Why I’m representing Chelsea Manning at SF Pride

lauren-userpicThis year, Private Chelsea Manning was selected as Honorary Grand Marshal of SF Pride. As she is unable to attend, she asked me to serve as her representative due to our personal history, and I agreed. I’ll be present for various events this coming weekend, including the parade on Sunday. If you happen to be in San Francisco this weekend, I hope that you’ll have the chance to stop by.

Throughout my involvement in this case, I’ve occasionally heard from trans people with some connection to the US military – defense contractors, veterans, or active duty. Some feel that Chelsea’s actions reflected poorly on trans servicemembers, and have set back the movement for trans acceptance and inclusion in the military.

Regardless of one’s opinion on Chelsea’s conduct, the fact remains that she is a trans servicemember who is currently incarcerated in a men’s prison and is still being denied access to any transition treatments. As such, her case involves key issues like integration of trans people into the armed forces, and the ability of trans people in prisons to receive appropriate transition-related care.

The Army has refused to provide Chelsea with treatment such as hormone therapy, on the basis that transgender people are ineligible to serve. However, the Army is also unable to discharge her because she’s currently appealing her sentence. Chelsea’s fight for access to treatment while incarcerated could potentially set a precedent, with implications for the military’s policy toward the eligibility of trans servicemembers and the availability of necessary care for them. The importance of changing this policy should be clear to everyone, no matter our personal opinions of Chelsea herself.

We must also recognize that transgender service in the military is not a hypothetical – it is a reality. As with gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, many trans people are currently enlisted and serving in silence. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that over 15,000 trans people are currently serving in the US military, and finds that trans people are actually twice as likely as the total adult population to have served. This is not a question of bringing trans people into the US military for the first time ever; it is a matter of accepting those who are already serving.

In light of this, citing Chelsea’s actions to justify suspicion of all trans servicemembers is plainly absurd. Thousands of trans people already serve in the US military, and many more are allowed to serve openly in the armed forces of allies such as Canada, Britain, and Israel. Using one person to make generalizations about a group of thousands is as invalid here as it would be anywhere. Such fears are not due to the actions of any particular trans person; they are due to the widespread prejudice of cis people. The enemy is not a trans woman incarcerated in a men’s prison without access to treatment. It is a culture of institutional intolerance toward trans people – an intolerance that is never justifiable.

These are my views, and my views alone. However, in my role as her representative, Chelsea has also asked that I emphasize certain key points to the queer and trans community: that we have the right to exist as our genuine selves, that we are the only ones who can define ourselves, and that we should stand and make ourselves visible. These values are not centered around her circumstances – this is a universal message of pride for all queer and trans people. I believe Chelsea Manning’s message deserves to be heard at SF Pride.

—Lauren McNamara
26 June 2014

Behind the scenes at CNN: How the media fails on Chelsea Manning’s gender

by Heather McNamara & Lauren McNamara

Lauren: Last Thursday, I appeared on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper to discuss the Chelsea Manning case. During the segment, we covered my personal history with Chelsea, as well as the question of access to transition-related healthcare for transgender people in prisons. Tapper repeatedly referred to Chelsea as her former name, Bradley, and used masculine pronouns. In my responses, I made sure to use her chosen name and pronouns.

Prior to my segment, the producers informed me that it was CNN’s current policy to use Chelsea’s old name and address her as male, as she had not yet legally changed her name or begun any medical transition process. However, they also let me know that I was free to refer to Chelsea as I wished. While I strongly disagreed with their policy of misgendering her and their excuses for doing so, I felt it would nevertheless be helpful to appear on the show and set an example by respecting her name and gender.

After my appearance, I tweeted to Tapper to express my appreciation that I was able to be on the show and discuss this case. Several of my followers took note of this, and rightly criticized Tapper for persistently misgendering Chelsea. Tapper responded that this was not his decision, and that it was a matter of CNN’s policy.

Later that day, my fiancee, Heather, made a post on my blog explaining how stressful her day had been due to dealing with people’s attitudes toward my segment on CNN. While she had been sitting at the doctor’s office with our two sons, my segment was airing on the TV in the waiting room. Some older people waiting there seemed to be laughing at the very idea of trans people, and she confronted them about this. She also found it awkward and unnecessary that, as our children were watching, Tapper referred to me as previously being a “gay man”.

Heather: Friday, I called out of work. Thursday had been a very long day, and in any case, it was easier to take care of the kids while Lauren continued to do interviews on Democracy Now! and various radio shows. However, I was still feeling ruffled from the night before, so I took to my Twitter, writing a number of tweets criticizing CNN’s unnecessary and transphobic policy of referring to Chelsea as “Bradley” and using male pronouns until such a time as her name is legally changed and medical transition has begun. One such tweet was a reply to one of Jake Tapper’s tweets regarding the interview with Lauren:

Before long, I received a reply from Tapper:

And then:

I’m going to assume the one-E masculine “fiance” was a typo. I replied:

I did not receive a reply to this tweet for a few hours. Another Twitter account, @DanielMWolff, jumped in:

At this point, Jake asked me to follow his account, and we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. He asked me to call him because he was driving. I did not record the conversation so all that follows is paraphrasing and not by any means intended to be exact quotations.

The first thing he said when I called was that he wanted to let me know that he was deeply sorry for what I went through at the doctor’s office (referring to my previous post), and that he knew that I couldn’t be personally responsible for the barrage of tweets that he received on the topic of Chelsea’s gender, but that I needed to understand that CNN and NPR have the LGBT community’s best interests at heart. He said he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to know that saying my fiancee once identified as a gay man was supposed to be so much better than saying that she was a gay man.

