Opinion Brief

WikiLeaks leaker: Traitor or national hero?

Military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning has been arrested for leaking the damaging "Collateral Murder" video. Is the Army overreacting?  

The apparent source of the controversial WikiLeaks video "Collateral Murder" — a classified 2007 clip which showed a U.S. helicopter gunning down a Reuters journalist, his driver, and other innocent Iraqi civilians — has been caught. Army intelligence Spc. Bradley Manning, 22, was turned into authorities by a computer hacker after he bragged of his exploits over IM and e-mail from his base, 40 miles east of Baghdad. Manning also said he leaked some 260,000 classified diplomatic cables exposing U.S. foreign policy warts, which is reportedly causing major jitters at the State Department. Do Manning's leaks make him a "national hero," as WikiLeaks' Julian Assange tweeted, or a villain who compromised national security? (Watch a Russia Today report about the WikiLeaks informant)

The only crime here is against Manning: These videos and documents were classified because they are "embarrassing," says Lew Rockwell in his LRC Blog. Should sharing them with the whistle-blowers at WikiLeaks merit being "kidnapped" by your own government? The only "war crimes" committed here were by the "happy soldiers" Manning exposed in the "Collateral Murder" video. That makes Manning a "military hero," not a villain."Military hero arrested"

Manning is a traitor: If Manning really thought he was bringing "wrongdoers to justice," says Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee, he had plenty of legitimate "avenues to blow the whistle." Instead, he went all vigilante, and in the process committed what "would seem to be the very definition of treason. I don't know if they still hang spies from treason, but they should.""Brad Manning, I hope they hang you high"

Manning doesn't matter much in the big picture: The Pentagon had to spend a few days reacting to the "Collateral Murder" video, says Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic, but "WikiLeaks' direct impact on U.S. policy has been, so far, rather negligible." Manning comes across as "a young, isolated, lonely figure ... aggrieved at the policy failures of his government." Crime or not, his mistake was having "bragged about his exploits" to a computer-hacker "snitch.""Main WikiLeaks source outed"

Update: This story was updated on June 9, 2010.

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