Regardless of how you feel about Bradley Manning’s massive security breach, he has effectively changed the human geography of the world. Some believe that he is treasonous, that he knowingly put the lives of soldiers and civilians all over the world at risk. Others compare his efforts to the important Pentagon Papers, which revealed the ways that the Johnson Administration lied to America about the details surrounding the Vietnam War. What is certain is that the effects have been massive, and will continue to echo for decades. Manning’s trial is set to begin in June. Here are ten informative facts that will get you up to speed on who Bradley Manning is, and the nature of this historic case.
1. He was born in 1987 in Crescent, Oklahoma.
Although raised mostly by his mother, her mental health problems meant that Manning was often left to fend for himself. His mother is of Welsh decent, and after his parents divorced, Manning lived with her for a short period of time in Wales. While there, he was often ridiculed for his American accent and effeminate behavior. By the time he was 13, he bagan questioning his sexual orientation, and eventually came to the conclusion that he is gay.
2. He joined the US Army in 2007 as an intelligence analyst.
Becoming an intelligence analyst gave Manning a Top Secret security clearance, as well as access to the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. Enlisted analysts are tasked with a broad array of duties, like sifting through massive amounts of data, and looking for clues that might be used to catch terrorists and other possible threats. While deployed to Iraq, Manning and others regularly worked 14 hour shifts due to personnel shortages.
3.While still in basic training, it was recommended that he be discharged.
Manning was heavily bullied by his peers for being small (5″2) and eccentric, and also had problems with his drill sergeants. The recommendation was denied and he completed basic training. He then followed on to Fort Huachuca for training as an analyst, where he received a top secret security clearance.
4. During a 2010 deployment in Iraq, he leaked over 250 thousand classified documents.
By the time of the leak, Manning had become disillusioned with the military and the US mission in Iraq. His mental health was rapidly deteriorating, and in December 2010, he began copying large amounts of classified data. He then turned this data over to Julian Assange, founder of the controversial whistleblower-site, Wikileaks. Assange then began releasing portions of this data on his website and through partners.
5. The leaked diplomatic cables have been credited with helping to start the Arab Spring movement.
The candid nature of the cables exposed Arab dictators and other political figures in an unprecedented way. Information about widespread corruption became available to nearly every citizen in every country. In Tunisia, a man named Mohamed Bouazizi set off the Middle-Eastern revolution when he self immolated, as a protest of his inability to make a living in the country. Just ten days before, Wikileaks had published cables that revealed the extravagant lifestyle of the ruling family, while the country itself languished in poverty.
6. The FBI found out about Manning through a hacker.
A hacker named Adrian Lamo gained Manning’s confidence, then turned him over to the FBI. Manning initiatlly reached out to Lamo for moral support, as he felt isolated from his “hyper masculine” military peers. Lamo eventually decided that what Manning was doing was irresponsible, and possibly dangerous. Lamo has face considerable backlash from the hacker community, which views his betrayal of Manning as one of the worst offenses possible. Manning is generally well liked among hackers.
7. He pleaded guilty to 10 of 22 charges and faces 20 years in prison.
During his arraignment, Manning was read each charge and asked to verify that he wanted to plead guilty. He answered with a reportedly cool and collected affirmation. He agreed that what he did was illegal, and breached numerous military rules, but he denied that any of it qualified as espionage, which is the most serious charge being leveled against him. He stated that his actions were the morally correct thing to do, as he had discovered widespread corruption.
8. Many people around the world see him as a courageous whistleblower.
There are numerous support networks and people that are seeking his release, citing him as a hero rather than a war criminal. Of particular importance to the public were the released documents and videos that involved the deaths of numerous civilians. Because of the information, numerous people have called for widespread reform of how the military conducts operations, and to be held accountable for so-called “collateral damage” incidents that result in unnecessary civilian casualties. Manning was also mistreated during his initial incarceration, which has resulted in an 112 day prison credit.
9. He has struggled with his gender identity.
Near the time of the leaks, numerous sources, including personal accounts and Facebook posts, suggest that Manning, while already openly gay, was beginning to feel that he should live his life as a woman. He spent a short period of time dressing and living as an alter ego named Breanna. He also showed a photo of himself to a superior in which he was dressed as a woman. Before his arrest, he was exploring seperation from the Army under those conditions. It is speculated that the Military’s then archaic “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (repealed in September 2011) greatly contributed to the personal stress of Manning.
10. He exhibited many signs of poor mental health that his superiors ignored.
Manning was bullied by his peers in basic training. He also failed to get along with his drill sergeants, who referred to him as “General Manning” for his tendency to yell back at them. He was subsequently recommended for an early discharge. The request was denied, and he was recycled back into basic training. During his unit’s deployment to Iraq, he continued to have confrontations with his peers and superiors. Still, his security clearance stayed in place, and his access to sensitive networks was never moderated. Though, he was demoted from Specialist to Private First Class and reassigned to different duties. A superior also removed the bolt from Manning’s rifle, rendering it useless. Shortages meant that there was pressure to keep everyone on the job, and this seems to have taken precedence over the mental health of Manning, as well as information security.