Why Bradley Manning Matters

Bradley Manning Before Quantico

By: Grainne Rhuad

In the wake of all the coverage of Julian Assange it seems we have collectively swept US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning under the rug.  In fact in everyday conversation on the issue of Manning, his incarceration and treatment, many people admit they don’t know anything about him and haven’t heard of him.

What they have heard about however is the video he managed to download and send to Wikileaks which has come to be known as The Collateral Murder Video.  For the benefit of those who maybe haven’t seen it the link is HERE.

It’s interesting that in this time of concern over human rights in places like Egypt where journalist are being abused and South Africa where women are being raped under the guise of punishment for being lesbian we are hearing next to nothing on what is going on in the Bradley Manning Case.

Bradley Manning is a 22 year old Private First Class.(Pfc.) He took one or two commercial music CDs (allegedly Lady Gaga) and overwrote them with tens of thousands of classified military and State Department files and mailed those discs to Wikileaks, through a military post office in Kuwait.  Other than the information leaked by Wikileaks we do not at this time know exactly what was included in the rest of the classified documents.

He has not completed his obligation to the military so he falls under military law.  When people hear this their minds automatically shift to something along the lines of “Oh well, he’s military, they take care of their own criminals.”  Interesting how once one finds out he is both incarcerated and military they assume there must be a good reason and protocol is being followed.

However Bradley Manning’s case is different for several reasons.  For one thing he is a dual citizen.  His father was military and stationed in Britain where he met his mother.  Manning was born on U.S. soil, in Oklahoma to be exact, but after a divorce left with his mother to Britain where he finished his schooling and took his exams.  He then returned to the U.S. where he signed up for service.

Also Bradley Manning happens to be Gay.  There has been much speculation that his homosexuality contributed to him psychologically not being able to handle the job of intelligence to which he was assigned.  He did join prior to the repeal of “Don’t ask don’t tell.”  And some people feel that his dissonance around his gay-ness led to him having a vendetta against the U.S. Military.   In fact members of the gay community on both sided of the issue have made statements and held rallies.  Matthew Tsien, Former Air Force Captain, openly called Manning a traitor and an embarrassment for Gays hoping to serve openly in the military in an op-ed published by South Florida Gay News. Other GLBT groups have rallied calling Manning a hero holding vigils and writing letters.

In the end it seems his sexual orientation probably has very little to do with his actions.  In fact the accusations that they are somehow connected come from a pretty unstable and unreliable source.

Enter Adrian Lamo, “The Homeless Hacker” who turned in Bradley Manning after Manning contacted him via IM looking to confide in someone.  (P.S. rule #1 in espionage-Do Not Tell!)

Lamo himself a big name in both the GLBT and Hacker community is notorious for exploiting security holes in companies and agencies and who also has been homeless, overdosed on amphetamines and most recently was institutionalized on a 5150 in a facility in Woodland,Ca.  It was there he was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome.  Aspergers doesn’t automatically make him unreliable, but it does call into question his ability to differentiate social contacts from say…contacts regarding espionage.

In addition Lamo clearly lied to Manning.  Lamo told Glen Greenwald of Salon that “Lamo told me (though it doesn’t appear in the chat logs published by Wired) that he told Manning early on that he was a journalist and thus could offer him confidentiality for everything they discussed under California’s shield law. Lamo also said he told Manning that he was an ordained minister and could treat Manning’s talk as a confession, which would then compel Lamo under the law to keep their discussions confidential (early on in their chats, Manning said: “I can’t believe what I’m confessing to you”). Clearly Lamo explicitly gave Manning the impression that their discussions would be confidential — perhaps legally required to be kept confidential — only to then report everything Manning said to the Government.”

It was after such assurances via IM chat with Lamo, wherein Manning disclosed a variety of issues from struggling with his sexual identity to alluding to espionage that Lamo turned Manning in to U.S. Army authorities.  Based on the report Manning was detained and ultimately sent to Quantico.

