Bradley Manning is at the center of the WikiLeaks controversy. But who is
he?By Ellen Nakashima<>
, Published: May 5 | Updated: Sunday, May 8, 5:23 PM

In January 2010, more than 130 people gathered to celebrate the opening of
Room B-28, a “hacker space” in the basement of the computer science building
at Boston University. The room had two rows of computers running open-source
software, and, in conformity to the hacker ethic, its walls were painted
with wildly colored murals, extensions of the free expression to be
practiced there. That was the reason for the power tools, too — in case
someone wanted to build something amazing and beautiful, such as the musical
staircase, under construction now, that chimes when you step on it.

One of the visitors was a young Army specialist named Bradley Manning, on
leave from duty in Iraq. He had been working with computers, modifying code,
since he was a kid. David House, founder of the hacker space, said he
immediately sensed that Manning “was in the community,” someone who
understood how technology could be empowering. This was the sort of world
Manning hoped to inhabit one day, friends said. He had joined the Army so
the GI Bill would finance his education. He had his eye on a PhD in physics.

Days later, he would be on a plane back to Baghdad and a culture where
rule-breaking was not celebrated. And eight months after that, House — who
had chatted with the man for barely 15 minutes — went to visit him in the
brig at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where Manning was being
the prime suspect inthe largest national security
U.S. history.

He is accused of violating military computer security and leaking
classified information<>
the insurgent Web site WikiLeaks. He faces 22
including “aiding the enemy,” a capital crime. The material includes a video
of an Apache helicopter firing on civilians in Baghdad, daily field reports
from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a quarter-million cables from
U.S. diplomats around the world. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
has called the cable leaks “an attack on America’s foreign policy

For most of the past year, Manning spent 23 hours a day alone in a
6-by-12-foot jail cell. His case has become a rallying
free-information activists, who say the leaked information belongs to the
American people. They compare the 23-year-old former intelligence analyst
to Daniel Ellsberg<>,
leaker of the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers, and decry excessive
government secrecy. “What is happening to our government when Bradley
Manning is charged with aiding the enemy?” asked Pete Perry, an organizer
with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Who is the enemy? Information?
The American people?”

The case raises troubling issues. Placing information in the public domain
has never before been construed as aiding the enemy. Manning had a history
of emotional outbursts throughout his youth, and they continued during his
Army service, culminating in a breakdown in Baghdad.

How did a young man of such promise wind up in a brig? And how was he in a
position to potentially access sensitive material given what the Army knew —
or should have known — about him? Who is Bradley Manning, and what made him
the way he is?


Manning’s path to jail began in a one-stoplight Oklahoma town so pious he
liked to quip that it had “more pews than people.” There are a dozen
churches in Crescent’s one square mile, and its pastures are dotted with oil
derricks and bales of hay.

Manning’s parents — a young Navy veteran skilled in computer programming and
his Welsh wife — moved to Oklahoma from California in 1983 with their
7-year-old daughter, Casey. Brian Manning had married Susan Fox the day
after his 21st birthday in Wales, where he had been stationed.

The couple had tried for years to have another child, so Bradley’s arrival
exactly 11 years after his sister’s was an occasion. His early years, spent
in Arizona and Oklahoma, were happy ones. The girl was crazy for her little
brother, bounced him on her knees as he “laughed and laughed.” His mother
noticed that even as a 6-month-old, Bradley was fascinated by the computer.
“He would sit with his father and just peck, peck, peck” at the keyboard,
she said in an interview during a trip to see her son at Quantico.

The family lived in a neatly kept two-story house on five acres on an
isolated dirt road several miles outside Crescent, where they had what Casey
calls a “hobby farm.” There were two horses, a cow, pigs and chickens, a
large vegetable garden and a pond stocked with perch. Susan was a homemaker
and expert knitter who worked odd jobs but never learned to drive. She was a
doting, even indulgent mother who let Bradley cover the entire second-story
floor with his Lego creations.

Bradley was like a “hummingbird,” said his aunt, Debra Manning. “Always
moving fast, taking a short rest, then back in motion again.” He’d talk just
as quickly, his words tumbling over his thoughts.

When Bradley was no more than 7 or 8, Brian brought home a computer
programming book and introduced his son to the C++ programming language.
Much later, his dad helped him build a computer. “He loved anything
electronic,” recalled a family friend, Mary Egelston.

