The major news media have taken great advantage of the wealth of information from Bradley Manning’s dump of secret military and diplomatic files to Wikileaks, doing scores of stories they could not have otherwise done. But they have paid relatively little attention to what has happened to their ultimate source, Pfc. Manning, or even what may well happen to him, which would be the first execution of an American for the crime of “aiding the enemy.” They also have engaged in little or no public examination of the consequences that journalists themselves may face, if not soon then eventually, for being parties to disclosures that enrage the national security apparat.
If Manning aided the enemy, then how does one describe what the journalists who published his releases did? They are the ones, not Manning, who presented the secrets to “the enemy”—along with the rest of the world. The U.S. supreme Court itself suggested in the first great First Amendment case nearly a century ago, “When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.” Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 52 (1919). But even if, for political reasons, the government would never pursue criminal charges against the press but instead wage draconian prosecutions against the leakers and whistleblowers that supply the press with its grist, that very strategy should both alarm and anger a press that still had a sense of responsibility—or at least a sense of shame. The dots get connected here and here.