Treason. Its a word with frightening connotations. It raises up the most foul parts of our minds, it raises to the mind men who hide out in the night and do the most foul type of betrayal. However there have only in our history been 12 people ever tried on treason. Even if the dictionary definition of Treason doesn't match the legal one, we are nevertheless susceptible to such things. In the information age, betrayal becomes far more calamitous.
How much damage could be done from classified information? A lot. Take the 12 July 2007 incident, where Bravo Company and Mortar Platoon of 2-16 Infantry came under sporadic fire from insurgents. The Apaches circling from overhead part of the 227th Aviation regiment, engaged valid targets (3 times), according to the Rules of Engagement. Unfortunately the second time, the target in question was actually not a military target. In the process a journalist was killed, as well as a family. Now this is a sad event in a lot of ways. It was, however, not unknown. Indeed the information about the incident (general details) were made available to anyone that wished to find out and indeed Washington Post Author David Finkle had written about it (see "the Good Soldiers")
The Video itself was not shown for rather obvious reasons. Its one thing to hear that people were killed. It quite another to actually see it. In an information war, it is very hard to maintain the fact that we are the good guys when every misstep or even when legitimate military goals are called into question. Indeed our enemies are not anywhere near under the same pressure to never ever ever screw up. This is a microscope that is not on Soldiers, but on all of the government. State Department is one of the many departments that was included in this data dump. Can you honestly think of anyone more petulant than politicians? Even the politicians held up as model, when truly examined, leave much to be desired.
How much damage was done by trying to "shed light" on the "truth"? Well when actual informants are named my name, and location. . . Quite a lot. Add to that the fodder it gave for Jihadists, and it killed credibility a serious issue. This credibility is something that has steadily been declining since Vietnam, when we cut and run, leaving our friends and allies to the whims of our enemies. The result was a lack of credibility. This was repeated again and again when we did not keep our word to our friends. We left the Mujahadeen to their own devices after they won in Afghanistan in the late 80's. They slipped into the Taliban. How could we have avoided that, and possibly even turned Osama bin Laden into an ally. In Iraq in '91, we heavily insinuated that if the Shi'ia in the south and Kurds in the North rose up, we would support them. They did. We did not. They were slaughtered. The same could be said about Somalia in October '93, we cut an run, and out regional allies took a beating for it.
Can you honestly say that this is in anyway in anyone's best interest? Secrets are, rather unfortunately, a part of statecraft. Far from hiding it, we admit our mistakes. But what Manning has done is far from admitting mistakes, it is like a gossip tabloid accusation. does anyone deny that War is ugly? Confronting such truths are difficult, but it is not entirely necessary to force feed people such images. Worse the decisions made in combat are such that you can not understand them when not under threat. What makes sense when you are in mortal danger is not the same as if you are safe and sound.
With that in mind Manning has given up the "fort" of vital national importance. That this fort is not an actual location is of no importance. It is information, that provided for whatever reason has been used by the enemy. If, as it seems to indicate, that he did this for petty reasons that makes the offense all the worse.
Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing (the hearing to determine if he should go to full Court Martial) was entirely bizzare, with his defense council throwing out all sorts of things. He is sexually confused, so he couldn't understand it was wrong to betray his country. He showed signs of being unreliable, so obviously he should never been trusted in the first place. Why did one person have so much access to so much information in the first place? His lawyers have tried to blame everything under the sun other than PFC Manning. Rather than raise reasonable doubt, they try to blame and excuse everything.
We are left with a legacy of a gaping hole in our national defense, and a little piss ant that wanted to get back at the country, for what it is not entirely clear. People are calling him a "hero". Do such people know heroism? People call him a whistle blower. On what exactly? Did any of the information he released involve anything that a person could not find the general details of, if they actually did any serious digging? At what point do you admit that what you have is not heroism but rather a vindictive little shit that should get nothing more than a boot up the ass.