Dana Milbank in the Washington Post describes Bradley Manning as a “misguided kid” who has done more harm than good to the principle of gov’t openness, and approvingly quotes Steven Aftergood, a “transparency expert” at the Federation for American Scientists:
“The approach of grabbing hundreds of thousands of documents and shoveling them into the public domain,” said Aftergood, “was needlessly provocative.” He added: “It was not exposing misconduct. It was sticking a thumb in the government’s eye.”
By contrast, here is Glenn Greenwald, debating Aftergood. If Milbank and Aftergood had been around for the Pentagon Papers, they would have instinctively sided with the war establishment then too, and dissed Daniel Ellsberg’s use of a xerox machine for nights on end as indiscriminate fire-hose journalism. When Ellsberg and Manning’s methods are analogous (and both Ellsberg and Manning are sources, not journalists). Milbank insults Manning’s character and motivation, which surely had a willful anti-war dimension, reflecting far more knowledge of the tragic war effort than Milbank wants to allow himself. And as to the claim that Manning has damaged gov’t openness, this is illogical. Whatever else he has done, Manning has thrown open the windows, with a huge effect, and even if the leaks have hurt some people– taking Milbank’s point– and made our public servants defensive, saying that he has struck a blow against openness is like saying that Ellsberg’s promiscuous xeroxing somehow retarded the introduction of the internet. This issue comes down to a simple question, how misguided is America’s policy in the Middle East?