When I faced a crisis of conscience, to tell what I knew because it needed to be told, coming to realize I was risking at the least my job if not jail, I remembered the Pentagon Papers from 1971 you risked the same and more to release.
One person has spoken up for Bradley Manning for his actual (alleged) actions as a whistle-blower ever since his arrest last May. That would be Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked The Pentagon Papers four decades ago.
In these heady days of the holiday season, while you're buying your niece or nephew that last stocking stuffer or cavorting with co-workers at the annual holiday party, keep this striking image of war in mind.
Today, Julian Assange is out of jail. But let's not forget that without Bradley Manning and many others like him, Assange and WikiLeaks and all our new-found public information would be as in the dark as Manning is right now.
A standard talking point against WikiLeaks and Assange has been: the WikiLeaks release of the cables is nothing like the Pentagon Papers case, and Assange and Bradley Manning are nothing like Daniel Ellsberg. But Ellsberg is still alive, and he's not having any of it.
In 1971, the government might have considered Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers the greatest threat to national security. Regardless of whether one considers Ellsberg a hero or villain, a patriot or traitor, his actions, today, seem quaint.
Rather than focus on the substance of the leaked diplomatic cables, American journalists tend to either frame the story as being about the "over-classification" of documents or the personal motivations and private life of Julian Assange.
Does Wikileaks deserve Ellsberg's seal of approval? The answer depends on whether we are talking about the "good" Wikileaks or the "bad" Wikileaks, because the whistleblower website combines both personalities.
For Assange, the Times's allegedly compromised sense of accuracy clearly extends to a "terrible" article the paper ran on October 23rd that seeks to analyze -- though, he would say impugn -- his character and motives.