His outstanding intellect was apparent early in school. He earned straight
A’s and studied in advanced classes along with Jordan Davis, his oldest
friend, now living in a suburb of Oklahoma City. Though Bradley played the
sax and both boys were on a youth basketball team, Davis said, “he was a
pretty big nerd, and so was I.”

“Extremely bright,” said one of his teachers, with a “vocabulary, a depth of
knowledge that most fifth-graders didn’t have.” He won top prize in the
science fair three years in a row.

Bradley was also a wisecracker who was not shy about expressing his opinions
— even to teachers, whom he sometimes corrected. The other children would
say, “Oh, Bradley, he always thinks he knows everything,” recalled Egelston,
who used to be a substitute teacher. “Well, Bradley, little munchkin that he
is, he would stand up for what he believes.”

Even in elementary school, Bradley showed an interest in the world. He would
argue that the United States had a right to assert its military power
overseas to protect its interests, Davis said. Former classmate Chera Moore
admired his outspokenness. “He was just the most intelligent boy I’ve ever
met,” she said.

In sixth grade, Bradley became the first student from Crescent to win a
statewide academic meet. When he went on stage to collect his trophy in
Oklahoma City, his parents were not there. Indeed, Brian and Susan Manning
did not take an active interest in Bradley’s schooling or grades, even
skipping parent-teacher conferences. “[Kids are] the ones that have to grow
up,” Susan Manning said in explanation. “Nobody else is going to do it for

Other parents looked out for him. When Bradley and his friend Paden Radford
went to academic meets in other towns, Paden’s mother, Jacqueline Radford,
said she “always made sure Paden had enough money to pay extra if Bradley
didn’t have any. The teacher would sometimes pitch in. That’s what we do
around here.” One summer, Bradley went on an East Coast school bus trip with
Paden’s father acting as his chaperone. It was evident that Bradley was
“trying to find out where he fit in the world,” Mark Radford said.

He did a lot of that searching on his own. Brian Manning, who worked in
information technology for Hertz, took business trips to Europe for five or
six weeks at a time, Susan recalled. “Come home on a Saturday, then sleep on
Sunday, go back to work on Monday and leave on another trip on Friday,” she

The absences strained Bradley’s relationship with his father, family members
said. And when Brian was home, he was, one relative said, “far too strict” —
in contrast to a mother who was “far too soft.”

Bradley was “afraid of his dad,” Davis said. He recalled how Bradley once
told him that “he had to hide out in a tree” or that “his dad was going at
him with a belt.” Once, when Bradley was in the second grade or so, his
father gave him a spanking so severe that the next day at school, he told
his teacher he could not sit down, his mother and sister said. His father
was also “abusive with words,” Susan Manning said.

(Brian Manning did not respond to requests for interviews.)

Bradley’s mother had drunk for years, but, she said, her habit grew worse in
Crescent, where the family lived in relative isolation. She added vodka to
her morning tea and rum to her afternoon Coke. “She just basically drank
once she got up and till she went to bed,” Casey said. Susan said she was
having problems in her marriage and turned to the bottle for solace. She
admitted the drinking affected her children: “I wasn’t just hurting myself.
I know that. But you don’t think that at the time. You get so down that you
don’t care.”

The children learned early to be self-reliant. By age 6, Bradley could dress
himself and get his own breakfast cereal. When Brian traveled, he would
leave envelopes containing pre-written checks, and Casey would mail them.
Her mother, she said, never learned how to write a check.

Bradley also began acting out. On a family trip to Florida when he was 9 or
10, one of his cousins touched his laptop, inadvertently clearing the
screen. Angered, Bradley hurled an ironing board across the rented villa,
recalled his aunt Sharon Staples. Moore, his former classmate, said that if
someone crossed him, “he’d pick up a book or notebook and slam it on his
desk, or his face would turn bright red.”

But on his computer, Bradley could transcend life in his small Midwestern
town. “He was always thinking outside Crescent, Oklahoma,” Paden Radford
said. “He was always a step ahead of most people.” By middle school, Bradley
was altering lines of code to transform a computer-game character’s
appearance, just for fun. “I don’t know too many 13-year-olds who can
re-skin a model,” Davis said.

