Home / General / The Obvious Rightness of the Manning Commutation

The Obvious Rightness of the Manning Commutation


Both the grossly disproportionate sentence and the awful conditions she was subjected to not only justify but compel commutation:

First, Manning’s sentence was grossly disproportionate. Prosecuting leakers is very rare, although Obama went after whistleblowers to an unprecedented extent. The seven people prosecuted for leaking information to the media by Obama constitute 70 percent of the people prosecuted for this crime in the history of the United States. And there is certainly no precedent for anything remotely resembling a 35-year sentence for leaking information to the media. Sentencing Manning to time served would have been towards the harsh end of what was potentially justified. Arbitrarily singling out Manning for an extraordinarily harsh punishment is exactly the kind of injustice the commutation power should be used to redress.

And, second, not only has Manning been in prison much longer than her offense merited, the conditions she was subjected to in prison were a vile abuse of human rights. She was held in solitary confinement for extended periods, treatment that amounts to torture in practice, even if it’s not defined as such in law. She remained in a man’s prison despite announcing her gender identity as a woman in 2013. She detailed the effects of this treatment in her letter to Obama: “I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life.” She was actually punished for her suicide attempt with more time in solitary confinement, an act of astonishing cruelty.

The disproportionate length of the sentence given to Manning and the cruelty she was subjected to in prison make commuting her sentence a no-brainer.

This doesn’t mean that Obama’s opponents didn’t attack it. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Obama’s commutation “outrageous,” asserting that “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.” The idea that seven years of hard prison time in often deplorable conditions doesn’t constitute “accountability” reflects an appalling lack of human decency.

Let me to pause here to note that 1)Paul Ryan wants to take health insurance away from 32 million people to fund massive upper-class tax cuts and 2)many of the same media figures who consider Hillary Clinton’s email server management a scandal worthy of saturation coverage slobber over Paul Ryan as a Serious Policy Wonk with a sincere commitment to helping the poor.

The harsh treatment given to Manning is particularly hard to justify given that most of the people responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 and all of the people responsible for the torture of prisoners under the Bush administration got away scot-free. While it’s too late for many of the worst villains of the first decade of the millennium to be held accountable, it’s important that other injustices be addressed.

I think there’s a solid argument that the pass given to torturers and financial scammers should mean that Manning shouldn’t haven’t had been prosecuted even if charging her is defensible in isolation. But the commutation isn’t even a close call.

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  • MPAVictoria

    Agreed. I am glad she will be out soon.

  • N__B

    She was actually punished for her suicide attempt with more time in solitary confinement, an act of astonishing cruelty.

    Suddenly I’m on the side of tear it all down.

  • Dilan Esper

    This is in part a response to Farley (and stepped pyramids), but it’s worth remembering that one of the reasons the pardon power exists is because there’s a gap between law and justice sometimes.

    It’s totally legitimate to have official secrets, and a law that forbids people entrusted with them from leaking them.

    But at the same time, it’s extremely important that the pardon/commutation power be used liberally with respect to that statute. There was a great post by Josh Marshall yesterday that got into pardons generally. He said, correctly, that we need far more of them. Until recently the DOJ guidelines said you couldn’t even apply for a pardon until you had completed your sentence, which is exactly what you would expect egotistical prosecutors to espouse as their guideline. After all, if a prosecutor convicts you, the prosecutor must have been right! As Josh Marshall points out, that’s crazy. Court actions are legalistic. They ask whether your conduct met the legal standard. There’s sometimes room for mercy in sentencing, though not a lot of room with mandatory minimums, sentencing guidelines, and jury instructions.

    But this is especially trenchant in the context of official secrets. First of all, way too much stuff is classified in the first place, which means it is possible to win convictions for very minor things.

    And second of all, as John Judis pointed out yesterday, our government does a heck of a lot of bad things. Which, of course, get classified. And at that point, the line blurs between “we need to make sure we don’t embarrass our sources and compromise our methods” and “we want to cover our ass”, and even sometimes “we LIKE doing bad stuff and want to use the classification system to make sure we never get caught”.

