My conversations with Bradley Manning »« Questions for Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Statement on the New York story and Bradley Manning

In February of 2009, I was contacted online by Private Bradley Manning, who has been implicated in the release of classified material to Wikileaks. He found me via my YouTube videos, and we spoke on several occasions until August of 2009. I haven’t been in touch with him since then. Bradley first reached out to me because he was interested in the topics I discussed and felt that we were of a similar mindset. He talked to me about his upbringing and various experiences growing up, and told me about his work as an intelligence analyst with the Army. He did express some frustration at having to work within various regulations while doing his job, but this didn’t seem to be a major problem for him, and I got the impression that he was relatively comfortable with his position.

Even though he spoke about living under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and being attacked by his platoon for being gay, it seemed like he was making the best of his situation. He told me the Army was a diverse place full of people of every race, religion, and sexual orientation. He took pride in his work, even bragging about it at times. As he told me, he just wanted to make sure that everyone would get home to their families safely. He did say that he had to delete his blog and his YouTube channel for security reasons, and that he was sometimes an anonymous source for some of his friends, but at no time was there any indication that he was planning on leaking classified documents. As far as I know, he didn’t begin doing so until several months later. To me, he never seemed like the kind of person who would do that. I lost touch with him after I changed my screen name, and I only recognized that he was the one who had been arrested after I saw his username in his conversations with Adrian Lamo. I have not been in contact with the authorities, or Adrian Lamo, or Wikileaks.

In March of this year, I was approached by a reporter with New York magazine who was interested in doing a story about my conversations with Bradley. That story has been published today. I provided them with our logs because I wanted them to see a different side of Bradley. I will be releasing the unredacted logs next week so that everyone can read them. After all of the stories portraying him as mentally unstable and revealing his problems at home and in the military, I felt it was important for people to know that there was a time when he seemed satisfied with his life. He had his struggles and hardships just as we all do, although I’ve come to learn that his difficulties ran deeper than I was aware of. But he also seemed like an everyday guy, someone who didn’t stand out as a threat, and someone I never expected to do this.

In particular, I find it deplorable that some have attributed his alleged actions to his sexuality or his gender identity. There are thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world who serve their country with honor. They have not done anything like this, and who they are is not even remotely a reliable indicator that they would pose some kind of security risk. It’s clear that Bradley was facing a variety of issues that were much more significant than simply being gay, and reducing all of this to his sexuality is extremely misleading. I’m also very disturbed that one of his counselors would apparently reveal private information about his gender identity. What they talked about is an intensely personal matter, and definitely not something to be broadcast to the entire world without his consent. If that is the case, this is highly unprofessional and a severe violation of trust.

Furthermore, the conditions under which Bradley was detained at Quantico are nothing short of outrageous. The extreme isolation in solitary confinement, forced nudity, and deprivation of even the most basic amenities may very well constitute a form of torture as recognized by various legal bodies. This treatment was blatantly inhumane and contrary to the recommendations of the brig psychiatrist. Bradley has not even been convicted of a crime, yet he was subject to indefensible punishment that can easily lead to permanent psychological trauma. There is no excuse for this. Likewise, it was clearly inappropriate for President Obama to declare that Bradley “broke the law” before his case has even gone to trial. That is the venue in which it will be determined whether he broke the law – not by the president’s proclamation.

At the same time, I find that I can’t entirely agree with the movement calling for Bradley to be released. While some have argued that his actions would be covered under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, I have to wonder whether this would be a viable defense. The Act is meant to protect servicemembers who report violations of the law. Although this may encompass the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq which apparently shows the unlawful killing of civilians, as well as certain activities revealed in the war logs and diplomatic cables, it seems inevitable that not all of the leaked material is incriminating. Much of it, while certainly interesting, is merely embarrassing, or just mundane. While I don’t know what process Bradley used to select the documents he allegedly chose to release, it seems implausible that he could have identified criminal wrongdoing in all of the hundreds of thousands of cables and war logs. His actions appear to have been mostly indiscriminate rather than targeted.

