Professionalism/Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks

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Bradley Manning US Army.jpg

Bradley Manning (as Chelsea Manning was then known) was a U.S. Army soldier deployed to Iraq in 2009. He was arrested and charged with 22 offences for leaking classified information to the public via WikiLeaks in May 2010. He pleaded guilty to 10 of the charges and the trial for the remaining 12, including aiding the enemy, is to take place in June 2013. This leak marks the largest information leak in U.S. history.

Content of Leak[edit]

Manning said he gave WikiLeaks the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike video (so-called "Collateral Murder") in early 2010. Unedited version and edited version[1]
  • Iraq War Logs
  • Afghan War Logs
  • Guantanamo Bay files
  • U.S. Diplomatic Cables
  • "Collateral Murder" video
  • Granai airstrike

Timeline of Events[edit]

Timeline of events surrounding Brad Manning leak and WikiLeaks

Proponent Perspectives on the Leak[edit]

Though the leak may cause severe consequences, he received tremendous support from social groups such as Bradley Manning Support Network. They believe Manning's motives were for the well-being of the country and that whistle-blowers play a vital role in democracy by holding governments accountable[2].

Professional Qualities[edit]

To justify Manning's motives, it is essential to evaluate his professional qualities. Before exposed, he had a series of online chatting session with Adrian Lamo. Within the chat log, Lamo assured Manning's protection and privacy. Manning confessed his motives truthfully in the chats. This shows that Manning's professional loyalty lies with the public.

Prudence and Judgement[edit]

Analyzing situations with expertise and being vigilant is an important professional quality.

hypothetical question: if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?

—Bradley Manning [3]

From the quote, Manning showed his exercise of prudence and the stress he was experiencing. Though he believed the viewed content should be made public, Manning contemplated for months before he acted upon the judgement that he would not regret. Many groups believe that because he exercised prudence, not a single person has been harmed despite the sensitivity of the information leaked[4].

Professional Integrity[edit]

As an Intelligence Analyst for the military, Manning was to follow orders as given. However, as a professional, Manning believed that his loyalty does not simply lie with the government and the military. According to the chat log, Manning felt that he was actively involved in things he was completely against[3]. He disagreed with the military's actions due to the conflict between his personal and professional standings, putting his loyalty to question.

God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.

—Bradley Manning [3]

Manning realized that his loyalty lies with the public instead of the military, thus aligning himself as a professional rather than just an intelligence analyst. Advocates for Manning believe that he should be given the medal of honor for his service[4]. Many also believed the leaked information does belong to the people and wishes for Manning's freedom[5]. By leaking the classified information to the public, Manning exercised his ethical beliefs and retained his professional integrity.

i just… dont wish to be a part of it… at least not now… im not ready… i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much,…

—Bradley Manning [3]

Manning exercised prudence and understood the consequences of his actions. Instead of standing silent, he accepted responsibility to expose government misconducts. People relate him to other professionals [6] and whistle-blowers such as Edward Murrow, the broadcast journalist who put himself on the line when confronting Senator Joseph McCarthy [7]. He would not sacrifice his professional integrity for anything, even his own life.

Defiance to Authority[edit]

After he identified his loyalty and professional duty, Manning found the courage to pass the classified information to Julian Assange, defying the military protocols while knowing the consequences.

Opponent Perspectives on the Leak[edit]

Despite the overwhelming support from the general public, some do not see Manning as a definition four professional.

Disloyal to U.S.[edit]

Manning did not fulfill his responsibility as an employee of the U.S military. When Manning received the Top-Secret clearance that was needed for his job, Manning agreed to protect classified information. However, Manning violated his promise. Manning did not uphold loyalty to his country. He was charged with aiding the enemy.[8] The prosecution claimed that the diplomatic cables leak harms U.S diplomatic ties with other nations, which can result in severe diplomatic crisis. In addition, the war logs leak can give a strategic edge to U.S. enemy in warfare and aid their terrorist activities worldwide.[9] In the eyes of the U.S. government, Manning compromised U.S. national defense and he is regarded as a traitor. [10]

Redefine the classification system[edit]

Manning testified that he selectively released less sensitive information.

Of the document released, the [diplomatic] cables were the only one I was not absolutely certain couldn't harm the U.S. ... all the cables [I released] have a SIPDIS caption. I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the U.S."

—Bradley Manning [11]

Manning was not certain about the risk of leaking those cables, however he used his personal judgement to determine what to leak. Some argued that Manning alone has no expertise to redefine the existing military classification system. Regarding to Manning's case, President Obama said "We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate...He broke the law."[12]

Skipped legal reporting channels[edit]

Manning did not take the proper channels to report the inhumane incident discovered, he directly gave away classified information to the public. There were multiple legal avenues available: Manning's chain of command, the Army Inspector General, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Congress.

Speculation on Manning's motives[edit]

Some speculated that exposing humanitarian issue is not Manning's only motive. One possible motive is to perform revenge to the military. Manning was emotionally unstable prior to the leak. Manning's miserable early life contributed to this. Manning was neglected by both his parents, whom later divorced. Manning was also being bullied both in school and the military. Manning said that he was “Regularly ignored[by superiors in the military] ... except when I had something essential, then it was back to ‘Bring me coffee, then sweep the floor.’”[13] He also suffered from the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars him from openly discussing that he is gay in the military. Psychiatrist Capt. Edan Critchfield diagnosed that Manning has “Occupational problem and adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct.” [14] Manning's friends suggested that his desperation for social acceptance contributed to the leak. By releasing evidences of military's inhumane actions directly to the public, he can become a national hero that some people admired.

