Col. Denise Lind, the U.S. Army judge who heard the charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning for the leak of tens of thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks, offered a ruling that will echo long after the sentencing of the 25-year-old private. She acquitted Pfc. Manning of a charge that leaking the secrets was "aiding the enemy," or the highest form of treason, while convicting him of lesser charges that may still bring a long prison term.
Col. Lind's decision goes to the heart of a debate that has been raging with multiple prosecutions under way of leakers and disclosures by Pfc. Manning and Edward Snowden of classified materials. In effect, Col. Lind declared that leaking is not necessarily tantamount to treason. Not every leak of a government secret rises to the level of treason, and leaks can often play a vital role in shaping public opinion.
As a newspaper, The Washington Post thrives on revelatory journalism and often benefits from leaks, sometimes inspired by dissent and other times by spin. The Web site WikiLeaks, which published the raw material provided by Mr. Manning as well as other secrets, differs from journalism in methods if not goals.