35 years for leaking secrets. Yes, in the eyes of the U.S. Government and in accordance with the "Military Rules of Conduct", Army pfc. Bradley Manning, a junior intelligence analyst is guilty of a crime. A crime that could have been punishable with a sentence of 90 years in jail or the brig as the case may be.
Manning, was sentenced on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, for leaking a vast trove of military and diplomatic secrets to Wikileaks. Had Manning been a civilian employee of the government rather than a lowly Private First Class in the United states Army, would he have been treated differently?
My answer; most likely! As a civilian employee or contractor, his acts might have been more readily considered the act of a whistle-blower, rather be treated as a traitor to his country. Initially, Private Manning was treated badly in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico. Va. What was an army pfc. doing in a Marine Corps brig? Perhaps because Quantico is very close to the FBI operations center, not to mention the CIA headquarters. Coincidence? Not likely!
Whistle-blower status is not available to a member of the military establishment. When you enlist in any of the military services, regardless of the branch, your life is there’s until you are discharged. During your contracted term of service, you are there’s and are no longer guaranteed the rights of a civilian. Once you enlist you are under Military Justice for the duration of your term of enlistment. That is not to say that Military Justice is all bad; it's just totally different than justice in the Courts that are governed by the U. S. Constitution.
I am not suggesting that the sentence handed down to Manning wasn't a fair or just verdict. In the view of many, under the circumstances, the verdict could and has been considered linient. The judge in this matter, Army Colonel Denise Lind, did not explain or amplify on the reason for her ruling. With Good Behavior and time served, Manning could apply for parole in less than seven years. According to an article in the Morning Call (Thursday, August 22, 2013, by Richard A. Serrano of the Tribune Washington Bureau, Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs indicated that Manning appeared hopeful and actually ended up comforting his attorneys, who were in tears. He was quoted as saying; "Don't worry about it,'" "It's going to be OK; I'm going to be OK. I'm going to get through this.'"
Wow! How many of us could show such composure after having just been sentenced to 35 years behind bars?
Whether you believe that Manning should have been dealt with more harshly or whether you feel he has been unjustly accused and sentenced, we must understand that we are dealing with an idealistic young man. A, perhaps naive, young man who obviously felt strongly that the secrets that he divulged displayed actions by our government that, in his opinion, went against the grain of everything that he had been taught.
I picture a young idealistic man who grew up being taught right from wrong. A proud patriot and a man that believes that the red white and blue stand for God, justice, honesty and equality under the law. That is the way I was brought up in the deep South (born in central Mississippi, raised in Memphis, Tennessee), in the 1940's 50's.
I would not presume to put myself in Bradley Manning’s' position or circumstances but I enlisted in the Air Force at the ripe old age of 17 in November 1953. The Korean Armistice had been signed in July of that same year and the Cold War was the topic and the concern of the day. People were building bomb shelters as hysteria spread through-out the Nation.
After a period in Boot Camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas I was transferred to Shepherd Field in Denver, Colorado where I was trained to be an 'Intelligence Specialist'. Then after a period of "Leave" I was sent to Elmendorf AF Base in Anchorage, Alaska. This was in the fall of 1954; Alaska was not yet a State but was still a Territory of the United States. After some additional training in intelligence activities, including hiking, camping and surviving in the wilderness, I was given a 'Secret' clearance by the U.S. Government. FBI agents visited my schools, talked to my parents neighbors, etc. to ascertain if I was dependable, trustworthy, and free of any subversive behaviors.
At one point in my Air Force career in Alaska I was granted a "Top Secret" clearance but only with respect to a single incident that occurred during my 21 month tour in Alaska. The "Top Secret" clearance was limited to this particular occasion and was further limited "On A Need To Know Basis". If I was ever exposed to any "Top Secret" data or information I did not recognize it as such.
Once I was awarded a "Secret" classification I was assigned to the remote Eskimo Village of Unalakleet on the western edge of Alaska on the coast of the Bering Sea. For those that were not paying attention in school geography lessons, the Bering sea separates Alaska from the Soviet Continent. Now mind you, I did not go to this remote village as Airman Second Class Everette Carr. No, I went in civilian clothes appropriate for the climate carrying U. S. Government identification that simply identified me as a representative of the United states Government.
