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…