4 Reasons Bradley Manning Deserves the Medal of Freedom
Continued from previous page
President Obama came into office promising a “sunshine” policy for his administration while singing the praises of whistleblowers. He has since launched the fiercest campaign against whistleblowers the republic has ever seen, and further plunged our foreign policy into the shadows. Challenging the classification of each tightly guarded document is, however, impossible. No organization has the resources to fight this fight, nor would they be likely to win right now. Absent a radical change in our government’s diplomatic and military bureaucracies, massive over-classification will only continue.
If we hope to know what our government is actually doing in our name globally, we need massive leaks from insider whistleblowers to journalists who can then sort out what we need to know, given that the government won’t. This, in fact, has been the modus operandi of WikiLeaks. Our whistleblower protection laws urgently need to catch up to this state of affairs, and though we are hardly there yet, Bradley Manning helped take us part of the way. He did what Barack Obama swore he would do on coming into office. For striking a blow against our government’s fanatical insistence on covering its mistakes and errors with blanket secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves not punishment, but the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
4. At immense personal cost, Bradley Manning has upheld a great American tradition of transparency in statecraft and for that he should be an American hero, not an American felon.
Bradley Manning is only the latest in a long line of whistleblowers in and out of uniform who have risked everything to put our country back on the right path.
Take Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, a Pentagon-commissioned secret history of the Vietnam War and the official lies and distortions that the government used to sell it. Many of the documents it included were classed at a much higher security clearance than anything Bradley Manning is accused of releasing -- and yet Ellsberg was not convictedof a single crime and became a national hero.
Given the era when all this went down, it’s forgivable to assume that Ellsberg must have been a hippie who somehow sneaked into the Pentagon archives, beads and patchouli trailing behind him. What many no longer realize is that Ellsberg had been a model U.S. Marine. First in his class at officer training school at Quantico, he deferred graduate school at Harvard to remain on active duty in the Marine Corps. Ellsberg saw his high-risk exposure of the disastrous and deceitful nature of the Vietnam War as fully consonant with his long career of patriotic service in and out of uniform.
Transparency in statecraft was not invented last week by WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange. It is a longstanding American tradition. James Madison put the matter succinctly: “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”
A 1960 Congressional Committee on Government Operations report caught the same spirit: “Secrecy -- the first refuge of incompetents -- must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society… Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognize that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people.” John F. Kennedy made the same point in 1961: “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.” Hugo Black, great Alabaman justice of the twentieth-century Supreme Court had this to say: “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.” And the first of World-War-I-era president Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points couldn’t have been more explicit: “ Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”