Whatever the reality of Mr. Manning's mental health, or any whistleblower, it should not diminish the validity of the disclosures. Our country has studiously avoided having any meaningful conversation about why the soldiers in a U.S. Army Apache helicopter gunned down unarmed Iraquis, including children, while high-fiving each other as if they were playing "Call of Duty." Or, why the Army found no wrongdoing in this incident and tried to bury it. Manning's mental health gives us no insight there.
With the Obama administration cracking down on whistleblowers more than any past President, we must remember a whistleblowers' mental health does not reduce the significance of their disclosures.
I've chronicled the Obama administration's campaign against whistleblowers on Kos, including the latest prosecution of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim and:
- the foolishness of renewing a Bush-era grand jury subpoena against New York Times reporter James Risen
- the sloppiness and inaccuracies of the indictment against former NSA senior official Thomas Drake
- the heavy-handed sentencing of former FBI contract linguist Shamai Leibowitz
- the vilification of Bradley Manning for disclosing the video of an American massacre on unarmed Iraqis and two journalists
Scrutinizing leakers can be a dangerous distraction from more essential scrutiny. In the case of Thomas Drake, the indictment of weaves a sordid tale of intrigue about how he committed dastardly by leaking classified information to a reporter. For the record, Drake did NOT leak classified information and is charged not with leaking classified information but with "willful retention for purposes of disclosure," which is an invented crime that does not exist in the entire U.S. Code. Nevertheless what we should be asking is not about Drake's behavior but that of the NSA officials who embarked on multi-billion dollar boondoggle at the expense of Americans' tax dollars and their privacy.
The details of a whistleblower's behavior and mental health may seem like engrossing fodder, but we should not let such scrutiny divert attention from their disclosures. For those of us enraged by the NSA's dismissive attitude toward American's privacy, prosecuting Drake does nothing to hold accountable the NSA officials who wasted our money and trashed the Constitution. And, for those of us who are sickened by the events in the Collateral Murder video, the state of Bradley Manning's mental health issues does not lessen the need for an investigation into those events.
Jesselyn Radack is Homeland Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization. This post originally appeared in her Daily Kos column.