Pfc. Bradley Manning
US Army Intelligence Analyst, Whistleblower: b.1987
US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning had access to classified information that bothered his conscience. When he released it to the online organization WikiLeaks, he was arrested, subjected to treatment widely considered to be torture, and faces life in prison if found guilty of “aiding the enemy,” the most serious of the 34 charges against him.
Included in the leaked information is a video that has been dubbed “Collateral Murder”, which shows US military personnel killing suspected but apparently unarmed insurgents, as well as two Reuters journalists.
Also included are thousands of classified documents detailing American actions around the globe: “Crazy, almost criminal political backdealings...the non-PR-versions of world events and crises...all kinds of stuff, like everything from the buildup to the Iraq War…to what the actual content of ‘aid packages’ is...There’s so much...it affects everybody on earth...Everywhere there's a US post...there's a diplomatic scandal,” wrote Manning in an online chat.
Manning was held for several weeks after his May 2010 arrest without being charged with a crime. Without a trial or conviction, he was placed in “Maximum Custody,” the military’s most restrictive form of detention. Allowed only one hour of free movement per day, Manning was held at a Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, in what amounted to solitary confinement—without a pillow, blanket or clothing at night—for 10 months. He wrote in a letter to his attorney that he was also subjected to humiliating forced nudity for morning inspection and was harassed by his guards. Manning was not fully charged until March of 2011, and court martial proceedings are not expected to begin until the end of the year.
Manning’s treatment at Quantico spurred protest worldwide, including a request by a United Nations torture investigator to meet privately with Manning to determine his condition. The request was denied, but he has been transferred to a military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where conditions are less restrictive.
Many, including US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, consider Manning’s solitary confinement a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.
Though much of the media coverage of Manning’s act paints him as an unstable misfit, he can perhaps more accurately be seen as an ordinary young man in extraordinary circumstances.
Like many young people, growing up was difficult for Manning (he was small compared to other boys his age and gay) and he faced challenges both inside and outside his home.
He excelled at school, science fairs and computers rather than sports. He was teased and bullied in public school and later picked on and assaulted in the Army.
Before joining the military, he’d tried to further his education in community college but had to work several jobs at the same time and wound up dropping out. Manning joined the Army at his father’s urging and intended to use his veteran’s benefits to go to college someday. He wrote in an online chat that he hoped to get a doctorate if he was “smart enough.”
Manning’s closest boyhood friend described him as someone who “loved America.” Before all this happened to him, Manning wrote online: “…Maybe I’m just young, naive, and stupid...[but] I want people to see the truth...regardless of who they are.”