Playing computer games, Bradley discovered the world of ideas. The game Call
to Power II, for instance, prompted him and Davis to discuss using
technology to achieve democracy. It was during one of those discussions that
Bradley mentioned the concept that “information wants to be free,” which had
become a tenet of the hacker community. “Bradley was interested in hacking —
not in doing it, but in theory,” Davis said.

Susan and Brian’s troubles escalated, and by the fall of 1999, Brian had
moved out. The divorce in 2000, Egelston recalled, “rocked their world.” It
was especially hard on young Bradley, who moved with his mother to a
smaller, rented house in town. Casey was by now in college.

That same year, his father remarried, and the new wife’s son changed his
name to Manning. One afternoon in 2001, Bradley came home devastated after a
visit to his father, Susan Manning recalled. He felt replaced by his
stepbrother, Dustin. Bradley began literally climbing the wall in
frustration — taking two or three steps, running up the wall, then hopping
off, over and over. She called Egelston and asked her to intercede. Egelston
finally got him to his room and sat him down. He was “just totally
frustrated,” Egelston recalled. He blurted out: “Nobody understands!” He
confessed his sense of rejection to his mother. “I’m nobody now, Mom,” he

Bradley was now an adolescent, coming into his sexual awakening. The summer
he was 13, he confided to Davis and another friend that he had a crush on a
boy. “It was, I guess, me,” Davis said. “I was flattered. It was a little
bit awkward.” Bradley came out to his mother, very matter-of-factly, at the
dining room table about the same time. She remembers telling him it was
“okay with me, but try not to tell other people — especially your dad.”


Bradley did not speak openly of the turmoil at home. Besides, big things
were happening in the world, and even as a 13-year-old, he was keenly aware
of current events. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Bradley and Jordan
Davis saw the footage of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
“Oh, man, this is unbelievable,” Davis recalled them saying. The boys felt
that they were alone in their class in seeing the “game-changing” nature of
the attack. “This was going to be by far the biggest event of this decade
and maybe the next, probably one of the biggest events of this new century.”

It was amid this turbulence that Manning’s mother decided to return to
Wales, and in November, Bradley announced to surprised friends and teachers
that he was leaving. They flew from Washington on Thanksgiving Day after
spending a few nights in Potomac with Bradley’s Aunt Debbi, Brian’s older
sister. Bradley, by now the man of the family, had made the airline
reservations online himself.

They settled into a three-bedroom apartment in Haverfordwest, Wales, near
his mother’s family. Though Bradley made a few friends, he spent a lot of
time in his room playing games and listening to music on his computers.

Wales was not an easy fit. “All the things he knew — politically,
culturally, all his comfort zone — were all of a sudden gone,” said his
uncle Joseph Staples.

Kids picked on him. “Some days, he was relieved to get home from school,”
said his aunt Sharon Staples. “He’d run. He never walked.” Once on a camping
trip with friends, she said, “he woke up, and all the tents around him were
gone. They left while he was sleeping.”

His mother’s drinking continued to be a concern to the boy, and he told
relatives he was afraid she would die. When he graduated from high school in
2005, he returned to Oklahoma, where his father had offered to get him a job
in technology.

Bradley moved in with Brian, his second wife (also named Susan) and her son,
who was about Bradley’s age. They lived in a ranch-style house in Oklahoma
City, where Bradley, now 17, began work at a software start-up, Zoto
Inc.With its Macs, white boards and robots tooling around, Zoto appealed to
Bradley’s tech sensibilities. The young man certainly had aptitude, recalled
Zoto co-founder Kord Campbell. He was also politically switched-on,
intelligent beyond his years. “Here I was a grown man, and he could run
circles around me” talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, Campbell said.

Bradley showed a political consciousness about the Iraq war. “He didn’t like
that people were being killed, particularly the citizens, innocent people,”
Campbell said. “I remember us specifically talking about how we were having
a hard time getting information on how many people were being killed.”

The youth confided in Campbell about his home life, expressing frustration
with his mother — “ ‘I felt like I was the parent with her’ ” — and his
stepmother — “ ‘My stepmom hates me.’ ” Campbell came to the conclusion that
“nobody’s been taking care of this kid for a really long time.”