    In that context, there simply has to be a check on official secrets prosecutions, and the pardon power, which allows the President the ability to take into account not only the extent of the violation but also the extent to which bad governmental conduct was exposed and the harshness of the treatment of the leaker, is a reasonable check.

    And there’s a tendency (and I think it was reflected in Farley’s post) for foreign policy types to act as if the only thing that really matters here is whether US foreign policy gets compromised. Guess what. That happens ALL THE TIME. Every month there are leaks to this or that publication that piss off some foreign government or compromise some action the US government takes. It’s easy to VASTLY overstate the damage of someone like Manning, and the security establishment and foreign policy wonks are very good at doing this. The US is able to bounce back from these sorts of things when they happen. They are an inconvenience, not a real threat to national security.

    And, of course, when you get away from the idea that the US is always doing good in the world, exposing our wrongdoing is probably healthy for our national security long term. It forces us to clean up our act.

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man

      The US is able to bounce back from these sorts of things when they happen. They are an inconvenience, not a real threat to national security.

      Yeah this. If my understanding is correct, Manning released nothing above “secret” clearance level. When I worked at State Dept — may have changed since then — that was 2nd lowest security level, the only level lower was “limited official use.” I could sit at my typewriter and write an assessment of local political situation based on nothing but newspaper articles and it would be classified “secret.”

      So please, while I’m in favor of regulations allowing prosecution for revealing confidential information, the notion that what Manning did is somehow a threat to USA security is absurd.

      And if we’re going to prosecute for leaking, then how about the sources that leaked mis-information and outright lies to Judy Miller?

      • You mean, you could when you were working for the State Dept., I assume–not that all of us are writing classified blog comments, I hope!

        Just trying to be clear. :)

        • No Longer Middle Aged Man

          Yes, sorry for lack of clarity. My point was that in my experience from several decades ago, lots/many/most “secret” classification documents were innocuous in terms of their revelation being a threat to USA security. Names and identifiers needed to be redacted but the information itself was rarely crucial — anything crucial would have had a much higher security clearance level.

    • Nick never Nick

      And — the quality of justice or mercy should consider also what internal processes exist as a check on the government. Someone is leaking information on mistreatment of Guantanamo prisoners? By all means, prosecute them — but consider whether Guantanamo has robust safeguards against mistreatment. Someone released a bunch of data showing that the government is using your metadata to spy on you? Sure, hunt them down — but if the government didn’t have a clear, rigorous process of deciding what is legal, and how it is going to be used, and what checks are on its distribution, analysis, and application, then bear that in mind.

      Leaks are (among other things) a product of a system that isn’t trustworthy, or trusted by those who know if from the inside.

      • AdamPShort

        I’ve tried and failed (my end) to respond to this a couple times, but I just wanted to say I heartily agree with this.

        One thing I want to ask all these authority junkies. If I’m in legal possession of information that proves the government is doing something insanely criminal – operating a network of secret torture prisons, for example, or spying on American citizens en masse – what am I supposed to do? If there’s no credible answer to that question (and no, “report it to your boss” doesn’t count) then you’re not really concerned with stopping leaks, you’re just an authotity junkie who thinks punishing people magically makes us safer.

        • ema

          One thing you’re not supposed to do is provide that information to a Russian asset, like Manning, or directly to hostile foreign powers, like Snowden.

          • Barry_D

            “One thing you’re not supposed to do is provide that information to a Russian asset, like Manning, or directly to hostile foreign powers, like Snowden.”

            And here I didn’t know that Russia did not have access to the internet.

          • AdamPShort

            Right, I’m not confused about what authority junkies want me not to do.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      someone was just going on about “stupid bits of anti-intellectualism” in regard to *his* specialty, who was that…

      • Dilan Esper

        Do you want to identify the actual anti intellectualism in my comment.

        If you can’t, shut the fuck up with the snark.

    • Marshall_timbers

      And there’s a tendency (and I think it was reflected in Farley’s post) for foreign policy types to act as if the only thing that really matters here is whether US foreign policy gets compromised.