I explained that I can’t stop people’s anger – that people get angry and vent, but what I’m trying to do right now is to get productive about the language that’s used on television so that we can avoid inciting that anger in the future. I told him that I’m older than Lauren and remember the time when respectful treatment of a person such as myself, a lesbian, would have meant discussing me as somebody with a problem that couldn’t be helped, or as being a product of some sort of childhood sexual abuse – but that has changed, and this is how that change happens.

Jake replied that he spoke with a trans activist who said there were 250,000 trans people in America. He said that’s not that many, and that even the LGB community, “of which you are a part,” has trouble accepting trans people and that I should know that.

I told him that yes, I was aware of this problem, and that if media sources like CNN could be guided toward resources for respectful language like the GLAAD style guide, then the common narrative might change.

In what I felt was a very condescending tone, Jake responded that he was sure the higher-ups were quite aware of the style guide, thank-you-very-much – but that, and he didn’t want to offend anyone by saying so, he thinks we can all agree that groups like GLAAD had (here, he struggled to think of an inoffensive word) an agenda.

He went on to say that he didn’t appreciate being treated like a bigot by angry people on Twitter, and that even though he understands that I had a bad time at the doctor’s office, he thought the language people were using to express their anger was counterproductive. He said that what he would do is pass on an email that I could send him to the higher-ups, and that I should keep in mind that if I use that kind of angry language within the email, nobody will read it.

He again said I should keep in mind that CNN and NPR care about LGBT people, and that they’re just trying to get things right. He also said that after two years of coverage of Manning as Bradley, it might confuse the viewers to switch immediately to Chelsea.

At this point, I reminded him that the blog post I wrote did not name him, and that it wasn’t about him or about anyone except myself and my experience as a mother of two children – who have learned about their stepmother’s gender – hearing their stepmother being described as a gay man on television and having adults in their vicinity laugh at this. I explained I never had any intention to be aggressive about this and that this was simply my story to tell. I told him that I’m sure there’s something I can think of that would clarify the transition from Bradley to Chelsea without being disrespectful to Chelsea.

He said he understood that some trans people wanted to think that a person becomes “a trans” the minute they say they are, and he personally doesn’t care whether somebody wants to be a man or a woman or whatever, but that from CNN’s point of view, if the person hasn’t done anything medical, then it’s confusing to “the rest of us.” He also said that the HRC hasn’t exactly given them any guidance on this issue. I said that, yes, the HRC does have a known problem with erasing trans people and issues.

He then closed the call by reminding me to keep my email civil and not to expect any response.

Heather & Lauren: This isn’t just about how a single anchor, or a single network, has handled Chelsea Manning’s gender. It also serves as an example, a microcosm of the attitude of many major news outlets toward trans issues. When we see mainstream news networks and papers acting as though respect for Chelsea’s womanhood is optional, or something for them to indulge at their own leisure and in their own due time, what’s going on behind the scenes are rationales like those offered by Jake Tapper.

This may have begun innocently enough as a group of people failing to understand an underrepresented and largely invisible minority group. Though Tapper and CNN’s higher-ups believe that excuses and summarizes the whole of the problem, that’s not the case. By now, several mainstream news outlets such as MSNBC, NPR, and The Guardian have already chosen to recognize and respect Chelsea’s gender. The continuation of this neglect no longer indicates innocent ignorance. Since Chelsea’s coming out, CNN and its partners in this neglect have actively made several distinct decisions to dismiss the voices and identities of transgender people.

Such news agencies have demanded that trans people meet an unusually high standard of proof simply to have their names and genders respected. When reporting on someone like Lady Gaga or Vanilla Ice, use of their names is not contingent on court orders showing their legal name or medical records providing evidence of their gender. Yet trans people’s very existence receives much greater doubt and scrutiny. Chelsea is first expected to pursue HRT and surgery even as the same news segment is reporting on her current lack of access to any of these medical resources. They’re clearly aware of the situation she faces, and their use of it as an excuse rings hollow – yet they choose to use it anyway.

In spite of Tapper’s (and presumably CNN’s) continuing insistence that they care about the struggles of LGBT people, their priorities clearly lie with making things as simple as possible for their cisgender audience to understand no matter the cost. These networks’ refusal to update their protocol sets an example for the cis world at large that a refusal to learn about or understand transgender people is acceptable. When supposedly liberal networks insist that trans people are too confusing to accommodate, society at large follows their lead.

These news outlets have substituted their empty declarations of self-assigned allyhood for any meaningful actions that would demonstrate true support for us. In their self-centered hypersensitivity, they balk at being thought of as bigots or criticized by LGBT people on Twitter. But they exhibit hardly any sense of the gravity of their own responsibilities. They sit in a position of great influence over the public’s understanding of trans people; with that position, they intentionally promote oversimplified taglines of “HE wants to be a SHE!” – authoritatively confirming to viewers that this is all they need to know or care about. The role of the news is to report events accurately and keep the public informed. And when they’re more concerned about being made fun of on Twitter, this shows that they don’t consider trans people’s lives to be important enough to bother getting the story right. “Ally” is not an identity; it is an action. They are claiming themselves as allies and refusing to do any of the work.

When the precedence for dismissal has been set, it’s hardly surprising to see the ensuing painful dismissal of the necessity and validity of treatment for gender dysphoria. The willfulness of the ignorance surrounding Chelsea’s gender extends to the persistent mischaracterization of her treatment. The medications she needs are both common and cheap while being uncommonly effective, yet Lauren was continually bombarded with questions over whether taxpayers should have to foot the bill and whether counseling should be considered sufficient. A cursory glance at the WPATH Standards of Care could have settled both of those questions, but when CNN says “Bradley wants to be a woman” instead of the correct “Chelsea is a woman,” they have misled the public to believe that this is the frivolous whim of a prisoner rather than a serious and treatable condition. As Lauren was repeatedly forced to explain, this should no more be up for debate than treating diabetes, but CNN and other networks’ word choice has made it seem so. Tapper stated that he was offended by being called a bigot. He may not like it and he may not be the decision maker here, but CNN’s actions are bigoted.