As they grew closer, Campbell began to notice worrisome incidents. There
were moments when Bradley would just “sit there and stare,” he said. Once,
when Campbell was teaching Bradley to drive, Bradley failed to brake as he
approached a stop sign. When Campbell spoke up, Bradley stopped the car but
then “just locked up,” Campbell said. “I had to put on the emergency brakes,
get out, walk around the car, open the door and touch him before he finally
snapped out of it.”

The odd behavior became more frequent, Campbell said, and he suspected drug
use. Manning had trouble focusing on work, and it became increasingly
difficult to communicate with him, Campbell said. Finally, he told Bradley
he needed to deal with his problems and fired him. He was sorry, he said,
but he had a business to run.

At home, Bradley and his stepmother fought over money, over his smoking,
over his leaving empty Dr Pepper cans under his bed. In March 2006, the two
got into such a row that Susan called 911, saying Bradley had threatened her
with a knife. Her husband had fallen while trying to protect her, she told
the dispatcher.

In the tape of the call, an angry Susan can be heard screaming at Brad: “Get
away from him! You get away from him!” In the background, a concerned
Bradley asks his father, “Are you okay?”

Susan told the dispatcher that Bradley was upset “because I have been
telling him he needs to get a job, and he won’t get a job.”

In the audio, she lays down an ultimatum to his father: “You better find
somewhere for him to go, because he ain’t staying here.” (In March of this
year, Brian Manning filed for divorce.)

So Bradley took the old red Nissan pickup his dad had given him and hit the


In July 2006, Bradley’s aunt in Potomac received a call from her former
sister-in-law in Wales. Bradley was in Chicago, broke and living out of his
truck in someone’s driveway. Could Debbi help?

Debra Manning called Bradley on his cellphone and offered to wire him money.
She also offered him a temporary place to stay. About 30 hours later,
Bradley showed up at her house. He had driven almost 700 miles in one day.

Thus began a 15-month interlude in the Washington area that would be one of
the most tranquil in Bradley’s life. He found a job at Abercrombie & Fitch,
then a better one at Starbucks. With his uncle’s help, he enrolled in
Montgomery College, in the hope that it might be a steppingstone to the
University of Maryland. After one semester in which he failed an exam, he
dropped out and never returned.

Still, he seemed productive and more or less happy. “He was extremely
organized, extremely tidy,” his aunt said. “This was not somebody who was
flailing around.” So she was stunned when, over dinner at the now-gone
Broadway Diner in Rockville, Bradley announced that he had enlisted in the
Army and would be leaving in a week or so. To her concerned questions, he
replied that service would allow him to go to college.

Debra would later learn that it was her brother who encouraged Bradley to
enlist because, he said, it would give structure to his son’s life. “Twisted
his arm,” was how Brian Manning put it to a PBS “Frontline” correspondent.

In October 2007, Pvt. Manning reported for basic training at Fort Leonard
Wood in Missouri. “He really didn’t like a lot of the people,” said a friend
in Washington. “They weren’t very nice to him.” At 5-foot-2, “he was the
smallest guy in the group. There are two types of small guys: the guys, who,
if you mess around with them, they break your arm. And then there are the
type who just take it. And he just took it.”


Despite his struggles, Manning was excited about his future in Army
intelligence, a field that suited his analytical mind. “It’s going to be a
different crowd when I get through with basic,” he told the friend. “I’m
going to be with people more like me.”

He enjoyed classes at the Fort Huachuca, Ariz., intelligence school, where
he received a top-secret security clearance, graduated and joined the 2nd
Brigade, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.

It was here, constrained by the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell”
that he began speaking out anonymously about gay rights. He attended a rally
in Syracuse and noted on Facebook that he had gotten an “anonymous mention”
in an article. The reporter wrote of a gay soldier who complained he was
“living a double life. ... I can’t make a statement. I can’t be caught in an

Manning now had a love interest: Tyler Watkins, a freshman interested in
neuroscience at Brandeis University who was an active member of Triskelion,
the Brandeis club for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
Manning began to make weekend visits to Watkins’s dorm at the tranquil,
wooded campus west of Boston. On his Facebook page, Watkins declared that he
was “totally in love with Bradley Edward Manning!!!!!!!”

The trips to Boston exposed Manning to new friends and a vibrant tech
community. A friend named Danny Clark introduced him to Pika House, a
rambling, cooperative-style clapboard house near the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology whose residents — mostly students — practiced creative chaos:
tacking circuit boards to the ceiling, hanging a traffic signal upside down
from the porch.

