When a candidate for President in 2008, Senator Barack Obama said, "Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal." Obama was referring to the Bush Administration's use of phone companies to illegally spy on Americans. He said, "We only know these crimes took place because insiders blew the whistle at great personal risk...
However, as President, Obama says -- No whistleblowing on my watch! As he has on so many issues as President, Obama is taking a 180-degree turn from his comments as a candidate -- comments on which the American people relied and for which they elected him.
Now, the Obama administration's warning to Bradley Manning and to other whistleblowers is -- blow the whistle on government criminal actions and we will put you in solitary confinement before you are charged, much less go to trial. You will be treated as an "enemy combatant" in America's ongoing wars on about everything, including the truth.
Evidence of Murder of Civilians in Iraq by US military helicopter pilots
Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army Private First Class (PFC) intelligence analyst who turned 23 years old in late December, 2010, allegedly leaked a video of a US helicopter attack that killed at least 11 Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters reporters, to the website Wikileaks. Two Iraqi children were also severely wounded in the attack.
PFC Manning's alleged actions are just as important as those
of the whistleblowers who informed us of the Bush administration's use of phone companies to illegally spy on Americans. The video taken from the U.S. military helicopter that fired the killing rounds of ammunition, graphically showed US military pilots firing on and killing innocent
civilians in Iraq.
Manning had the legal responsibility to disclose evidence -- even classified evidence -- of criminal actions conducted by government officials. If indeed, Manning did give the video to Wikileaks, his actions show clearly that he reasonably believed that war crimes were being covered up, and that he took action based on that belief.
Exposing criminal actions done under the cover of government orders is a responsibility and duty of military personnel as codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles (see below).
Principle I -- "Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment."
Principle II -- "The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law."
Principle III -- "The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law."
Principle IV -- "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
Principle IV could be paraphrased to read, "It is not an acceptable excuse to say 'I was just following my superior's orders.'"
Classifying evidence of criminal actions does not make the actions untouchable. Therefore, reporting criminal actions done by others and providing evidence of those criminal actions -- especially when the actions have been covered up by "classifying" the evidence -- is not illegal, but in fact, is a very brave response.