The real problem is that Manning is being held in conditions that violate many human rights agreements.  Since being interred at Quantico in June 2010 there have been reports of him being kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. He has been denied sheets and a pillow. He may or may not be denied access to news and other media; there are conflicting reports about that. He is being denied outdoor exercise. There have even been allegations that Manning is kept naked while in his solitary cell. According to his friend David House, Manning is showing signs of physical deterioration. To claim that Manning is being treated this way to avoid him committing suicide is disingenuous, as this kind of solitary confinement has been shown as far back at 1890 (Supreme Court decision In re Medley) causes suicide. Prolonged solitary causes mental disorders, a fact that has been proven repeatedly in the past 120 years.

His treatment is a direct violation of European Union Human Rights Commission standards for incarceration. To prevent an extradited prisoner being subjected to the same treatment, the EU could refuse extradition.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has announced an investigation to discover whether or not the United States should be called into question for torturing Pfc. Manning.

Manning is charged with violating not only Army regulations but also the Espionage Act of 1917, making him the fifth American to be charged under the act for leaking classified documents to the media. For the Full list of charges see HERE

Marine and Army officials claim that Manning is being treated like any maximum security prisoner – in his cell 23 hours a day, allowed reading material, allowed one hour of television and an hour of exercise consisting of walking figure 8’s in a small room. They failed to mention the lack of a pillow, sheets, outdoor exercise or contact with anyone, being awakened if he rolls over towards the wall while sleeping.

They also failed to explain what determines maximum security status. Is it specifically linked to a type of crime Manning has no history in or out of the military of violence or even disruptive behavior, has never been a threat to anyone’s life or safety, does not need protection from a potential assassin in prison, is not an escape risk, is not psychotic and has not committed a particularly heinous violent crime, the usual reasons a civilian ends up in maximum security.

But the few people who have been allowed to see and or talk to Manning tell a different story.  This is supported by the report given by the aforementioned David House who visited him in January stated that he seems close to the breaking point, has lost a lot of weight and is in poor health.

With regards to Manning being held in protective custody Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell stated on Jan 26, 2011 “He is charged with very serious crimes.  That’s why you isolate someone behind bars.  That’s why you confine someone, so that they cannot escape, cannot possibly commit the crimes that they are alleged to have done again.”

This seems a little like closing the barn after the horse has left.  There is absolutely no chance that Manning is getting on another government computer and he is clearly not a hacker.

The charges run contrary to other statements that have been expressed: In 2005, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters: “It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member [in Iraq], if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to try to stop it.” This, in other words, was the obligation of every U.S. service member in Operation Iraqi Freedom; this remains the obligation of every U.S. service member in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. It is a duty that Pfc. Manning has fulfilled.

There is also the fact that more than 50 years ago, U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 incorporated the Nuremberg Principles, among them Principle IV: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” This remains the law of our land and of our armed forces, too.

Manning is also seemingly protected under the Military Whistleblower’s Protection Act. (MWPA) The MWPA not only allows an even wider array of government officials to make disclosures of classified information; it also broadens the scope of what sorts of disclosure a soldier can make. It expressly allows disclosures of classified information by members of the armed forces if they have a “reasonable belief” that what is being disclosed offers evidence of a “violation of the law,” “an abuse of authority,” or “a substantial danger to public safety.” In other words, the purpose of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act is to protect soldiers just like Pfc. Manning who report on improper — or in this case, patently illegal — activities by other military personnel.

Anyone who has viewed at least the video will be able to draw conclusions regarding the illegality of the military decision to gun down civilians who are clearly unarmed and not in the midst of a military action.

Attorney General Eric Holder is still pursuing the possibility that the leaks represent a violation of the espionage laws.  In order for Espionage Act charges to stick, it is required that Pfc. Manning had the  conscious intent to damage the United States or aid a foreign nation with his disclosures.  This is probably the most damning bit in Manning’s case because a case could actually be made for this.  Manning was depressed, lonely and clearly reaching out to Lamo and others.  He seemingly found himself disillusioned with the cause he had signed up for and from all reports he was alone a lot.

But what is so important about Pfc. Manning?  Why on earth is it taking so long to build a case against a 22 year old with median computer skills who left a neon trail regarding his actions?  For one thing Julian Assange.