In other words, I was an undercover agent of The U.S. Government that drew his pay from the U.S. Air Force and reported on a daily basis by radio to my superiors in Nome. Of course none of the villagers were fooled as to the reason for my presence in their village, but they played along and it worked for all of us. For me, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
It was now late winter of 1955, and I was living in a one room shack in a village of about 600 hundred Eskimos. Counting the elementary school teachers and the Missionaries, I was one of perhaps six wife people in the village. At that time, as a Territory, Alaska's natives were living a subsistence existence. They hunted and fished for their food along with vegetable gardens that grew wondrous vegetables during the short summers filled with sun and daylight.
My job? Get to know the Native Americans; which meant hunting, fishing, trapping and going wherever they went. It was like having my own hunting and fishing camp with the government supplying the guns, the ammo, the fishing gear, etc. And all I had to do was go along to get along. That and file my daily radio reports and an occasional written report or guide.
Salmon fishing after mid-night on the Unalakleet River was something to experience. Some of the salmon were so large and feisty that once I got them in the shallows I had to shoot them with my sidearm to allow me to drag them onto dry land. These salmon that were returning from the ocean and going upstream to spawn weight upwards to 45 - 65 pounds each. The worst part, having to cover every exposed part of the body including wearing hats and mosquito nets to cover the face and neck. The mosquitoes were so big and nasty that if enough of them had tried they could have carried me off and devoured me.
All good things must end! Yes, after 7 months in heaven it came to an abrupt end. Congress decided not to continue to fund a program that had 14 Air Force Intelligent agents up and down the coast of Alaska including agents on St. Lawrence Island and on Little Diamede Island a scant half mile from Big Diamede which is across the International Date Line and in Russian territory.
Do not fear; I am not going to be the next Bradley Manning. I am not divulging any real secrets. The mission that I was a part of was declassified years and years ago. In fact, the hold thing is described in a post to my personal web site that can be found here:
http://www.blackguard-bewilder.net/intro.html/ As part of Everette’s experiences in Alaska, you can also find a link to the Mission and Reports of Operation—5004th Air Intel Service Squadron.
I spent the remaining months of my tour in Alaska in Fairbanks with the 5004th Air Intel Service Squadron training for the day when we would be called upon to rescue downed U.S. pilots that were disabled returning from a bombing mission over Russia. Additionally, we were trained to capture and interrogate downed Russian pilots and take photos of any new, previously unknown armament that their aircraft might have onboard.
Now comes the interesting part. The last 18 months of my 4 year commitment to the Air Force was spent in Wichita, Texas ( the A-Hole of the United States). Boring! It was a "Training Command Base"; the worst kind of assignment for a veteran enlisted man. The Air Force Intelligence School had been moved from Denver to Wichita! Damn!
The Air Force decided that it needed operational experienced field intelligence specialist as their instructors as opposed to recruiting recent graduated Intl students as instructors. A good sound, logical move; except none of the seasoned intel guys wanted any part of it. I tried being an instructor but teaching a 2 or 3 month course out of a book was just not for me. I opted instead for the Intelligence Library. Now talk about having access to classified documents. Every "Confidential" and "Secret" classified document ever created by the Air Force was stored in room after room filled with metal file cabinets. I had access to all of it. I could have been a guy like Manning; someone who divulged every single item stored within my reach. But this was 1957. Everything was in paper format; literally tons of it. Frankly, I was bored by it all.
An opportunity can along a little less than a year before my discharge from the Air Force. I was still stuck on a Training Command Base but I was offered a position in a department made up of all civilian personnel. I did not hesitate! My boss was a G-9 grade (sorta equivalent to a full bird Colonel) and the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. Most of the office was made up of young, local single women. Halleluiah! I made sure I did my job and did it well. Within a few months I was promoted to Staff Sergeant (four beautiful stripes). You can count on one hand the number of 4 year enlisted men that get four stripes with still 7 months to go on their first 4 year tour. From that point on my military career was a breeze! Man did those Texas women like to party!
I should have stayed in the service for a 20 year career. Hey, Staff Sergeant at age 21; I could have been a contender for Sergeant Major before retirement. But I had had enough of the military. I returned to Memphis, went to Memphis State U. got married, had two wonderful kids that grew up to be wonderful and outstanding people. They gave me four wonderful grand kids that are now all adults and not near as much fun as they used to be.
The point, I was once young, naive and had access to the nations secrets. But I didn’t have the technology available today. I did not have the means of transferring infinite numbers of highly sensitive data at the touch of a few key pad strokes. Who is to say what they would do if placed in pfc. Bradley Manning’s' position. Perhaps in his shoes I would have been compelled to do the same thing he did. Not! Not Ever! But I understand the temptation!