The Fine Line on Bradley Manning: Traitor or Whistleblower?

Yahoo Contributor Network

Yahoo asked military service members, veterans and others to react to Bradley Manning's acquittal on charges that he aided the enemy when he leaked classified government documents. Manning, a former U.S. Army soldier arrested in 2010, was found guilty of lesser charges on Tuesday. Here's one perspective.

COMMENTARY | Anyone who has access to classified material has a very fine line to walk. We are entrusted with guarding the nation's secrets under the strictest of penalties and, of course, we are threatened with being labeled a "traitor."

It would seem like a fairly easy arrangement: Don't release classified material to unauthorized person, and one may avoid a trip to Ft. Leavenworth. Unfortunately, there is a risk that one takes with accepting that responsibility, and that is the risk of keeping a secret that violates one's personal sense of morality.

Bradley Manning faced that difficult scenario, and he had to make an impossible choice: Keep the secrets as obligated by law, or leak the information in order to right what he perceived as affronts to human rights. He chose the latter, and now he will pay the price for it.

But does that make him a traitor?

The talking heads use words like "espionage" and "traitor" to describe men like Manning, but those words are hollow, at best, considering the meaning of Manning's actions are not put into context.

The verdict was correct: Manning is not a traitor.

In fact, Manning is a patriot of the highest order. The great 20th century philosopher, Albert Camus, once said that loving one's country means holding it to the highest standard. If that is the case, then any time someone reveals the wrong-doings of this country to the public, the whistleblower has exercised the highest form of patriotism.

Could Manning have gone about this in a different way? Perhaps. But he knew that every one of his superiors, straight to the very top of the chain, were willing to say nothing about these violations of human decency. Is it any wonder that he did not trust military justice to do the right thing? Would anyone know about any of this information had he not leaked it?

Manning may have broken the law, but the court verdict was right: Manning is not a traitor.

Jack Camwell served in the U.S. Navy from 2002 to 2006 as a cryptologist on board the USS San Jacinto. He has direct experience and working knowledge of military intelligence.

View Comments (4)