[deleted]


[deleted]


> He didn't make any argument,

He's making the argument that there exist certain documents that are "better left confidential", and that those documents "eventually make it out". Both statements are highly contestable, and I've offered a fairly extensive source by a Pulitzer prize winner to contradict those points.

His final statement is ironic. We're talking about a man (Manning) who risked his life to uncover information that the government tried to conceal by spreading misinformation. The existence of misinformation about Manning's own story is nothing if not ironic. It's not an insult - to Obama, perhaps, but not OP - and my apologies if anybody took that way. However, taking the time to look me up on Twitter just to call me a 'prick' certainly doesn't offer anything valuable to the discussion and does nothing to keep the level of discourse on HN high.


Scum / Traitor for reporting on US war crimes? You're actually serious!?


Well, there were some of that information, but there were also secret cables which had little to do with any war crimes. He could have just released the videos and not the other stuff, if you wanted to argue the war crimes angle.

Finally, I think I agree with others. If you truly believe in your actions, you take responsibility, no matter the consequences. Such is how many in the war of independence saw it. They knew that if the British caught them, they'd likely be tried as traitors. Not saying all revolutions are have 'honorable causes'. Just saying it's honorable to take responsibility for what one does to further one's beliefs, even if the actions are not honorable, depending on view.


I agree, made a comment about that on another reply


Technically he was a traitor to the military, but the military was a traitor to society in general... So it evens out.


What war crimes do you mean?


I was being sensationalist, but that Apache footage has always stuck in my mind. Even if it was manipulated


What does it mean to be a criminal in the U.S. these days anyway?


I believe it was President George "Dubya" Bush who said, "You're either with us, or you're against us." This mentality, coupled with the (unpatriotic) "Patriot Act," leaves a lot of room for defining criminality, which, apparently, the US Supreme Court, by its recent rulings, infers that all US citizens are potential criminals, if not actual. Thus the domestic surveillance program continues.


I am so, so, so disappointed that the narrative of the facts has been warped into something that isn't true. I expected it on Reddit, but not so much here.

Given that I actually serve, let me explain why: He did the INFOSEC equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb.

Whistleblowing is going, "Hey, I have evidence of War Crime FOO, I should leak this to somebody and blow the whistle". Not, "Oh, look at all this data I have access to, let's just FTP this shiat up to the latest foreign national to hit the news".

In the DoD whistle-blowing is actually a thing, believe it or not. For instance U.S. soldiers committed a horrible atrocity in Iraq involving murder, rape, and arson [1]. The world was alerted to this by an Army soldier (of all things) , Pfc. Justin Watt, who revealed it to a mental health practitioner, who got U.S. Army investigators involved. Notably, Pfc. Watt suspected his chain-of-command would not believe him or would try to cover it up, and yet he still managed to alert investigators without revealing an entire CD-R's worth of classified material.

Pfc. Manning did none of this. He didn't alert U.S. Army CID, the U.S. Army Inspector General (IG), the DoD IG, an American friend back home, a fellow soldier, or even the American media (as the Pentagon papers had been revealed). Edit: Turns out that Pfc. Manning almost managed to inform the media, but ran out of patience (or coffee, or something).

But all of this is assuming that Manning had details of a set of war crimes (1 or many). Even this ends up being more favorable to Manning than reality though. Manning didn't leak "war crimes", he leaked whatever info he could download, without verifying that it was all actually evidence deserving of whistle-blowing. Much of those "evidence of war crimes" were instead the most mundane types of reports (e.g. diplomatic cables describing how Putin and Berlusconi were buddy-buddy, or patrol reports describing how soldiers patrolled a certain area to verify the safety of an Afghan informant). However nice it might be to peek into diplomatic traffic from the outside, it was still classified, it was not evidence of war crimes, and Manning never read it all anyways before he leaked it to a foreign national over an unsecure network.

