And he could face 52 years in jail. Manning is the whistleblower who gave damning government documents to Wikileaks. People are already starting to compare him to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers.
This is a serious matter. I wasn't all that surprised to see Obama give in on the public option, and it didn't shock me to see a smaller stimulus than was expected. His willingness to open our shores to further offshore drilling was unwise but not entirely unexpected. What has truly shocked me about this administration and this former-constitutional-law-prof-turned-president, however, is the secrecy of this administration, its cavalier attitude toward civil liberties, and the zeal with which it pursues whistleblowers. Never would I have thought that Barack Obama would be an enemy of civil liberties and a British Tory Prime Minister a defender of them.
Whistleblowers serve a valuable purpose in democratic governments. Governments that have whistleblowers in their midst have more incentive to deal honestly with the people and be more effective because someone is watching. As with all things in government, oversight is key.
Whistleblowing is also a right, however, one tied to freedom of speech, privacy, and dissent. One can't help but notice the sustained rollback of our civil rights over the last 30 years, and any hope we had of a Democratic president acting as a bulwark of those rights is all but gone.