Bradley Manning – The Facts Amid the Fury

By Jay Holmes

On December 17, 2011, news channels in the US and Europe reported on Army Private Bradley Manning’s pretrial hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning is responding to charges that he passed to unauthorized parties over 250k classified US diplomatic messages, nearly 500k secret military files, over 400k medical files of military personnel, and the names of Afghan double agents cooperating with the US Military. The Military reported that, after Wiki-leaks published the names of those double agents, most of them were killed by the Taliban or Tali-clones.

image from U.S. Army

image from U.S. Army

Manning’s defense team has, with some success, marketed Manning as a heroic whistle-blower, drawing supporters who created a “Free Bradley Manning Support Network.” One middle-aged supporter interviewed by Reuters even said Manning should receive a Medal of Honor for his heroic acts.

The fact is that, while a few of the files that Manning sent to Wiki-leaks may have been classified in order to protect the Army from embarrassing mistakes that resulted in civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, the majority of what Manning gave away can hardly qualify as suitable material for “whistle blowing.” Furthermore, if whistle blowing had been Manning’s goal, military personnel have access to whistle blowing channels that they can use without fear of persecution or retribution.

Manning’s defense team also introduced the fact that Manning has an alter ego, “Breanna Manning.” Defense claimed Manning’s actions were in part caused by the fact that, as a homosexual, he was treated unfairly by the military.

A few of the more gullible gay rights advocates have now taken up the clarion call and want Manning released from his Army homosexual persecution. The fact that the Army has not charged Manning with any Uniform Code of Military Justice violations based on his sexual practices (or fantasies) has not stopped those few poor duped souls from loudly defending his gay rights.

The willingness of some members of the public to passionately advocate one position or another based on fashion rather than facts has clearly been recognized by Manning’s defense team, and it appears to be the basis of their defense strategy. Before investing any passion that might be better used in the bedroom, let’s break with the current popular trend and review a few verifiable facts.

Precisely who is Bradley Manning, and what do we know about the accusations against him?

Bradley Manning was born on December 17, 1987 in Crescent, Oklahoma to the Welsh woman Susan Fox and her American husband Brian Manning. According to his teachers, Bradley was outspoken about his opinions, but he was not a troublemaker.

When Bradley was 13, his parents divorced, and he moved to Wales with his mother. In school in Wales, Manning was picked on. This was possibly exacerbated by his outspokenness, his effeminate mannerisms, and his likely lack of social skills. He eventually took an equivalency test and moved back to Oklahoma to live with his father.

In the States, Manning got a job with a software company but was fired after a few months. In March of 2006, he got into an argument with his stepmother and decided to make his point by threatening her with a butcher knife. The police removed Manning from the house. After that, he lived in an old pickup truck and worked at odd jobs.

In October of 2007, Bradley entered the Army. He scored well on various tests and was selected for training in Army Intelligence School. While in intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Manning was reprimanded for posting sensitive information on YouTube.

Had I been his commanding officer, this is when Manning would have begun his brilliant new Army career as a bathroom cleaning and parking lot security specialist. I simply would have explained to Bradley that if any vehicles in the parking lot went damaged, he would be pulling extra duty on weekends cleaning everyone else’s toilets. It’s a big Army with lots of toilets, and they need lots of cleaning, so there is a place for the Bradley Mannings of the world in the great big Army, but that place should never include access to weapons, classified information, vehicles, electricity, etc.

However, in the Western world, the modern military doesn’t always like the “hard-ass” approach, so Bradley was graduated, and he and his security clearance, which must have been conducted by a Taliban subcontractor, were designated to eventually work in Iraq. Iraq at the time was a place with lots of secret American military communications, weapons, vehicles, things that go “boom” and occasionally even electricity—not at all the sort of place for Bradley Manning.

Before being deployed to Iraq, Manning spent time at Fort Drum, New York, the home of the elite 10th Mountain Division. While at Fort Drum, he hooked up with a male lover from Boston College who introduced him to the hacker community. He attended a “hackerspace” workshop where he presumably honed his hackiness.