      I also think that even nominally lefty types in international relations (they do exist, right?) don’t want to appear too lenient on this issue, at least for professional reasons.

      This is also the best Dilan post I’ve ever read.

      • pseudalicious

        +1 re: Dilan

    • sonamib

      This is in part a response to Farley (and stepped pyramids), but it’s worth remembering that one of the reasons the pardon power exists is because there’s a gap between law and justice sometimes.

      It’s totally legitimate to have official secrets, and a law that forbids people entrusted with them from leaking them.

      I mean, I certainly understand why states have laws against leakers, but I don’t like the way they’re used in practice, and they often do more harm than good. These laws should at least give some clemency when the whistleblowers show that the government is misbehaving. The government declaring that it never makes mistakes when classifying documents is a little self-serving.

      I also understand why corporations would want to fire employees who make public embarrassing behavior of their bosses. It’s in the bosses’ interests to not be challenged by their subordinates. Sometimes employees might want to make public some petty stuff, like the fact that the CEO is into a particular sexual kink, and it’s good that they’re discouraged from doing that. But they’ll also be discouraged from blowing the whistle on, e.g., systemic sexual harrassment.

      So, all in all, I’m unsympathetic to overbroad secrecy, from governments, corporations or other large institutions. Should quite a lot things remain secret? Sure. But if they’re covering up some truly appalling behavior, they shouldn’t be surprised that people with a moral fibre will be compelled to blow the whistle.

    • shah8

      I had really sort of wondered about Farley signing off on that stepped pyramids comment. It was basically “Stop Snitching” in its bad sense.

      • AdamPShort

        Agree, but actually “stop snitching” in the standard sense is sort of based on the same principle.

        The norm that you must exact swift, harsh punishment on anyone who reveals a criminal conspiracy is a necessary condition for having a criminal conspiracy. So it’s not at all difficult to understand why power interests have these types of rules or why they use them the way they do.

        The part that’s hard to understand is why people who aren’t involved in the conspiracy would endorse this sort of principle. That question has an answer, but it’s complicated and, in my view, unconvincing.

        Obie Trice makes a pretty good case for it, though, I’ll admit.

  • celticdragonchick

    Jennifer Rubin is losing her shit over at the NYT this morning over it. As far as I can tell, the RWNJ universe is collectively calling for Chelsea Manning’s blood.

    Literally. People are calling for her death. I hope to God she will have some protection plan in place because it is fucking bad enough to be trans in this country without having several thousand potential stalker/assassins gleefully discussing how they are going to kill you.

    (note: Parents in my school district had a monumental freak out when word got out that I was 1)transgender and 2)teaching in the public school system. I was getting phone calls at my house, my academic papers at academia.edu were being explored and everything I had ever said in social media was being mined in an attempt to get at me. I ended up taking an unpaid month of leave to let it die down, had a loaded gun in my bedroom and I am still wary about potential stalkers and such a year later. I can only imagine what it would be like for Chelsea when she gets out.)

    • That is terrible. I hope that is over now for you.

    • liberal

      Yeah, because if you teach their kids, they’ll somehow become transgendered, too.

      Some people are just fucking idiots.

    • Origami Isopod

      Jesus Christ, I’m sorry you had and still have to deal with that bullshit. And of course the cops were probably useless.

    • celticdragonchick

      Thanks everybody. I’m okay, but I am really worried about Chelsea when she is released.

    • witlesschum

      Fuck’s sake, sorry.

      I hope she’s got a support system in place for when she gets out in general. The damage done to her by that incarceration won’t heal right away if it ever fully does. Such a shame and a waste.

      • Philip

        She has some fantastic people ready to support her when she gets out (the edges of my social circle overlap a little bit with hers, so I vaguely know some of them and they really are wonderful and care deeply about her).

    • Abbey Bartlet

      I’m so sorry. That’s fucking horrific.

      My assumption is that Chelsea’s planning to leave the country. Surely Canada would welcome her.

