Opinion: Chelsea Manning doesn't deserve to be a Senator

One vet's take on her cry for attention

Matt Saintsing
January 16, 2018 - 1:48 pm

(Photo by Maggie Boyd/SIPA USA)


Disgraced Army soldier and transgender activist Chelsea Manning filed to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland last week, and released her first campaign ad over the weekend. She’s running as a Democrat, and will most likely challenge the wildly popular two-term Sen. Ben Cardin in the party’s primary.

While the unexpected rise of President Donald Trump has perhaps opened the door for political new-comers, such as Manning, she is not someone who should be lauded as a hero, or someone who should serve in the Senate.

My disqualification of her has nothing to do with her politics or her gender-identity, and everything to do with her illegal actions while serving as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army.

Known as Bradley Manning at the time of her arrest in 2010, the once intelligence professional was convicted of leaking copious amounts classified documents to WikiLeaks. She came out as transgender following her 2013 conviction and sentence to 35 years in prison.

Former President Barak Obama granted Manning clemency just before leaving office, a surprising development given that Obama brought more prosecutions for leaks than every previous administration combined.

Manning enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2007 and was deployed to Iraq two years later while serving as an intelligence analyst with the 10th Mountain Division.

She released nearly 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks that included information about the U.S. war efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, State Department cables, and even information about prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Her felony conviction doesn’t appear to preclude her from running for Senate, as the Constitution’s only requirements for a senator are that they are at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for nine years, and a resident of the state from which the person is seeking office.

While her run is Constitutional, her high-profile leak placed the lives of U.S. service members and Iraqi and Afghan informants at risk—that alone is enough to bar her from office.

Manning isn’t just any leaker. When she dumped almost a quarter of a million military and diplomatic documents into the public domain, she violated every facet of any ethos. Her actions were selfish, callous, and showed complete and utter disregard for the lives of those she unknowingly put at risk.

Many have said her actions were harmless, but that’s simply not true. When she dumped a treasure trove of information, she gave invaluable insight into how the U.S. plans, equips, and all executes missions—both the dull and astonishing. Such information was a gift to anyone who seeks to do the U.S. harm.

She had the chance to serve her country, and ended up betraying it.

That’s not to say that her 35-year sentence was just, or that her treatment in prison was ethical. She spent long stretches of time in solitary confinement. She attempted suicide twice, and went on a hunger strike before the Army agreed to affirm her gender.

The plight of how transgender inmates navigate the rough-seas of the American criminal justice system is well documented, and serious reforms are needed, but that should have nothing to do with her political aspirations.

Today, veterans make up 20 percent of the Senate, and 18 percent of the House of Representatives. The numbers are even lower for former enlisted vets. We need those who have worn the uniform in Congress more than ever, but Chelsea Manning isn't the answer to this problem.

Manning’s video announcement is as much a spectacle as her massive leak, and accomplishes the same goal: to gain your attention.