In the wee hours last Wednesday morning, Mitt Romney faced somber on-lookers in Boston. The GOP candidate gave the president his blessing, and receded from the race. It was official, Obama, and America’s Democratic Party, triumphed on Election Day.
Barack Obama took the stage in Chicago with his family and announced victory. “The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for,” he told the boisterous crowd, “come with responsibilities as well as rights.”
In light of the president’s recent crackdown on wistleblowers in his administration those words carry extra weight.
In the past four years, Obama’s administration has tried six cases under the Espionage Act. The law dates back to World War I, criminalizing those who disclose information detrimental to national security. Five of these criminal cases currently sit with the Department of Justice, while the most publicized case –Bradley Manning and the Wikileaks shakedown— is under the jurisdiction of the US Military.
The same day as Obama announced victory, Bradley Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, publically stated they were exploring bargaining possibilities with the military court trying his client’s infamous Wikileaks case.
Manning, a now-notorious American soldier, was arrested in May 2010 on a tour of duty in Iraq under suspicion of passing highly-confidential material on to the whistleblower website, Wikileaks. Among the material were videos of the a 2007 Baghdad airstrike and 2009’s Granai airstrike in Afghanistan, and 500,000 Army reports. To date, this is the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public.
Under Obama’s orders, Manning was held for two years in the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Virginia before his arraignment last February. The US soldier faced 22 charges, including multiple counts of theft of public records, and the accusation of wrongfully leaking classified information, knowing the enemy would have access to these documents. His most serious charge is aiding the enemy (essentially, treason), putting Manning up to a death penalty sentence. Prosecutors have stated they do not plan to seek a death sentence against the 24-year-old.
Manning’s trial is expected to begin this February. If convicted, Manning will face life imprisonment.
While Manning offered no plea request at the February 2012 arraignment, late last Wednesday, Coombs said that Manning would not plead guilty to the charges filed against him. However, the accused private is "attempting to accept responsibility for offences that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses." Coombs wrote that the military court still has the final decision on whether or not Manning can take that action.
As America prepares to inaugurate its incumbent leader for a final term in office, the Obama administration has promised to strengthen protections for whistleblowers. Still, Obama’s staff are intent on enhancing the country’s national defense. This aggressive campaign on government employees leaking national security content will likely remain under fire.