There is a reason why this is against the law. We don’t know what’s in the documents that Wikileaks and the press have chosen to withhold or redact. In this case, it’s fortunate that the material was sent to them and could be examined before being released. Someone else could have just as easily posted it all on a public website or torrent, without making any effort to remove potentially dangerous information. While many feel that the release of these files has turned out to be positive for the world overall, it’s troubling to think that the mass leaking of classified material is always something for us to look the other way on.

But whatever the outcome, Bradley deserves a fair trial – he’s already been deprived of a speedy trial, and the effects of his prolonged confinement may have caused irreparable damage to his mental well-being. Regardless of what he might have done, he is a person, and he has rights. Everyone does. I still find myself wishing I had kept in touch with Bradley when he was considering whether to do this; perhaps things would have gone very differently for him. Against all odds, I hope that he’ll be treated well, and I wish him the best.

If you’d like to contact me about this, I can be reached at [email protected], or @ZJemptv on Twitter.

Zinnia Jones
July 4, 2011

Comments

  1. n99 says

    According to the Lamo logs, Manning saw criminal/immoral behaviour everywhere he looked. He (allegedly) gave the files to WikiLeaks instead of just posting a torrent of all files, so they could redact them. It isn’t fortunate, but deliberate. Also those embarassing files are so with a reason: If the government/agencies behaved correctly, they wouldn’t have to be embarassed.

  2. ZJ's Army says

    I just read the full article about Bradley Manning in the New York Magazine and it took my breath away.There were things in it that I never knew before about this story until I read it today.Bradley lived a troubled life and never should have enlisted in the army in the 1st. place.I applaud what he did by releasing the numerous confidential materials.I only wished he had thought about it long and hard before he did it or talked to someone about what he was going to do (what if he got caught?, was it worth doing it?) I’m sure he thought he might save lives by telling the world about the hidden carnage he was seeing.A lot of people in his position (myself included) would not have done what he did,not because they admire their country but because they fear what would happen to them if they got caught.

    I have more respect for Bradley Manning than I do for my own country.In the past few years our goverment told it’s citizens that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,it did not.On the reason for invading afghanistan the reason given to it’s citizens was that it must capture OBL,ten years later when this person was reported to be killed the US Military is still stuck in a war with no end in sight in this same country.

    I really hope that by some miracle Bradley Manning is somehow able to be released from federal prison in the next few years.There are far too many people in prison as it is for non-violent crimes.The information Bradley released was not life threating in any matter whatsoever,nor did it expose any ongoing secret missions where lives may be at stake.

    I hope you’re ok ZJ with them reporting your real full name in this story.At the very least it may bring you new subscribers to your channel.I’m predicting that in the future a movie will be made about Bradley Manning’s life and that you will also be portrayed in this same movie as well.

  3. Mirjam Eikelboom says

    I think that the USA administrative system Bradley was working in is deeply flawed. Many cables show (esp. the embarrassing gossip) that their writers don’t realize that they are accountable to the American public and that one day their work/ writings should become public. Whoever leaked these cables (and many people could have done!!) proved that the system wasn’t safe and contains ugly secrets that should never have been hidden in the first place!! So — I feel the big leak is good because that is the only way to also expose the flaws in structure. And 200.000 documents is nothing compared to the overall total of government information.

  4. says

    One key point in your discussion, the tribunal that will judge Manning will be made up of judge and jury who are all military officers under the command of President Obama who has pronounced him guilty. What military officer would vote against the commander in chief? What kind of career would an officer have when he went against the president? And, especially after Manning was mistreated — preventive detention became solitary confinement — a not guilty verdict will be a problem for the military. Finding him not guilty would be a real embarrassment to the military and its leaders so, no one should expect he will get a fair trial – it seems almost impossible. In a current Vanity Fair profile of Manning, Secty of State Clinton also finds Manning guilty and throws in a few gay slurs with her comments.