The medical aspects of gender dysphoria and the legal basis for the necessity of treating trans people in prison are incredibly clear and well-established. This is a real condition recognized by actual medical authorities, unlike some transphobe’s mocking contention that they now identify as a tree. Gender dysphoria has been studied extensively over the past century. Its defining features have been identified; its risks when untreated are known to be severe, and the only effective treatment has become so empirically obvious that it cannot be ignored.

As it stands, there remains no serious medical or scientific debate over whether transsexualism exists. Trans people are real people who live in the real world, not some mere flight of fancy so bizarre as to warrant suspicion that this is a fiction. But such bafflement and incomprehension are what an outlet like CNN encourages when they – one of the world’s leading media organizations – are mysteriously unable to educate themselves on the indisputable facts of this issue.

Whether CNN chooses to acknowledge it or not, trans people are a part of their audience. We are taxpayers, viewers, consumers, citizens, soldiers, and sometimes prisoners. We are not political debates. We are not an agenda. We are entitled to treatment where necessary and acknowledgment of our identities irrespective of the irrelevant opinions of lay persons and news reporters. The military has refused to provide a prisoner with the treatment she requires. That is a tragedy, and the only relevant news item.

While a CNN anchor may suggest contacting the network’s policymakers to bring about change, the attitude expressed in their coverage makes it all too clear that such an attempt would be thwarted at every turn. They’ve already decided which LGBT organizations they’ll listen to, selectively choosing to hear only the HRC’s silence while dismissing GLAAD’s unambiguous guidance as the product of a questionable agenda. They’ve recklessly delegitimized trans people’s existence in the eyes of millions then demanded we stifle our own justified anger. When these self-proclaimed allies can’t bring themselves to listen to the very people they’ve publicly maligned, how are we supposed to believe that they care about respecting us at all?


Heather McNamara writes about indie literature, politics, and civil rights at HeatherMcNamara.net.

An open letter to CNN on Chelsea Manning

Guest post by Heather McNamara

To whom it may concern:

My name is Heather McNamara. My fiancée, Lauren McNamara, was a confidante of Chelsea Manning’s and testified in her trial. As such, Lauren was recently interviewed by Jake Tapper on The Lead and will be appearing again tomorrow morning on New Day Saturday.

During Lauren’s interview on The Lead, Mr. Tapper explained that CNN would be referring to Chelsea Manning by her former name Bradley and using male pronouns until such a time as her name is officially changed and her physical transition process has begun. NPR made similar decisions, and it is my understanding that this has led to some backlash from transgender people concerned that this is disrespectful of Chelsea Manning and her gender.

Mr. Tapper explained to me that CNN is interested in being sensitive to the LGBT community and certainly intended no harm, but that it is difficult to understand the needs of a largely invisible minority and what constitutes respect. I believe that CNN has the LGBT community’s best interests in mind, and it is my hope that I can assist in shedding some light on some simple strategies for demonstrating respect to trans people.

While trans identities can seem difficult to understand at first, it can actually be made quite simple. Mr. Tapper expressed to me that it may be confusing for CNN’s audience to comprehend an abrupt change from two years of news coverage as Bradley Manning to Chelsea Manning. There’s nothing disrespectful about being confused by a sudden name change. It may assist viewers’ understanding to refer to her as “Chelsea” and add the caveat “formerly known as Bradley Manning” while people continue to learn her new name. This proclamation and clarification will remove the necessity of continuing to refer to Chelsea as “he” and “him.”

Where further questions arrive, it can sometimes be helpful to imagine replacing words associated with gender with words associated with sexual orientation to determine whether a statement or policy would be offensive. For example: Mr. Tapper said that Lauren was “once a gay man.” Although gay people may have gone through a time in their lives where they formed heterosexual relationships before coming out, they are no less gay for having done so. Ellen DeGeneres went to prom with a boy, but it would be disrespectful to refer to her as once having been a straight woman.

The societal understanding is that there is so much pressure on gay people to be straight or keep it secret that it is difficult for them to understand their identities and be open about them immediately. The same is true for trans people. Chelsea has not changed. The only thing that has changed is that she is now presenting outwardly as the person she has always been within. Further, we prefer “trans” or “transgender” to be used as adjectives rather than nouns. “A gay” would be bad form, and so would “a trans.” “A lesbian” continues to be the only exception to this rule.

Waiting for Chelsea to achieve a legal name change and physical transition, including hormone treatment and possible surgery, is unnecessary and inhumane. The military currently refuses to treat transgender people with hormone replacement therapy and/or surgery. In any case, that line is arbitrary. There is good reason that trans people consider coming out to be the only step necessary to command respect of their genders.

At what point would her hormone replacement be considered sufficient? When a blood test showed her testosterone as sufficiently repressed? Or not until surgery? Only one in five trans women get sex reassignment surgery, and even fewer trans men – only one in 26. The surgery is prohibitively expensive and can lead to complications. At what point would she be considered to be presenting as a woman? When she wears make-up and dresses? And if I wear pants and no make-up, am I therefore presenting as a man? Would it then be acceptable to call me “he?” I hope you can understand that, under scrutiny, it becomes significantly more confusing to deny a trans person’s gender than to accept it.

As Lauren mentioned on Mr. Tapper’s show, 41% of transgender people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Social ostracism and denial of agency can and do seriously harm people. CNN’s anchors’ word choice will make a difference in how the public understands and discusses transgender people. Setting an example of respect and dignity will change the lives of trans people everywhere for the better.