"But what about all the good stuff he was trying to do?", you might ask. Turns out he even had an ulterior motive to be mad at the Army, he had recently been demoted from Specialist for physically assaulting a fellow soldier. I'll bet Pfc. Manning doesn't even know how much of his exfiltration job was to get back at the Army, and how much was to "blow the whistle". And either way, you don't do horrible things just because it turns out well for a few people (unless you're a Wall St. banker, I suppose).

The saddest part is that prior to 9/11 Manning wouldn't have been able to dream of having access to the information he had access to.

9/11 exposed deep flaws in the U.S. government's ability to handle intelligence agencies amongst the various agencies. It was better for FBI to hoards its intel, CIA to do the same, and etc. all down the line. After 9/11 it was finally realized that this wouldn't work when trying to defend from the kind of terrorism which kills thousands of people at a shot, and so interagency cooperation became the watchword.

The thinking went, if we can trust a soldier enough to die for his country, have his own weapon, and have him analyze the workings of an Islamist group in Iraq, then surely we can trust him if we give him all the intel he needs to do his job, right? Right? I mean really, who's the bigger threat here, Al Qaeda or Pvt. Garcia?

But it only takes one disgruntled soldier to prove otherwise.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmudiyah_killings


I wish I could upvote this repeatedly. I'm happy to agree that Manning had some good intentions, but he went about implementing them in a wildly irresponsible way. Many of the people who supported his actions have been pointing to the content of the State Department cables as if they abounded with proof of nefariousness while only exposing their own willful ignorance, to the point of seeming upset that American diplomats engage in intelligence-gathering and are not always completely frank in their dealings with foreigners. Almost all of the 'revelations' in the cables were already matters of public knowledge to anyone sufficiently interested in the countries in question anyway. So much so that at one point I wondered if the whole thing were an exercise in Track II diplomacy.


but he went about implementing them in a wildly irresponsible way.

It's possible that the value of the release is greater than the harm from irresponsibility.


That appears unlikely based on the contents of the release. For example, consider the most widely publicized story to emerge from the leaks: Collateral Murder. It turns out that Reuters was given access to this video shortly after the incident, and a detailed description of its contents ran in a newspaper (the Washington Post, IIRC), including time-annotated transcriptions of the radio chatter.


There are those who ascribe the 'Arab Spring' to the data leaked by Manning... I'm just still not sure whether that's good for Manning or bad for Manning.


As a counter point, there are many who ascribe the Arab Spring to a substantial spike in commodity price inflation leading to the self immolation of the peasant in Tunisia which is widely recognized as the key first event leading up to Arab Spring.


This devolves rapidly into politics but for my part I'll say that a credible connection between Wikileaks and the Arab Spring would help affirm the value of the document dump --- though obviously this is a thread about Manning's culpability and I'm with you 100% on that.


Of course, but with a few years' perspective it doesn't seem to have yielded much of value or significance. Mind you, I don't think the harm was so severe either; my hunch is he'll get 10-15 and Obama will commute his sentence or pardon him on leaving office.


Well, history's written by the victors, right? One thing I realized as this story was percolating today was that since it occurred, the value of the release was attacked based on the legality of doing so.


I'm not looking at it that way at all. Please see my grandparent comment for why I am ascribing a fairly low value to the release.


I'm sympathetic with what your saying, but the types of things we learned about our military via these leaks were unbelievable. That our military is perfectly okay with opening fire on reporters and children should not be classified. I, for one, learned that my military's definition of 'atrocity' vastly differs from mine. Was it the right way of doing things? Probably not, but it doesn't seem like there is a way of showing these types of things to the public when most media outlet won't even show the coffins of the soldiers we've lost.


Please keep in mind that there is an ocean-sized gulf between "Manning did in fact leak classified material that he should not have" and "everything the U.S. military and government have ever done is A-OK".

This is also a common refrain among some of Manning's supporters, but I try to treat people and arguments on their own merits. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.


Were any actual revelations about the military in Manning's files? I remember the big Wikileaks surprise being that the Islamists and conspiracy theorists were right that most middle east/north African governments were outright US client states.

The US military's definition of a civilian not including people standing next to other people who carry weapons in public in Iraq shouldn't have been a revelation to anyone, it's not like they were making a secret of it.