    If Manning did what he is accused of and released all the diplomatic cables, the Afghan and Iraq War Diaries and the Collateral Murder video than I appreciate that he released all and not just a select few. It allows Americans to get a glimpse into U.S. foreign policy as a whole – the good, the bad, the ugly and the illegal. Unfortunately, in the cables the good is heavily outweighed by the others, especially the illegal which seemed commonplace. Even Hillary Clinton is shown to break the law — ordering U.S. diplomats to spy on foreign diplomats visiting the UN. The crimes exposed should be what is investigated not Manning. Clinton should have resigned as soon as this was made public, but criminality seems OK at the highest levels of the American government. The fact that Clinton is still in office demonstrate that the U.S. is not really a nation of laws. Laws are usually only applied to those without power.

    It is sad New York Magazine made a decision to attack Manning’s personality and character rather than look at the content of the alleged leaks Manning made. Also sorry your chat were used to attack Manning. If the content is looked at people would wonder why more in the military are not exposing such widespread crimes and misbehavior. In the Front Line piece on Manning I found it interesting that soldiers he served with enjoyed watching the U.S. military slaughter civilians. Yet, Manning is portrayed as the sick one. War criminals who enjoy slaughter of civilians — aren’t they the sick ones? People who remain silent in the face of widespread war crimes — aren’t they the criminals? Why is exposing war crimes a more serious crime than the war crimes?

    The documents released were low level secrets that hundreds of thousands of people had access to, so there was little risk of damage to national security, especially with Wikileaks and media outlets reviewing them before they went public. Even Secty Gates has admitted that no one was harmed and that the reaction is exaggerated. The American people need to know what their foreign policy is doing, thanks to whoever released the documents, now Americans have a glimpse at reality.

    KZ
    http://www.ComeHomeAmerica.US
    http://www.BradleyManning.org

    • john greenan says

      I’m Ozzie, & 9/11 had an effect on as i have been in NYC many times & it a place that I love…I felt as any America n would feel, BUT, even though OSB is dead (or so it seems) he and his fellow murder’s have achieved what they set out to do……..COUNT the cost Bradley Manning is the most recent innocent casualty.

  5. suede says

    Hi ZJ,

    I think you’ve written this as a person of the first world. As hard as your life may be as a Trans person, you still live a privileged life in the USA. For the 5.8 billion who live outside the US, the tyranny of the United States government is a fact that needs to be voiced and US foreign policy needs to change.

    Much of the leaked material may be “embarrassing” or “mundane” from the point of view of an American, but for the world, it is an eye-opening revelation. The sad part is, that the people of America are helplessly co-opted into the crimes of its government and they pay for it. If you’d like to delve into the history of the USA, perhaps you should watch some documentaries by John Pilger, or the speech called “come september” (on youtube). The history that you or I are taught in school is just one side of the story, and a fairly biased side at that.

    And I’m not saying that other governments are angels of morality. Power corrupts every organization and things like Wikileaks help make this corruption public in the hope that perhaps a subset of people will expand their 15-minute attention span and do something about it.

    Nationalism, like religion, is an opiate that speaks to our core and makes us do illogical things against mankind. I think it is high time that we question nationalism just like we do with religion.

    Knowledge is power, and may that power rest with the public, where it belongs.

  6. john greenan says

    I’m Ozzie, & 9/11 had an effect on me as i have been in NYC many times & its a place that I love…I felt as any American would feel, BUT, even though OSB is dead (or so it seems) he and his fellow murderers have achieved what they set out to do……..COUNT….. the cost, Bradley Manning is the most recent innocent casualty..

  7. says

    I’m still learning from you, while I’m trying to reach my goals. I definitely enjoy reading all that is written on your site.Keep the aarticles coming. I enjoyed it!

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