Democrats have had no trouble recognizing and expressing their disgust with the hypocrisy of the pro-Trump GOP’s 180-degree pivot on WikiLeaks and its chief, Julian Assange. It was, therefore, fitting that one of President Barack Obama’s final acts was to expose their own false pretensions about that Russian-linked information clearinghouse. In commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who released a variety of documents to WikiLeaks exposing American sources, assets, and methods related to ongoing wartime operations, Obama revealed that the left is as susceptible to partisan groupthink as anyone.
In the view of the far left, U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning’s treatment in custody—first, at a Marine brig in Quantico and later at Leavenworth—has been shameful. But they seemed to be very much in the minority among liberals.
The harsh treatment imposed on Manning before his trial was an example of the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers. Obama’s antipathy toward leakers was shared by a variety of Democrats, including figures like Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, who authored legislation authorizing streamlined the prosecution of those who mishandle classified materials as a response to Manning’s releases.
“This disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy,” said then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “it is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conventions and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.”
“We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate,” President Barack Obama added. “He broke the law.” The president was admonished by activists for prejudging Manning’s guilt before trial, but the case the Justice Department brought against WikiLeaks and Manning revealed the seriousness with which the administration took this violation.
The government’s case was a strong one. “I could’ve sold to Russia or China, and made [a lot of money],” Private Manning wrote in an online conversation with the hacker Adrian Lamo, who eventually turned him in. Lamo told investigators that Manning believed the information to which he had access was “public data.” Some of that which was released by WikiLeaks included the revelation that the late Saudi King Abdullah urged the U.S. to strike Iranian nuclear targets and that the U.S was keeping bombers at the ready to attack al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Cables released by Manning to WikiLeaks also revealed that Zimbabwean opposition figures were in contact with U.S. diplomatic officials, allowing Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial government to discredit them.
“China made ample use of the WikiLeaks cables to incite a witch-hunt against every academic and human rights activist named in the cables–and of course many who were not–for passing information to Washington. This applied especially to Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs,” wrote the U.K.-based columnist Kyle Orton. As the Associated Press reported at the time, prosecutors produced an “uncontested written statement that former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden asked for and received from an associate the Afghanistan battlefield reports that WikiLeaks published.”
Manning’s far-left defenders have latched onto the contention established at trial that no one was killed as a direct result of the WikiLeaks dump, but this is a tendentious assertion. At issue is the claim that members of the Taliban killed a tribal elder terrorists alleged had been outed by Manning’s revelations, but that claim was rendered dubious because the murdered individual’s name was not on the list of U.S. informants in those documents. Because it could not be firmly established, the court sustained a defense objection and struck the matter from the record. That does not mean, as Manning’s credulous devotees insist, that this killing was unrelated to these leaks. It very likely was.
Witnesses at Manning’s trial testified in detail to the ways in which America’s mission in Afghanistan had become more difficult as a result of the leaker’s actions. They outlined the extent to which individuals who worked with Americans were forced to go into hiding as a result of Manning’s leaks. Government prosecutors brought such a strong case that they secured not only a theft and espionage conviction but the longest prison sentence ever imposed on a leaker of state secrets.
Then Bradley Manning became Chelsea Manning.
Even those liberals who prided themselves on their unwavering resolve on matters related to national security went soft on Manning after he became a she. A fluffy profile of Manning in the New York Times last week presaged Obama’s commutation. “Chelsea Manning Describes a Bleak Life in a Men’s Prison,” the Times declared. The piece betrays the headline’s lie. The report describes in detail Manning’s “special status” at Fort Leavenworth. There, Manning receives hormone treatment, wears makeup, and meets with lawyers in a secure information facility specially constructed just for Manning. The only maltreatment the report alleges is the contention that Manning is unclear about whether or not Manning will receive taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery.
This contrived victim status is, it seems, all it took to transform Democrats who were previously unsympathetic toward Manning into anti-“deep state” activists and agitators. There is no justification for Obama’s commutation save the alleged tribulations Manning has endured in prison while serving time for imperiling American national security. Republicans do seem to be of two minds on Assange these days, and that’s a shameful hypocrisy. Democrats, it seems, are keen on embracing traitors who have a reasonable claim to persecuted minority status. Which is worse?