Whistle-blowing is a nickname for a legal case where an employee or citizen reports on the illegal activities of a superior. Whistleblowers are usually granted immunity from prosecution or retaliation for whistleblowing—some may even receive a monetary reward for acting on behalf of the American people. For instance, if an adjuster reports Medicaid fraud on the part of his or her higher-ups, they are technically doing a public service.
For military criminal defense attorneys, however, whistleblowing often requires defending the whistleblowers themselves—not the subjects of their reports.
When you are an Army intelligence analyst, and your employer is technically the U.S. government itself, immunity is never on the table. Chelsea Manning learned that lesson at an unprecedented level of harshness.
Known at the time as Bradley Manning, she was a low-level Army intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq in 2009. Her release of classified information revealed information about military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a move that her supporters have called righteous whistleblowing, while critics like Senator John McCain have called it “espionage.”
In either case, Chelsea Manning was prosecuted for her role in leaking the information to WikiLeaks and to the public at large.
THE LONGEST PUNISHMENT FOR LEAKS IN MILITARY HISTORY
What made her case unique was the sheer enormity of her sentence—she was given 35 years, scheduled for release in May 2045. The average sentence for leaking information illegally, according to the relatively small number of prosecuted cases, is about 1 to 3 years. The Obama administration was criticized for unprecedented crackdown on information leakage, some public voices asserting that Chelsea Manning was doing a public service.
Notably, Manning has acknowledged that she did wrong and has apologized for her actions. After nearly 7 years of imprisonment, the President has commuted her sentence from 35 to 7—meaning Chelsea will be released by May of this year.
THE DOOR HAS BEEN OPENED
Due to this recent development, a new standard for punishing information leaks has been set. Thought auded as a “transparent administration,” under Obama the military has prosecuted nearly 10 information leak cases—more than all leak cases in U.S. history combined.
As connectivity increases at a faster and more total rate, the ability to maintain secrecy is increasingly difficult. In an open and see-through world, the ones who can control their information flow will be the leading world powers. However, balancing the need for secrecy with the need for liberty will be a growing concern.
As for Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law, our military criminal defense attorney will continue to fight for the rights of the accused, no matter the opposition or the global climate.