His desperation for acceptance — or delusions of grandeur — may have led him to disclose the largest trove of government secrets".

—Manning's friend [13]

Related Cases and Concepts[edit]

Pentagon Papers[edit]

Whistleblowing on classified information had been condemned by the government. It takes courage and commitment to stand up against the legal pressure and threats of mental and physical harm from the government.

The Pentagon Papers, containing classified information on government deceptions during Vietnam War and the Johnson Administration, were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg to the Times in 1971.

The Nixon administration filed civil suit in 1971 against Ellsberg, with charges of felony under the Espionage Act. Nixon administration conducted covert operations to discredit Ellsberg using CIA agents such as breaking into his psychiatrist's office to steal medical records, wiretapping against him,[15] and planning to drug him during a rally.[16] The administration attempted to bribe chief justice of the case by offering him directorship at FBI. [17] Ultimately, the court dismissed all charges in 1973 due to gross misconduct of the government and illegal evidence gathering.

Nazi Regime and the Holocaust[edit]

Whistleblowers expose the government misconducts and lies that it attempts to hide under the guise of confidentiality and national security. Left unchecked, the humanitarian and political issues, such as those exposed in the Manning Case and Pentagon Papers, could degenerate into more horrific cases, such as the Holocaust.

The Nazi regime expended considerable efforts to hide the details of the Holocaust from the German public. The lie told to the public had been that Jews were "deported to work in the east." [18] Propaganda material in 1941 reported that deported Jews had respectable work and lived in good conditions. One of the infamous examples is Theresienstadt, ghetto for elderly and prominent Jews for whom applying the "deported to work" propaganda would be implausible. Nazi authorities painted Theresienstadt as a peaceful retirement community when it is a transit camp to killings centers in Poland and Baltic region.[19] The film, Theresienstadt, was made about the fine conditions of Jewish settlements.

Adolf Eichmann and Milgram Experiment[edit]

Blind obedience to authority figures and surrender of responsibility often lead normal people to do unethical things.

The humanitarian issues of the U.S. military exposed by the Manning Leak demonstrated the dangers of such blind obedience. As Ethan McCord, a soldier involved in the Baghdad Airstrike incident, explained the situation in Iraq, "we were told that if we were to fire our weapons at people, that we were being investigated, the officers would take care of you."[20] This draws striking similarities with the statement by Adolf Eichmann during the Holocaust trials, "I never did anything, great or small, without obtaining in advance express instructions from Adolf Hitler or any of my superiors."[21] The Milgram studied this effect and identified that "the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view themselves as the instrument to carrying out another person's wishes, and they therefore no longer see themselves as responsible for their actions." [22]

Shakil Afridi[edit]

Whistleblowing and leaking of confidential information has to be done prudently as the consequences could be grave.

Following the raid on Osama bin Laden, classified information about the informant, Pakistani physician Shakil Afridi, who aided CIA in identifying the hideout location was leaked. The Pakistani commission investigating the raid recommended that he be charged with conspiracy and high treason. [23]. Pakistani authorities seized Afridi's assets[24] and denied him of future employment.[25] Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison for treason due to his connection with the militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam, according to the Pakistani government [26] despite denial from commander of the group.[27]

Professional Implications[edit]

A professional would be confronted with ethical dilemmas throughout the course of his career. The professional should identify where his loyalty lies and evaluate the situation prudently to come to a judgment in line with his integrity. The professional should also have the courage to defy the authorities if necessary.


  1. "Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy," The New York Times.
  2. Bloomfield, A. 2013. Bradley Manning Prison: 1,000th Day Behind Bars Approaches Retrieved from
  3. a b c d Hansen, E. (2011). Manning-Lamo Chat Logs Revealed. Retrieved from
  4. a b 2013.About Bradley.Retrieved from
  5. 2012.Thankful for Bradley Manning, Wikileaks & Courage To Tell The Truth.Retrieved from
  6. 2013. Courage To Resist. Retrieved from
  7. Carey, R. 2008. EDWARD R. MURROW VS. MCCARTHYISM. Retrieved from
  8. Charge Sheet
  9. US red-faced as 'cablegate' sparks global diplomatic crisis, courtesy of WikiLeaks
  10. Small victory for Manning's Defense?
  11. Bradley Manning On Why He Released State Dept. Cables
  12. Obama responses to Manning case
  13. a b Early Struggles of Soldier Charged in Leak Case
  14. Bradley Manning is at the center of the WikiLeaks controversy. But who is he?
  15. The Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers) Trial: A Chronology, University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law
  16. Liddy, G. Gordon (1980). Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 170–71. ISBN 0-312-88014-6. 
  17. Judge William Byrne; Ended Trial Over Pentagon Papers, Washington Post
  18. Responsibility for the Holocaust
  19. Deceiving the Public, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Holocaust Encyclopedia
  20. WikiLeaks' Collateral Murder: U.S. Soldier Ethan McCord
  21. Adolf Eichmann (April 11, 1961), Eichmann trial proceedings
  22. Milgram, Stanley (1974). Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-422-74580-4. 
  23. Pakistan: Doctor Who Aided C.I.A. Should Face Charges, Panel Says, New York Times
  24. Shakeel Afridi’s assets siezed, Dawn News
  25. KP govt disqualifies Dr Shakil Afridi for job, Daily Times
  26. Dr Shakil Afridi jailed for ‘militant links’, International Herald Tribune
  27. Militants deny link with Dr Shakil Afridi, Geo News