Like it or not, Bradley Manning broke his military oaths

Bradley Manning
Bradley Manning

The condemnation of Bradley Manning is similar to when Daniel Ellsberg came out with the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971. Looking back, I can remember my first gut reaction. I felt a deep seeded happiness that perhaps some of the lies and public rhetoric were finally going to be set right. I was young and naïve and I believed in the goodness of men, even after my tour in Vietnam. Although it took over twenty-five years, the purveyors of these lies slowly came clean and admitted to the American public that they had misled the world regarding our actions in Southeast Asia.

A little background:

The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967 is a study prepared by the US Department of Defense. It is a history of the United States’ political-military involvement in Vietnam during that period. The papers were first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of The New York Times in 1971. A 1996 article in The New York Times said that the Pentagon Papers “demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance”. The report was declassified and publicly released by the government in June 2011.

Ellsberg surrendered to authorities in Boston and admitted that he had given the papers to the press back in 71. He was later indicted on charges of stealing and holding secret documents by a grand jury in Los Angeles. Federal District Judge William Matthew Byrne, Jr. declared a mistrial and dismissed all charges against Ellsberg [and Russo] on May 11, 1973 after several irregularities appeared in the government’s case.

Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg

The irregularities included a claim that it had lost records of illegal wiretapping against Ellsberg conducted by the White House Plumbers in the contemporaneous Watergate scandal. Byrne ruled that “The totality of the circumstances of this case which I have only briefly sketched offend a sense of justice. The bizarre events have incurably infected the prosecution of this case.”

God bless the 9th Federal District Court. They threw the whole thing out of court on a mistrial and Mr. Ellsberg was a happy camper as was the New York Times and the vast majority of progressive leaning citizens.

Daniel Ellsberg was never a member of our armed forces though, he never had to take an oath to protect us from “all enemies both foreign and domestic” and “uphold the U. S. Constitution”. He never had to sign his name to a copy of the Code of Military Justice. Bradley Manning did both these things, so his legal situation is unfortunately very different.

Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder fits the mold of Daniel Ellsberg, and he’s held up in an Embassy in London (it doesn’t really matter that it is Ecuador’s.). Mr. Assange has few little details to work out before he can venture out in public again, but I have the same gut feelings toward him as I did for Mr. Ellsberg.

Bradley Manning, not so much I’m afraid. He stood up and took the Oath, and for that I will applaud him. What followed was an act of Treason, which in a time of War is punishable by death. He knew this going in. He will be extremely lucky to get away with a simple life term in the brig.

Still, I must admit to having empathy for both players as I feel they did a huge favor for the American Public, quite possibly for the whole of Persia. Whatever the legality, perhaps this document release will hasten our Military’s withdrawal from a region of the earth it has no further business in.


  1. Good Piece Hutch, though I do have a slight disagreement when it comes to the definition of “treason” in this case. Though I concede I do not have a military background like yours, Bradley Manning did not release anything to any “enemy” combatant, nor did the information he released incriminate anyone in the army specifically. He released a video that showed a US helicopter crew massacering a Reuters camera crew, and later a man and his kids in a van that were trying to take the surving Reuters crew to safety. No soldier’s face appears on camera, and there’s no audio, so no one’s name is mentioned. And this video he did release, he did not give it to Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Unless WikiLeaks counts as an enemy combatant group, the argument he released information to “the enemy” is just not legally valid in my opinion.

    Also, remember that reporters have released classified info about the military before and they were never brought up on treason. Bob Woodward released a report about a secret US backed paramilitary forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that were run by the CIA, this was classified info, where’s his treason trial? I understand in the military things are different than what a civilian would do, but even still I can’t see how in the context of what Manning did even qualifies as treason, unless treason rules are different in the military than in civilian life. Manning even tried to go through military channels with the info he had, yet they all told him to shut up and forget about what he had. Th military, as I’m sure you know better than I, is not in the business of making itself look bad. I think Manning did the greater good, and honestly I don’t think he committed treason at all in this case.

    • Julian, thank you for your comment, and I respect your right to an opinion that may differ from mine. The implicit and explicit definitions of treason are very different in the Military. Any information that is “leaked” and considered “secret” is considered a treasonous act no matter who receives said leaked information (it doesn’t have to be “enemy combatants”). So, yes, I think there is a big difference in who leaks the information. I still think that the whole process of leaking and publishing will hasten the U.S. withdrawal from the Near East, in general.It certainly helped with the Viet Nam War.

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