Bradley Manning’s Trial, The State’s Retaliation in the War on Privacy

Yesterday was the opening day for, what is almost certainly, a show trial. This trial is a retaliatory strike in the state’s war on privacy. Most of you probably know that I’m referring to the trial of Bradley Manning, who stands accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. There has been a great deal of debate amongst those paying attention to the trial regarding the validity of Manning’s actions. One side of the debate believes Manning’s actions qualify as treason while the other side believes Manning did the right thing. I’m in the latter camp. As an anarchist I don’t recognize borders, flags, or anything else related to a state as being valid and therefore I dismiss the charge of treason as a fictitious decree created by the state for the expressed purpose of punishing any dissenters. But even if that weren’t the case I would still support Manning. Why? Because the state initiated a war on privacy and, in so doing, lost its right to privacy.

The United States government has waged a war against our privacy since its inception. Every law it passes requires a violation of our privacy. Once something that was previously legal is declared illegal the power of warrants increase. Warrants are little more than a legal nicety that allows the state to violate the privacy of individuals. With a simple piece of paper in hand agents of the state can enter a home without legal contest and search for any material listed on said piece of paper.

After the prohibition on alcohol was passed warrants could be obtained simply because the state suspected an individual was in possession of or making alcohol. When cannabis was declared illegal the power of warrants increased again in order to empower law enforcement agents to search homes of people suspected of possessing or growing cannabis. Tax regulations grant the state the power to search through financial records looking for violations. Laws prohibiting people from sharing copyrighted works allow state agents to search people’s homes and electronic devices for infringing material. But things have gotten much worse since September 11, 2001.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were the justification used by the state to pass the PATRIOT Act. Amongst other things the PATRIOT Act authorized state agents to setup wiretaps without a warrant, spy on financial records under the claim of stopping the flow of funds to terrorist organizations, and issuing National Security Letters that require service providers to hand over customer data to the state while prohibiting those providers from informing their customers that their information has been demanded. By passing the PATRIOT Act the state effectively said that we the people no longer had the right to privacy. Since then the state has continued to renew expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act and pushing the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) twice. When CISPA failed to pass the first time Mr. Obama issued a series of executive orders that emulated much of what CISPA purported to do.

Make no mistake, the state fired the first shot and, in so doing, forced the people to take defensive actions. I’m a firm believer in proportional responses to aggression. If somebody initiates force against you then you have the right to use proportional retaliatory force in response. When the state violates the people’s privacy I believe violating its privacy is a proportional response.

I don’t care what information is stolen from the state so long as the state wants to keep it secret. As long as it continues its war against our privacy we should respond by violating its privacy. Bradley Manning did the right thing in my opinion. He took the state’s right to privacy away after it took our right to privacy away. It’s unfortunate that he is now, for all intents and purposes, a prisoner of war but I hope his example sets a precedence that leads more state agents to leak classified information.