CNN would not be alone. In fact, if these changes are not made, CNN may be left in the dust. Since speaking with Mr. Tapper this afternoon, MSNBC, Slate, Huffington Post, and NPR have all agreed to refer to Chelsea by her chosen name and female pronouns. It’s too late to take the lead, but it’s not too late to catch up.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Heather McNamara


Heather McNamara writes about indie literature, politics, and civil rights at HeatherMcNamara.net.

The Humanity of Private Manning, by Lauren McNamara

It’s been weeks since I testified at the court-martial of Private Bradley Manning, and I still don’t know how to explain to anyone what that experience was like. I don’t even know how to feel about what I saw there.

Everything seemed simple before, and now it’s really not. It used to be easy to take a bird’s-eye view of the entire situation. I saw it as some abstract network of people, events, morals, responsibilities, laws, consequences, past, future, the connections between them, and some process of justice or historical consensus that would resolve all this in favor of one definitive outcome or another. It was easy to talk about what Manning did, debate the ethical and legal character of his actions, and calmly contemplate what should happen next.

That was my attitude going into this – there were facts, they would eventually add up to an answer, and I didn’t need to give much thought to anything beyond that. For me, the facts were simple: I had spoken with Manning online for several months in 2009, after he took an interest in my fledgling YouTube channel, and long before his leaks of classified material. His defense team believed our conversations could show that Manning cared about his country and wanted to protect people, contrary to the government’s assertions that he had recklessly placed America and its troops at risk. And so I was called by the defense to testify about what Manning said to me: that he felt he had a great duty to people, and wanted to make sure everyone made it home to their families.

Flying out to Baltimore was disorienting; I hadn’t been apart from my fiancee and our kids for over a year, and now I was on my own in a city I’d never visited before. Still, I took it in stride and tried to think of it as something that was going to happen, something I’d get through no matter how it went, and then it would be over – the same things I would always tell myself before a dental appointment. As if this were no more than some temporary discomfort or inconvenience to my life. I drew on the same strategy I used when nervous about flying, or transitioning, or coming out to my family: pretending that all of this was completely normal to me. Of course, having to pretend meant that it very much was not, but I tried not to think about that.

“Miss McNamara?” Sgt. Valesko, clean-shaven and wearing a sports jersey, recognized me at the baggage claim and introduced himself. He carried my bags outside, where Sgt. Daley was waiting to drive me to my hotel. I joked about the fact that I was quite literally getting a ride in a black government van. As they showed me some landmarks around the area – Costco, Olive Garden, and a high-security prison – we all got to know each other. Daley told me about growing up in Shreveport, attending a superhero-themed wedding in Seattle, and shattering his wrist in a motorcycle accident; I showed him the thick five-inch surgical scar on my abdomen. They thought it was great. It was surprisingly easy to talk to them – they were very friendly, and it really put me at ease, even when I was still struggling to get a handle on everything that was happening.

I was scheduled to have a meeting with Manning’s defense the next day, before they began making their case on Monday. Sgt. Val – everyone called him that – picked me up from the hotel, as well as Capt. Barclay Keay, another witness for the defense. This was my first time at Fort Meade, and it was a subtly disturbing place to be. While there were some features that made it clear this was a very different world, such as entire lots full of giant beige fuel tanks and warnings of barriers that might erupt from beneath the roads, it took me a moment to realize why it felt so wrong. It wasn’t about what was there, but what was missing: variety. Nothing here was out of place.

Unlike the surrounding town outside the barbed-wire fence, there were no irregular trees or overgrown weeds or strangely curved roads. Vast expanses of empty, perfectly maintained grassy fields separated the base’s buildings, nearly all of which were faced in brownstone and looked like they were built in the 1950s or earlier. There were homes here like those in most suburbs, but even the higher-end “mansions,” which Sgt. Val pointed out were for generals and admirals, were absolutely identical and took up no more space than any other house. What looked like a Walmart was simply titled “COMMISSARY” in plain white letters across the side. A lone Burger King sat atop a hill; I almost expected the logo to read “FOOD.”

We soon arrived at the courthouse where the trial had been taking place, a small bland building that gave no indication it had become a site of any historic events. A series of makeshift hallways fashioned from white tents wrapped around the building, blocking any view of its entrances. Sgt. Val guided me and Keay through the maze both outside and inside the building, and we eventually reached the courtroom itself. No one else was there today, but we didn’t have to wait long before we were approached by Capt. Angel Overgaard of the prosecution, a small woman in a sweatshirt with her hair in a tight bun. I was surprised, as I had been rather specifically informed that this would be a meeting with the defense, and I still have to wonder if this was intended to catch us off-guard.

Overgaard chose to talk to me first, and led me to a small private room to discuss my testimony. Just as the defense had previously spoken with me to work out what I would be talking about at the trial, the prosecution now wanted to figure out what they should ask me during cross-examination. The content wasn’t much of a mystery: the only relevant evidence at hand was my online conversations with Manning, which had already been published in their entirety. But unlike the defense, who worked together with me to establish exactly which questions they would ask and how I would reply, the prosecution couldn’t be quite so open about this. As their goal would be to diminish the significance of my testimony, they needed to retain some element of surprise.

Her questions spanned a wide range of topics, and didn’t seem to suggest any larger picture of what approach the prosecution might take when cross-examining me. Starting with the basics – how Manning first contacted me, how he felt about his job as an intelligence analyst, and what his goals and ambitions were – she then moved on to various details of what we talked about. She asked me to explain what the Python programming language was, as well as information theory, the AES algorithm, “Slashda” (by which she meant Slashdot), and Reddit, which she pronounced “read-it.”

These seemed to me like things the prosecution could learn about from a brief session of Googling, and I suspected this much ignorance was a put-on so they could see how I would personally explain such things. I had a nervous sense that they specifically wanted to know what I would say about it, and I wondered how they intended to use all this. It became even more suspicious when she began asking me what WikiLeaks is, when I had first learned about it, what sort of content is on the site, which of their material I had read, and how I believed the organization functions.

