Bradley Edward Manning (born December 17, 1987) is a United States Army soldier who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified material to the website WikiLeaks. He was ultimately charged with 22 offenses, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy.
Assigned to an army unit based near Baghdad, Manning had access to databases used by the United States government to transmit classified information. He was arrested after Adrian Lamo, a computer hacker, told the FBI that Manning had confided during online chats that he had downloaded material from these databases and passed it to WikiLeaks. The material included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 United States diplomatic cables; and 500,000 army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs. It was the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. Much of it was published by WikiLeaks or its media partners between April and November 2010.
Manning was held from July 2010 in the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, under Prevention of Injury status, which entailed de facto solitary confinement and other restrictions that caused international concern. In April 2011 he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, where he could interact with other detainees. He pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the 22 charges, which could carry a sentence of up to 20 years. Prosecutors will pursue a court-martial on the remaining charges, including aiding the enemy, which could carry a life sentence. The trial began on June 3, 2013.
Reaction to his arrest was mixed. Denver Nicks, one of Manning’s biographers, writes that the leaked material, particularly the diplomatic cables, was widely seen as a catalyst for the Arab Spring that began in December 2010, and that Manning was viewed as both a 21st-century Tiananmen Square Tank Man and an embittered traitor. Several commentators focused on why an apparently very unhappy Army private had access to classified material, and why no security measures were in place to prevent unauthorized downloads
Manning was born to Susan Fox, originally from Wales, and her American husband, Brian Manning, in Crescent, Oklahoma. His father had joined the United States Navy in 1974 when he was 19, and served for five years as an intelligence analyst, meeting Susan when he was stationed in Wales at Cawdor Barracks. Manning’s sister, eleven years his senior, was born in 1976. The couple returned to the United States in 1979, moving at first to California, then to a two-story house outside Crescent, with an above-ground swimming pool and five acres of land where they kept pigs and chickens.
Manning’s father took a job as an IT manager for a rental car agency, which meant he had to travel. His mother suffered from poor health – she developed a drinking problem, and was living several miles out of town and unable to drive – and as result Manning was largely left to fend for himself. His father would stock up on food before his trips, and leave pre-signed checks for the children to pay the bills. A neighbor told The New York Times that whenever the school went on field trips, she would give her son extra food or money so he could make sure Manning had something to eat.
Manning was small for his age – as an adult, he reached 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m) and weighed 105 lb (47.6 kg) – and excelled at the saxophone, science, and computers. His father told PBS that Manning created his first website when he was ten years old. He taught himself how to use PowerPoint, won the grand prize three years in a row at the local science fair, and in sixth grade took top prize at a state-wide quiz bowl
Loss of rank and recommended discharge
Manning told Lamo he passed the Baghdad helicopter attack (“Collateral murder”) video to WikiLeaks shortly after this incident, in February 2010. In April, just as WikiLeaks published the video, Manning sent an e-mail to his master sergeant, Paul Adkins, saying he was suffering from gender dysphoria and attaching a photograph of himself dressed as a woman. Captain Steven Lim, Manning’s commander, said he first saw the e-mail after Manning’s arrest – when information about hormone replacement therapy was found in his room in Baghdad – and learned that Manning had been calling himself Breanna. Manning told Lamo that his commander had found out about the gender issue before his arrest, after looking at his medical files at the beginning of May. He said he had set up Twitter and YouTube accounts in Breanna’s name to give her a digital presence, writing in the Lamo chat: “i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me … plastered all over the world press … as [a] boy … the CPU is not made for this motherboard …”
On April 30, he posted on Facebook that he was utterly lost, and over the next few days that “Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment,” that he was “beyond frustrated,” and “livid” after being “lectured by ex-boyfriend despite months of relationship ambiguity …” On May 7, he seemed to spiral out of control. According to army witnesses, he was found curled into a fetal position in a storage cupboard, with a knife at his feet, and had cut the words “I want” into a vinyl chair. A few hours later he had an altercation with a female intelligence analyst, Specialist Jihrleah Showman, during which he punched her in the face. The brigade psychiatrist recommended a discharge, referring to an “occupational problem and adjustment disorder.” His master sergeant removed the bolt from his weapon, and he was sent to work in the supply office, though at this point his security clearance remained in place. He was demoted from Specialist to Private First Class just two days before his arrest on May 26.
Ellen Nakashima writes that, on May 9, Manning contacted Jonathan Odell, a gay American novelist in Minneapolis, via Facebook, leaving a message that he wanted to speak to him in confidence; he said he had been involved in some “very high-profile events, albeit as a nameless individual thus far.” On May 19, according to army investigators, he e-mailed Eric Schmiedl, a mathematician he had met in Boston, and told him he had been the source of the “Collateral Murder” video. Two days later, he began the series of chats with Adrian Lamo that led to his arrest.
