Bradley Manning was found not guilty of the most serious charge against him of aiding the enemy. However, he was found guilty on multiple other counts, which means he could still spend the rest of his life in prison. You can read the story here.
Manning is the whistleblower who released many government secrets and documents to Wikileaks. Among other things, it exposed war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Iraq.
When Obama was first campaigning for president in 2008 and was elected, he praised whistleblowers and said they needed more protection for exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government. This was stated on his change.gov website. This message about whistleblowers has since been taken down. Obama liked the idea about protecting whistleblowers until they were blowing the whistle on the criminal acts of him and his administration (see Edward Snowden).
Not surprisingly, the verdict issued for Manning came from a judge and not from a jury. In that sense, America is turning into a light dictatorship, as the government can arrest you, hold you, and convict you, without being tried before a jury of your peers.
Luckily, in most criminal cases in America, you can still get a jury trial. It may not always be fair, but at least there is that possibility of being acquitted. If you ever find yourself on a jury and there are multiple charges against someone, I think it is a good idea not to take the middle road, unless that is truly what the defendant deserves. I see too many instances where the jury will convict on a lesser charge and the defendant still gets an extremely steep punishment. If there was no crime committed or the law is unjust, then you should acquit on everything. You shouldn’t punish someone for the supposed crimes of obstruction of justice, money laundering, or a number of other things if the main crime wasn’t committed or never was a crime.
I have written about jury nullification before. It is actually a great example where changing the opinions of your fellow Americans can change laws and reduce the size and scope of government, all without having to elect the “right” guy into office. If people stop convicting for tax evasion, then tax collection becomes almost impossible in some cases. If people stop convicting for drug use, then drug laws will become meaningless. The same could be said for any victimless crime.
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had Bradley Manning had a real trial with a jury. If it had been a jury of 12, then I think it is likely that at least one person would have refused to convict. That is at least what I hope.
If you want a good litmus test of whether someone is more of a statist or more of a libertarian, ask them what they think of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. If the person thinks they are traitors, then the person is someone who worships the state. If the person considers them heroes, then that person has at least a libertarian streak in them. If the person doesn’t know who they are or simply doesn’t care, then the person isn’t a libertarian, but is probably less prone to evil than the person who wants to execute Manning and Snowden.
While this is not a perfect litmus test for someone’s liberty credentials, it is the closest thing I can find in discovering someone’s general belief about the state in one question.
I hope that one day there is a president who is decent enough to pardon Bradley Manning and let him see some freedom again.