As someone who had only visited the site a few times out of curiosity, and didn’t read very many of the cables simply because they were in all caps, I found it almost amusing that she thought I could explain the nature of WikiLeaks in any useful detail. Still, her tone was friendly throughout, even as she was not-so-subtly digging for any answers that could be turned to the prosecution’s advantage. She didn’t feel there was much more to talk about after that, and she led me back to the courtroom to explain how my testimony would proceed tomorrow. I would enter through a side door and walk down the center aisle, where another prosecutor would hand me a water bottle, and I would then approach the witness stand to be sworn in. The prosecution would be in front of me on the left, and the defense on the right.

Standing there in the nearly-empty courtroom where all of this was about to take place, I felt… nothing. None of it seemed to reflect any of the significance the entire situation had acquired. Yes, it was important, but everything around me made it clear that it was also just another trial. It was just a courtroom that would be used for many more cases in the future, a building where you could just as easily walk down another hallway and have no idea what was taking place in the next room, and a gathering of ordinary people with ordinary lives who were doing this as just another part of their jobs.

We get excited when we watch film teasers, but after we see the movie, we realize it was nothing like what we expected – it was just another movie. Having only heard about the trial from a distance, my expectations had grown so much that I failed to realize this was all still taking place in the same boring world the rest of us inhabit. Nothing about the reality of this seemed to do justice to the idea of it. Before leaving, I was directed to the government’s trial operations trailer, where two soldiers issued me a witness badge. My name was written on a whiteboard below several others. On the wall above their televisions, a black-and-white image of the Dos Equis guy read: “I don’t usually watch trials… but when I do, it’s not the ones I’m supposed to watch.”

Back at the hotel, I Skyped with my family, recounting the day’s events and making sure everything was okay at home. It was difficult to sign off for the night, and as soon as they were gone, the feeling of isolation grew to almost a physical presence. I left the TV on a random channel and tried to imagine I wasn’t alone. When the alarm went off at 5:30, I was nearly in a state of panic – it was still pitch black out, and it took me a moment to remember that I was in a hotel far away from home.

This time, Chief Joshua Ehresman joined us on the ride to Fort Meade. Tall, stocky and charismatic, his Southern accent and broad grin made his tales of hard-partying hijinks seem like so much innocent fun. He asked if I was military or civilian, and insisted he had seen me somewhere before – perhaps because of my Army surplus purse. I suggested he might know me from the internet; he laughed and remarked that he needed to stay off the internet so as not to get himself into trouble.

At the entrance to the courthouse, we were ordered out of the van so it could be inspected by bomb-sniffing dogs. A crowd of a few dozen people had gathered behind a barricade at the very far end of the parking lot, holding signs and cheering loudly as we walked into the tents. Not knowing what else to do, I waved. “Who are they?” asked one of the soldiers. “They’re gonna free Bradley Manning,” smirked Ehresman. “Good luck,” I muttered bleakly. He thought this was hilarious.

The witness trailer where we waited was roomy and colder than a movie theater – a welcome relief from the unexpected Maryland heat. Two private rooms were at either end, with a common area between them, lined with small drab waiting-room chairs and a few syrupy orange leather lounge chairs. A coffee machine was perched on a table, and an unused television sat in the corner, with DVDs like Independence Day stacked on top of it.

Today, there were six of us lined up for the defense: Chief Ehresman, Capt. Keay, Sgt. David Sadtler, Capt. Steven Lim, Col. Morris Davis, and myself. With the exception of myself and Col. Davis – the former Chief Prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantanamo – they had all personally worked with Manning in some capacity while he was stationed in Iraq. Every one of them felt somewhat mystified as to why they had been called here. They admitted to knowing almost nothing about Manning himself, and believed they had little to offer in the way of evidence other than simple facts such as “I saw a window open on his computer.” Once I told them of my conversations with him, they concluded that out of everyone present, I had spoken with him the most extensively.

Throughout the morning, we all refreshed our phones for updates on Twitter from Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gosztola, Ed Pilkington and Nathan Fuller. Their tweets provided more valuable inside information on the minute-to-minute happenings than anything the Army told us that day. It was through them that we learned why the trial, scheduled to begin at 8:30 AM, had not even begun two hours later: the video and audio feed to the press room was nonfunctional, and they couldn’t proceed until it was fixed.

Eventually, Ehresman was escorted to the courtroom. We refreshed our phones obsessively as we waited for the next update from Alexa on what questions were being asked and who would be called next. At one point, my old name was tweeted by a reporter, and all of them saw it. “Oh great, now the whole world knows,” I joked. “Why do they even think that matters?” lamented Sadtler, a detached and ironic young man who was much less uptight and formal than everyone else present.

For such a significant occasion, the atmosphere in the trailer was starkly mundane. Even when waiting to testify at a historic trial, waiting in a small room all day gets old fast. Most of them talked to each other in acronyms I couldn’t understand, stopping only to inquire about the My Little Pony sticker on my phone. Keay had brought bananas, almonds and berries for us to snack on, and we all remarked on what a brilliant invention the Keurig machine was. Sadtler discussed the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan with Lim, who soberly contended that our actions were regrettable but necessary. Sadtler, who seemed to be of a more liberal bent, was skeptical.

At one point, Manning’s lead attorney, David Coombs, stopped in to say hello to us. Taking Lim into a private room, we overheard them discussing several very obvious points about .EXE files – executable software. To Sadtler and I, who had both been raised online, it was highly amusing to hear people try to work out exactly what an .EXE is. We joked that it “hacks the Gibson.” By lunch, only Ehresman and Sadtler had testified. Col. Davis and I ate at the catering tent, where prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein was angrily berating another soldier for the problems with the media feed that morning. He seemed very high-strung and truly upset about this. I wondered if he would be similarly on edge in court.

