Bradley Manning is going to Leavenworth.
He deserves it.
But he doesn’t deserve to go alone.
The largest American intelligence breach since Benedict Arnold is being placed on the back of a private first class. That proves that crap rolls downhill, and that the brass knows how to cover its ass.
You know the story.
A she-male recruit ends up with a top-secret clearance and downloads every secret we’ve got onto a thumb drive which he gives to the piece of crap who heads that America-hating group Wikileaks.
Wham, bam, we’re screwed.
People died because of it, terrorists were empowered by it, foreign relations were damaged by it, agents were endangered by it.
It was a mess. A giant mess.
And Bradley Manning is guilty.
He said as much yesterday, acknowledging his misdeeds and apologizing for them, and accepting the punishment that goes with them.
But as big a screw up as Bradley Manning is, this never should have happened. If Army leaders all along the command chain had done their jobs, our secrets would have been safe and this never would have happened.
First, the security clearance.
Army investigators blew it when they gave a very unstable and untested young man the keys to the vault. The background checks and psychological profile should have shown that Bradley Manning was a confused and volatile person who lacked the temperament and character to be entrusted with a security clearance. Background investigations are done to weed out soldiers just like Bradley Manning.
If the investigators had done their jobs, this never would have happened.
Second, the sergeants.
Bradley Manning was a private first class, a very junior rank. A rank that does not operate unsupervised. Bradley Manning was overseen by non-commissioned officers – sergeants. Sergeants were responsible for him both in his job as an intelligence analyst and in his basic role as a soldier.
Those sergeants had two responsibilities: To protect the mission and to serve the soldier.
They had the responsibility to make sure the intelligence wasn’t compromised, and they also were tasked to make sure that Bradley Manning was doing OK. They were to be his protectors and mentors, to keep an eye on him and make sure that, as a person, he was doing OK.
They failed miserably.
They did not supervise him on the job and they did not take care of him as a troop. A sergeant doing his job would have noted Bradley Manning’s unstable behavior and obvious personal turmoil and gotten him the help he needed. They would have protected the mission from him, and they would have tended to his needs.
But they absolutely did not.
If the sergeants had done their job, this never would have happened.
Third, the generals.
It is inconceivable that an American intelligence operation could be so lacking in security measures that a private first class could essentially gut our nation’s secrets. A system that could be infiltrated and defeated by a Bradley Manning is a system that is incompetent and insecure.
And generals are responsible for that.
Whoever commanded this soldier’s office, post and major command is an incompetent idiot unworthy of the brass on his collar.
In the American military, the traditional belief is in accountability. A commander is responsible for the totality of his command. If there is a significant or structural failing in the command, it is the commander’s fault.
Heads should have rolled over this.
Yet none did.
The generals came out unscathed.
Their inadequate protections and lackadaisical security are as much to blame as is Bradley Manning.
If the generals had done their jobs, this never would have happened.
That’s the part of the Bradley Manning story that isn’t being told. This is not just the tale of a traitor, it is a story of systemic failure.
Our most intimate secrets were splashed across Osama Bin Laden’s computer not just because a private first class turned his back on his country, but because a whole lot of other soldiers turned their backs on their jobs.
Yes, he’s going to Leavenworth.
But he shouldn’t be the only one.