A few days ago, some former private named Bradley Manning was sentenced for 35 years in prison for selling military “secrets” to Wikileaks. Now, this case raises many questions/issues. One is the problem of whether it’s possible to 99% disagree with someone and then use the person as an example in the 1% where you agree, just as it’s possible to agree with 99% of someone yet disagree with 1%.
So, in this case, I shared he above “meme” the other day, which happens to use Manning’s picture to illustrate a point I happen to agree with. It got several “likes,” mostly from people whom I would expect to give such a response, and angry comments (including one de-friending) from two people I’d have expected to respond angrily. One provided a few facts about the case with which I was admittedly unfamiliar. Earlier that day, when I had replied to one friend’s post on the verdict, I asked who Manning was, and said I couldn’t keep all these Obama scandals straight.
Now, one detail which Angry Commentor #2 pointed out was that Manning *sold* the documents to Wikileaks: this is certainly problematic on multiple levels, including the “principles” to which Wiki/Open Source sites are supposed to adhere. Also, around the time that I had tentatively shown Manning some modicum of support, the “news” broke that “he” considers himself a “she,” and wants to be called Chelsea and given a “sex-change” operation at taxpayers’ expense. So, again, he obviously has some issues of his own. However, the Manning case, like the Edward Snowden case, raises an important Constitutional issue in our present media age, especially in the light of the recent revival of Jane Fonda’s controversial acts in Vietnam.
Once again, I was expecting to alienate a few people in Facebook last week when I questioned why people are protesting Fonda–a Communist pro-abortionist–portraying Nancy Reagan, an occultist pro-abortionist. I can understand and agree with people who protest Fonda in general, but I am a bit perplexed over taking issue with this particular role, as if Nancy Reagan is some sacred person who makes Fonda’s portrayal offensive–such as, for example, if she’d been portraying the *other* Mrs. Reagan, the late Jane Wyman, TOP. interestingly, I’ve seen articles about protests of “one actor” in the movie which show Oprah Winfrey and Michael Rainey in the accompanying picture, making it appear to a causal reader/clicker that the opposition is about one of them and, therefore, “racist.” Anyway, in one discussion of Fonda’s role in _The Butler_, someone claimed she was given a list of names and SSNs by POWs in Vietnam who hoped she’d let their families know they were still alive, but instead turned the information over to their captors, who killed them. This story has been proven a hoax, however. Fonda did actively support the Viet Cong, but she never acted in a way that directly killed POWs–especially since some of those allegedly dead POWs are alive.
Anyway, the allegations seemed to be an interesting parallel to the claims that Manning’s and Snowden’s actions have resulted in the deaths of US soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. At first, I was going to include it as a contrast: that if what Fonda is falsely accused of doing (and, as often gets pointed out, the 8th Commandment still applies to celebrities) is true, it would certainly constitute treason. However, that allegation is of secretly leaking secret information directly to an enemy (in which case, since all the alleged “witnesses” were killed, how would anyone know of it?). Is it really the same thing to release “secrets” to the public?
Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution states:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
In the cases of Snowden and Manning, they were revealing information to “We the people” via “the Press.” As various commentators and memes have pointed out, if they are giving “aid and comfort” to the “Enemies” of the “United States,” then the conclusion must be that the government considers “The People” to be “Enemies.”
My angry interlocutors insisted that Manning deserves the death penalty. While capital punishment was the standard penalty for treason at the time of the Founding Fathers, Article 3, Section 3, Clause 2 clearly modifies the English Common Law practice (“Corruption of Blood” meant that the penalties could be extended to the traitor’s family), and some of the most notorious traitors in US history, such as Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen, were sentenced to life in prison. In any case, this creates a dilemma for Catholics that my interlocutors were not willing to address (particularly the one who left one comment then defriended me without opportunity to respond): Manning or Snowden may meet the standard for capital punishment under US Law (obviously, the courts decided Manning’s actions did not meet that standard), but do they meet the standards of the Catholic Church?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church was famously revised to reflect adjustments to Church teaching in Bl. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae</em?. Paragraph 2267 of the Second Edition states:
Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”68
Assuming that it was Manning or Snowden’s intention to cause the deaths of soldiers or spies, and assuming it could be proven with certainty that their actions directly resulted in actual deaths, the death penalty could only be justly used if that was the only way of protecting people against further deaths. Since their alleged crimes involved “theft” of information, it is hard to see how either case meets that standard.
That gets us to the second question: is what they did actually *theft*?