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OPINION - Two leakers are not the same

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) The military-justice system got it right in the case of Bradley Manning. He should not have been convicted on the charge of aiding the enemy. For a conviction, he’d have to offer direct aid. He didn’t hand off a flash drive to terrorists. But he was guilty of espionage, and he will be severely punished.

The bigger question is how is Manning different than Edward Snowden? I consider Manning a criminal. Snowden is a hero and patriot. They are not the same.

Manning took part in a massive document dump – 700,000 pages that were delivered to wikileaks. He likely wasn’t even aware of everything he was handing over. Yes, it’s clear he objected to some of the top-secret information he was processing. But a private-first class doesn’t determine our national policies. If he had moral objections, his resignation would have been appropriate.

Consider the indiscriminate nature of his document dump. It included ambassador cables from our embassies, with our assessments of other national leaders. Is there any value in letting the world know that we think another county’s crown prince is a buffoon? This is just useless monkey-wrenching. What about documents that show the shell companies we’ve set up in other countries as fronts for covert operations? Those people’s lives were put at risk. None of this is illegal activity by our government. It’s the regular conducting of our nation’s foreign policy. Manning is more of a leaking graffiti-artist than a conscientious objector.

Edward Snowden, on the other hand, is defending the U.S Constitution. The program he exposed – the gathering of data about our cellphone calls – is a clear violation of the 4th amendment. (By the way, I don’t care what the Supreme Court or members of Congress have to say about it. The plain language of the constitutional text is clear: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. People in government who claim this type of data gathering is constitutionally legitimate are flat-out wrong.) Snowden didn’t release superfluous information. He told us about a specific program that’s outside the bounds of the law.

How low-level people in our intelligence community have access to so much information is a separate issue. It’s a tremendous liability for our government.

Before he became an employee of a private contractor, Edward Snowden worked for the CIA. As part of his job, he swore an oath the protect and defend the Constitution. Bradley Manning took the same oath when he enlisted in the army. That’s the difference between the two leakers. Snowden was true to his oath. Manning was not.

Chris Conley