Accused of spying for Russia, RCN Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle's next court appearance is May 8 -- at which time the trial of U.S. army private Bradley Manning will be well underway for passing classified documents to WikiLeaks.
The differences in the two cases are profound -- yet in some ways similar.
Naval Intelligence officer Delisle is accused of feeding information to the Russians; Manning, in sending over 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks that embarrass his country by their publication.
Depending on their degree of guilt, Delisle could get a dozen years in the slammer (probably less) while Manning could get the death penalty. (He won't, but he could).
By far the more serious of the two cases is the Canadian one. NATO and U.S. naval secrets may have been delivered by Delisle to the Russians over a five-year period that could jeopardize Alliance security, and certainly damage Canada's reputation of being reliable.
If guilty, Delisle is treasonous and deserves whatever sentence he may get.
Manning, on the other hand, is just creepy, sleazy -- his creepiness exacerbated by his being viewed -- and treated -- by anti-military activists as something of a courageous individual. A sort of modern-day Daniel Ellsberg who took it upon himself to reveal the Pentagon Papers and won the adoration of the lib-left.
As far as one can tell, the documents apparently given by Manning to Julian Assange's WikiLeaks network contain little of a security nature and simply confirm a lot of stuff that we of the public already knew, or suspected.
A government that was prepared to practice the transparency it had pledged itself to practice would have made WikiLeaks revelations redundant and unnecessary.
What's so devastating about knowing that our people in Afghanistan think Hamid Karzai is devious and duplicitous and that his brother is a drug-peddling crook?
In some ways, WikiLeaks performs a service. It's hard to see where it damages security, or gives an advantage to those who might be our enemy -- not like Delisle, presuming he's guilty.
Among WikiLeaks disclosures: U.S. diplomats are sometimes spies -- CIA guys; the Pentagon believes North Korean missiles have a 2000-mile range; Saudi Arabia would like the U.S. to bomb Iran; U.S. fear uranium in Pakistan will reach Iran; U.S. diplomats refer to Russia's Vladimir Putin as "Alpha-dog," and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy as "the emperor with no clothes."
There's not much of a security nature in what WikiLeaks discloses, and less that threatens national security. Certainly no revealing of identities of undercover CIA agents in dangerous places.
So while WikiLeaks may be a mostly a nuisance and embarrassment, Pfc. Manning, if found guilty, is a traitor. Whatever sentence is imposed on him can be justified. Were he a civilian, it would be another matter. But he's not a civilian. He's a soldier and as such has responsibilities that have consequences if abused.
The charges against S/Lt. Delisle are the first since the Information Security Act came into effect after 9/11. Canada's record of catching and convicting spies is not encouraging: Lousy to terrible.
Even when we caught Canadians undermining their country for the Soviet KGB in the bad old days of the cold war, we were lenient to dismissive. The only real Soviet spy we imprisoned was an MP -- Fred Rose, a communist -- who got only four years in 1947, and then returned to Poland. Not much of a deterrent.