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SPC Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, has been arrested for a series of leaks including the "Collateral Murder" video that Wikileaks released this spring, showing a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians

Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video  of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing "almost criminal political back dealings."

"Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public," Manning wrote.

Manning apparently got a little carried away with his leaking. A friend said of his decision to leak the video, "He wanted to do the right thing... He didn’t want to do this just to cause a stir. ... He wanted people held accountable and wanted to see this didn’t happen again." That the temptation of all the classified material he had access to was apparently too much for him to resist shouldn't devalue the importance of the "Collateral Murder" video.

The American people have largely been protected from the worst part of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We don't see on a daily basis what's happening in these wars in our name. It's a disservice to us and to the men and women serving in these wars--and potential future wars--that we are so removed from this reality. We need to know what happens in war.

Beyond that consideration, Yglesias find an important aspect of this arrest:

It’s really no surprise that the Army is interesting in arresting leakers, but it’s a reminder of what weak tea the notion that there can be no prosecutions of Bush administration officials because that would be "looking backwards" instead of forwards is. Investigatory agencies are always looking back, it’s just a question of what they look for. And under Barack Obama we’re basically looking at the things the permanent national security state wants looked into.... In general, we expect things undertaken by America’s public servants in America’s name on America’s dime to be matters of public record. The security services have, however, largely managed to leverage the legitimate need for some level of operational secrecy into a fairly broad exemption of themselves from this basic principle.

This is not the only "looking backward" to prosecute a leaker the Obama administration has engaged in, and as Matt suggests, that selective willingness to engage in retrospection is an unfortuante pattern that's emerged.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 06:00 PM PDT.

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