Most comments about PFC Bradley Manning miss the obviously obvious here. To see what Manning accomplished in his nearly-impossible situation, we must take into account at least five sets of rules: those for his job as a security analyst; for his oath; for the regulations, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and for the Nuremberg Principles. What he did with the myriad documents precisely satisfies each of these rules.
Principle IV of the Nuremberg principles applies to the situation in which Manning reports that he found himself. "Principle IV states: 'The fact that a person acted pursuant to [an] order of his Government or a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him'." I believe we cannot see what PFC Manning accomplished, in the nearly-impossible situation in which he found himself, unless we take into account the requirements of his job as a security analyst, of his oath, of "regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice," of the Nuremberg principles, etc. Mr. Manning found "a moral choice [that] was in fact possible to him." And it exactly satisfied the requirements of his job, his oath, the "regulations"" (as I understand them), etc.: He reported the crimes to the highest authorities that exist--the civilian citizens of the world.
These days, I note a furor of opposing commentary on several related topics: on Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, the late Aaron Swartz, etc. Regardless of their particular slant (pro, con, or other), most commentators, so far, seem to have remarkably similar narrow fields of vision--a bit of difficulty seeing what I regard as the obviously obvious, here.
The rules PFC Manning swore to follow
For a specific example, please consider the reported behavior of PFC Manning. In the article by Timothy Gatto, entitled "If Truth is Treason: Bradley Manning," published in OpEdNews on 7 May 2013, Mr. Gatto quotes the oath which Manning, as a PFC in the Army with a security clearance, took:
"I, XXXXXXXXXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Mr. Gatto infers that, "So in reality, Bradley Manning violated his oath."
But to me, the oath does not say, "And I will obey the orders" [of my superiors], "no matter what ."
I do not pretend to an intimate understanding of "regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." But--granting me my lack of expertise on these legal matters--as I understand it, "regulations and the Uniform Code of Justice" require military personnel to notice crimes against peace , war crimes and crimes against humanity , and more ordinary (as we all hope) crimes against the civil legal code. Furthermore, they require such personnel to report to their legitimate superiors any crimes that they observe (in an effective fashion--so that the legitimate superiors can put a stop to these criminal practices).
Furthermore, Principle IV of the Nuremberg principles applies to the situation in which Manning reports that he found himself. As the Wikipedia article on "Nuremberg principles" puts it,
Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to [an] order of his Government or a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
The principle could be paraphrased as follows: "It is not an acceptable excuse to say 'I was just following my superior's orders'." (Wikipedia, "Nuremberg principles," accessed 12 May 2013 )
This principle in effect requires military personnel to distinguish between "lawful orders" and "illegal orders." If the subordinate person in the military notices crimes and does not effectively report them, he makes himself part of a conspiracy to accomplish the illegal acts--and thus makes himself responsible (culpable) under international law. And the Nuremberg principles form a part of US law. (But please notice--they do not in any way protect a soldier who refuses to obey what he or she regards as an illegal order.)