There is a lot of controversy over the posting on WikiLeaks of the ‘Afghan War Diary’ . The most focal of these arguments seems to be what to do with PVT Manning. The question that comes to my mind is, was he looking for his 15 minutes of fame or was he ‘doing little evil to do greater good’? The only way to know for sure is to be inside the mind of PVT Manning. IF he was whistle-blowing, his method was not super smart, in all honesty if he was attempting to save lives then he should have secured the names of persons that he knowingly put at greater risk. Regardless of his initial intent, his final accomplishment seems to show a lack for compassion for the Afghan people and no loyalty or commitment to his fellow soldier. I have to wonder if maybe his reasoning got lost in the possibilities of being some kind of distorted hero.
Representative Mike Rogers (Rep. MI), has stated that if PVT Manning isn’t charged with treason, which carries a death sentence if found guilty, then he should be charged with murder. I think that Rep. Rogers need a couple law courses. According to the Constitution of the United States, treason against the United States consists only in levying war against the country/government, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort. So to charge PVT Manning they would have to show that he gave aid to our enemy, now most that are against the accused will say that by releasing the information that he has aided the enemy. While that reach is certainly a factual argument, I would hope that the Supreme Court would be more cautious in its interpretation of the Constitution’s definition. If what PVT Manning did, unless certain malicious intent is confessed or proven, is considered as treason then a very dangerous precedent will have been set and the broadness of the definition will be too wide for well-intended individuals to work within.
As for the other charges of murder for the deaths of any Afghans or service-members, while hopefully PVT Manning understands the implication of leaving names visible in the documents and is willing to assume the moral responsibility for those deaths, it would be an investigative nightmare to prove a direct connection between PVT Manning and the deaths of any persons named in the “Afghan War Diary.” Furthermore, that connection will be required to properly convict PVT Manning of murder or even conspiracy to commit murder. Now if you want to look at something doable in the legal system, not with-standing the numerous charges under federal law and the UCMJ that he will face, you can certainly charge and probably convict him of reckless endangerment for each and every person named in the leaked documents. Under reckless endangerment you do not have to prove intent just that the actions of one placed another in danger of life or injury. There are other charges that could also be leveled against PVT Manning for the recklessness of his actions in regards to the Afghan people and service members stationed in the combat zone.
While, I feel that PVT Manning should be held completely accountable for his actions, the greater issue is just how a private in the United States Military was able to gain access, authorized or not, to such documents. These documents should not, at least in their full bodies, been in positions accessible to just anyone. The DOD and State Department may want to proclaim to the ends of the earth that those documents were not accessible, their publication on the Internet clearly show that not only were they accessible they were not even cleaned. Yes, whole original documents should be maintained in some form that is absolutely secure for thousands of reasons including protecting innocent lives and actions, not to jeopardize those same innocent lives and actions. As of today that is not the situation, but hopefully will be the primary focus of the intelligence arms of both the State and Defense departments.
As a footnote, I find Julian Assange’s complete dismissal of allegations that innocent persons are now in greater danger with the release of these documents to be totally callous and ignorant. Of course every citizen of Afghanistan that is mentioned in the leaked documents that is still alive will be placed in greater danger now, not to mention the innocent family members of said individuals and that does include children. If Mr. Assange thinks that the insurgents do not use the internet to further their activities then he is either incredible stupid or he lives with his head stuck in the sand. In all honesty, I find Mr. Julian Assange to be negligent in his responsibilities to innocent citizens of the world by not having in place a review of submissions that insure that no innocent lives are threatened. Had such a review been in place, the names could have been removed from the documents before their publication. That in no way would have distracted from the impact of information contained in the documents but would have proven to be of humane and moral responsible action. If Julian Assange is fortunate he will never be on the receiving end of the danger that those Afghan citizens now find themselves, however if he does, at least in my direction, any pleas from him will fall on half deaf ears.