From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:
I’m feeling really consistent this morning. I never liked, trusted, or defended Manning, whether it was the Bradley or the Chelsea edition. I never liked, trusted, or defended Julian Assange. I never forgot that he outed the U.S. military’s secret Afghan informers to the Taliban, believes in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, appears to be working with Russian hackers and Russian intelligence, blames America for ISIS terror attacks, and stands accused of raping at least one woman — charges that he has thus far refused to face. (I did wonder aloud if exposing something as significant as a foreign government bribing a presidential candidate would justify an action like hacking.) I had serious gripes with the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance operations, but I never liked, trusted, or defended Edward Snowden. Snowden released a ton of information that had nothing to do with spying on Americans, and everything to do with spying on foreign states and potential threats, which is literally the NSA’s job. (Judging from the reviews, the new book by Edward Jay Epstein makes Snowden sound like an egomaniacal lunatic.)
The good guys don’t reveal classified secrets that endanger other people’s lives. That’s not a hard or complicated rule. And after they’re convicted and sentenced, they shouldn’t be given a get-out-of-jail-free card because they’ve become a national symbol of gender change. That doesn’t change what Manning did, or the consequences.
But you don’t have to listen to me. You can listen to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who opposed the commutation of Manning’s sentence.
We spent the last two months hearing that Wikileaks is a tool of the devil and that Trump has nothing but contempt for America’s intelligence community, and Obama’s parting gesture as he steps out the door is … to groin-punch the IC by commuting the sentence of the most famous Wikileaker of them all?
Am I awake? Why would Obama forfeit Democrats’ momentary “we’re the party of national security!” messaging this way?
President Obama’s decision to commute the sentence of an individual who leaked confidential information to Wikileaks is in direct conflict with Democratic rhetoric lambasting Wikileaks for publishing illegally obtained emails from the DNC and Hillary adviser, John Podesta.
Wikileaks is only evil when it’s politically expedient. At least if you’re a Democrat.
Our David French: “Manning is a traitor who pled guilty to a lesser offense to avoid the full penalty for his crimes. He has received too much mercy already. Obama’s commutation of his sentence is a disgrace.”
Our Andy McCarthy:
It is also disgraceful for the New York Times to report without balance that “Prosecutors … presented no evidence that anyone was killed because of [Manning’s] leaks.” As the Times well knows, in cases involving classified information, the government frequently cannot reveal – let alone prosecute – the damage done. As a practical matter, such revelations end up disclosing more classified information and, critically, identifying other informants and countries who have covertly provided national-security assistance to the United States. That is why it is always a gimmee for apologists of the Mannings, Snowdens, and Clintons to minimize the harm they have done; it is generally impossible to provide concrete information to counter this claim absent exposing more intelligence and endangering sources for obtaining it.
For what it’s worth, some Democrats are not so enthused about the move:
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez questioned what message Obama was sending to future whistleblowers.
“What happened here is that literally hundreds of thousands of documents were released. It put national security at risk. It put individual operatives at risk. It put our national interest at risk,” he said. “At a time when we are seriously questioning what Russia did, as it relates to our recent elections and the role of Wikileaks, I’m not sure what kind of message we send here. I’m really surprised that the president took this action, and I have concerns what message we send about ultimately revealing sensitive national security documents.”