A Veteran’s Complicated Reaction To Chelsea Manning’s Freedom

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning resulting in a flurry of opinions on social media (myself included). People are split on the decision. Some are saying that Manning is a traitor and a criminal and should serve every second of her 35 year sentence. Others are saying that she might have died in prison under a Trump administration. I think that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Now, before we get started, it is important to point out that this conversation has almost nothing to do with Manning being a transgender woman.

Why Bowe Bergdahl should not accept a pardon in Obama’s final days »

First, Manning risked our national security in a very real and dangerous way. Despite critics saying things like “the government was never able to prove a single instance that resulted in the death of an American service member,” the fact remains that she bulk shared after-action reports, diplomatic cables, videos, and documents containing tactics, techniques, and procedures. Anyone who has served in the military should reasonably recognize that just doing that at all risks the lives of men and women in uniform as well as frontline civilians working across the globe. Further, there are whistleblowing procedures in place for classified information meant to provide a path for someone to flag violations of law or human rights. Manning didn’t even try to follow those.

Second, I know I’d much rather have Julian Assange in jail than Manning. Not only is he an accused rapist, he has caused untold amounts of damage through leaks. But let’s not lie to ourselves, Assange is not going to turn himself in.

He lacks the courage and the integrity to follow through on such a promise. Our country desperately needs reform around the way we share classified information but bulk sharing on Wikileaks is not the way to do it.

Finally, this case represents an interesting study in the need for criminal justice reform. The fact is that no one has ever served as much time as she has for crimes under the Espionage Act. In fact, we’ve had flag officers leak information and face no jail time at all. This is typical of the military where we often see senior leaders receive little to no punishment for offenses that junior enlisted service members might be punished severely.

And, not excusing her from her actions, but why the hell do we have so much information available to so many people? I know from my experience in the military that there is a ton of information available without regard for need to know, despite our entire system of clearance and classification being largely based on someone having the need to know prior to access. Manning clearly exhibited signs of mental-health distress throughout her military career and received no help from anyone. This is not something that is new to the military. I remember a guy on my first ship spending his entire watch talking to seagulls, yelling at them to stand in formation. He was armed and no one even thought about taking his gun and taking him to medical. Eventually that sailor ended up in in-patient mental health treatment, but it took several instances before he got the treatment he so desperately needed.

To be clear, we must punish those who risk our national security through leaks, espionage, or other traitorous actions. We must also take into account the full context of each case. Initially, I was dead against any sort of commutation for Manning, but after considering all of the facts, I have come to a different conclusion. Mercy is the only answer here. As much as I believe Manning is a traitor and a criminal, I also believe that there is little hope with the incoming administration for her to receive fair and humane treatment. She has admitted wrongdoing and will never be able to work in the intelligence field again. She has served more time than anyone else has ever even been sentenced to serve for that crime, including several flag officers. Most serve between one and three and a half years. The benefit far outweighs the risk of commuting her sentence and justice has been served.

Photo: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.

Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.

It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.

Read More Show Less
Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

It all began with a medical check.

Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.

It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.

Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Cpt. Katrina Hopkins and Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers, assigned to Task Force Warhorse, pilot a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operation at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Javion Siders)

U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.

However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

Read More Show Less
Army Spc. Clayton James Horne

Army Spc. Clayton James Horne died in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 17, making him the eighth non-combat fatality for Operation Inherent Resolve so far this year, defense officials have announced.

Horne, 23, was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company, 160th Military Police Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Ocala, Florida, a Pentagon news release says.

Read More Show Less
Joshua Yabut/Twitter

The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.

Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).

Read More Show Less