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Bradley Manning: The Face of Heroism

Courage is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged Friday he chose to undertake.

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Manning is absolutely right when he said Friday that the documents he leaked "are some of the most significant documents of our time". They revealed a  multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by the world's most powerful factions. Journalists and even  some government officials have repeatedly concluded that any actual national security harm from his leaks is minimal if it exists at all. To this day, the documents Manning just admitted having leaked play a prominent role in the ability of journalists around the world to inform their readers about vital events. The leaks led to  all sorts of journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Without question, Manning's leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.

This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which  the top UN torture investigator deemed "cruel and inhuman", and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.

Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged Friday he chose to undertake. The combination of extreme government secrecy, a supine media (see the  prior two columns), and a disgracefully subservient judiciary means that the only way we really learn about what our government does is when the Daniel Ellsbergs - and Bradley Mannings - of the world risk their own personal interest and liberty to alert us. Daniel Ellberg is now widely viewed as heroic and noble, and Bradley Manning (as Ellsberg himself has repeatedly said) merits that praise and gratitude every bit as much.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer and a Guardian columnist until October 2013, has earned numerous awards for his commentary and investigative journalism, including most recently the 2013 George Polk Award for national security reporting. In early 2014, he cofounded a new global media outlet, The Intercept. This essay is adapted from his new book,No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State(Metropolitan Books), published today.

 
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