In the military intelligence community, everyone is given training annually to spot and deal with security risks. The major espionage cases I’ve seen over the years (Ames, Hanssen, Walkers, etc.) have been committed primarily for personal enrichment. I don’t think any of those I listed were actually Soviet sympathizers – they just liked money. There are other, smaller, cases where someone has illegally revealed classified material to unauthorized personnel. Some of these have been considered espionage, others a mere security violation or classified compromise. A recent letter to the editor for the Stars & Stripes states a common belief that Bradley Manning is one of those. I tend to agree, pending actually seeing the evidence, because of Manning’s own statements to the quasi-journalist and hacker Adrian Lamo.
I do question Manning’s motives. Many of the most right-wing commentators have assumed that Manning was hiding homosexuality and that caused him to get crazy in some ill-defined way and leak massive amounts of information that was probably not being protected appropriately to begin with (why would a lower-enlisted military analyst have access to State Dept cables unless he was working on something for which he had need to know, unless the State Dept cables were woefully over-released within the IC?). Of course, that leads the conservative mind to say that homosexuals are a security risk, as they were deemed for many years.
But, here’s the thing about gays being security risks – it only applies if they can be blackmailed about it. If being gay weren’t liable to get someone booted from the military, they couldn’t be blackmailed for it and therefore would not be a security risk because of it. There is a long-standing understanding in securityland that people are vulnerable to espionage recruiters for many reasons, financial gain being the largest, but the potential for blackmail is brought up as well. If there’s something in your past you’d rather nobody know, you may do something extreme and shady to prevent it from coming to light. This is also the plot of some movies, but it happens to be true to some extent in reality. Some people will leak a tiny insignificant detail to prevent a devastating revelation, and then they have a bigger problem down the road – they’re now blackmailable because of the initial leak and so can be brought into leaking more and more information down the road.
I’m not going to comment much on Manning’s case, as we know very little verifiable truth about it, but the idea that he leaked a bunch of classified and sensitive material because he was gay is just goofy. From his own statements, he was an idealist who found out that governments are not always perfectly honest with their own citizens and then he decided to help the USA with its truth problem by divulging what he (in his infinite wisdom) deemed fit to release. As anyone with a clearance would tell you, that boy was doing something he knew could get him put in prison for a long time. He’s no innocent, no matter what Glenn Greenwald may portray (not that it justifies 8 months in solitary confinement pre-trial by any stretch).
It seems to me that, once DADT is repealed, gays will be much less prone to blackmail than they were in the 1980s, and therefore no longer a security risk. This will bring the military in line with every other part of the federal government, which stopped considering gays as security risks long ago.