Clark, who runs a small software firm, provided a sympathetic ear to
Manning’s Army and family woes. “He always seemed in control. Even when he
was in desperate situations, he came up with inventive ways to be as fine as
possible. ... I was part of the world he hoped to join after he got out of
the Army,” Clark said.

Manning was not adapting well to the military culture. He clashed with a
roommate he thought was anti-gay and one he thought was racist, according to
a friend. He quarreled with other soldiers and pushed some chairs in anger.
By August 2009, a supervisor, Master Sgt. Paul D. Adkins, noted that he was
showing signs of “instability” and required him to seek mental health
counseling, according to an Army report. Manning received an initial
screening but no regular therapy, the report said. Because he could not
discuss his romantic relationship with an Army therapist, Manning on his own
saw a civilian counselor off the base.

Adkins and a major discussed leaving Manning behind when the unit deployed
to Iraq in the fall, “as I felt he was a risk to himself and possibly
others,” Adkins said in a statement. But the Army was short on intelligence
analysts in Iraq. Manning was clearly bright and his behavior had started to
improve, so his superiors decided to send him.

At the same time, Manning tried to reassure his family he would be okay. He
told his aunt he was eager to use his training in a war zone. He told his
sister not to worry because he would be “in an air-conditioned trailer
behind the front line.”

On one of his last visits to Boston, Manning told Keith Rose, a friend he
had met at Brandeis, of his misgivings about Iraq because of what he was
learning as an intelligence analyst. “He expressed a feeling to me like how
messed up the situation is,” Rose said. “He said things like, ‘If more
people knew what was going on over there, they would not support the war.’ ”

In Baghdad, Manning worked in a drab warehouse-like building called a
sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF. His job at Forward
Operating Base Hammer was to detect threats in locally gathered information
to keep troops out of danger. He told friends he enjoyed the intellectual

He also confided that his supervisor “completely knew [he was gay] and had
no problem with it as long as he did his job properly,” Rose said. A few
others knew, too, Manning told Clark, but in deference to the “don’t ask
don’t tell” policy, he limited his gay signals to small things that wouldn’t
get him tossed out of the Army. He kept a fairy wand on his desk and used an
online account password of TWinkl.

Three months into his Baghdad assignment, by now promoted a rank, Manning
had a two-week leave and flew back to the States to see his relatives in
Potomac and his boyfriend in Boston. He also saw Clark, who took him to the
hacker space open house at Boston University, a high point of his leave.

During the visit, according to, which interviewed Watkins, Manning
confided to his boyfriend that he had “gotten his hands on” sensitive
information and was considering passing it to WikiLeaks. Since the Wired
story, Watkins has not spoken to the media and did not return phone calls
for this article. (After Manning’s arrest, federal investigators swooped
into Boston looking for leads on WikiLeaks among Manning’s friends in the
tech community, which one called a chilling experience.)

The lovers were not getting along. One evening, they went to a Triskelion
meeting, and Rose said he noticed Manning sitting dejectedly in a corner.
“He came home expecting some kind of homecoming, to be embraced. Instead,
he’d been ignored.”


Shortly after Manning returned to Baghdad in February, WikiLeaks began
posting documents that appeared to have been leaked from inside the U.S.
government. They included an Army counterintelligence report warning of the
risk of leaks from within the Army to WikiLeaks.

Founded in late 2006 by a peripatetic Australian and former hacker named
Julian Assange, the site was conceived as an “uncensorable system for
untraceable mass document leaking,” with servers peppered throughout the
world. By early 2010, it had earned some ink for posting the
from a British university and Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo

But it was the April 2010 posting of a 2007 video shot from a U.S. Army
helicopter hovering over the streets of Baghdad that put WikiLeaks on the
map. The action is viewed through the crosshairs of an Apache gunship, as
unseen shooters take aim at suspected insurgents, saying, “Light ’em all up.
Come on, fire!” The gunfire killed about a dozen people, including two
Reuters employees — a driver and a photographer, whose lens had been
mistaken for a weapon. WikiLeaks dubbed the piece “Collateral Murder.”

