Exclusive: Bradley Manning was ‘danger to himself and others’
Defence papers tell of alleged US whistleblower’s stress, poor leadership by superiors, and serious security lapses
Sunday 18 December 2011
Bradley Manning, the abandoned man of the WikiLeaks saga, may have been kept mostly in solitary confinement and incommunicado since he was arrested, but he is about to make his presence felt. Startling claims by army personnel about both his mental state, and lax security at the US base from which he is alleged to have leaked a huge tranche of classified US cables, are contained in a document prepared by his defence team.
It quotes several officers saying that the army intelligence analyst, who has a Welsh mother, was so disturbed, immature and unsuited to military life that either he should never have been deployed to Iraq or that he should have been deemed unfit for service once he was there. At one point during his time in Iraq, according to the report, an officer “found Manning curled in the foetal position in the brigade conference room, rocking himself back and forth”. The 20-page dossier, itemising potential witnesses at the arraignment hearings, which continued yesterday at Fort Meade, Maryland, also contains a summary of testimony that claims security at Pte Manning’s base in Iraq was so lax that soldiers would buy films, music and games from a local market and install them on army computers.
It was from this base – where passwords to army computers were reportedly written on Post-it notes stuck on laptops – that Pte Manning is alleged by US officials to have captured and sent to WikiLeaks the classified information. If the defence claims are true, then the army could be accused of contributory negligence.
They also seem to have missed repeated warning signs that Pte Manning – gay, confused about his gender identity, and apparently subject to some bullying – was a deeply troubled individual. Neither, until too late, did it act on assessments of him when they were made. Other comments from potential witnesses (all of whose names are redacted) include that Pte Manning’s “mental and emotional issues were more than enough to put others at risk… his condition made him unfit for service as an intelligence analyst”, and the statement that “Manning should not have been deployed”.
Pte Manning, a one-time intelligence analyst stationed in Baghdad, is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive items, including Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. The leaked items also involved State Department cables and a classified military video of a 2007 American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The US said the leaks threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources, while WikiLeaks was feted, until sex allegations were made against its founder, Julian Assange, which led to protracted extradition proceedings and continuing appeals. Mr Assange has been staying in a supporter’s country mansion, while Pte Manning has spent much of the past 17 months in a cell.
According to the defence document, one witness “will testify that he recommended Manning should not deploy”. And on 24 December 2009 – months before Pte Manning was arrested in May 2010, but a month after he first contacted WikiLeaks – a psychologist examined him. He found him “under considerable stress… [he] did not appear to have any social support system and seemed hypersensitive to any criticism”. The defence document said the psychologist “determined Manning was potentially dangerous to himself and others and recommended removal of his weapon or removal of the bolt from his weapon”. Two months later, the material Pte Manning is accused of leaking first appeared on WikiLeaks. It was not until 28 May 2010 that a psychiatrist recommended his security clearance be rescinded.
Other evidence from army specialists is that Pte Manning, while having good computer skills, “seemed to act immature” and “was not receptive to commands”, and that there was a “lack of leadership” on his night shift. An officer with Pte Manning’s unit will testify that when he raised the matter of soldiers having unauthorised material on their army computers, “nothing was done”.
Other personnel, whose claims are not part of the defence document, have previously said that poor security meant many of the 300 stationed on Pte Manning’s base could breeze in and out of the computer room.
In a bizarre detail reported on a chat log published by Wired magazine, Pte Manning made out he was miming to a Lady Gaga track while downloading US cables.
His local commander will testify that it was not until Pte Manning allegedly assaulted another soldier that he was made aware of his psychological problems. Another officer will testify that, having learned of the full facts, he believes Pte Manning should not have been deployed to Iraq. There is also potential testimony that, although Pte Manning was “a very good intelligence analyst”, he “should have been removed from his position early on in the deployment”.
Yesterday, on his 24th birthday, Bradley Manning was back in a military courtroom to hear prosecutors begin presenting their case. The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to bring him to trial.
The Wikileaks pair: A tale of two whistle-blowers
Born Crescent, Oklahoma, to ex-Navy father and Welsh mother on 17 December 1987. Moved to Wales with his mother aged 13, only to return to the US three years later.
Occupation US army intelligence analyst. Demoted from specialist to private after assaulting female officer.
Claim to fame Accused of biggest leak of state secrets in US history, including footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 Iraqi civilians, and thousands of US diplomatic cables.
Current address Initially, after his arrest in May 2010, he was kept in solitary confinement and forced to sleep naked in a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. After an international outcry, he was moved to a “medium-security facility” at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Charged with He is alleged to have transferred more than 250,000 embassy cables and 470,000 confidential military records to WikiLeaks. He faces 22 charges of obtaining and distributing government secrets, and, if convicted, could be sentenced to as much as 52 years in prison.
Born 1971 in Townsville, Australia. Led a nomadic childhood as his parents owned a touring theatre, later moving to the UK.
Occupation Founder of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, co-author of bestseller Underground. Convicted computer hacker.
Claim to fame In 2010, WikiLeaks published 2007 video footage of an American helicopter shooting Iraqi civilians. He made front-page news again in 2010, defending the release of thousands of classified documents on the Afghan and Iraq wars, plus a huge amount of US diplomatic cables.
Current address UK. Has been living at Ellingham Hall, Norfolk, the home of his friend and supporter Vaughan Smith, owner of the Frontline Club for journalists. Reported on Friday to have moved base. However, as a requirement of his bail conditions, he has had to sign in at nearby Bungay police station every day.
Legal case In 2010, an international arrest warrant was issued by the Swedish authorities after two women made allegations of rape and sexual molestation. Extradition proceedings followed which will culminate in his final appeal on 1 February 2012.