- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a bit surprised to find myself thinking that if this soldier really did what he is accused of doing-just throwing classified information onto the internet randomly-than he should go off and do time.
Why surprised? Because I was the recipient of tons of leaks over the years as a reporter. Most were not potentially dangerous, and a much of it was way overclassified. And when I did have stuff that could endanger troops and other people, my editors had a procedure in place to discuss it with officialdom before going to press. They didn’t give the government the power to censor, but they did give them a serious chance to make their case.
I believe in the First Amendment, close to absolutely. Newspapers should be allowed to pretty much publish whatever they want. I believe that does our country far more good than harm. Yet I also believe in military discipline. People should do their jobs and keep their words-reporters and soldiers alike. Yes, that sometimes puts people at odds, but the founding fathers, in their wisdom, gave us an adversarial system, designed to check and balance power.
But then, I am a rule of law guy. Prosecuting this soldier is the right thing to do-but even more so would be going after all those who tortured people in our name. In fact, let’s go after the torturers first, because they have done far more damage to our country and values. If the government has some free time left over after dealing with that stain, then sure, go after this kid.