Greenwald On Manning: Ellsberg’s Leaks Were Top Secret, Alleged Manning Leaks Were Not

Glenn Greenwald:

Ever since Manning was accused of being the source for the WikiLeaks disclosures, those condemning these leaks have sought to distinguish them from Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers. With virtual unanimity, Manning’s harshest critics have contended that while Ellsberg’s leak was justifiable and noble, Manning’s alleged leaks were not; that’s because, they claim, Ellsberg’s leak was narrowly focused and devoted to exposing specific government lies, while Manning’s was indiscriminate and a far more serious breach of secrecy. When President Obama declared Manning guilty, he made the same claim: “No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.”

One problem for those wishing to make this claim is that Ellsberg himself has been one of Manning’s most vocal defenders, repeatedly insisting that the two leaks are largely indistinguishable. But the bigger problem for this claim is how blatantly irrational it is. As Ellsberg clearly details in this Al Jazeera debate, he — Ellsberg — dumped 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents: the highest known level of classification; by contrast, not a single page of what Manning is alleged to have leaked was Top Secret, but rather all bore a much lower-level secrecy designation. In that sense, Obama was right: “Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way” — the secrets Ellsberg leaked were classified as being far more sensitive.

Right. “[J]ustifiable and noble” vs. “indiscriminate.”

Let’s face it: if you are a high public official, the “worst” leaks are those that make you look bad, that embarrass you. Ellsberg’s leaks can scarcely embarrass any living politician; Ellsberg himself is 80 years old. Manning’s alleged leaks… remember, notwithstanding Obama’s public accusation, Manning has not been convicted yet, though I suppose it’s inevitable… reflect on American foreign policy in ways that make the Obama administration look at least incompetent, and possibly worse than incompetent. So to Obama, those are “worse” leaks. Hell hath no fury like an old Chicago pol leaked on…

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  • NTodd Pritsky  On Thursday December 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Manning is such an interesting rorschach test. People want him shot, He’s a hero. He is a cad for helping (accused) sex offender Assange. Right and left, there are serious fissures about his actions. Weird.

    • Steve  On Thursday December 29, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      NTodd, it must be something in the ether; I just came from your site, and am about to put up a link to your post “We the Real People.” Few people seem to know that history of corporate personhood, and that lack of knowledge is about to become our undoing.

      Manning… how many people today, other than perhaps Obama, evoke such utterly contradictory sentiments… and that’s true even within our liberal/progressive community! What to say about him? He is a very troubled individual. He is probably not a hero in the usual sense, though his actions may have positive consequences (or negative; hellifIknow). His plight, as Bryan points out, is not primarily a political issue, though enough diverse commentary has turned it into one. Some think he is clearly guilty; I can only ask, “Of what, exactly?” and wait for the verdicts. Some think he can get a fair trial; I seriously doubt it, with a Commander-in-Chief who says, point-blank, “He broke the law.” If anyone can tell me how this proceeding can have a fair conclusion, I’ll try to read about it with an open mind.

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