For a few years now, the debate over leaking secrets has been heavy in American politics. It first began with the actions of an Army Private First Class by the name of Bradley Manning, who leaked classified information and video footage exposing potential war crimes.
Manning’s capture led to treatment that was labeled as torture after a United Nations investigation. The same investigation also noted that the Pentagon regularly blocked access to the whistleblower.
After being sentenced, it became even more difficult for the prisoner who came out as a transwoman named Chelsea. Twice she attempted suicide and was punished for this. Her lawyers pleaded with President Barack Obama for release, stating her life was in jeopardy.
Fortunately for many supporters of Manning and Wikileaks, as well as Manning herself, the commutation came down and in May, Manning will be a free woman. Many doubted that President Obama would allow this to happen, but the surprise was welcome.
Response was swift from the political world. Republicans predictably took issue with the President’s commutation, while Democrats either remained silent or spoke favorably of the action.
But what about liberal-leaning Independent Angus King?
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, Senator King opposes the commutation. He notes that the leaking of classified information is a serious crime. He also noted in a statement that every case should be managed individually.
Given these two points, he contradicted himself.
While breaching national security protocol is a serious crime and rightfully so for the purpose of security, there are instances when breaking the law is necessary. In Manning’s case, she came into contact with information suggesting wrongdoing in the Middle East. In acquiring this information, she leaked it.
Neoconservative hawks have long stood against Manning and unsurprisingly, one of the first voices against the commutation was Senator Tom Cotton. The Republican Senator is perhaps one of the most hawkish neoconservative Republicans in the United States Senate.
Why is Senator King standing alongside the neoconservative hawks of the Republican Party?
It’s interesting to note at this point that Republicans have now seized control of Congress and will soon be inheriting the White House. Remaining an Independent out of political convenience while caucusing with Democrats no longer is a sound strategy.
Does this indicate a shift towards Republican favor for Senator King?
It will be interesting to watch going forward. By remaining unenrolled, the former Maine Governor has been able to portray himself as free of party influence. To a degree, this may be true. While he has long identified with more liberal causes, this is an interesting departure.
Chelsea Manning is a transwoman who was given a prison sentence that far exceeded that of any leaker in history. The whistleblower was subjected to inhumane conditions that the United Nations found to be cruel and unusual. Cruel and unusual punishment is a violation of the Bill of Rights, a group of ten amendments to the United States Constitution designed to protect individuals from government tyranny.
Senator Angus King’s view here, while aligning with the neoconservative hawks of the Republican Party, is wrong. Whatever is the case with President Barack Obama’s overall legacy, this moment will be remembered as a positive moment among it all.
Senator King stands on the wrong side of history.