  • Domino

    For the people here who know law way better than me – Fred Kaplan says that the Army always gives the maximum sentence in military trials “Military justice shares these objectives in part, but also serves to enhance discipline throughout the Armed Forces, serving the overall objective of providing an effective national defense.”

    Is that true?

    • Colin Day

      Military justice is to justice as military music is to music — Georges Clemenceau.

    • Wapiti

      In that article, Kaplan writes,

      Under Army sentencing guidelines (which are enforced with wide variation), the judge could have put Manning away for 90 years; Army prosecutors urged her to do so for 60 years. Manning’s lawyers pleaded for 20 years. In context, then, the sentence—35 years, with possible parole in 10—seemed a compromise.

      Bolding is mine. Clearly the military does not always give the maximum sentence.

      • liberalrob

        Should have been zero years and a commendation for upholding the Geneva Conventions requiring the revelation and investigation of war crimes, to which the United States was and is a signatory. The pardon should have come on Jan. 20 2009. Better late than never I guess.

        • wjts

          The pardon should have come on Jan. 20 2009.

          She started leaking material in 2010 (and wasn’t convicted until 2013), so that would have been a pretty neat trick, all things considered.

          • (((Malaclypse)))

            Look, if he can plant his own birth certificate, the pardon is small potatoes.

            In my timeline, Obama is actually the 14th Doctor. Because sooner or later, he won’t come back as a white dude.

            • wjts

              Given Obama’s famously cool temperament, my preferred explanation for his time-travelling shenanigans is that he’s a True Brujah with lots of dots in Temporis and enough Fortitude to be able to withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight.

          • liberalrob

            She started leaking material in 2010

            Ahem, this only reinforces my point. (points overhead) Look, a dead bird!

            2013 feels like 8 years ago? I got nuthin.

    • jeer9

      but also serves to enhance discipline throughout the Armed Forces

      Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.

      • ΧΤΠΔ

        Based on the book by Humphrey Cobb, in turn based on Souain corporals affair. Excellent movie, by the way.

  • Of course, the truly awful usual suspects are calling commutation of her sentence a travesty of justice.

  • Murc

    Gonna be honest; little bit surprised Trump hasn’t already weighed in saying “Bradley Manning will not be released on my watch, and if he’s already out when I’m President will be re-incarcerated.”

    Or however that would go in Trumpese. There should be a Sad! or something in there.

    • tsam

      He’s probably trying to cajole his Twitter password away from Preibus right now. Stand by.

    • sonamib

      That’s already partially in Trumpese, since it’s misgendering Chelsea Manning.

      • econoclast

        Isn’t it obvious that’s why Murc said Bradley in his fake Trump quote?

        • sonamib

          I found it ambiguous, so I was clarifying. I lurked in yesterday’s thread, and there were some people misgendering her (but I don’t remember Murc doing it).

          To be clear, my aim is not to impugn Murc’s character or whatever.

      • liberalrob

        But in Trumpese it actually makes sense…”Bradley” Manning indeed won’t be released on Trump’s watch. And it will prove impossible to re-incarcerate “Bradley” Manning because no such person exists. (Nevermind that it would be illegal to do so unless Manning committed some new offense. I guess they could arrest her on suspicion of being a terrorist, since there’s no “probable cause” needed for that…)

        • Murc

          Subtle. I like it!

    • Bugboy

      I’ve been going “Twitter comment from Trump in 3…2…1…” all day.

      But it really is going to get sticky when Trump comments about some murder case and as a result totally blows the case up, with the perpetrator walking free. It’s just a matter of time before he twitters his way to a mistrial…

  • CrunchyFrog

    It is interesting how much better Obama became as President the longer he was in that position. On this topic, it wasn’t that long ago that he was being criticized for not pardoning as many people as his recent predecessors. For those of you who doubt and can’t look it up yourself, here is an example:


    Like with climate change action, protecting public lands, advocating for increasing social security benefits, and a host of other topics his actions (NOT necessarily his words) have been much, much better as time has gone on. In 2010, for example, his administration lifted long-time restrictions on off shore drilling not long before the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

