We had Congressman Mike Rogers on MSNBC Tuesday regarding his controversial comments calling for capital punishment of Pvt. Manning, who is charged with releasing classified information to Wikileaks.
Rep. Rogers was very clear and re-iterated his call for execution of Bradley Manning if he is convicted of the charges because he believes they are tantamount to treason.
But he went further when I asked him what he would have done with Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He said he wasn't clear on the facts of that case, but if Ellsberg had released information that put soldiers in the field at risk that he would have "absolutely" callled for his execution. I don't think even Nixon went that far.
I've actually said before that I understand why the military has to arrest and punish leakers like Pvt. Manning. As much as those leaks added clarity to the kind of wars we've conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can understand why the military can't have privates making that decision on their own. However, I do think there is an option between not doing anything and executing him.
And what would happen if we held other leakers like Scooter Libby, Bob Novak and Karl Rove to Congressman Rogers' standard? Eventually, all three admitted that they released the name of a secret operative to the press when they outed Valerie Plame (they claimed they didn't know how secret her role was and eventually there was no trial on the substance because Scooter Libby obstructed the investigation -- and was convicted for doing so). Leaking her identity could have gotten her and her contacts in the field killed. Should Libby, Novak and Rove been tried for treason and executed?
Finally, it also seems pretty clear that someone close to Gen. McChrystal leaked his plan for Afghanistan before President Obama made his decision on escalation (this was before the on-the-record interviews with Rolling Stone). Should we find who that guy is and hang him, too? What if it was Gen. McChrystal himself? And how come Republicans weren't calling for executions during all of those leaks?
It turns out that things get pretty messy once you start calling for executions. Let's take a deep breath and figure out what the real solution is to a whistleblower that reveals important information that the public has a right to know but violates clear military rules to do so. That's a complicated question and one that doesn't get solved by killing anyone.