Manning was unhappy at Fort Drum and didn’t hide it. He argued with his roommates and screamed at officers. Still, nobody saw any reason to pull his security clearance.

To a degree, I can understand this. In the US military, “spooks” of all varieties are expected to be a bit eccentric. Some of them often ignore petty rules and find ways to get around the system without ruffling any high-ranking feathers. If they do good work, the commanders will usually look the other way rather than troubling to find more talent to complete difficult work that not everyone has an aptitude for or an interest in.

In exchange for this informal “different drummer” exception that spooks might at times receive, they are expected to maintain the highest security standards and perform extremely well in their corps responsibilities. However, that willingness to ignore a few eccentricities does not usually extend to screaming at superior officers or fighting with roommates.  Manning was marching to his own drummer, but he clearly was not maintaining good security practices. Manning was sent to a mental health councilor, but he kept his security clearance.

In October of 2009, Manning was sent to Iraq and was stationed at Forward Operating Base “Hammer.” While at FOB Hammer, Manning’s state of mind did not improve. After several people reported odd behavior by Manning, he was sent to a chaplain.

If a chaplain is in residence at a forward operating base, he will often serve as minister, psychiatrist, councilor, and social worker all rolled into one. Unfortunately, even a talented chaplain has limited tools at his disposal and can’t remove a disturbed “patient” from the front. Not surprisingly, the chaplain was unable to perform any magic on Manning, and his behavior did not improve.

Manning had access to a vast array of data that his job did not require via the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. Apparently, he was only in theater about a month when he allegedly started sending Wikileaks volumes of classified files.

On May 7, 2010, Manning punched his female commanding officer in the face. Fortunately for Manning, she did not draw her M9 pistol and shoot him twice. Manning was demoted to the rank of private, a rank he never should have been elevated from in the first place, and told that he would be sent home and discharged.

Shortly after the “woman beating” incident, and before he was shipped home, he reached out to famous ex-hacker, Adrian Lamo. He and Lamo chatted online, and he bragged to Lamo about the files that he had sent to Julian Assange at Wikileaks. Lamo realized that the lives of US servicemen and their allies were at stake, and he contacted the FBI. Lamo gave the FBI classified files that Manning had sent him, along with logs of their chats.

On May 26, 2010, Manning was arrested by the Army and placed in custody in Kuwait. He was charged on July 5, 2010 with transferring classified information to unauthorized parties while knowing that it would be used to harm the United States of America.

On July 29, 2010, Manning was transferred to the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Manning and his supporters claim that he was held in inhumane conditions in Quantico, but his lawyer, David Coombs, said he was not tortured or mistreated.

On April 11, 2011, Manning was transferred to a medium security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is now held under less stringent conditions.

The Military justice system will determine Manning’s guilt or innocence and assign punishment. One might wonder why Manning’s legal team appears to base their defense around the strategies of, “He’s gay; stop picking on him,” and, “Manning is a hero for exposing the less-than-pure diplomatic initiatives of the US.” My guess is that they find the evidence against Manning so overwhelming that they are focusing on the courts of public opinion to whip up political pressure for an eventual early release of Manning. So far, their plan is going pretty well for them and for their client.

It is too early to completely assess the damage done by Manning or to completely understand his reasons for doing what he did. Thus far, I am willing to draw the following conclusions:

1) Manning should not receive the Medal of Honor.

2) His legal team is smart, and you and I are probably paying them a ton.

3) Manning never should have graduated his intelligence training. If he was ignoring security requirements in the highly controlled training environment, it was nuts to expect him to perform any better on the battlefield.

4) The people responsible for the security of the two secured networks that Manning accessed belong in the cell next to Manning, although for something less than a life sentence.

5) Solid evidence won’t change the minds of many of the impassioned Manning lovers or the press that profits from the drama.

