Such a horrid crime has even found its way into literature. After all, according to Dante's Inferno, the deepest level of hell is reserved for those who were guilty of betrayal.
What is treason? According to Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution,
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.Why bring up treason? Enter Pfc. Bradley Manning, intelligence analyst for the United States Army. Manning has been accused of (among other crimes) leaking over 150,000 diplomatic cables and 90,000 intelligence reports to Wikileaks.org. The website, in turn, spread the information to other publications, notably The New York Times. Along with this information was raw video footage of an American helicopter attack, which purportedly fired on unarmed civilians in Baghdad, including reporters from the Reuters news service.
Obviously, the Army attempted to block the leak of information and has since held Manning in custody as a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. He is currently in solitary confinement and under suicide watch. Although the specific charges are still being drawn up, the safe bet says Manning will be lucky to ever see the light of day again.
Reading up to this point, you might be wondering what exactly is contained within all these cables and reports. The information included mostly details about troop morale and estimates pertaining to the ability of the United States to achieve its objectives. However, these reports are believed to include sensitive information about troops that could potentially place them in danger. Since I have yet to exam the nearly quarter-million documents for myself, I can't pretend to have knowledge about the full extent of these claims. Yet, these documents were serious enough that one these reports pertains to possible means the Army had which could be used to "assess the threat posed" by Wikileaks.
Other topics included in reports I personally viewed on Wikileaks include:
- CIA plans to boost support for the war through various public relations campaigns in Western European nations
- Overviews of briefings to members of Congress on interrogation techniques include a list of approved measures
- Several reports of encounters with the enemy
- A report on the various insurgent groups in Afghanistan and their makeup/tactics
- A report on American counterinsurrengcy tactics
Despite receiving praise, families of servicemen and conservatives are livid and raise serious objections to the notion that Manning did America a favor. These citizens have pointed out that certain information is classified for a reason and civilians sometimes need to be "kept in the dark" -- that certain information must be kept secret.
Moreover, is Manning flirting with the very definition of treason? Did his actions "levy war" against the United States? Give the enemy "comfort or aid?"
A fine line exists between a hero and a villain. Did Manning cross that line? Is he another Daniel Ellsburg? I'd like your thoughts.