The US Army is a colossal murder machine, responsible for unimaginable suffering throughout the entire world. Are you trying to say he's a bad guy because he should have done some editing of it beforehand? Or that he would put his entire future at risk because of some personal troubles?

BTW, Daniel Ellsberg, the most famous whistleblower, has given Manning his full support: http://www.bradleymanning.org/activism/sign-daniel-ellsbergs...

>Bradley Manning has worldwide support because the information he released to the public uncovered human rights abuses and corruption, and contributed to peace and democracy. Nobel Laureates like President Obama shouldn't send Nobel Peace Prize Nominees like Bradley Manning to prison for life! After more than 950 days of pre-trial imprisonment by the US military, and multiple instances of outrageous government conduct, it is time to drop the charges and free Bradley Manning!


My opinion is that Daniel Ellsberg supports Manning for the simple reason that it aids his own activism, even if the facts are not 1:1 the same as his case was.

And that's kind of an important point: Ellsberg helped author the Pentagon Papers and knew full well the import of what he leaked (to an American paper, btw, not Soviet, N. Vietnamese, or neutral party). Despite having a Top Secret clearance Ellsberg didn't leak other classified information that he may have had access to, as it didn't pertain to the lies that the government was feeding the public at the time.


That's all true, but how does it make what Manning did a bad thing? What I think it comes down too is whether or not you think the U.S is a force for good in the world or not.


Just pretend that one of those diplomatic cables contained information about the location within Kyrgyzstan of various nuclear weapons physics packages that were coming up for inspection and disassembly by an American team of experts working on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons from the former USSR ending up in Islamist hands, including approximate location and schedule.

If the possibility of that kind of laser-guided information about where to find enriched nuclear material (for a fission bomb or dirty bomb) doesn't scare you, you're not paying attention.

And that's even assuming that America is the worst thing to happen to the world ever.


"Just pretend that..."

Why? It didn't, so this is a non-issue.

Just pretend that they contained evidence of <insert some hypothetical systemic atrocity>, and now that we know, your mother and children are safe.

Do you see why these are not useful thought experiments?


They are useful in context. When the leak actually happened, in January 2010, it is very likely that Manning (a) knew very little about who was behind Wikileaks and (b) knew very little about the contents of the documents he was providing them other than that they were classified.


That is already known to be incorrect. It's quite evident from his chats that he was reading them regularly.

Also, it doesn't matter. No harm, no foul.


I do not believe that you believe that Manning read all or even most of the documents in the dump. I think you believe like I do that there were a large number of documents in that dump he hadn't read, and could not have judged the safety of leaking.


Even if I grant you that for the sake of argument, what you are saying amounts to "he guessed correctly, but only accidentally, so we should still charge him as though he guessed incorrectly."


Yes, on that point I see we genuinely disagree.


> Why? It didn't, so this is a non-issue.

The reason we can pretend is that we're acting just like Pfc. Manning did; he didn't know what all he was leaking either.

If I was designing a casualty procedure for a nuclear reactor with unknown conditions I would have to assume worst-case scenario.

If I was designing a Ruby gem to convert arbitrary input into executable code I would have to assume worst-case scenario.

And likewise here, if I'm going to move classified information of unknown contents then I should at least consider worst-case assumptions of what that data might contain.

At least I bother to call it pretending. Manning just assumed it would be either "WAR CRIME" or relatively innocuous and got lucky.


The difference is that if your nuclear reactor failed to account for a particular type of disaster that never actually materialized, we would not talk about how you are responsible for radiation poisoning the entire population and charge you accordingly.

If the vulnerability in your ruby gem was found and fixed before any reports of actual attacks, and no reports of attacks ever came out, we would not claim that you are responsible for some arbitrary number of businesses getting owned.


Would we still blame a company for leaking 6.5 million hashed passwords if the hackers decided for whatever strange reason not to take advantage of it?

Would we blame someone for putting arsenic in their spouse's meal if the spouse coincidentally passed up dinner that night?

Would we blame someone who killed a family of 5 by driving drunk on the road even though he or she is way too impaired to think straight?

