Barack Obama’s decision to commute the prison sentence of Private Manning was a final, disgraceful undermining of American interests by the outgoing US President. Today, Manning has been released from prison after serving seven years for leaking thousands of diplomatic cables and military files to Wikileaks.
Manning’s decision to dump vast swathes of stolen information with the Wikileaks organisation, which then published them, caused untold and untellable damage to America and her allies. It revealed operational details which should never have fallen into the hands of America’s enemies. Manning ensured that they were available not just to such groups and nations but to the entire world.
And of course leaks encourage leaks. It was no surprise that shortly after Manning another low-level figure in what is meant to be America’s security apparatus – Edward Snowden – stole and dumped yet another trove of the nation’s secrets: a cache which proved even richer for the enemies of America, Britain and our allies.
I cannot help suspecting that the fact that Manning now says he is not a man called ‘Bradley’ but a woman called ‘Chelsea’ has made the former Private’s case an even more cherished cause for those who like to think they’re behind all the ‘right on’ if not the ‘right’ causes. Who knows. Perhaps as Bradley Manning the Private would have been left to stew. If so, smart move.
In any case the pardon was a telling final gesture from the outgoing President. Aside from betraying his comrades and his country Manning also betrayed many brave Afghans and others who had (unwisely, as it turned out) trusted the country Manning so blithely betrayed.
In pardoning him, Barack Obama sent out the message that if there is anyone in the U.S. Armed forces or intelligence services who doesn’t like something then they should not speak with a senior officer or keep their concerns within the service. No – instead anybody with any concerns should download the equivalent of truck-loads of the country’s secrets and ensure they are made available to the world. Preferably through the most hostile anti-American activists available.
No country can effectively operate when it allows and encourages such behaviour. We knew that an America made incapable of operating effectively was the ambition of Wikileaks. How strange that it should appear to have been an ambition of a U.S. President as well.