6 ) While so much noise is being made over Manning torture allegations, homosexual discrimination allegations, and bad government policies that Manning supposedly exposed, the bad government policy that allowed so much information to be stolen by one mentally unstable traitor will remain unquestioned.

Sketch of Bradley Manning trial from

I hope that the Army, the State Department, and the NSA are as upset as I am about Manning’s ease of access to so much information, and I hope that the Army will consider showing a little more willingness to withhold security clearances from obviously mentally unstable individuals.


33 comments on “Bradley Manning – The Facts Amid the Fury

  1. Jenny Hansen says:

    I’m continually amazed at the passionate positions people take on issues without any facts in the equation. I agree with every word in this post, Holmes.

  2. kerrymeacham says:

    I always know when I’ve won an argument, because the person will either change the subject or make a personal attack. Unfortunately, some people will be duped by the smoke and mirrors. I hope the military personnel hearing the case aren’t in that group. Thanks again for another great post, Holmes. ~clink~

  3. J Holmes says:

    Hi Kerry. I’m confident that the members of the Court Marshall will not be influenced by media blitzes. They might be slightly insulted by the strange tactics of the defense team but they are not going to give him a death sentence, and what would extra life sentences matter?

    The fact that the defense team is being so outlandish indicates to me that they think that a life sentence is a given.

    A few years ago I asked a youngster in a parking lot with a “free Leonard Peltier” bumper sticker who Leonard Peltier was. He told me that he was “a Native American that they put in prison for organizing peace rallies during the Viet Nam war.” The poor fellow had no idea that Leonard was convicted of two counts of first degree murder for the shooting deaths of two FBI agents nor did he know that Peltier had nothing to do with anti war rallies.

    This is the social phenomena that Manning’s defense team will use to try to get a presidential pardon for Manning. Even if there is little hope of that occurring the publicity is great for their careers.

  4. Catherine Johnson says:

    I hadn’t heard a thing about this and from all this info I agree too. I think he should have had the brains to foresee what will probably happen to him inside. Quite naive.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Catherine.

      One of the ironic things about the protests is that he will be much safer in a military prison then he would be in a regular federal pen. In a federal pen he might be frequently raped and brutalized by the inmates. His social status in the criminal world leaves him on par with the pedophiles that are locked up.

  5. Wow. . . how’d this guy get where he did? That’s a lot of signals of ‘holy shit, this guy can’t be trusted.’ I think a neon sign may have been commissioned.

    • J Holmes says:

      You are completely right Patrick. The question that this all begs is how many slightly less flaky people have too much unnecessary access to secure information and are giving it away daily. Given how ridiculously easy it was for Manning to give away massive quantities of secret information, it seems probable that other people have been doing the same thing better than he was able to do.

      I am disgusted at the lack of outcry over the weak security.

      • You bring up a good point that is critical in more than just government applications. Information Security is something I had to bury myself in last semester in school, and it’s a touchy topic everywhere.

        Now that you bring it up, yes, I’m very worried about who has access to things they shouldn’t.

  6. Texanne says:

    I’d serve on his firing squad. For free.

    And no, he never should have had access to anything other than a mop, pail, and dishonorable discharge. But, unless I misremember, the army had some inklings that a certain field grade psychiatrist might have some ideas about “workplace violence,” too, and chose to ignore it.

    Wouldn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.

    No, on second thought, a firing squad is too good for either of them. (It’s the method I’d choose for myself, if I ever have to go that way.)

    The drunk-on-their-ass silliness of the intelligence service in these cases baffles me. What the hell is going on?

    Hats off to Lamo for sounding the alarm. Minus that, we might never have known about Manning’s heinous crimes. What else is going on that we don’t know?

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Texanne.

      “What else is going on that we don’t know?”

      That’s the question to which the Army, the military in general, and the NSA need to be directing their investigative energy these days.

  7. Hi Holmes.

    I think there are still states (or at least counties) where it would be legal to stake him to the ground, cover him in salt and leave him for a week or two. And that’s probably better treatment than the people he named received.