Whatever else I believe, I believe people are responsible for their own actions. If I mess up and things still don't go screwy it's luck, not a positive reflection on me.


Blame them for what? That is key to this point.

> Would we still blame a company for leaking 6.5 million hashed passwords if the hackers decided for whatever strange reason not to take advantage of it?

I'd blame them for negligence. I would not blame them for the hacks that "strangely" never took place.

> Would we blame someone for putting arsenic in their spouse's meal if the spouse coincidentally passed up dinner that night?

I'd blame them for attempted murder, and this analogy has nothing to do with anything.

> Would we blame someone who killed a family of 5 by driving drunk on the road even though he or she is way too impaired to think straight?

Blame them for killing someone they actually killed? Sure, no brainer.

The analogies are getting ridiculous, as analogies always do, so let's both avoid those.

What I wouldn't do is blame someone for the death of many people when no one actually died. Analogies be damned, this just makes no sense to do.


This is an important and interesting discussion, and I appreciate your viewpoint from the "inside" as it were. Let me try to explain my civilian perspective.

As one of the (unwilling) funders of the Afghan war, I believe it's in my best interest to have as much truthful information available to me as possible, although of course there are a very few specific things that need to be kept secret, at least for a time. However, as the leaked documents showed, we as funders were being provided a very distorted picture of what was actual happening. As the LA Times said, commenting on the leaks, "no democracy can or should fight a war without the consent of its people, and that consent is only meaningful if it is predicated on real information."

With respect to the harmful effects of what was leaked: "In October, the Pentagon concluded that the leak "did not disclose any sensitive intelligence sources or methods", and that furthermore 'there has not been a single case of Afghans needing protection or to be moved because of the leak."

Manning's motives may not have been completely pure, but I still strongly believe that he did the right thing.


I don't at all disagree with ensuring that the public has all of the information available to them that can possibly be provided; that's already how it's supposed to work.

I'm not on the inside of the Army but I'll say that much of what was leaked (as described by the Guardian, et al) was not that surprising, but that's because I was paying attention to existing public-source news, blogs, etc.

But if Manning managed to only leak material that was already kind of out there, that was only by sheer luck (the first nuclear bomb killed no one after all; it was detonated in the middle of nowhere).

> With respect to the harmful effects of what was leaked

This is what we call "no harm; no foul". It's not something I believe in with regard to classified information (at least when you can't be bothered to actually read through the classified information).

The reasoning is simple: Let's say for example that I tie you down and move to shoot you and realize I'm out of ammo. So I duck out of the hut to get more, and when I return you've been freed by a passing bystander.

No harmful effects came to you, right? So I should just be free to go, right? No harm, no foul, after all.


The fact that whistleblowing through official channels sometimes works does not prove that it always does. In the chat logs Lamo released, Manning cites one of his motivations as being how his superiors did not at all care about some of the corruption he found.

And I don't see why you see a distinction between what Manning did and what Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg doesn't see much of a difference: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-19/us/wikileaks.ellsberg.man...


Well you don't get to complain about official channels when you don't make any attempt to use them. I mentioned how Pfc. Watt didn't trust his superiors on purpose to show that you could still blow the whistle with a non-sympathetic chain-of-command.

For Ellsberg I'll just paste my comment from below:

My opinion is that Daniel Ellsberg supports Manning for the simple reason that it aids his own activism, even if the facts are not 1:1 the same as his case was.

And that's kind of an important point: Ellsberg helped author the Pentagon Papers and knew full well the import of what he leaked (to an American paper, btw, not Soviet, N. Vietnamese, or neutral party). Despite having a Top Secret clearance Ellsberg didn't leak other classified information that he may have had access to, as it didn't pertain to the lies that the government was feeding the public at the time.


So you lose the right to object anywhere if you do not try the channels provided by the wrong doer to begin with? That makes no sense.

If I see a company engaging in illegal/unethical activity, by your logic I can only go elsewhere after I try to resolve it with them. However what trust do I have that my complaint will be handled well? Moreover if they are in a position of authority over me my only guarantee of protection is a weakly enforced whistle blower law that can be disregarded in cases of national security.