With the press room issues cleared up, everyone’s testimony proceeded much more rapidly during the afternoon session. Eventually, Col. Davis and I were the only ones left waiting in the trailer. While my phone’s battery had died hours before, he helpfully kept me updated on what was happening just a few hallways away from us, and we passed the time talking about what we had each been working on recently.

I learned that he had received a Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award along with Jessica Ahlquist, a young woman who successfully fought to remove an unconstitutional Christian prayer display from her public school, and whom I had spoken alongside at a secular rally last year. He shared his thoughts about Guantanamo and the injustice of extraordinary renditions, as well as his stance on the Manning trial: that Manning’s actions were wrong, but so was the government’s pursuit of an “aiding the enemy” charge that could carry a life sentence. I found this to be a refreshingly elegant perspective – an all-too-rare acknowledgment that perhaps both sides could be right, and wrong.

At around 4:30 PM, a soldier finally came to escort me to the courtroom. We waited outside the doorway as dozens of spectators were led out of the building. Many of them looked me up and down as they passed – I couldn’t tell whether they were scrutinizing my face, or my pink hair, or if they just wanted to get some sense of what was going to happen next at the trial. An older woman asked if I enjoyed the clapping that morning. “Yes,” I answered unsteadily, not sure if I was allowed to say anything to them.

I was led through the hallways until I was standing outside the closed doors of the courtroom. Two soldiers, both women, stood ready to open them as soon as I was called in. I chatted with them about insignificant things like the weather, and once again, I shared my well-worn explanation for why I was there: that Manning and I had talked several times, and the defense now felt that the record of his statements could be useful in countering the charges against him. We stood there in silence for some time, until the doors were opened.

I walked in, and saw that the benches were packed with spectators. Every single person in the room was looking at me. It was completely silent; my ears began ringing, and my heart raced. I got the sense that everything was somehow frozen in time – walking past the benches and up to the stand was like a dream where everything is too slow, and you know you have to try and get away from something terrible, but you can’t. Fein handed me a water bottle. I didn’t know why I was panicking. I had told myself this was just something I’d have to do, like any other routine thing, and then it would be over.

As I turned to face the room, my heartbeat pounded in my ears even worse than before, and I could barely speak when Overgaard swore me in. My mouth went dry and my throat tightened. In front of me, at the defense table, I saw Bradley Manning for the first time. However underwhelming and unimportant everything seemed in the empty courtroom before, however much I’d thought the reality of the situation fell short of the idea, the reality had surely caught up and exceeded whatever I expected to feel. I could sense the energies of some pivotal moment of history turning to focus themselves on me, and the weight of it was almost unbearable.

Coombs asked me what my name had been before I changed it, the name I still had in 2009 when Manning spoke with me. In front of this room of strangers and the entire world listening outside, I spoke a man’s name in little more than a wavering croak. He then asked why I changed my name. I thought it was obvious – did I really need to explain it? What came out was something like this: “I’m a woman, and I wanted my name to reflect that.” A young woman in an aisle seat seemed to be vaguely impressed.

I kept looking over toward Manning. I wanted, more than anything, to see some indication that he was okay – that he was still alive in there, that he hadn’t been destroyed by all this. He only stared straight ahead at the ceiling-mounted monitor, with no visible emotion on his face. I tried desperately to make my pulse stop pounding, but seeing him that way just added to what I began to realize was a growing despair.

Coombs continued, asking me basic factual questions about my history with Manning: how he found me (he was a fan of my videos), how long we talked for (six months), and why he chose to speak to me (he felt I had a similar outlook on political and religious matters). I answered as best I could, but I couldn’t get my thoughts in order, and the words were slow and jumbled. My mind seemed mostly occupied with processing something much larger.

Most of the questions seemed redundant, given that the chat logs were the entirety of our interactions. I didn’t understand how my opinions could have any value here – even if all they had to go on was the text of our conversations, that was all I had to go on, too. I had no unique insight beyond anyone else. I didn’t know why I was there.

Coombs finally moved to introduce the 39 pages of logs as evidence, and Overgaard immediately objected, claiming that they were hearsay. There was a brief back-and-forth over the precise legal details, and Judge Denise Lind called a 20-minute recess so that copies could be made of our conversations and she could review them. The spectators once again shuffled out, along with the prosecution team. The only ones who remained in the courtroom were myself, Manning, his attorneys, and his guards – two large plainclothes men with earpieces who stayed within a few feet of him at all times.

During the recess, Coombs took me aside to the unoccupied jury panel, where we went over the specific portions of the logs that he would ask me about. I had looked over these excerpts with him many times before, but now I couldn’t concentrate. Instead, my eyes were drawn to Manning, well aware that I might not see him again for a very long time, if ever. It was a relief to see that he was happily talking and joking with the attorneys and even the guards. Some part of him had survived through all this.

After Coombs left, I sat alone at the jury panel. Seeing Manning look in my direction, I waved weakly at him. He nodded at me.

Once the court reconvened, Coombs simply had me read selections from the logs. For the first time since I walked into the courtroom, I began to relax, certain that the confident Manning I once knew was still there with me. My voice seemed to return, and I read his words aloud.

“With my current position… I can apply what I learn to provide more information to my officers and commanders and hopefully save lives. …I’m more concerned about making sure that everyone, soldiers, Marines, contractors, even the local nationals, get home to their families. …I place value on people first.”

During the cross-examination, Overgaard’s questions had little to do with anything we discussed at our meeting, and she likewise asked me to read certain portions of our conversations. I could tell that she had assembled these excerpts to paint a more damaging picture of Manning.

