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Letters | Bumping up against the rule of law

Following one’s conscience, from MLK to WikiLeaks

Jeff Jacoby’s op-ed on the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (“In ‘Letter,’ King’s caution about bowing to the law,” April 14) and the motivation of those who commit acts of civil disobedience brings to mind two Americans who also took great risks to shed light on the dark and deceptive practices of our own government.

The first is Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked secret US documents that became known as the Pentagon Papers.

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The second is Private Bradley Manning, who in 2010 was arrested for allegedly leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks about, among other things, US war crimes in Iraq.

Manning follows in the footsteps of those patriots before him who willingly and knowingly broke the law on matters of conscience, and did so knowing the consequences. King broke the law to expose the savagery of apartheid to white America. Ellsberg broke the law to reveal the lies of the US government about its deepening involvement in Southeast Asia. All three — King, Ellsberg, and Manning — were branded as traitors. But all three remind us that following one’s conscience, even if it means breaking the law, is an act of courage and true patriotism.

Mark Smith


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