Also, what is your test for acceptable outlet? The NYT is okay but a media outlet without the history of the Grey Lady is not? And Ellsberg gets a pass because he was selective in what he passed on? Honestly if Ellsberg knew about atrocities NOT associated with Vietnam then he should have opened up about those as well.


We're not talking about "company policy" here, we're talking about U.S. law, and the international military concept in general.

Among the many other elements that go into signing away a few years of your life on a DD-2, is that you do in fact swear or affirm that you will use official channels where available, especially in the context of divulging information relative to the security of the 300+ million other citizens you've sworn to defend.

He didn't even bother to try, and this was only some scant years after Pfc. Justin Watt proved it could be done.

Please don't compare your Initech Employee Handbook to life and death conflict as if they're exactly equivalent.


According to Kohlberg's theory of moral development, recognizing rule of law as the authority is only the fourth of six stages. Manning's actions and stated intentions are consistent with the fifth or sixth stages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg%27s_stages_of...

One could take the position that his stated intentions were lies and that he was actually acting consistent with the second stage (self-interest). But all we can do there is speculate unproductively.

In any case, law seems like a silly standard to base a moral argument on, and there is no shortage of obviously dumb laws, in addition to outright malicious laws.


This misses the important fact that, as pointed out by mpyne, soldiers do indeed swear specifically to uphold certain rules. The law is not always just, but if you mostly-voluntarily swear to uphold it you'd better have good reasons to go back on your promise.


> According to Kohlberg's theory of moral development, recognizing rule of law as the authority is only the fourth of six stages.

Where does "I will keep the promises I make to other people" fall into there?


Those 300+ million citizens he swore to defend deserve the truth and there is no law which justifies them not knowing it. We've lost too much to find so little:

http://costsofwar.org


Well you don't get to complain about official channels when you don't make any attempt to use them.

I guess that's right. Maybe the more salient point is that obviously official channels would not want to send such a huge volume of documents to journalists, so it would have been a useless exercise to try to go through official channels. Worse than useless, actually, as after that he would never have had the opportunity to leak the material again.

even if the facts are not 1:1 the same as his case was.

No two things are 1:1 outside of mathematics. For instance, Ellsberg leaked material classified as "top secret" while Manning didn't leak such sensitive material. But overall, these things are pretty close, though. Manning knew full well the import of what he leaked as well: a lot of import. Neither Manning nor Ellsberg knew every detail in what they leaked, as the volume was tremendous.

to an American paper, btw, not Soviet, N. Vietnamese, or neutral party

Not sure why it matters if you leak it to an American journalist or an Australian journalist or whatever. What if he leaked to a French national working for the NY Times, or an American living abroad? Would that change things?


Well you don't get to complain about official channels when you don't make any attempt to use them.

Why not? As long as he isn't saying that he did try the channels and they didn't work, that doesn't invalidate the observation that they don't tend to work (or whatever).


I linked in an example of where they did work... you've said only that people claim they don't work in general... I have data and you have anecdote. Can you try to do better before declaring victory on that point? :P


> I have data and you have anecdote.

That's not true. You have anecdote and GP has speculation.


It's cool, I'll just re-link it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmudiyah_killings


I think we're in "exception doesn't prove the rule" territory.


His unit and direct superiors were, by all accounts, worthless as human beings and as soldiers.

However, the DOD IG, MNF-I HQ, or congress could have wielded effective oversight.


> Pfc. Manning did none of this. He didn't alert U.S. Army CID, the U.S. Army Inspector General (IG), the DoD IG, an American friend back home, a fellow soldier, or even the American media (as the Pentagon papers had been revealed).

Actually, he did alert the American media. Specifically, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

http://gawker.com/5987634/bradley-manning-tried-to-leak-to-t...


Did you even read the article you linked?

He talked in vague terms to a WaPo reporter.

He canceled leaking the helicopter video to Politico because of weather.

He "left a voicemail" with the public editor of the New York Times saying that he had something very important. How many of /those/ calls do they get in a day?