While Assange insists he never knew about Manning stating: “I had never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press. WikiLeaks technology [was] designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material. That is, in the end, the only way that sources can be guaranteed that they remain anonymous.”   The government is hoping that isn’t true.  The U.S. wants Assange very badly. He has embarrassed them and according to the U.S. government “Put covert operations at risk.”  The U.S. is hoping Manning breaks and spills the information they need to extradite Assange.

However eight months later, this still has not happened and with the information we have on psychological processes as noted above, it would seem clear that there is no information to be had.

This case is also important because it tests the extent to which we as civilians, journalists, military personnel, and innocent bystanders can stand up and say “Hey, that’s not right.”  Today Manning is in Quantico, tomorrow it may be you.

 

*Manning is currently imprisoned in the brig at US Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia, awaiting trial. If convicted, Manning faces up to 52 years in prison, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and benefits and unspecified fines.

Since his arrest, Bradley Manning has issued no formal public statements. Daniel Ellsberg, the famed whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, has heralded Pfc. Bradley Manning as a hero.

As of publication Pfc. Manning has been imprisoned for 268 days.

http://www.bradleymanning.org/

http://lezgetreal.com/2011/01/no-provable-contact-between-manning-and-assange/

http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4758

http://www.collateralmurder.com/

http://www.bradleymanning.org/3163/charge-sheet-html/#ixzz1EAU0Gygo

http://www.southfloridagaynews.com/sfgn-columnists/guest-columnists/3043-private-bradley-manning-is-no-gay-role-model-.html

http://www.ig.navy.mil/complaints/Complaints%20%20(Reprisal%20Military%20Whistleblower%20Protection).htm

http://faculty.ed.umuc.edu/~nstanton/FM27-10.htm

20 Comments on “Why Bradley Manning Matters”

  1. maybe he ate too many twinkes … maybe being confused about your sexual orientation can allow for murder too … maybe complicating the complex international dealings of the US isn’t really a big deal to anyone .. maybe we all should be able to do whatever we want and say whatever we want .. because “honesty and transparency” is the hallmark for all human traits … this case is troubling in so many ways .. it has little to do with “truth” and government .. it has more to do with responsibility … is there an excuse for everything ?? A hero ? I don’t think so .. we are a nation that has tortured thousands of people, probably killed thousands of people .. and no one has been held accountable, in government, for that .. how many parents have said that they hate their kids at one time or another .. would you want that, in the name of truth, to be told to your children ?? I doubt, considering the focus on his imprisonment, that he is being mistreated .. what is the point of the government allowing that ?? or is that exactly what is happening because no one cares anyway about this kid. How is it possible that a military PFC like him had access to that amount of information ?? Who is going to pay a price for that ?? Is anything confidential anymore, or is this all about “tweeting” what the hell anyone is doing, all day long ?? I am confused about this case … I don’t think I have enough information … of course that could hold for any aspect of anything I am not directly involved in .. both sides will bend the truth to their advantage, what is new about that ?? What is the truth, what is the core of this issue ?? We still don’t know if he put peoples lives at jeopardy ?? or if some of the information could create chaos in various parts of the world .. these leaks will be dripped out for as long as there is an advantage to handling the information that way … do we live in a world where one man can decide what is “important” .. interesting topic Grainne ..

  2. These kinds of human rights abuses boil my blood. This case in particular sickens me and fills my soul with sadness. After viewing the video and putting Manning’s actions in context who wouldn’t want to correct a wrong? Now is the time for the citizens of our country to speak up. Thank you for publishing this article and providing me with the links.

  3. Great coverage Grainne. How ironic that the U.S. has become the same evil dictatorship they sought to destroy seven years ago. I wish I could say that and mean it…but history shows the United States has tortured people and fostered corruption since the day it became a nation.

  4. PBugnacki, that is exactly what i thought when i first saw the video. I could be working for Bill Gates, making a thousand bucks an hour, and i would still turn in a video like to a site that would grant broad public access, even if it meant i was fired. Even if it meant i was incarcerated. The severity of the treatment toward Manning is a direct reflection of the degree of depravity exhibited by our government “leaders”. The main intention is not to quit committing atrocities, but to make sure the public doesn’t get a full account of the atrocities committed in the name of security; their security.

