First, a disclaimer, Private First Class Bradley Manning is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This article discusses alleged actions and crimes only and will explore what should happen to him if he is found guilty of the offenses of which he is accused and how background colors the opinions of people commenting him.
I've been reading articles and comments from many of my progressive friends about how great they think Wikileaks is and how they think Manning and Assange are heroes. I have to admit that after the first item of interest leaked by Wikileaks, the video of what seems to be a US helicopter firing on unarmed civilians in Iraq, I thought to myself, this organization Wikileaks has done something important here. What happened in that video needs to be investigated. It might turn out to be totally innocent, but it looks bad and needs investigation.
I thought that was the point of Wikileaks, to highlight issues that need investigation. I was therefore extremely disappointed when I heard that the next thing being released was over 250,000 miscellaneous materials that are mostly diplomatic cables that suggest no wrongdoing that needs to be investigated. That was the beginning of my disillusionment with Wikileaks and as more information came out about the materials, their source, and the institution targeted, that disillusionment only grew.
Bradley Manning, a Private First Class in the US Army, is allegedly the source of the 250,000+ documents released by Wikileaks in the past month or so. The story goes that Manning, who had a security clearance and access to several sensitive repositories of sensitive US government information, brought some re-writeable CD media to work, Lady Gaga music if memory serves, and he erased that music and downloaded sensitive documents onto that CD media from the US Government's SIPRNet service. SIPRNet or The Secret Internet Protocol Router Network is described by Wikipedia as:
"a system of interconnected computer networks used by the United States Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State to transmit classified information (up to and including information classified SECRET) by packet switching over the TCP/IP protocols in a 'completely secure' environment". It also provides services such as hypertext document access and electronic mail. As such, SIPRNet is the DoD's classified version of the civilian Internet. SIPRNet is the SECRET component of the Defense Information Systems Network.
Before we go further, additional discussions of the classification of sensitive documents are in order. There are three classifications of sensitive documents in the United States, they are "Classified", "Secret" and "Top Secret". Wikipedia describes those classifications as:
Top secret - This is the highest security level that if publicly disclosed would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security.