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And what about those who should have been the last line of defense, his immediate superiors who had clear warning signs in front of them that Manning was experiencing significant personal turmoil? They reportedly were giving serious consideration to having him processed for a psychological discharge yet did nothing to revoke his clearance or terminate his access to classified information until his arrest. Has there been any accountability for this failure?
Finally, the fact that many of the documents leaked did not, in fact, cause any harm to our security suggests that the government is engaged in routine overclassification. This practice is harmful from a number of perspectives, including undermining the public right to know essential to the functioning of a viable democracy, relaxing the guard of those charged with maintaining classified data who come to conclude that classified information is really not that sensitive, and compounding security challenges by multiplying the quantity of information that must be maintained in secure storage systems.
Given that the executive branch has shown no evident interest in redressing these important systemic issues in the three years since Manning was identified as the source of this data, congressional action seems called for. Congress should either investigate these systemic issues itself or create an independent panel to conduct a thorough review of information security practices across the U.S. government, and it should consider whether it might be appropriate to replace the significant reliance on executive orders as the source of most overarching classification guidance with statutory mandates.
David Glazier is a professor of law and Lloyd Tevis fellow at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, where he teaches Foreign Relations Law and the Law of War. He is a retired U.S. Navy surface warfare officer.