    He came into office desperately wanting to be a centrist, with centrism defined by picks like Rahm Emmanuel. He was totally unprepared for the opposition he was to face – which to be fair was unprecedented but also was easily foreseen given recent GOP behaviors, clear trends, and their own freaking statements. It appears he tried to win favor with the same people who were not only questioning whether he was American, but also were painting his every move as a n***** trying to rob the hard working white taxpayers to give it all to his lazy brothas in the hood. While the NRA nuts were feverishly dreaming of a armed race war when Obummer’s lazy brothas were going to come in their helicopters to steal their guns, Obama did nothing on the topic of gun control except lift a ban on guns in National Parks – but it didn’t achieve what he’d hoped – he got zero credit from the right wing and they still thought he was going to confiscate every gun.

    The lesson should be clear. This is not about collaborative governing, this is about total war. One side has a vision of government the way it worked in most of Western Europe in the 50s and 60s – minus the bigotry – and the other’s vision is a combination of the gilded age and the confederacy. The latter’s vision isn’t exactly popular once the details are learned, so it is heavily obfuscated and the press happily supports them in that effort.

    • with centrism defined by picks like Rahm Emmanuel
      Did you leave out a lower-case “r” there?

      • muddy


    • TopsyJane

      Obama doesn’t have to face the voters again.

    • econoclast

      I thought even Bush became a better President the longer he held the office (albeit from a low bar). By 2007 he understood that the neocons were incompetent boobs who were best ignored.

      • CrunchyFrog

        After the 2006 elections W opened the doors for Daddy to send in his folks to take charge. Daddy had been privately hyper-critical of everything his son had done but Rove had used that as part of his spell over W to keep W in line. But the 2006 loss – especially after Rove had been so confident of a GOP win – combined with his in-the-toilet approval ratings and the general disaster in Iraq was enough for W to ask Daddy for help.

        It wasn’t a Saturday Night Massacre or anything – that wasn’t Daddy’s style. Rove had power removed but was allowed to sit around picking his nose until his resignation the next summer. Cheney’s usurpation of the President’s powers around the military and foreign affairs was cut off completely, but he could go on being a ceremonial VP. Slowly they began trying to repair the damage with focus on international and military (which were always Daddy’s areas of interest) but the economic damage was already too great for them to fix that – the hope there was just to delay the crash until the first year of the next President’s term (after all, that was Daddy’s specialty – remember the Somalia gift he gave to Clinton?) but obviously that didn’t pan out.

        • shah8

          Peeps need to think hard about Pence. Another case of the slightly smarter Tsarina who’s still a dumbfuck incompetent. Too many people are hoping that Pence is able to keep basic governance functions going.

    • liberalrob

      He was totally unprepared for the opposition he was to face

      That’s why I voted for Hillary in the 2008 primary.

      Meh, all things considered I give him a B. He did the best he could given the circumstances. Some things he did or didn’t do rankled. Overall he was a good President. He gave us 8 years of cooly competent, scandal-free governance after 8 years of insanity and with at least 4 to come. I wish him well and hope he’ll continue to serve as a voice of reason as ex-President.

      • wjts

        One of the reasons I voted for Obama rather than Clinton was that I thought that she’d be an easier target for Republican vitriol, what with the Bill Clinton-era baggage and all.

        I was a charmingly naive fellow in those days.

        • Jeff R.

          Right. I remember discussing who to vote for in the primary with my wife and that was one of my arguments for Obama. Did I ever underestimate the vitriol production capabilities of the Republican party.

  • Crusty

    I think somebody, somewhere could do us all a service by explaining that we classify more things than just say, the identities of undercover agents or the hidden locations of troops. There is a sliding scale of the importance of classified information. To the extent that those calling traitor, hang it!, would like to go from informed to uninformed, there is a body of information that is classified that we would prefer not be open to the entire world, but simply does not constitute troop locations, undercover identities, does not directly result in deaths and doesn’t come close to anything reasonably called treason.