But let's say you're right, and we'll call "trying a wee little bit to alert the American media" good. That was #6 on my list (I didn't even count "inform your shrink", btw). What happened to #1-#5?

And why did he leak classified material that he didn't read, that was not evidence of war crimes?

If you're just going to chisel on a single point of my wall of text then by all means go for it. In the meantime I'll see if I can edit to include how he almost managed to work up the cojones to drop the bombshell at an American newspaper but couldn't muster enough motivation, because I certainly don't want to be even slighty non-factual on HN.


I fully agree.

I also find the duration and character of his pre trial detention to be unconscionable. I believe it is reasonable to suspect him of crimes which, if guilty, would warrant decades or life in prison.

Yet, it may be that he should be released to punish the government for his detention and prevent them from doing the same in the future.


Why add the aside about Wall St. banking? You are perhaps doing exactly what you despise: "the narrative of the facts has been warped into something that isn't true".

If you aren't a Wall Street banker or have deep knowledge in that area, why even comment on it?


I'm sorry if I gave off the impression that all/most Wall St. bankers are dirtbags, as I can't confirm that for exactly the reason you state. However I didn't think it would be too controversial that there are some who have taken action for the greater good of their bank and not for the greater good of the whole market though (or at least that was what all the media seemed to be saying at points over the past few years).


Your post has a few small inaccuracies... The media weren't helpful for what should have been the story of the decade. The info was filtered at least once before publicizing it.

However there is also a bias in tone of your post. Reminds me of those I have heard before regarding whistle-blower Police officers. Fellow officers are highly motivated to dig up any dirt and paint a picture that the person is nuts and didn't belong, or had a vendetta, etc, etc. Rather than the scenario where an honest person decided they had enough.

Each case is different of course, so pardon the bluntness, but your post is exactly what I'd like to hear if I were a fellow soldier.


That's actually kind of disappointing to hear... I'm a sailor.


It is slightly surreal for me to see somebody posting here with my name and such different perspectives to mine on the topics being discussed. I have to double-take each time I read one of your comments and see the poster name. Greetings from 'the other' mpyne :D


:D

I just feel sorry for the many other M. Pynes in Australia with my name. I jumped on the right GMail address and all the other ones have had to go without (though it doesn't stop their friends/associates from occasionally sending me mail meant for them).


Yes, look at all that data he had access to.

I have no sympathy for the officials who armed Manning and the rest of the military with the infosec equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Why did they have that info if it was so potentially dangerous? Privates in the military were given ALL of that data? Really?

Manning may be guilty, but the negligence goes all the way up.


> I have no sympathy for the officials who armed Manning and the rest of the military with the infosec equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Why did they have that info if it was so potentially dangerous?

The reason was 9/11. Did they go overboard? Hell yeah they did, but that's how the military seems to operate (possibly the gov't too, who knows). It's always penduluming from one extreme to the next, they can never simply do the exact right thing.


How many waterboardings did that take?


Looks like they finally broke him.


He's spent a good % of his life in prison, he's facing spending the rest in prison. Admirable that he is attempting to try and take the heat off of WikiLeaks/Assange, even after the incarceration he has already suffered (and likely to suffer into the future).

If only more people were like him. Hell, how many people do you hear about, who, when charged with a crime put their hand up and say "Yes, I did it". Not many, even for simple things like traffic violations.


Pleas are actually very common. If he refused, then there would be people posting on how admirable it was that he stuck to his guns.


This is off topic, but in Japan it's not uncommon for people who commit serious crimes to turn themselves in at the nearest Koban. (There is also a large percentage of coerced guilty pleas --it's claimed that JP justice kind of mistreats (wears down people) to capitulate and assume responsibility) you can be held up to a month wihout charge or access to lawyers (formal arrest vs voluntary police custody). On the other hand JP police tend to only take on cases where they are very likely to win conviction --hence the very high conviction rate in Japan ~99% vs high 80s for the US. This habit leads to cases where police establish 'people fall down stairs' and die rather than pursue a murder conviction where the outcome is uncertain.




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