Today's break of silence from Pfc. Bradley Manning over his release of Army documents to the whistleblower site Wikileaks may come as a surprise for strong advocates of political transparency. Rather than endorsing his position as an agent of change like Edward Snowden, Manning spoke, "I'm sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that it hurt the United States." Politically, this supports Bradley's critics who viewed the Wikileaks drop as dangerous on a large scale.
The apology broke shortly after news of Manning's questionable psyche. Psychologists testified that Manning had been undergoing issues related to his gender. A picture emailed by Bradley featuring a picture of him cross-dressing affirmed this. Bradley's defense cited the extreme hyper-masculinity in the military;s Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy as a factor in isolating Manning and subsequently paving the road for his disclosures to Wikileaks.
Despite the contested condition of Manning's psyche, Manning believes he's in the wrong. Manning elaborated after his initial apology that, "I understood what I was doing was wrong but I didn't appreciate the broader effects of my actions. I only wanted to help people, not hurt people."
Here's what Manning's apology does. Firstly, his rhetoric points to an understanding of his actions, departing from a possible defense related to the gender identity issue to prompt the action. In theory, releasing documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not a proportional or relevant response to either the treatment of gender in the military or Manning's personal struggle. It was even suggested that Manning's enlistment in the military was a personal way of dealing with his own issues.
Secondly, and the biggest implication, is that he was politically wrong. Whistleblowing has been a thorn in the side of the Obama administration's second term, the two biggest names being Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Whereas Snowden has embraced the persona of an American civil rights advocate and cultivated a cult of personality for the surveillance debate, Manning has not been outspoken about supplying Wikileaks. While this silence has allowed for his endorsement by government critics, Manning has now admitted that his actions were poorly judged in scope.
Even though Wikileaks, via Manning, provided transparency for the wars abroad, Manning obviously thinks that he did more harm than good, even if well-intentioned. As opposed to Snowden, Manning's cost-benefit analysis of his actions has not yielded a net positive for progressive change. While Twitter was ablaze with tweets of support, many users pointed out that Manning had indeed endorsed the criticism toward him by acknowledging what his actions did on a large scale.
This isn't to say that transparency is a bad thing, or not needed. Rather, Manning's apology affirms the belief of those who think reckless dumping of information by rogue individuals is not the best means of accomplishing transparency. Now, with Manning apologizing and Snowden in the ever-becoming bastion of civil rights problems, Russia, the rogue individual model for spreading information is going to be under even more scrutiny. Manning has spoken, and he has apologized.