She cited conversations where he expressed a nuanced outlook on the methods and goals of terrorists, criticized malfunctioning military computer systems that made his job difficult, and sent me a link to his newly-developed unit “incident tracker” that was hosted on his personal site – a link which contained no actual content, though Overgaard did not allow me to clarify this. By now, any trace of nervousness had dissipated. Instead, I was merely incredibly offended. Even though these were his words and not my own, I felt a deep indignity at being forced to speak what they were intent on using against him.

I was excused from the trial and strode out of the courtroom, with a nod to Bradley Manning and to the spectators. Some nodded in reply.

Bradley Manning is a human being, and that simple fact made itself so apparent that day, everything else ceased to matter. Looking at him, there was no way I could continue to see the situation as being about anything other than this one person and what they had gone through. Yes, there are issues of morals and laws and risks and harms that must be weighed up. I know this. I’ve said those words before. But none of it was important now.

It’s not that I believe Bradley’s actions were right. It’s that I don’t even care anymore, and people’s shallow words of support or denouncement mean nothing to me. They have no idea what he’s going through – none of us do. To me, this isn’t about making him a figurehead for some movement, or a subject of our little arguments over abstractions, or a symbol of everything right or wrong with the world. It’s not about my opinion or the reporters who ask me for it. It’s not about the meaningless words I’ve written on needing to deter soldiers from leaking mass amounts of classified documents, something I foolishly believed to be the most relevant response to this situation. It’s not about finding an elegant answer to a moral puzzle or coming up with yet more rational arguments to support whatever I happen to be feeling at the moment.

It’s not about what we think of Manning’s opinion of Guantanamo or the Army or their broken computers, it’s not about soldiers joking around and admiring a coffee machine in a trailer, it’s not about whether the trial lived up to our expectations. It’s not about us.

For the past three weeks, my life hasn’t been about anything other than the fact that Bradley Manning is sitting in a cage right now while the rest of the world gets to walk away and move on. And I don’t think I can move on.

It’s easy to forget that at the center of all this furor is one person – a person like us, who thinks like us and feels like us and hurts like us. Having seen Manning in that room, I can never forget this. Before, he was just a name to me, one of thousands that have crossed my screen. But Bradley Manning is not, and never will be, just a name.

In that room, I saw a person who was in more trouble than I had ever seen another person be in, someone who had suffered and was still suffering the full wrath of an enraged, unforgiving American government. And that scared me, and I wanted to help him, to do anything I could to get him out of there, and I couldn’t. And that hurts beyond any words.

Nothing I can possibly say about this will be able to give him what he needs and deserves. What he needs isn’t as sterile as some right answer that accords with ideals of freedom or justice or any other lofty concept that we speak about in preachy tones. He is a human being and what he needs from the rest of us is humanity. The only meaningful question is how we can live with ourselves while this is happening to a person.

What I felt then and still feel now is a kind of guilt, unreasonable as it may be. No, I had no way of knowing what Manning was going to do – but if I had kept talking to him, everything could have happened so differently. I don’t know how I, still an immature child even at 21, would have reacted if he had spoken to me about his intentions rather than Adrian Lamo.

I could never tell how serious he was being when he talked about his work, and there’s a good chance I would have unwisely leapt at the opportunity to see or touch or transfer any classified material he had been gathering behind the scenes. For such an excited, youthful lapse in judgment, I could have been dragged into this unexpected and unimaginable hell right alongside him. Or, if I were more attentive to the consequences of what he was planning, I might have tried to discourage him from doing something so reckless. I might have been able to prevent this.

And if there was something else going on in his life that was distressing to him, maybe I could have helped him with that, too. What I didn’t reveal at the trial was that Manning opened up to me in part because we were both gay men. That’s not who I am anymore, and by the time Manning contacted Lamo, there were clear signs that he too was considering transitioning – signs that any other trans person would see as indicative of someone who was so far into this, they weren’t likely to turn back.

I’ve talked about Manning as male, because there’s been nothing but silence and denial on this front from his family and his attorneys, and I simply don’t know how else to refer to him. But I do know what happens when you take one of us and lock us away for most of our early twenties, unable to access treatments like those he was seeking. It horrifies me, and it should horrify anyone else who truly understands what it means to be held hostage by our own bodies.

Somewhere, in some other universe, I might have been able to stop all of this – or I might have ended up in a cell, too. But now there’s the unbearable discrepancy, the miserable and unyielding knowledge that I would get to walk out of that courtroom as a free person and he wouldn’t, that he’s locked in a cage and I’m not, that I got to transition and he didn’t.

The next day, Sgt. Daley drove me back to the airport. I stared blankly as he asked if I had seen any movies during my stay – he recommended The Lone Ranger. “That horse stole the show!” he effused. I tried to laugh, and I couldn’t.

I’d like to thank Heather, Lydia, Amy, Patience, and all my supportive friends who’ve offered their kindness and a listening ear. Thank you for helping me through this.

I’ll be in Baltimore next week for the US v. Manning trial

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with these developments, I was recently subpoenaed to testify at the court martial of Private Bradley Manning. Manning is accused of releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks, and I’ve been called as a witness due to a series of conversations I had with Manning throughout 2009. All of our chat logs have already been published, so I’m not quite sure what they intend to ask me about, but it’s really not a big deal. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything, and I’m going to have to stay in Baltimore from July 6th to the 13th. I believe I’m supposed to testify that Monday, but I’m not certain on this. In any case, I’ll be stuck in a hotel by myself in a city I’ve never been to, so I’m going to have plenty of free time for just about anything. Lots of videos every day? Marathon live shows? I really have no idea.

