The trial of US Army private Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, began this week. The start of the WikiLeaks case coincided with President Barack Obama signing new whistleblower-protection legislation. Federal officials, however, say Manning won't get whistleblower protection because cannot be defined as such.
Some observers argue that Manning is a whistleblower for allegedly downloading hundreds of thousands of secret documents regarding the US military and turning them over to WikiLeaks, which later released some of this classified information to select media organizations and published more online. It has been called the biggest US security breach in history.
US Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), considered one of Washington's most outspoken whistleblower advocates, said this week that Manning doesn't qualify as a whistleblower. However, he added that national security personnel deserve some additional legal protection.
"Whistleblower protection legislation doesn't protect people who have national security information," Grassley said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "I think that we need to do more in the area of intelligence and nationals security to protect whistleblowers, but I'd doubt I would go as far as giving [Manning] protection."
Grassley posted a video online earlier this week with the same message:
"Addtitional improvements are still needed to make sure the intelligence community whistbleblwoers get the protection they deserve."
Government officials are not calling Manning a whistleblower and he is not pursuing that as a defense in court. Instead, his lawyers say the charges should be thrown out because of the poor conditions under which Manning was detained. Still, some in the media are calling Manning a whistleblower and continue to argue for his innocence.
From three Guardian contributors:
Questioning authority, as a soldier, is not easy. But it can, at times, be honorable. Words attributed to Bradley Manning reveal that he went through a profound moral struggle between the time he enlisted and when he became a whistleblower. Through his experience in Iraq, witnessing suffering of innocent civilians and soldiers alike, he became disturbed by top-level policy that undervalued human life. Like other courageous whistleblowers, he was driven foremost by a desire to reveal the truth.
The Guardian, a news publication in the UK and one of three major newspapers WikiLeaks leaked potentially sensitive information to, has called Manning a whistleblower along with Der Spiegel in Germany. Both have also published opinion articles urging protection for him. The New York Times, the third newspaper, however, has not called Manning a whistleblower.