    When i look at the photo of Manning before his incarceration and the one of him after eight months of confinement, i shudder. Here is a bright, handsome, cheerful looking boy who, after eight months at the hands of military prison personnel, now looks like a severe case of mental retardation. His punishment has already outweighed his crime; which wasn’t really a crime at all, but the conscientious act of a humanitarian. The message of the government is clear: do not question our authority. It is now up to the citizens to reply, “you are not our dictator. You were hired by us to represent our interests and you’re not doing your job.”

  5. @Rich, I agree, this case is confusing and without all the information, which we aren’t seeing, it is hard to suss out just how much Pfc. Manning should be held accountable.

    There are very real facts that need to be looked at. He was in the military and swore an oath. He should be held accountable for any breach that is NOT covered under the whistleblower protection act(s).

    However his mistreatment far exceeds his charges. Really I encourage you to take a look at the charges. As for why the government would shoot itself in the foot so to speak over this…I think we are gambling on catching that pesky Assange. It’s not likely to come from Pfc. Manning however. He very simply does not know nor does he have contact with Assange.

    Is Manning a hero? Maybe accidentally. I do think it is clear at least some of the information he leaked showed the blatant disrespect for life as well as the breaking of U.N., E.U. and other treaty agreements.

    As far as his homosexuality is concerned it really shouldn’t be a factor in this case at all. However, because of our social climate it is. The raw facts are Manning was gay before he joined the military and he knew it, there was never any gender confusion. If anything he seems to have underestimated how he would feel living under the shadow of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

    It also seems clear to me that whomever was in charge of the classified information should be held accountable for not being able to protect it. Is it Manning’s fault that a grade school level computer user got into classified information? Of course not. His superiors should be (and probably have been, although obviously much less publicly) held accountable for the bad security.

  6. You’re so poorly informed that you don’t know that he is not a dual citizen?

    And you don’t know that his confinement is entirely legal either? The U.N.’s group on torture has explicitly removed confinement of citizens for legal reasons as “torture”. It’s not contrary to any other “human rights agreements” either. He’s not being held in solitary confinement – the cells in this area are all single person cells, with solid walls between each individual cell. He’s being held under “maximum custody detainee” status, which is because he’s charged with endangering national security. It’s a terrible crime and so he’s being held under tight security conditions as a result. He hasn’t been “denied sheets and a pillow” either. He’s been denied any access to anything that he could hang himself with or shove down his throat or stuff his toilet with. As such, he doesn’t get a sheet, but he does get two blankets and he has a matress with a built-in pillow. He’s on a Prevention of Injury status, and so it’s the military’s obligation to ensure that he doesn’t have an opportunity to do anything to endanger his health! He gets limited TV time – he hasn’t been honest about what that entails. He also hasn’t been honest about his exercise time – he’s chosen to stay inside to exercise and simply walk. He could have gone outside. And it’s part of the system rules that prevent him from exercising in his room, doing anything that could hurt him while he’s in his cell! It’s their obligation, remember, to prevent that from happening!

    And he’s never been “kept naked” in his cell. He has been placed under suicide watch twice, and when in that status, they take away his clothing except for his boxer shorts to prevent him from hanging himself! Again, they have to try to ensure he is protected from hurting himself while he is being detained by them! And yes, he may be showing signs of deterioration. People who are in prison deteriorate from that incarceration all the time. Have you been complaining about all the others in a similar boat for years? Of course you haven’t.

  7. @Dolly- In fact, I have complained about others held in similar situations. As for the Human rights violations I invite you to peruse the provided links which detail the current investigations in this case.

    His suicide watch was ordered by the commanding officer in charge of his cell block. No Dr. Was consulted.

    Whether or not Manning has committed a grievous crime remains to be seen as he has not yet been tried. To be detained this long and in this way without a trial is ridiculous.

  8. Thanks for drawing various strands together and for references.

    Please could you clarify photo which I have not seen anywhere else; are you saying this is actually a picture of Bradley now, or just using it as a suggestion? What is the source?

  9. @Violet White this picture was presented as an actual photo of Pfc.Manning. It can be found @ his support site bradleymanning.org; there is a link above as well as AP stock photos and several other places. As far as it being absolute, we did not personally obtain it, but it does seem reputable.