While initially confined in Kuwait, he was placed on suicide watch due to his behavior. moved from Kuwait to the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on July 29, 2010, and classified as a maximum custody detainee, with Prevention of Injury (POI) status. POI status is one stop short of suicide watch, entailing checks by guards every five minutes. His lawyer, David Coombs, a former military attorney, said he was not allowed to sleep between 5 am (7 am at weekends) and 8 pm, and was made to stand or sit up if he tried to. He was required to remain visible at all times, including at night, which entailed no access to sheets, no pillow except one built into his mattress, and a blanket designed not to be shredded.
Manning complained that he regarded it as pre-trial punishment.
His cell was 6 × 12 ft with no window, containing a bed, toilet, and sink. The jail had 30 cells built in a U shape, and although detainees could talk to one another, they were unable to see each other. His lawyer said the guards behaved professionally, and had not tried to harass or embarrass Manning. He was allowed to walk for up to one hour a day, meals were taken in the cell, and he was shackled during visits. There was access to television when it was placed in the corridor, and he was allowed to keep one magazine and one book. Because he was in pre-trial detention, he received full pay and benefits.
On January 18, 2011, the jail classified him as a suicide risk after an altercation with the guards. Manning said the guards began issuing conflicting commands, such as “turn left, don’t turn left,” and upbraiding him for responding to commands with “yes” instead of “aye.” Shortly afterwards, he was placed on suicide risk, had his clothing and eyeglasses removed, and was required to remain in his cell 24 hours a day. The suicide watch was lifted on January 21 after a complaint from his lawyer, and the brig commander who ordered it was replaced. On March 2, 2011, he was told that his request that his POI status be removed had been denied. His lawyer said Manning joked to the guards that, if he wanted to harm himself, he could do so with his underwear or his flip-flops. The comment resulted in him having his clothes removed at night, and he had to present himself naked one morning for inspection.
The detention conditions prompted national and international concern. Juan E. Mendez, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture published a report saying the detention conditions had been “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” In January 2011, Amnesty asked the British government to intervene because of Manning’s status as a British citizen by descent, though Manning’s lawyer said he did not regard himself as a British citizen. The controversy claimed a casualty in March that year when State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley criticized Manning’s treatment and resigned two days later. In early April, 295 academics (most of them American legal scholars) signed a letter arguing that the treatment was a violation of the United States Constitution. On April 20, the Pentagon transferred Manning to the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, a new medium-security facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was placed in an 80-square-foot cell with a window and a normal mattress, able to mix with other pre-trial detainees and keep personal objects in his cell.
Evidence presented at Article 32 hearing
In April 2011, a panel of experts ruled that Manning was fit to stand trial. An Article 32 hearing, presided over by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, was convened on December 16, 2011, at Fort Meade, Maryland; the hearing resulted in Almanza recommending that Manning be referred to a general court-martial. He was arraigned on February 23, 2012, and declined to enter a plea.
During the Article 32 hearing, the prosecution, led by Captain Ashden Fein, presented 300,000 pages of documents in evidence, including chat logs and classified material. The court heard from two army investigators, Special Agent David Shaver, head of the digital forensics and research branch of the army’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU), and Mark Johnson, a digital forensics contractor from ManTech International, who works for the CCIU. They testified that they had found 100,000 State Department cables on a workplace computer Manning had used between November 2009 and May 2010; 400,000 military reports from Iraq and 91,000 from Afghanistan on an SD card found in his basement room in his aunt’s home in Potomac, Maryland; and 10,000 cables on his personal MacBook Pro and storage devices that they said had not been passed to WikiLeaks because a file was corrupted. They also recovered 14–15 pages of encrypted chats, in unallocated space on Manning’s MacBook hard drive, between Manning and someone believed to be Julian Assange. Two of the chat handles, which used the Berlin Chaos Computer Club‘s domain (ccc.de), were associated with the names Julian Assange and Nathaniel Frank.
Johnson said he found SSH logs on the MacBook that showed an SFTP connection, from an IP address that resolved to Manning’s aunt’s home, to a Swedish IP address with links to WikiLeaks. There was also a text file named “Readme” attached to the logs, a note apparently written by Manning to Assange, which called the Iraq and Afghan War logs “possibly one of the most significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.” The investigators testified they had also recovered an exchange from May 2010 between Manning and Eric Schmiedl, a Boston mathematician, in which Manning said he was the source of the Baghdad helicopter attack (“Collateral Murder”) video. Johnson said there had been two attempts to delete material from the MacBook. The operating system was re-installed in January 2010, and on or around January 31, 2010, an attempt was made to erase the hard drive by doing a “zero-fill,” which involves overwriting material with zeroes. The material was overwritten only once, which meant it could be retrieved.
Manning’s lawyers argued that the government had overstated the harm the release of the documents had caused, and had overcharged Manning to force him to give evidence against Assange. The defense also raised the issue of his gender identity disorder, whether it had affected his judgment, and whether the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy had made it difficult for Manning to serve in the army..