    • Nick never Nick

      I would also like to propose that if ‘death of troops’ is the criteria for executing a whistleblower cum traitor, that starting a war based upon falsified, bad-faith information should be eligible for criminal penalties as well.

  • Nick never Nick

    I completely agree with this, and most strongly with the principle that crimes like this need to be looked at in a large context. If Manning is prosecuted for putting American soldiers in harm’s way, then other forms of responsibility need to be assessed as well for doing the same thing: political responsibility, particularly.

  • pillsy

    Relatedly, Julian Assange is a total fucking fraud. Episode 197 in an ongoing series:

    “Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning’s sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought,” said Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S.-based attorney, via email.

    “Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.”

    • Lord Jesus Perm

      The word you’re looking for is “rapist.”

    • Julian Assange is the embodiment of the concept ‘worst possible ally’. The tiny germ of what he and wikileaks claimed to want to do all those years ago, to rip the lid off of government corruption and cover ups by providing a safe way for whistle blowers to leak information, is to me a more or less laudable goal. Subsequent events have shown it to be the vanity project of an entitled asshole who needs to face the serious allegations of sexual assault that have led him to hide out in the Venezuelan embassy for years. I mean the only way that project could have been any worse would be if it were being run by Putin himself.

      • tsam

        It IS a laudable goal, but there has GOT to be an overarching mission–meaning that the information should be leaked to stop blatant wrongdoing, protect innocent lives (or stop the slaughter of them), bring criminals to justice, etc.

        When it turns into a repository for anything with a classified stamp on it, it has the potential to get deadly in a hurry.

        I think the biggest problem with how people view this issue is taking a side and sticking to it, rather than looking at how complicated it really is. I don’t quite understand how people have gotten so goddamn outraged over one side or the other of this debate, or how the two sides became opposites. I guess that’s just how it works, but it’s not really fair to Manning or Snowden or anyone else who makes a decision to inform the public of government abuses of power.

        • I once toyed with the idea of a company that would take someone’s big terrible idea and implement it in a way that would be a shameful failure, but do it quickly and cheaply in order to discredit the idea and prevent people from wasting lots of time and resources pursuing that idea. Wikileaks appears to be the product of a similar outfit.

          • Hogan

            Disproof of Concept, Inc.

        • Jordan

          Yeah. I was, back in the day, a pretty enthusiastic wikileaks supporter. Now they are just obvious shit.

          Nothing to do, really, with Manning (if we are going to prosecute Bush-era CIA torturers we should never have prosecuted Manning) or Snowden (I think here the good is >>> the harm).

      • sonamib

        Nitpick : Ecuadoran embassy. But otherwise, right on.

        Assange’s afraid of facing prosecution in Sweden but I’m not sure why, since they have a very low conviction rate for sexual assault. Maybe he does believe his fantasies that the USA will extraodinarily-rendition him. Or he does believe the MRA fantasy that a rape allegation is enough for a rape conviction.

        • econoclast

          In an odd coincidence, the so-called alt-right are obsessed with the idea that there is an epidemic of rapes of white Swedish women by Muslim men. I guess it’s okay when it’s one of their own.

          • sonamib

            Well, it’s always been that way, isn’t it? In Europe, the panic is that Muslims are raping “our” white women. In the USA, it’s Black people. Nevermind that most rapes are committed by acquaintances, which are disproportionately likely to be the same race as their victim.

        • sonamib

          Note : to clarify what I say above.

          Sweden has low conviction rates if you consider the total number of rape reports. But they have a high conviction rape *per capita*, because there are a lot of rapes reported to the police in Sweden.

          Still, I think the first metric is the one that’s relevant, since Assange is not a generic person-who-was-in-Sweden-at-the-time. He’s a person-who-was-in-Sweden-at-the-time *and* he’s also been accused of rape.

        • vic rattlehead

          Not just that-aren’t Nordic prisons some of the cushiest in the world? And the sentences are probably more lenient too. How much worse could it be than being holed up in an embassy indefinitely? At least get it over with.

