Bradley Manning is the U.S. Army private who is accused of leaking information to the website Wikileaks. I have been sorting out my feelings on the Wikileaks controversy, torn between a desire for openness and freedom versus a desire for America’s Government to be able to operate securely and effectively. I have quickly begun to lean in favor of prosecuting the guilty and shutting down Wikileaks. Considering the story of Bradley Manning led me in this direction.
First of all, I will concede that I do not know Manning and can not make any judgements about him. With that assumption, I can still justify an angry sense of ethical indignation against anyone who would take classified information and release it to total strangers. What he did was steal, and he stole something that belongs to every American, despite the fact that few of us can access it. Whomever revealed this information, they did so as a selfish act. They had no right to make that decision on their own, when so many other Americans were laboring tirelessly to secure that information and add value to it. This is a democracy where we make decisions through group consensus; the leaker of this information acted like a dictator when he made this decision without consulting a larger group of stakeholders.
Now what if Manning is guilty as charged? Assuming that some of what is written about him is true, Manning had a frustrating childhood and is socially awkward. That leads me to believe that he is less a martyr for the cause, and more of an unstable personality using this opportunity to lash out at a world that never met his desires to belong and be accepted. If the stories of Manning’s personal life are true, then I sympathize with him and wish that humans put a higher value on treating each other with mutual respect. However, that does not justify his actions anymore than it justified Jeffery Dahmer or Timothy McVeigh.
Leaking these videos and documents puts lives at risk, damages the reputation of a great nation, and diminishes or even nullifies the efforts of hundreds of dedicated professionals working for the causes of freedom and American interests. If he had a document that exposed a blatant act such as those that occurred at My Lai or Abu Graib, then this would be a very different conversation. In the case of Wikileaks, we just have a dump of data, the contents of which are unknown and the ramifications unconsidered. That is more than just unethical. That is treasonous.
Originally posted on Perceptions of Reality.