Bradley Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, but he was found guilty of 19 lesser counts against him. He now could face up to 130 years in prison. Five of the charges he was found guilty of were based on the Espionage Act of 1917. When the law was written, however, it was never designed to address the issue of whistleblowers.
A law that was designed to be used to prevent delivering intelligence to foreign governments is being used to prevent delivering information to the American people. The argument is that by telling the public, the foreign governments will hear it too. In this system, what means are there to inform the public about illegal government activity? If the government is doing something illegal, but notifying the public of the illegal activity would indirectly help our enemies, what should a whistleblower do? Is a soldier’s primary responsibility to uphold the U.S. Constitution or protect the American people?
Under the Obama Administration, seven sets of charges alleging unauthorized removal and disclosure of secrets have been filed. That is more than double the number any other administration has ever filed after only five years in office. Every single one of these involved leaks not to foreign governments, but to the media. While the First Amendment and media shield laws may offer some protection to the reporters, their sources are woefully under protected. Without these sources, the press is completely impotent.
Current laws protecting whistleblowers have a large exception when it comes to matters of national defense. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 includes language stipulating that a leak is protected only “…if such disclosure is not specifically prohibited by law and if such information is not specifically required by Executive Order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs…” This gives a president wide discretion on what constitutes classified information.
The Guardian, Bradley Manning Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/30/bradley-manning-trial-verdict-live
Reuters, Quotes from the Bradley Manning WikiLeaks Court-Martial: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/30/us-usa-wikileaks-manning-quotes-idUSBRE96T0SN20130730
The Wall Street Journal, Manning Acquitted of Aiding the Enemy: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323854904578637681374754140.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories
The Wall Street Journal, Information Leaked by Manning Ranged from Iraq to Guantanamo: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324170004578637970624211236.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories
The Wall Street Journal, White House’s Aggressive Campaign to Guard Secrets: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323854904578637682094595380.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories
U.S. Department of Labor, The Whistleblower Protection Program: http://www.whistleblowers.gov/
RT, Senator Proposes National Whistleblower Day on Same Date As Manning Verdict: http://rt.com/usa/chuck-grassley-whistleblower-day-809/
Legal Dictionary, Espionage Act of 1917: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Espionage+Act+of+1917
Government Accountability Project, GAP Statement on the Bradley Manning Verdict: http://www.whistleblower.org/press/press-release-archive/2013/2855-gap-statement-on-the-bradley-manning-verdict
News OK, A List of Charges and Verdicts in the Case of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning
Encyclopedia Britannica, Pentagon Papers: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/450326/Pentagon-Papers
Santa Clara University, “Repugnant Philosophy”: Ethics, Espionage, and Covert Action: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/Perry/repugnant.html