We agree that Bradley Manning deserves jail time for an indiscriminate leak of military information that led, proveably, to the killing of a spy and the altering of military tactics.
We do not, however, disagree that he leaked some materials that needed to be brought into the sunlight.
The issue here is quite different, so far, from the leak by Edward Snowden of domestic data-gathering by the National Security Agency that appear on the face to be unconstitutional - and which the government is providing only nebulous answers about security and protection as evidence of a traitorous act by Snowden.
Manning indiscriminately leaked more than 700,000 pages of documents to the WikiLeaks website, itself a place that should be a treasure for anarchists seeking to bring down anything they don't want. Yes, dictatorships can be overthrown and horrible military actions, including those by the U.S., can be brought to light, but do not confuse the posting of documents on a website with real journalism or an act of heroism or patriotism.
Snowden risked life and limb personally, staked his name to the action and took responsibility. Manning took an investigation to get caught.
Real investigation, real journalistic activity, requires analysis and insight of the kind that is not provided by the posting of hundreds of thousands of memos and documents. That is simply malicious activity that snares the necessary and the good along with the evil and the unnecessary.
We think Manning was guilty of a failure to know the difference, though he was an analyst by job grade.
We also think Manning's case is the warning light on the dashboard that should be going off everytime anyone in the federal government labels Snowden a traitor for revealing the domestic spying programs and their breadth and operation. Snowden's point is that the data is too readily accessible by the government. Manning, as a low-level operative, was able to leak sensitive data that the military should have been protecting.
His case puts a javelin through the heart of the government's "just trust us" response when defending the NSA.