UPDATED 1 Mar 2013 to add Comment from Paul Harper at Google+.
The US Government is incredibly stupid about counterintelligence. They learned nothing from the Falcon and the Snowman, and it is clear that the defense team for Bradley Manning will be able to bracket the charges with a) government misconduct as revealed in the cables merited disclosure; b) government ineptitude at failing to protect sensitive communications from easy internal theft; and c) more government misconduct in violation of the Constitution with cruel and unusual punishment.
Julie Tate and Ernesto Londono
Washington Post, 28 February 2013
The Army private charged in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history pleaded guilty to 10 charges Thursday and offered an impassioned defense of his actions, arguing that he sought to spark a national debate about what he described as the nation’s obsession with “killing and capturing people.”
The testimony marked Pfc. Bradley Manning’s first detailed account of his disclosure of a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents in 2010 to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization he said he approached after he was unable to entice The Washington Post and the New York Times.
Phi Beta Iota: We certainly do not condone any violation of the security standards in place, but the US Government has been grossly irresponsible about computer and communications security since the 1980’s and the 1990’s, ignoring expert warnings and expert recommendations with respect to making pre-emptive investments in 1994 and onwards. Not only should Manning not have been able to download documents to a removable device, most of what he downloaded should never have been visible to him in the first place. His lawyers can certainly argue, persuasively, that the government misbehavior revealed by various disclosed materials, was legitimately of public concern equal to the Pentagon Papers (Ellsberg walked because of government misbehavior — fast forward to the morons at Quantico keeping him naked and freezing for days on end and all the other derelictions of duty and active acts of malfeasance surrounding how the government has handled this). Our understanding from open sources is that there have been much much larger “leaks” to foreign governments — not just China, but Israel, Germany, and others — but these vast leaks — including almost total vacuuming of NSA at Fort Meade over the power grid — the government keeps secret. Manning’s sin is not that he leaked classified information, but that the public learned of the leak. Most interesting to us is that Manning is as far removed from Ellsberg as he could be (in class, education, and sexual orientation), but the US Government is precisely the same today as it was during Viet-Nam. There is a profound message in there somewhere, and on balance Manning, whatever his flaws, however “illegal” his actions, comes out as vastly more righteous than the government that seeks to mistreat him some more. It merits observation that it is government misbehavior that costs the government its legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens, and it is that loss of legitimacy that inspires individual misbehavior. The government is as culpable as any other party.