Yesterday, military judge Col. Denise Lind found Wiki-leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty on five counts of espionage, as well as multiple counts of theft, computer fraud and military infractions. Giving Manning every benefit of the doubt, the judge found him not guilty of the charge of intentionally aiding the enemy — but still convicted him on 19 of 21 counts.
Now begins the separate sentencing phase of Manning’s military trial. But the long “guilty” list ensures he’ll spend decades in a military prison.
Yet two “unindicted co-conspirators” were missing in the dock throughout the trial. Not Julian Assange and his Wiki-gnomes, but the US Army and our blame-America culture.
Doing what the schools and Hollywood direct: Supporters of Pfc. Manning yesterday, outside the main gate of Ft. Meade, where he was sentenced.
Consider the guilt of the Army and Military Intelligence. Six weeks into basic training, Manning was tapped to be discharged as unsuitable. But the Army, hungry for even the worst cuts of meat, not only canceled the discharge move, but sent him to its Intelligence Center and School, granting him a Top Secret/Special Compartmentalized Information (TS/SCI) clearance.
Initially stationed at Ft. Drum, NY, Manning was referred for mental-health counseling. But he kept that sensitive clearance. Then he was sent to Iraq, where his behavior was erratic and provocative, but he continued to have access to high-level intelligence until he threw a destructive office tantrum and had to be restrained.
Eventually, he was demoted one grade and, finally, sent to work in a supply room. But the damage was already done: a vast dump of confidential and secret US government documents.
Extreme political correctness and the Army’s insatiable appetite for troops with top clearances had combined to enable the largest leak of classified information in our history.
Prior to 9/11, a soldier could lose his or her clearance over a minor infraction and access to Special Compartmentalized Information was granted on a strict “need to know” basis. To lose access today, you have to hand over 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks or give the Chinese and Russians the NSA’s gravest secrets.
Back when I served in Military Intelligence, Manning never would’ve gotten a clearance in the first place — warning flags were everywhere. Same thing with Edward Snowden: He never should have gotten a clearance of any kind.
But serious vetting ended with 9/11: Today, it’s just a meat market.
None of this excuses Manning’s betrayal of his country. But the Army and the intelligence community need to do some soul-searching.
The other enabler that helped make Manning the disaster he became is our patriotism-trashing, dumb-it-way-down culture.
Want to find the root of the reflexive anti-Americanism and irresponsibility that propelled Manning, Snowden and others to betray their country? Start with the removal of serious history study from our classrooms.
What are kids taught about our country now? They learn about our “collective guilt” for slavery — but not about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died ending it. They learn about the “crime” of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — but not about the Bataan Death March. Guadalcanal? The Bulge? Nah. But they learn about the internment of Japanese-Americans — a regrettable mistake, but not the Holocaust.
In short, kids are programmed to feel ashamed of the United States of America. Young men such as Manning (who, yes, also attended school in peevishly anti-American Wales for several years) or Snowden make fateful decisions in a mental and moral near-vacuum littered with anti-American garbage.
And think of all the Hollywood films, television series and talk shows preaching endlessly that the real bad guys are the Feds (or the US Marines — thanks, James Cameron).
Undoubtedly, Manning and Snowden are troubled souls. But they’re also narcissistic, dishonest and malicious. The fact that each has defenders only validates the points made above: In pop culture and the classroom, America’s a menace.
It’s a shame that Col. Lind, the judge, couldn’t render a much broader verdict.
Ralph Peters is a former US Army Military Intelligence enlisted man and officer.