CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whistleblowers who reveal dirty secrets to the public are heroes, in our eyes. We think it's a shame that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning must go to prison for telling Americans the truth.
The former intelligence analyst soldier in Iraq pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 counts of disclosing hundreds of thousands of confidential military and diplomatic records to WikiLeaks, which spread them worldwide in cooperation with The New York Times and major European newspapers.
In making the plea, Manning said he's willing to accept 20 years in a military prison because he felt compelled to show the world that U.S. foreign policy was "obsessed with killing and capturing people, rather than cooperating."
Unfortunately, the Pentagon still holds a dozen more serious charges against him, including "aiding the enemy," which possibly could carry a death sentence.
One of the first items Manning gave to WikiLeaks was a military video of a U.S. helicopter gunship in Baghdad killing and wounding suspected militants -- who turned out to be journalists and civilians who ran to their aid.
Private diplomatic messages leaked by him revealed corruption in Arab governments -- which is credited with helping trigger the "Arab Spring" democracy uprising that swept much of the Islamic world.
Manning has been hailed by various reformers. Protests and billboards have declared him innocent. Three members of Iceland's parliament nominated him for a Nobel Prize. Readers of Britian's The Guardian voted him the Person of the Year for 2012.
Personally, the 25-year-old soldier is both brilliant and troubled. As a youth, he won an Oklahoma science fair three years in a row and created a Web site when he was only 10. As he aged, he realized that he is gay and often suffered clashes with relatives and associates. He's tiny, just 5-foot-2, weighing 105 pounds. He often wrote of feeling depressed, and military authorities put him under a suicide watch.
We think he was courageous to tell the world about things that officialdom tried to hide. In a democracy, citizens should know what their government is doing. Bradley Manning opened a portal and let sunshine in.