After 19 months in military prisons — much of the time in solitary confinement — Pfc. Bradley Manning finally emerged over the past week from the netherworld to which he has been confined since his arrest in the largest breach of classified information in U.S. history.

Seven days of hearings at Fort Meade, Md., produced what the prosecution called “overwhelming” evidence that the low-ranking Army intelligence analyst was the one who sent hundreds of thousands of military reports and diplomatic cables to the transparency website WikiLeaks.

But the hearing also produced equally compelling evidence of the larger issue that is often overlooked in discussions of Manning’s alleged misdeeds: the systematic breakdown in security that enabled a low-ranking enlisted man to abscond with a staggering quantity of classified Pentagon and State Department documents.

Manning’s facing prosecution because “he’s the one that pushed send and the other guys didn’t,” said John Hutson, a retired rear admiral and former judge advocate general of the Navy.

Continue reading →