, Newburyport, MA


August 2, 2013

How much does government need to know?

I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to the trial of Bradley Manning, the young man facing what could be a lifetime in prison for having revealed government information, until I had an email from my credit card people telling me that there had been a large purchase I should know about.

I could learn the details by signing in.

Nothing new about that, having done it on previous occasions, so I did.


This time there were several batches of conformation choices, some obviously foreign to my family history from which to choose.

Ordinarily, I respond with answers I had previously given — my mother’s maiden name or that of my first dog and so forth.

This time it was a series of several questions, most foreign to my personal history, but also a few I had no memory of having provided answers for previously.

OK, my memory isn’t what it used to be, but how in the world?

Nevertheless, I did as asked and was given access. As I had imagined, there were no surprises.

That’s a leaping reach from what Bradley Manning is facing and why.

American society is internationally porous, but there is a constitutional guarantee of a free press to help sort out fact from fiction.

It has its limits because government is less so. Our democratic republic was created by and for the people so it shall not perish.

That’s all of us, and we demand a lot. So does the government demand a lot from us.

What it demands most of all is trust.

It has from its beginning, but trust is always a challenge, and never so much so as when we call upon it to protect us.

It has confined and is confining information for defense reasons, and what young Bradley Manning has done is to make 700,000 pages of that information internationally available. In doing so he has broken the law.

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