By the way, members of the public can actually attend the proceedings at Fort Meade and sit in the courtroom throughout the day. There are instructions for this on BradleyManning.org. If any of you want to be there for this, that would be really cool. If not, the Freedom of the Press Foundation publishes independent transcripts of the trial at the end of every day, and I’ll be keeping you updated about everything I see. I’m just going to focus on getting through this, and I’ll let you know if anything else happens.

US v. Bradley Manning: Being transgender doesn’t mean you’re unstable

I’ve usually avoided talking about the trial of Private Bradley Manning, given that I’ve been directly involved with this situation before and I probably will be in the future. But I feel that certain recent developments in the case deserve to be addressed.

Private Manning has been charged with various offenses relating to his alleged leaking of classified material to Wikileaks in 2009, including the “Collateral Murder” video, thousands of diplomatic cables of the State Department, and Army field reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The current phase of the trial is not about the charges against Manning, but rather about the conditions he was held in prior to the trial.

After he was arrested, he was detained in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico for nine months, and placed on suicide watch as well as “Prevention of Injury” status. During this time, he was effectively held in solitary confinement, he was not allowed to speak to other detainees, and he could only leave his cell for 20 minutes each day. He had to ask for toilet paper and then return it when he was done. He was required to remove all of his clothing at night and sleep naked, as well as stand at attention in the nude. Manning’s defense has been arguing that this treatment was unwarranted and constituted unlawful pretrial punishment. This could lead to the dismissal of some charges, or a reduction in sentencing. The prosecution, in turn, has argued that these conditions of his confinement were necessary and appropriate.

As part of this phase of the trial, the court heard the testimony of Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, who acted as Manning’s counselor during his detainment at Quantico. According to reporters covering the hearing, Blenis stated that Manning had sent two letters from the brig using the name “Breanna”, and he considered this a reason to place Manning on Prevention of Injury status. Blenis claimed that this was “not normal” and “not stable”.

There is a history of some uncertainty over how Manning identifies. Prior to his arrest, he had spoken to a gender counselor online, and said he felt that he was female. He told his superiors in the Army that he had gender identity disorder, which he talked about in his conversations with Adrian Lamo. He also set up Twitter and YouTube accounts under the name “Breanna Manning”, and listed this as an alias when he was first confined at Quantico. However, the Bradley Manning Support Network have stated that he prefers to be addressed as Bradley, and when I talked with people who are in close contact with Manning, they all told me he currently identifies as male.

None of this is conclusive, and anything is possible. People who are trans don’t always know it. For instance, when I spoke with Manning in 2009 prior to his alleged leaks, he identified as a gay man – and at the time, so did I. Sometimes, things change. On the other hand, people have at times explored the possibility that they have gender identity disorder, before concluding that this isn’t who they are.

In the absence of any concrete statements from Manning, it’s impossible to know for certain how he prefers to be known. But if his use of a female name was indeed one of the reasons why Manning was placed on a highly restrictive status, that’s a very troubling justification. This isn’t something that should necessarily be considered, in the words of MSgt. Blenis, “not normal”. For someone who’s transgender and identifies as a woman, the use of a name which they feel matches their identity is entirely normal. Likewise, being transgender doesn’t mean that someone is therefore “not stable” or is at risk of harming themselves. Can the condition of gender dysphoria sometimes cause enough distress to endanger someone’s well-being? Yes, but this is far from a certainty, and it doesn’t mean there’s an imminent risk that they’re going to commit suicide.

For example, this summer, I sought counseling because I identified as a woman and wanted to begin medical treatment. I was diagnosed with gender identity disorder after one short visit, and I was sent to a doctor who could provide the necessary treatment. At no time during this process did anyone suggest that because I’m transgender or because I use a female name, I must therefore be a suicide risk. They simply gave me the treatment I needed at the time. No one felt it was necessary to confine me in conditions where I was deprived of the most basic amenities so that I couldn’t harm myself, because that’s not what being transgender means. As Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan testified at the hearing, this “depends on how that individual is affected by that”.

Jordan apparently did not see this as a significant reason to keep Manning on Prevention of Injury status, but it seems that Blenis did. It’s disturbing that Manning’s counselor was working with someone who may have gender identity disorder, while appearing to know very little about what the condition actually entails. It’s especially difficult to assume good faith on the part of Blenis given that he testified to having rejected a birthday package for Manning because “we felt like being dicks”. At a minimum, this calls into question whether he was capable of treating Manning fairly and acting as an effective advocate for him.

And while it’s certainly possible that there were other reasons to place Manning on this restrictive status, such as the fact that he acknowledged being suicidal after his arrest and tied a noose out of bedsheets while jailed in Kuwait, his gender identity alone probably wasn’t a very good reason to keep him under these conditions. Transgender people do not automatically need to be placed on suicide watch simply because of who they are. Trans people are everywhere, and you can’t just assume that someone who’s trans must be unstable or dangerous. It’s insulting and offensive to imply that they are, and I would hope that the professionals of our nation’s military can understand that.

My conversations with Bradley Manning

Due to intense public interest, New York magazine and The Guardian have elected to publish my conversations with Bradley Manning ahead of time. I’ll also be making them available for download. The only redactions that have been made are to remove the identifying information of certain individuals.

I’m releasing these logs because, thus far, all that we’ve heard from Bradley himself is in the form of incomplete conversations from Adrian Lamo. That was during an exceptional time in his life, and it doesn’t give the whole picture of who Bradley is. I knew him as an intelligent, motivated and ambitious soldier who was dedicated to doing the best for his country, and I believe his words reflect that.

Regardless of what we might think of his actions, I feel it’s important that we develop a more balanced understanding of Bradley and his personal views. It’s my hope that this will provide valuable insight into someone who has undoubtedly made history.

Download: bradass87.zip
SHA1: 94d23df4df786c123191ce8b80fb484423004c0a
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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