Yesterday brought the welcome news that a 22-year-old soldier had been busted for passing classified gun-camera tapes and documents to Wikileaks. If proven guilty, Spc. Bradley Manning needs to do serious prison time.
But that’s where the good news ends. Spc. Manning was only caught because he bragged about his crime to a former hacker, who turned him in to the Army. Our government still isn’t serious about plugging classified leaks in wartime.
According to Wired.com, which broke the story, the renegade soldier sent a chest-thumping message claiming that “Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack” because of the large volume of State Department documents he claimed to have leaked.
Well, probably not. Don’t expect Ambassador Fuzzypoodle to show up in the cardio ward just yet. Judging by the gun-camera video from Baghdad that Manning handed over and Wikileaks posted a few months back, that young soldier may have had access to a lot of classified information — but not to the really good stuff.
The video, which made the Web rounds, shows an Apache helicopter crew dealing with terrorists. Anyone with the least objectivity or military experience recognized that the crew made the right call when pulling the trigger (after deliberating). Any “civilians” killed shouldn’t have been smoking and joking with terrorist gunmen.
Wikileak’s big revelation was weak on sound, low on fury and signified nothing — although the left tried to pretend it was the My Lai massacre on steroids. The phony fuss faded away.
That doesn’t mean that Manning’s alleged crime wasn’t serious. It was. If convicted, he should do hard prison time. Classified leaks in wartime constitute a potentially deadly breach of a solemn trust. We need to have a zero-tolerance, hang-’em-high policy for those who compromise intelligence, operational or planning documents.
The problem is that we don’t have such a policy. Spc. Manning was caught in a self-woven net. I’m much more interested in busting whoever leaked that sensitive special-operations memo Gen. Dave Petraeus signed off on, only to have it appear on the front page of The New York Times a few weeks ago.
Publicizing that memo may well cost American lives — and the lives of innocent locals. Leaking that document showed a cavalier disregard for the lives of America’s best and our national security.
But no source has indicated to me that there’s an intelligence dragnet out to catch that leaker. Because he or she apparently works in the White House or its environs (very few individuals in Petraeus’ Central Command headquarters even knew the document existed — it was very “close hold”).
So we’ve caught a copperhead by dumb luck — and let a king cobra slither back into the plumbing.
Pop quiz: How many White House or congressional insiders have gone to jail for compromising classified information since 9/11? Despite hundreds of leaks?
Make no mistake: Spc. Manning may be a clown, but he’s a dangerous clown. If the allegations against him are proven, he needs to wear a very special orange clown suit for several years (at least).
But when is our wartime government going to get serious about nailing the big guys and gals who are so confident of their own immeasurable importance that they think nothing of endangering our troops and our secret agents?
I don’t care if leakers of classified info are Democrats or Republicans, military or civilian. Leaking classified documents is treason. So is publishing them.
Either get serious about busting leakers, regardless of rank, or admit that that young soldier would fit right in at the White House.
courtesy NY Post / copyright 2010 NY Post
Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Endless War: Middle Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization” His most recent novel is “The War After Armageddon,” is on the street. His most most recent non-fiction book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.” He is Fox News’ strategic analyst.
Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.