    • prognostication

      Commutation IS clemency.

      • tsam

        Now, let’s not get all hung up on what words like, mean and shit.

        • Hogan

          Anyway he’s Australian. You can’t expect him to speak or write proper English.

  • rdennist

    “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”

    You mean like Trump and/or those on his campaign engineering a hostile takeover of America on behalf of the Russians? BOTH SIDES moran!

    • Crusty

      Also, the idea that a commutation of a sentence enters the risk calculation of a would be traitor is a little silly. Commutations and pardons are, by their nature, not really precedent setting.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Right. And everything Chelsea Manning has gone through already is a pretty big deterrent.

        People who have never served prison time vastly underestimate the misery and impact of even what appears to the rest of us to be a fairly short sentence. A member of my extended family served approximately one year in federal and it pretty much destroyed his life for good.

        • Right. And everything Chelsea Manning has gone through already is a pretty big deterrent.

          People who have never served prison time vastly underestimate the misery and impact of even what appears to the rest of us to be a fairly short sentence.

          Believing (as I do) the last sentence of yours that I’ve quoted, I am compelled to point out that it rather suggests that the preceding sentence can only reasonably apply to those who have already served prison time. (Which I’m also inclined, more weakly, to believe.)

          • Lost Left Coaster

            Oooh…right. Good point, I have a bit of a contradiction there.

        • Rusty SpikeFist

          A member of my extended family served approximately one year in federal and it pretty much destroyed his life for good.

          how so?

    • witlesschum

      “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”

      I agree, he should have delivered Bush and Cheney to the Hague in February 2009.

      • He’s got almost 23 hours left!!!

        • vic rattlehead

          He has Friday morning too. It’s noon, not midnight, on January 20.

  • Nick never Nick

    I feel like the two basic opinions on this subject — the leftist one of basic support for Manning and sometimes Snowden, and the whatever-you-call it (realist, statist) viewpoint that they may have done something worthwhile but have to be punished — echo what Orwell says in his essay on Kipling:

    All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are ‘enlightened’ all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our ‘enlightenment’, demands that the robbery shall continue. A humanitarian is always a hypocrite, and Kipling’s understanding of this is perhaps the central secret of his power to create telling phrases. It would be difficult to hit off the one-eyed pacifism of the English in fewer words than in the phrase, ‘making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep’. It is true that Kipling does not understand the economic aspect of the relationship between the highbrow and the blimp. He does not see that the map is painted red chiefly in order that the coolie may be exploited. Instead of the coolie he sees the Indian Civil Servant; but even on that plane his grasp of function, of who protects whom, is very sound. He sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them.

    Basically, I agree that if you accept a State, then you accept the laws and penalties for divulging secrets. Some leftists (like myself) don’t particularly care for that — but it can’t be said that we’ve come up with an alternative to the State, either.

    • sonamib

      Or maybe we can accept that we haven’t designed a perfect system (and probably never will) and that we can and should keep on tinkering with it when we think the system has failed. Clearly, secrecy laws are too strict nowadays. They shouldn’t be abandoned altogether but they should be made less strict.

    • tsam

      Right–though I would take issue with the idea that the State and leftism are in tension with one another if one accepts the idea that secrecy is sometimes needed to protect people, and that wanton leaking of that information can and should be a crime. At the most inane level of argument (though not without merit), what’s the point in classifying information and telling people not to leak it or else…nothing?

      The problem here is that right wingers put all of their faith in the state and invent phony reasons to be mad at the state (taxes, guns) so that they can be seen hating the government, because government is synonymous with tyranny, obviously. Left wingers want the state to exist, but have a natural wariness about abuses of power (and it’s not like we don’t have millions of examples to justify that fear).

      The problem here is finding the line between what is a dangerous leak, and what is a necessary leak, what serves the interest of the people, what dangers could come from the information being publicly accessed…I certainly don’t know the answer to that, and we can’t have a law if it’s a “merits of the present case” type of situation. This is all above my pay grade.

      • pseudalicious

        This is a great comment.

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