Not long after, Manning e-mailed friends a link to the video, urging them to
check it out. According to, Manning messaged Watkins, asking, “Are
people talking about it? ... That was one of his major concerns, that once
he had done this, was it really going to make a difference? ... He wanted
people held accountable and wanted to see this didn’t happen again.”

The same month the video appeared, Manning began to exhibit “bizarre
behavior” at work, including showing “blank stares when spoken to” and
stopping in mid-sentence, according to Master Sgt. Adkins in a memorandum
written for an investigation into whether any supervisors should be punished
for failing to properly discipline Manning and for failing to run a secure
SCIF. The following sequence of events is taken from that report, portions
of which were read to The Post.

Manning’s strange behavior increased in “frequency and intensity” and gave
“an impression of disrespect and disinterest” to his superiors. Adkins sent
Manning not to a therapist but to a chaplain.

On May 7, Manning left his work area about 6:30 p.m. and was found an hour
later “sitting on the floor in a fetal position in a storage room.” It
appeared as though he had been cutting open a vinyl chair. Etched in the
chair were the words “I want.” A Gerber army knife lay at his feet.

Later that evening, having returned to his shift, he struck a female soldier
in the face. He would later say he had no intention of hitting her and had
no idea why he did.

The brigade psychiatrist, Capt. Edan Critchfield, diagnosed an “occupational
problem and adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and
conduct.” Two sources familiar with the case said Manning’s adjustment
disorder was related to “gender identity.” The psychiatrist recommended that
Manning be discharged. The bolt was removed from his weapon, and he was
reassigned to work in the supply room.

A day later, Capt. Matthew Freeburg decided to suspend Manning’s top-secret
security clearance but never processed the paperwork. On May 24, Manning was
demoted to private first class because of the assault.

Adkins, Critchfield and Freeburg all declined to comment for this story.


With his military career disintegrating, Manning turned to cyberspace. On
May 9, he sent a Facebook message to a novelist in Minneapolis he had never
met, wondering if he could speak to him “in confidence, sometime in the next
year or so?”

Jonathan Odell, who is gay and writes about race and culture in the American
South, said he was intrigued when Manning wrote that he had been involved in
some “ ‘very high-profile events,’ albeit as a nameless individual thus

Odell perused Manning’s Facebook wall. Manning again linked to an interview
he gave anonymously, this time telling the Washington Blade (in an April 1,
2010, piece) that even though he was stressed because of the military’s gay
policy, he had to “dodge” questions about sexuality in therapy sessions.

Odell said he thought the soldier “was reaching out for someone to tell his
story” and messaged back that he understood, he had read the Facebook posts.

“Facebook,” Manning replied, “doesn’t even touch the surface.”

Odell said he never heard from Manning again.

Instead, less than two weeks later, an e-mail from Manning popped up in
Sacramento on the laptop screen of Adrian Lamo, who had been convicted in
2004 of breaching the computer systems of the New York Times and others, and
sentenced to six months’ house arrest. Lamo, a controversial figure in the
hacker community, said in a series of phone interviews that he speculated
that he had come to Manning’s attention because of tweets he wrote
suggesting people donate money to WikiLeaks.

They continued their correspondence by instant message. Manning’s handle was
Bradass87. He said he was an intelligence analyst pending discharge and had
had “unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a
week for 8+ months.” He also painted himself as “isolated,” “desperate,”
“broken” and “self-medicating like crazy.”

And in the following hours, according to excerpts of chat logs provided to
The Washington Post and by Lamo, Manning referred extensively to
what he said he found in the networks, including the quarter-million State
Department cables — most of them unclassified — and the Baghdad video, “i
want the material out there,” he said.

(The logs — Lamo provided The Post a small portion — have been authenticated
by Army investigators, according to an intelligence official familiar with
aspects of the case. According to a second source, the investigators matched
the logs on Lamo’s hard drives with logs found on Manning’s hard drive.)

Lamo was impressed by the video leak but, he said, felt uneasy about the
cables. He consulted an ex-boyfriend who had worked in counterintelligence,
who advised him to turn the soldier in. Lamo did, three days after he began
chatting with Manning. The chats continued, with Lamo probing for details.

