Thursday, December 23, 2010

PFC Manning still the subject of controversy; what were his real motives?

Alternet is reporting a UN investigation of the conditions of PFC Bradley Manning, held in a brig at Quantico for his alleged part in the WikiLeaks “scandal”, particularly the release of 40 minutes of film concerning deaths of Iraqi civilians from American “friendly fire”. The story today is here. It's interesting that he is not allowed to see news broadcasts.

The media has been discussing Manning’s “sexuality” elliptically, with conservatives complaining of “political correctness”, to the point that it is difficult to pinpoint real facts. However Manning’s Facebook (website url) profile is still up, and is interesting.   Even during DADT, the attitude of commands toward social media postings was variable; in the Pentagon, I'm told, it was "hands off" (meaning the Pentagon did not concern itself with "telling" on Facebook in practice).

Fortunately, the case did not come up during the reintroduction and passage of the standalone bill repealing DADT. But it does illustrate the kind of circular “reasoning” about homosexuality and security clearances that I had to deal with during my own coming of age in the 60s.

The Army has actually defended its conduct in the Iraq incident, and my general impression is that, while treason is a huge crime, most of the leaked material discussed in reliable journalistic sources (The New York Times, etc) is stuff that should not have been classified and that does not hurt American security interests when the public knows about it. It’s hard to say that it is wrong for, say, a government employee to look at the material on his own computer when much of it is available second hand in major newspapers.

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