    What’s equally distressing is why he was able to access hundred of thousands of files. “Need to know” clearly wasn’t the reason. I think the pace of technological change has outstripped the pace of security personnel’s ability to maintain their standards. That’s certainly true in the plain vanilla online world of ordinary citizens, and this case shows it’s not much different in the military world either.

    Good post, Holmes, even if it did make my blood boil.


    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Nigel.

      “I think the pace of technological change has outstripped the pace of security personnel’s ability to maintain their standards.” That’s half the problem for sure. Manning’s access should have been effectively restricted by technology, procedures, supervision and routine counterintelligence efforts.

      The other half of the problem is that Manning never should have obtained a security clearance. It astounds me that a routine background check did not uncover the police report about him wielding a knife against his stepmother. Once that was uncovered he should have been discharged from the Army.

  8. tomwisk says:

    While sitting at a bar in the Minot AFB Airmen’s Club, I said they could shut down the base by eliminating coffee and alconol. When I left I was braced by two base intelligence men. They tried to take me in under the guise of going to a poker game. I excused myself and went back to my barracks to crash. I was no threat, but I understand the problem I caused. Bradley did far worse. To be secure we have to deal with threats as they arise. He’s lucky that wartime measures weren’t in place. He would have been tried on the spot. He’s gotten due process. He should count himself lucky.

    • J Holmes says:

      Those two “base intelligence guys” were evidently quite bored.

      “He’s lucky that wartime measures weren’t in place.” They were. The Army chose to send him back to the states for trial.

  9. Ellie Ann says:

    I’m totally shocked at the sheer AMOUNT of info he had available to him. I mean, he wasn’t that high up…no way he needed access to all that info. Crazy!
    It doesn’t bother me that troubled young men are in the military, there will always be troubled people in every field of course…but it’s always troubling when people don’t paint them as troubled, and instead paint them as a hero. What?!

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Ellie. We must assume on any given day that some small number of people are willing to leak, sell, or give away classified information. Disturbed people are not rare. The system has to be designed to withstand that.

      Gullibility is some combination of ignorance and attitude. There never seems to be a shortage of gullibility in the world.

  10. I’m frequently amazed at the “causes” to which some folks dedicate their time and energy when there are so many far more important and pressing issues in the world. Manning deserves no support from anyone and, as you point out so clearly, the army seriously needs to take a hard look at the flaws in their system. I’m guessing there would be a very large platoon of “bathroom cleaning and parking lot security specialists”, as a result.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Patricia. “the army seriously needs to take a hard look at the flaws in their system.” I would substitute “Army” with “entire defense community” and that would include everyone from people and systems at the Treasury to the CIA that has access to classified information.

  11. Gene Lempp says:

    This guy should be shot. End of trial. Added to this the person that “passed” him through with a clearance should be retired as they obviously lack the intelligence required for their commission. Whether Manning was mistreated is irrelevant, he is a clear traitor and as such has forfeited his rights. And “gay” is not an excuse for criminal activity, nor should it be considered as a defense given that Manning obviously held bias against his country. Quid pro quo.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Gene. I understand your sentiment and I won’t pretend that I would find it difficult to pull the trigger but I would have to stop myself and obey orders. Although I support deadly force in self defense or to prevent a serious crime in the moment, and I support deadly force in military operations I don’t support the death penalty. We humans make too many mistakes in assessing what has happened and no justice system is perfect. Life in prison will hardly be a joy ride for him.

      With all that said Manning should be glad that the ARMY investigators swooped in without warning and got him out of their quickly. Manning would have been a very bad accident/suicide risk had he been left with his fellow soldiers.

      From a national security perspective I just want the system fixed. I would be more than willing to see people discharged regardless of rank, not as punishment but just in defense of public interest.

      “And “gay” is not an excuse for criminal activity, nor should it be considered as a defense” I agree, Some unknown but significant number of homosexuals have served honorably in defense of this nation.