And Manning appeared to be providing them, expressing a sense of outrage
about the United States’ conduct in war and foreign policy. He said the
cables revealed “crazy, almost criminal political backdealings.” In a chat
published by, he said: “The thing that got me most was discovering
that 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing
‘anti-Iraqi’ literature” had in truth printed a “benign political critique”
against the corruption in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s cabinet. He “ran”
that information to his superior. But the officer “told me to shut up and
explain how we could assist” the federal police in finding more detainees.

“Everything started slipping after that,” he wrote. “I was actively involved
in something that i was completely against.”

He noted at another point that if he were “more malicious,” he could have
sold the cables to China or Russia — “made bank.” But the data, he said,
belong in the public domain. “Information should be free.”

Lamo later said he was “deeply conflicted” about reporting Manning, “given
that Bradley is an individual acting out of his conscience and his desire to
make the world a better place. ... However, he was actively trying to
disrupt U.S. foreign policy.”

Lamo asked Manning what he would do if his role with WikiLeaks “seemed in
danger of being blown?”

Manning replied: “i don’t think it’s going to happen”

“i mean, i was never noticed ...

“and who would honestly expect so much information to be exfiltrated from a
field network?”


Long before the terrorist attacks of 2001, the Defense Department created a
secure network to share operational plans and intelligence among military
personnel. The data obtained by WikiLeaks came from this network, the Secret
Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, to which more than half a
million people have access. State Department cables are also accessible
through SIPRnet because the department has found it less costly to piggyback
on the military’s network than to build its own. But only employees with a
“need to know” are authorized to see these cables.

Manning, despite his clearance, would not have had such a need. The Army
alleges that he “knowingly exceeded [his] authorized access” to obtain the
cables. He also lacked access to portions of the Afghan and Iraq databases,
said the intelligence official familiar with the case, and allegedly
installed unauthorized software on the SIPRnet to get at them.

The Army had security protocols that would have prevented the breach if
followed, the official added. But safeguards to detect unauthorized
installation of software had not been activated at the SCIF. Audit logs of
computer activity were not reviewed. Bags were not inspected as personnel
entered and left. To boost morale, the official said, people were allowed to
bring in CDs and listen to them.

“The unit personnel that had responsibility for security of the network
failed to do their job,” the official said. “It was flat-out apathy and a
failure of the chain of command.”

In the chats, Manning appeared to share that view. “Everyone just sat at
their workstations ... writing more stuff to CD/DVD,” he wrote Lamo. “ [The]
culture fed opportunities. ... weak servers, weak logging, weak physical
security, weak counterintelligence, inattentive signal analysis ... a
perfect storm.”

Manning, with his history of emotional fragility, should at a minimum have
had his clearance reviewed, said Joel F. Brenner, former national
counterintelligence executive. His outbursts and emotional issues “should
have been the big trigger.”

Nobody “cared about him,” said the intelligence official familiar with the
case. “If somebody had taken an interest or tried to work with him, that
very well may have changed his behavior.”

David Charney, a psychiatrist who has consulted on espionage cases, said
supervisors can be trained to recognize signs of distress in people before
they take actions that could harm national security. Young adults often
don’t know their place in the world. “When there’s a lot of confusion about
that,” he said, “then you really are talking about a deeper sense of being
unmoored in life.”


Bradley Manning was detained on May 29 and held in Kuwait. On July 29, he
was transferred to Quantico, where his treatment became an international
cause celebre. The U.N. special rapporteur on torture asked to see him
without being monitored but was not permitted to do so. In mid-April, Manning
was moved to a medium-security facility
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which officials said has a greater array of mental
health services. He has been deemed competent to stand
Army officials said he "maintains a presumption of innocence" throughout the
pretrial process. He had not entered a plea as this story went to press.

“We have seen nothing that proves to us that he did it,” Debra Manning said.

Friends and relatives who have visited Manning say he tries to keep abreast
of current events, following, for instance, the uprisings across the Middle
East and the men’s college basketball tournament.

“He tries to think about the outside world as much as possible,” his cousin
Chris in Potomac said. “You can tell he doesn’t want his mind confined to
the prison.”

*Ellen Nakashima is a Washington Post staff writer. She can be reached at
[log in to unmask] Staff writer Greg Jaffe and staff researchers Julie
Tate, Alice Crites and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this story. This
portrait of Manning’s life comes from interviews with more than 30
relatives, friends and colleagues. Some asked for anonymity because of the
political sensitivity of the case.*

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor
have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara