I Am Bradley Manning. I Am Edward Snowden.

Bradley Manning, the US Army private who allegedly surreptitiously copied classified documents onto a fake Lady Gaga CD which he then gave to Wikileaks, has been found guilty of 20 charges, many under the Espionage Act. However, he has been cleared of the most serious charge, which is aiding the enemy.

Manning still faces up to 136 years in prison, as if he’d aided and abetted the enemy, for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional spying. If there was ever a time when this should terrify everyone, immediately after PRISM and Snowden and NSA would pretty much be it.

Most terrifying, the Washington Times is reporting that a former Justice Department official warns that, based on the outcome of this case, being prosecuted for revealing state secrets does not hinge on a leaker’s intent.

Congress is repeatedly lied to about the actions of our security state against citizens. Amnesty International had to sue the government to find out whether their phone records were being analyzed. But they could not even sue, because they could not prove harm without any information from the government. The NSA is operating in a de facto legal gray area, because the Obama administration keeps exempting the applicable laws from challenge in court, citing “national security” concerns.

When information is that protected, accountability is impossible to come by legally. Many have claimed that the leaks should have been performed in “the right way.” But the legal system is designed to offer no legal way to tell America the truth. It’s designed not to protect citizens, it has yet to protect us from a plot it didn’t hatch, but to protect bureaucrats. In the environment we’re all now living in, the oversight problem can really only be solved by protecting whistleblowers.

The Espionage Act was written and intended to punish people who aided and abetted the enemies of the American people. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden gave, and always intended to give, their information to the press, and ultimately to the people of the United States. They did so because they expected, hoped, that We The People would be horrified at what their country was doing to them, and to people all around the world. But if we instead turn our backs on them. If we do not stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, we deserve the government we’re going to get.

Bradley Manning has been tortured while in prison. He is a hero for undergoing the abuse he received, and for risking even more under this administration’s flagrant abuse of the Espionage Act, all so he could tell the world about what his government had been covering up and lying about. He should be released immediately, and compensated for the abuse he suffered before he was even convicted.

This article originally appeared in Thoughts on Liberty.

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