      I assume that the defense team is brilliant enough to see their own absurdity. They undoubtedly will use any desperate trick to bring political pressure to bear on this case. I take it as a sign of how certain they are of his guilt.

  12. Jane Sadek says:

    Obviously the attorneys watched a lot of Boston Legal.

  13. Piper Bayard says:

    I read in the Huffington Post article that the defense is saying “that his [Bradley Manning’s] struggles in an environment hostile to homosexuality contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.”

    1) He knew about “don’t ask, don’t tell” before he went into the military.

    2) He does not appear to have been inhibited by the policy while he was in New York.

    3) If I read this right, the defense is saying that because he was homosexual in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment, he was naturally unusually distressed and, therefore, should not have been trusted with sensitive material.

    What? He was homosexual so the military should have known better than to trust him?

    I would think the gay rights groups would be beside themselves with anger over this defense. There are untold numbers of homosexuals who have served in the military with honor and distinction. Using his gender identity issues and homosexuality as a defense is a deep insult to all of those honorable soldiers who have served since . . . Oh . . . Sparta . . . and to the homosexual soldiers still in uniform. That is no different than saying, “She was a woman and, therefore, hormonal so she should not have been trusted in the first place.”

    There were plenty of reasons not to trust Bradley Manning. His homosexuality and gender identity issues were not among those reasons. Such nonsense only masks the real problem, which, as you say, is that he was not properly screened in the first place.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I never cease to be impressed by your clarity, even on the most complex of issues. You could have been a lawyer. 🙂 Lol. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

  14. J Holmes says:

    Hi Piper.

    “I read in the Huffington Post article that the defense is saying “that his [Bradley Manning’s] struggles in an environment hostile to homosexuality contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.”…”

    Manning absolutely served in a hostile work environment. It’s called “Iraq”. Every member of the military deployed to that region serves in a hostile work environment.

    Serving in hostile environments is what the military does. They have many subdivided job descriptions beyond that but they are by definition specialists in serving in hostile environments. We could say that they are the “department of getting hostile with hostile individuals in hostile environments”

    Manning’s experience was not unique. That’s why the taxpayers paid for so many bullets, bombs, tanks and hostility specialists to be shipped there.

    When the President or Congress are planning garden parties or sensitivity training they don’t call the joint chiefs of staff for help.

    Come to think of it I find this entire “hostile environment” conversation so entertaining that I’m going to ask the Joint Chiefs to ask the DOD and Congress to change the name of all the military branches to “Hostile Environmentalist Force”

  15. ALMOST bypassed this post b/c I’m a day late, and SO glad I didn’t. I, too, agree with your comments, Holmes. Love that you nail the facts and history.

    When I finished reading the “just the facts, ma’am” section detailing Manning’s history before and during his stint in the army, I thought…

    “I could not even use this as a fictional plot line without getting red-lined for ‘this would NOT happen.'”

    Sadly, it appears Hostile Environment Force Commanders have more latitude on suspended reality than fiction writers.

  16. J Holmes says:

    Hi Gloria.

    “Sadly, it appears Hostile Environment Force Commanders have more latitude on suspended reality than fiction writers.”

    It’s probably beyond the understanding of most force commanders. The most diligent of them probably could have watched Manning in action without recognizing what he was doing. There are specialists responsible for communications security. While the technology is newer every day the system has been in place since World War One when radios came into use. There needs to be a frank and thorough assessment of that system. It’s clearly not adequate.

  17. […] we pointed out in our previous Bradley Manning article, Bradley Manning—The Facts Amid the Fury, he was court martialed for passing secret information to unauthorized parties while serving in […]

  18. […] we pointed out in our previous Bradley Manning article, Bradley Manning—The Facts Amid the Fury, he was court martialed for passing secret information to unauthorized parties while serving in […]

  19. mrmeangenes says:

    Just thought I’d let you know I’ve re-blogged you . Excellent job of reporting !

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