  10. So do you work for the US government Dolly and personally oversee the non-torture of Manning? Or do you just implicitly trust everything the government tells you because you’re a tool? You’re the type of sheep Obama and Bush W. just love to fuck, er I mean lead.

  11. Hey there,

    Can you direct me to the page on bradleymanning.org that shows the photograph after 8 months imprisonment or any AP source? I’d appreciate to see some official confirmation that this is in fact Manning as I have never seen this photo before.
    Thanks.

  12. @ZLB as stated before I did not personally take this picture nor did I employ a photographer to do so. As such I cannot give absolute confirmation on the photo. Once again I provided some of the links I used so feel free to search it out yourself. In addition there is a lot more out there that I did not cover, I feel I only just scratched the surface.

    I find myself more than a little disturbed that the message of a young man being inprisoned, possibly in violation of treaties and human rights is less important than where a picture came from. The real issue for me is that Pfc. Manning has not yet been brought to trial. I, like many others am waiting to see what the U.N. commiission’s findings are regarding his treatment. This is important as we here in the U.S. point fingers all over the world at the wrongful treatment of prisoners, civilians and innocent bystanders caught up in political actions.

  13. Author’s Note:

    After some contact with http://www.couragetoresist.org and some research it was found that the second picture originally shown in this article was not of Pfc. Manning but rather an Oregonian man who was arrested on a third degree theft charge along with a charge of evading arrest and helping a woman who was involved with a stabbing. This man happened to share the same name as Pfc. Manning. you can read more here: http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2010/04/police_arrest_woman_in_stabbin.html

    All apologies for the confusion.

  14. Thanks for clearing that up, Grainne. I too saw it listed as a photo of Manning from what appeared to be a reputable source, so I understand the confusion. But the point of the story is well taken.

  15. His sexuality shouldn’t have even been brought up. You didn’t help him in the sense that you wrote the article as if he were in fact guilty when, as you said, the source may not be that credible. Either way, our society demands that the accused are considered innocent until PROVEN guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not the other way around. He is also not a dual citizen.

    And basically, his lawyer has to appeal to a judge about his treatment, but the military gets to decide when that meeting will occur. He is most certainly being tortured; it goes against human rights, military code and American values in every way. He is a political prisoner, whether people want to admit it or not.

    Gold star for trying, but this was just shotty journalism.

  16. This story is HUGE there are inevitably a lot of things left out, missed and passed over by me, the author. I welcome people adding to it because really what we need is more sharing of information here.

    I thought for quite a while about Tash’s statement and some of the others here.

    Manning is homosexual. He is a gay man. Should that factor into his charges? Not at all and I feel that I made that point quite clearly. Does it factor into how he felt, who he confided in and what was going on internally? How could it not? Yours, mine and our sexuality, feelings, backgrounds, upbringing all factor into decisions we make daily whether or not we are aware of or admit to it. I felt it should be mentioned mostly because of who he confided in and who ultimately gave him up to the U.S. government. Also in a perfect world we wouldn’t blink at sexuality and a lot of us don’t, but the courts in this imperfect world will, why not present as much of the information as possible?

    Hiding things like sexuality, leaving them out of discussion is a weak point in anyone’s arguement. We are the sum of everything in our lives, to try to deny it in anyway leaves people guessing and I see no reason not to discuss facts as they are presented.

    As for the assertation that I painted this article in the light that Manning was already guilty I have to disagree, wholeheartedly. In fact I stated several times he is innocent until proven guilty. I also sited more than a few places that proved he absolutely was being treating in direct violation of treaties and agreements.

    But an article of this sort is not intended to sway your mind one direction or another. It is intended to give you some leads so you can yourself try to follow the rabbit warren of information out there. You the reader should always use information like this as a jumping off point for discussion and investigation.

  17. This whole thing against this kid is just too sickening. This dude’s sexuality is his own business and nobody else. The fact he was betrayed by an unstable creep makes this even more an outrage.

    Lets face it. The kid is being abused. He needs to have companionship, and be allowed outside time for exercise. The point of taking his underware smacks of hazing because the mil is a macho and in many cases, anti gay organization.

    The good news. The kid is a knock out in photos and I’ll bet has so many fans he has reached celebrity status.
    We should all ask Brad get his degnity and human rights restored atonce!

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